By Nqobani Ndlovu
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has attracted scorn for celebrating Matabeleland’s cultural diversity and heritage while at the same time his government remains adamant that the revival of the Ndebele kingdom is illegal.
Advocates pushing for the revival of the Ndebele monarchy argue the coronation of their king is a simple way of celebrating their culture and heritage.
They also argue that the matter does not need a constitutional provision as it is a purely traditional matter.
Lobengula was the last Ndebele king after a British Pioneer Column led by Cecil John Rhodes destroyed the Kingdom in 1893.
Mnangagwa last week said: “Bulawayo Metropolitan province, the greater Matabeleland province and the entire nation must continue to take keen interest in our culture and heritage.”
He made the remarks during the official opening of the Bulawayo Arts Festival.
“What we saw today is a demonstration of the double standards by government, which we have come to know.
“This is a government that believes only in the narrative of Zanu PF and does not allow for alternative voices to be heard, and therefore there is no doubt at all that this will continue,” said Effie Ncube, a Bulawayo-based activist.
“Zanu PF fears diversity; it fears opening up space and, therefore, we see it time and again refusing to allow other people to practice their culture, to celebrate their culture to establish institutions that are in line with the practice of that culture.
“The challenge remains that we have a government that has no respect for human rights at all.
“That does not allow for alternative voices to flourish.”
On the day, Mnangagwa also unveiled the Heritage Corridor, and toured the Roman Catholic St Mary’s Basilica, Joshua Nkomo Museum, Natural History Museum, Inxwala Grounds, the Hanging Tree and Dr Joshua Nkomo’s Statue.
Inxwala was an annual Ndebele religious festival, also known as the First Fruits Ceremony, to mark a time of harvest experienced after a good agricultural season.
St Mary’s Basilica is one of the 17 minor Basilicas in Africa, and the only one conferred as such in southern Africa. The Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe situated at the Centenary Park and formerly the Rhodesian Museum at its establishment in 1901, is the oldest museum and largest of the five national museums in the country.
The Hanging Tree was used at the height of the First Umvukela/ Ndebele uprising in 1896, to hang African men and women, who resisted colonisation by the European settlers.
The Joshua Nkomo museum chronicles the life history and contribution of the late vice president. Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo whilst his stature was erected in his honour.
Mnangagwa was accompanied in the tour of the facilities by his deputy Constantino Chiwenga and a host of other Cabinet ministers and government officials.
“The mystery is how Mnangagwa isn’t ashamed of dragging the full contingent of the government to Bulawayo to witness the cultural festival of the same people for whom he refused the revival of the Ndebele monarchy and blocked the coronation of the heir to its throne,” Zapu spokesperson Iphuthile Maphosa said.
South African-based Bulelani Collins Khumalo and Stanley Raphael Khumalo are claimants to the Ndebele throne. Incidentally, government in 2020 allowed the coronation of the Mambo Dynasty in Mawabeni, Matabeleland South.
The Lozwi clan installed Mike Moyo as King of the Mambo Dynasty in a bid to revive their kingship.
King Lobengula renamed his royal town from Gibixhegu to koBulawayo in 1871 while colonial figure and Matabeleland Administrator Leander Starr Jameson declared koBulawayo a town on June 1, 1894. The Standard