The Qualities Required To Revive The Ndebele Nation and
Restore It As Powerful As It Once Was
Gojwana - 04 October 2002
of the last two decades within present day Zimbabwean boundaries have
left Ndebele people in a state of deprivation and disenfranchisement,
life has truly become unbearable. In levels that are unprecedented and
that have never been experienced before in the history of the Ndebele,
the once mighty nation founded by King Mzilikazi kaMashobane has been
reduced to third class citizenry by the Shona supremascist regime led
by Robert Mugabe.
demise of the Ndebele nation was initiated by European colonialists at
the turn of the 19th century, but the "art" of oppression has been perfected
by fellow Africans who have only served to replace the Europeans as oppressors.
The 1884 Treaty of Versailles set the path for the destruction of the
Ndebele state by first creating artificial borders and then imposing unitary
systems of government on the "new" states. Publications illustrating
how Ndebele people rightfully continue to behave as a nation,
but only just, within present day Zimbabwe have been issued through this
forum. See Two countries in
one? Concepts of citizenship in Matabeleland and Can
Zimbabwe as a state survive the two-nations in one sentiment most Ndebele
people subscribe to?
notion of a unitary system based on artificial colonial boundaries is
self defeating in many African countries and present day Zimbabwe is no
exception. Not only were these perimeters imposed, but more tragically,
they emasculated once powerful nations like the Ndebele, who today
find themselves under an imposed leadership.
is therefore a valid and serious point to make that the Ndebele have started
the new millenium without a leader. In fact, they have not had a leader
since 22nd December 1987 when Joshua Nkomo capitulated and signed the
"Unity Accord". For any society to legitimately call itself a nation and
survive, it must have a leader who is able to articulate its aspirations
at the same time moving that nation towards the realisation of those aspirations.
The Ndebele nation is not only leaderless at the present moment, but also
seems unable to produce individuals of the right calibre. Have the
Ndebele been cowed to perpetual timidness? I hope not.
we analyse history, we will realise that events which culminated in an
attempt to destroy the Ndebele nation by both white colonialists and Shona
hegemonists were preceded by either military defeat or disarmament of
the armies representative of Ndebele nationhood. Whereas white colonialists,
in 1893 and1896, defeated a well-spirited regiment of Ndebele warriors
the Shona government of Robert Mugabe - taking advantage of Joshua Nkomo's
monumentally disastrous decision to disarm undeafeated Zipra forces -
committed genocide against defenceless Ndebele people.
defeat of the warriors by the British army can only be attributed to the
inequalities in military firepower between the two armies and not King
Lobengula,s inability as a military strategist. It is true
that some sections of Ndebele society questioned Lobengula's accession
to the throne, saying he lacked a colourful military background.
He however proved his doubters wrong by his unshakeable determination
to safeguard the kingdom against conquest by other tribes. He is a leader
who presided over proud men of whom praises have been sung by white historians:
cannot speak too highly of the pluck of these two regiments. I believe
that no civilised army could have withstood the terrific fire they did
for almost half as long". - Sir John Milloughby, speaking of the Imbizo
and Ingubo Regiments after Maxim Guns were used against them, at Mbembesi,
1 November 1893.
facing of the Maxims by the Ingubo regiment at a distance of a hundred
and ten yards, was, perhaps one of the most magnificent displays of
physical courage that Africa has ever seen".- De Vere Stent, journalist,
after the same engagement.
It is crystal
clear that the founder of the Ndebele nation, Mzilikazi kaMashobane
organized his new kingdom along military lines. He was a great military
leader as well as an able administrator. He ruled for about 40 years
and withstood attacks from neighbouring tribes, the British and Afrikaners.
It is tragic that not long after his death on September 9 1868, the Ndebele
kingdom, under his son Lobengula, was overwhelmed by the white colonialists.
a descendant of Zulus, Mzilikazi kaMashobane modelled his new nation on
the mighty Zulu nation and as such, pride was always at stake for
the nation. Zulu military exploits are well known, particularly
their defeat of the British at ISandlwana of which S. Bourquin
wrote the following:
one stage during the battle of Isandlwana, the British fire was so hot
that the Zulus seemed to have had enough and a movement of withdrawal
became noticeable, when, according to tradition, a lone voice filled
a moment's silence and trailed across the field of battle: 'Ihlamvana
bul' umlilo kashongo njalo!' - 'The little branch which extinguished
the fire (started by Walmsley and Rathbone at the battle of Ndondakusuka
in 1856: a euphemistic reference to Cethswayo the king) never gave such
an order!' The backward movement stopped immediately, the Zulu army
rose as one man and made its final devastating rush upon the British
It is also
ironically tragic that the final defeat of the Zulu empire came
about because King Cetshwayo was completely unprepared for war and that
he believed that war could be averted, even after the British had set
a pretext for war, and that when war came, his heart was not in it.
the Zulu nation experienced a demise similar in many respects to the Ndebele
nation, they have managed to retain their traditional system of governance
as well as the monarchy. Chief Buthelezi once stated that:
of my hopes for my people is the return of Zulu pride - pride in what
they were, are and can be. Somehow, without the intention to do so,
a feeling has been inculcated that we should be ashamed of everything
that constitutes our past. To many people the old Zulu kingdom means
just bloodshed, but it had other positive aspects in the sense that
our political and social system was based on it. With the overthrow
of the Zulu kingdom came the shattering of much of the Zulu national
consciousness. We can get back this national consciousness, step by
step, in the best possible way, if our people have the right once more
to make decisions about their own future.' 
the overthrow of Lobengula brought an end to Ndebele consciousness as
proud warriors were turned into factory, farm and mine workers and proud
women into nannies for the colonialists. But having said this, six decades
later, there was still willingness to fight against colonialism and for
the restoration of the Ndebele order. The Ndebele nation was represented
by the military wing of ZAPU, ZIPRA at the liberation war between 1970
and 1980. The leader who presided over this war was Dr. Joshua Nkomo.
leader though he was, Joshua Nkomo's acceptance of the imposed boundaries
exposed a lack of vision which future leaders must guard against. His
willingness to disarm an undefeated army when signs of genocide against
the Ndebele nation were all too apparent will forever haunt the Ndebele
until such time that a leader of Mzilikazi's stature emerges. Like Cetshwayo
before him, Nkomo's indecision and miscalculations cost the nation heavily
because not only was Zapu, the political party representative of the Ndebele
nation annihilated but fear was instilled in the hearts of Ndebeles
through Gukurahundi. Throughout the war of liberation in Rhodesia, the
Ndebele nation followed Nkomo religiously and the war against colonialism
should have been in defence of the old Ndebele order and the restoration
of pre-colonial boundaries.
the present plight of the Ndebele nation, the post- Joshua Nkomo leadership
vacuum calls for someone with a true sense of nationalism and a high degree
development of individual leaders is a possible and assailable task. Ndebele
national traditions are still in place but need to be vigorously reinforced
and coupled with a modernist approach which will take into account globalisation.
Within the imposed unitary state of Zimbabwe today, there is a flicker
of optimism because institutions that are mainly owned or administered
by Ndebele people continue to be free of the corruption and rot experienced
elsewhere. Good examples are the Bulawayo Municipality, which despite
tough economic conditions, continues to strive and is a major success
compared to other local government councils. On the sporting scene,
Highlanders Football Club's on-field exploits and administrative excellence
are the envy of other teams in the country.
people need a leader who will sieze upon this embodiment of uBuntu/Humanity
while he/she possesses the strong nation-building qualities of Mzilikazi
kaMashobana. They must also have the intellectual capacity of Joshua
Nkomo but above all, the new leader must gain the total support of the
Ndebele by restoring a sense of pride and consciousness amongst
yinkomokazi kababa emabalabala,
Abathi beyigwaza ngemikhonto,
Yazimela yathi mpo,
Imikhonto yephukel' emhlane.
Zonke iziwe zayibon' inqaba!
 Military History Journal - Vol. 4 No. 4 (http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol044sb.html)