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Maphenduka’s article distorts Ndebele and Shona history

By Maxwell Zimuto

Jonathan Maphenduka’s article (British duplicity against Matebeleland exposed) should never be allowed to go unchallenged.

King Lobengula
King Lobengula

It contains deliberate distortions, innuendos and downright lies, particularly against the Shona people. He needs to be told in clear language to disengage from the dangerous art of twisting facts through sensationalistic outbursts with a view to defending parochial and sectional interests.

It does not help him to shamelessly exhibit selective memory loss afflictions on certain historical facts, while at the same time he lyrically waffles and postures over the restoration of imagined kingdoms.

I must hasten to point out from the onset that I have not had the opportunity to read his book apart from the snippets gleaned from the article. But if what is in the article is a reflection of what his book contains, then I have lost nothing by not reading it.

Before I delve into the critical aspects of Maphenduka’s article and for the benefit of those who share the same historical perspective with him, I wish to draw their attention to key historical facts that form part of our national heritage.

Long before the arrival of the Nguni people under Mzilikazi in about 1840, this nation had been in existence as a unit for many centuries, having been established by the Great Munhumutapa who enjoyed control over a large sway of a geographical land that stretched from Tete in Mozambique to Domboshava in Botswana and from the Zambezi river to Mapungubwe in South Africa. There is overwhelming evidence to support this assertion, both from a historical perspective and archeological standpoint.

When Mzilikazi arrived in present day Zimbabwe in about 1840, the Munhumutapa kingdom was in the hands of the Rozvi Mambos who had created an impressive empire which was engaging in trade with the outside world particularly with the Portuguese.

I must point out that ten years before the arrival of Mzilikazi, the Kingdom had been attacked by Zvangendaba during his long march to the north, running away from Tshaka, just like Mzilikazi would later do. Zvangendaba captured and killed one of the Mambos at a place they (Zvangendaba people) later called Ntabazikamambo (Gomoramambo).

The place is in existence to this day and is situated in the present day Matabeleland North Province. Maphenduka should thus not mislead the nation by making it appear as if the Nguni under Mzilikazi were the first people to settle in this country. They in-fact found an already existing nation which they displaced and decimated through conquest.

In the first paragraph of the article, Maphenduka says:

“The greatest but shameful buck-passing game on the part of the British government has just been exposed in a letter to Paul Siwela, the leader of the Matebeleland Liberation Organisation, rejecting his call for the restoration of the kingdom of Matebeleland on the flimsy ground the UK no longer exercises authority over Zimbabwe.”

Let me be the Devil’s advocate for a moment and pose this question; Does Maphenduka and those who share his views sincerely believe the British have authority over Zimbabwe? If they sincerely do, then I am sorry, they are perfect idiots (for lack of a better word).

Maphenduka says that Mthwakazi’s last interactions with the British over the so-called restoration of the Matebeleland Kingdom was in 1918 when the so-called Royal family sent a delegation which carried a petition to the UK but was unequivocally told that the kingdom was no longer in existence. He further says; “The annexation by the British in 1923 brought together the state of Mthwakazi and the British protectorate of Mashonaland.

“The two territories had since 1891 been co-existing as sovereign states separated by what became known as the Jameson Line which was created in agreement between Leander Starr Jameson the administrator of Mashonaland and King Lobengula of Mthwakazi.”

This statement is fully loaded with inaccuracies. First, it is not true that Mashonaland was separated from Matebeleland. In fact Mashonaland never became a British protectorate. The only country in Southern Africa that became a British protectorate was Khama’s Bamangwato state of Bechuanaland (Botswana).

Second, there was never an agreement signed between King Lobengula and Leander Starr Jameson over the so-called Jameson Line. If indeed there was one, as Maphenduka and his group seem to suggest, then Lobengula must have been the first to violate it when, he sent out his soldiers (impi), in July 1893, under the command of Manshowu and Mgandana Dlodlo to cross the so-called line into Mashonaland territory and hunt-down, capture and discipline two chiefs (mahole), namely; Chief Bere and Shindi whose cattle had been impounded into Fort Victoria camp (now Masvingo) by the settlers.

Lobengula wanted the two chiefs punished for allegedly stealing his cattle that had incidentally ended up in the hands of the invaders. If Maphenduka’s line of argument is anything to go by, then Jameson must have been justified in killing thirty of Lobengula’s soldiers including their leader, the courageous Mgandana who together with twenty-nine others, were butchered soon after arriving at the settlers’ camp for a meeting over the two chiefs with Jameson and to deliver a letter from the King.

Further testimony to support my argument over the so-called Jameson Line agreement came from Lobengula himself when he refuted the boundary claims after receiving first-hand information from the survivors of the Fort Victoria Massacre.

He angrily retorted to John Smith Moffat: “Who has given Jameson the boundary line? Let him come forward and show me the man who pointed out to him these boundaries. I thought that you had come to dig for gold, but it seems you have come not only to dig for gold but to rob me of my people and country as well”.

Third, when King Lobengula realized the fragility of the situation at home he sent Mtshete, his most trusted induna, to Cape Town for the third time to meet with Sir Henry Loch, the British High Commissioner, so that a message could be relayed to the Queen over the deteriorating situation in the country.

Earlier in 1889 Mtshete, accompanied by Babiana, had met the Queen in London at the behest of King Lobengula.

In Cape Town, when Mtshete was asked by Sir Loch to respond to two issues i.e. the Jameson Line and the sovereignty of the state of Mashonaland, he emphatically responded by saying “To whom do the Mashona belong if they do not belong to the King?”

Fourth, the settlers themselves did not want Mashonaland to be independent of Lobengula as this would expose them over the Rudd Concession purportedly signed between Lobengula and Charles Dunnell Rudd, which purported agreement the settlers used to invade the country.

Treating Mashonaland as a separate state outside of Lobengula’s influence and control would have invalidated the Concession thereby surrendering Mashonalad to the Portuguese who already were making frantic efforts to register their objection to British entry into Mashonaland by claiming that they were threatening their interests.

It is therefore evident, that the Jameson Line only existed in the fertile imagination of the likes of Maphenduka who to this day still believe that the so-called Mthwakazi kingdom is restorable only if they lie over agreements that never existed.

In his article, Maphenduka further says “But the natives of Mashonaland were to join the British forces to overrun the warriors of Mthwakazi in a genocidal coalition that left 12000 civilians of all ages dead”. This is malicious, is it not? This statement falsely implies that the Shona people were in complicity with the settlers.

For the record, the first Chief to be killed by the settlers for refusing to submit to colonial authority was Chief Mugabe of Fort Victoria (Masvingo) on 29 February 1892 and many more would be executed in subsequent years for the same reason.

Maphenduka is deliberately silent over the raids by Lobengula’s impi into Mashona homes, conscripting people into the Ndebele army. In fact there were more Shona people on Lobengula’s side than those perceived by Maphenduka to have been on the settlers’ side. The only blacks that are known to have been in the settlers’ army are those that the invaders came with from South Africa.

It is equally hypocritical for Maphenduka to be conveniently mum over the role played by one Nyenyezi of the house of Lobengula’s brother, Umhlaba whose family had been wiped out by Lobengula and who partnered the invaders as their guide during the final assault on the so-called Mthwakazi kingdom. There is therefore no doubt that complicity with the invaders was located in the so-called royal family.

Maphenduka continues with his bizarre onslaught on perceived enemies by shamelessly making this statement:

“The next coalition of the people of Mashonaland and the British, to commit genocide, followed after independence in 1980 when the United Kingdom provided 110 military experts to join 103 North Korean counter-parts to train a sectarian military force, commanded by a Sand Hurst-trained officer to kill everyone in their way who spoke Ndebele.

“This became the second time in 100 years that the United Kingdom and the people of Mashonaland joined forces to commit genocide against the people of Mthwakazi, commonly known as the kingdom of Matabeleland”.

Such brazen display of insanity can only take us back to pre-civilization era, where nothing needed scientific analysis to be proven correct. But I can now understand why some people say you just need one fool to set the entire nation alight. This man cannot be correct and should not be taken seriously.

Why would a democratically elected government create an army specifically to hunt-down and kill its citizens purely on the basis of the language they speak?

A fundamental aspect of the Gukurahundi tragedy that has been glossed over for a long time, is the articulation and provision of adequate information regarding its root causes. As a result of this omission, political charlatans, sensationalists, merchants of darkness and down-right liars such as Maphenduka, have taken advantage and manipulated the nation’s ugly past to seek personal glorification.

These visibility seekers rush to the stage to make orations over the tragedy, using peripheral platforms and misleading affected communities by weeping up their emotions. But surely those who lost their loved ones do not need further emotional provocation; they have been in grief for too long and what they now want are solutions to their problems and if you cannot deliver to them, then come off the stage.

I challenge those who are sincere over the sad chapter of our history; to raise this matter through Parliament and demand concrete resolutions in order to finally put the Gukurahundi issue to rest, once and for all.

After all, we can only remain a people together if we treat each other with respect, dignity and as equals. 

Maxwell Zimuto can be reached on [email protected].