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Leadership 2: The Qualities Required To Sustain A Powerful Ndebele Nation.

Mbodlomani Gojwana  - 15 November 2002 

In the previous publication on the Talking Point: Indonsakusa, (Leadership: The Qualities Required To Revive The Ndebele Nation and Restore It As Powerful as It Once Was), there was an assertion that 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. It was also put forward that the Ndebele seem to be unable to produce individuals of the right calibre to fulfil the leadership vacuum. 

The fact that the post-Joshua Nkomo leadership vacuum calls for someone with a true sense of nationalism and a high degree of bravery was established, as well as that the development of individual leaders is a possible and assailable task. This, it was said, is because of Ndebele national traditions which are still in place but which need to be vigorously reinforced and coupled with a modernist approach which will take into account globalisation. 

The conclusions were that Ndebele people need a leader who will seize upon the embodiment of uBuntu/Humanity while he/she possesses the strong nation-building qualities (of Mzilikazi kaMashobana) and that the leader 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 the Ndebele society. 

Continuous assessment of the present plight of the Ndebele nation shows that these requirements can only remain an illusion if there is neither discussion nor appropriate steps taken to arrive at them. Abadala bathi ikhethwa ematholeni. This means that a Ndebele leader can only come from the present stock of individuals. This publication therefore seeks to offer explicit life-lessons on how to become or elevate someone to a successful Ndebele leadership in a modern day society. 

There is a popular idiom which says that "we are all born leaders". Potentially, each and everyone of us can become a prominent and a great leader and that is subjective and hugely dependent on the seizure of opportunities that one is exposed to. This is also subject to circumstances. The main concern about the leaders of tomorrow is their present circumstances and whether there is a greater potential for decline rather than fostering. By putting under scrutiny the circumstances which brought about the emergence of the likes of Mzilikazi and J.M. Nkomo and comparing them to those of the modern day Ndebele society, we will see that there are similarities in the way in which oppression has been the catalyst for the emergence of these leaders. 

However, the circumstances which account for the fostering of these leaders seem to offer differences whereby propective leaders have emerged and tried to regroup by forming organisations, only for those organisations to disappear into thin air without making a significant impact on behalf of the Ndebele nation. In Joshua Nkomo's own words (to a white Rhodesian minister) "Akulaqunga olukhula egumeni" - the tall grass cannot grow on the beaten pathway [1]. With that in mind what, in today's society, would we say  constitutes that beaten pathway? 

At some points in the history of Mthwakazi, the Ndebele people had to choose and accept Mzilikazi, Lobengula  and Joshua Nkomo as their leader. When Nkomo used the beaten pathway metaphor, he had been asked why he was apparently letting the people pull him down to their level (by representing their views). It seems the Rhodesian detractors only wanted Nkomo as token representation and Nkomo rightfully pointed it out that such a situation would NOT be progressive for the people as a whole. 

Therefore, a contributing factor to Joshua Nkomo's rise to prominence and effective leadership was that he was self-mastered and wise enough to avoid the beaten pathway. Is this a trait which today's prospective leaders lack? Nkomo went on to say, around the same time, that "A leader is he who expresses the wishes of his followers. No sane leader can disregard the voice of his people and supporters." Apart from being self-mastered, Joshua Nkomo had a sense of commitment which saw him take on three roles in which he was representing the people. Today's prospective leaders need to master the art of juggling roles between commitment to family (earning a living) and commitment to the Ndebele people. Two years ago, the revived Zapu had a President who also happened to have a role as a teacher in the remote rural areas. No wonder the detractors found it easy to pernetrate the organisation and dislodge it!

In a classical case of reciprocity, it turns out at the time of his appointment to the Southern Rhodesian ANC presidency, Joshua Nkomo was a railway trade unionist. Nkomo was asked, because of his charisma, to help get things organised in a then disorganised ANC committee which included Edward Ndlovu and a man he refers to as "Old Man" Dliwayo. The rest is history. It was the people and members of the Southern Rhodesian ANC who found themselves in a weakened position and in need of a leader. The ANC was the long grass trying to grow in a beaten track. Now, there are numerous organisations representative of the Ndebele people in Zimbabwe and in the diaspora who find themselves in weakened and disorganised circumstances, uqunga oluzama ukukhula egumeni. It certainly appears as if modern day groups and associations often fail to identify and elevate the right individuals to represent them in the way the ANC did Nkomo.

Nobody can doubt the effect that the acts of genocide and the mysterious deaths of the likes of Sydney Malunga has had on the Ndebele people. Such recent events have instilled an element of fear which has contributed to the lack of the emergence of a leader. However, such is the nature of leadership that it requires a brave individual. 

"Iziwula zithi nxa zibubona ubukhosi zibugxozele indenda. Izihlakaniphi ziyabesaba ngoba zisazi ukuthi butshoni." [2]
These were the words of advice from Mkhithika to Lobengula as documented in UMbiko kaMadlenya.  It is a fact beyond doubt that Mzilikazi and Lobengula had traditional and strong advisers. It is such Ndebele traditions, some of which are still in practice. They need to be revived to serve as the source of inspiration for prospective leaders.

Just like the Ancient Egyptians who followed explicit life-lessons on how to conduct oneself alone, when with others and when in leadership, the Ndebele nation strives on such life-lessons based on oral tradition. On leadership the Egyptians wrote this in their sacred literature:

"If you are leader and command many, strive for excellence in all you do so that no fault can be found in your character. ..
..... see that the plans you make are carried out. Do great things which will be remembered long after you. Where there is praise, detraction cannot survive. 
... be courteous and listen carefully to the presentations of petitioners. Stop not their speech until they have poured out their heart and spoken that which they came to say. Those with grievances like to speak out and have their petitions heard. But whosoever stops a presentation raises the question of why does one having this power act in this manner. Not all that is asked for can be granted, but a fair hearing satisfies the heart.
... gain respect through knowledge and gentleness of speech and conduct. Give commands only where necessary and fitting. Those who abuse their authority provoke resistance. And those who place themselves above others are brought low. Be not silent when it is your duty to speak, but be cautious in your speech lest you offend. When you answer the angry, show self-control. For the angry heart speaks fiery words, but those who walk gently, their path is already paved. Moreover, those who worry all day will have no happy moment. But those who pursue pleasure all day will not be able to sustain themselves. [3]
Similar lessons are given in the Old Testament, Book of Proverbs. 

For the Ndebele nation, the foremost mechanism of communicating such inspirational advice has been through oral tradition. But since the destruction of the Ndebele culture by colonialism, the facilitation of all instructions has either totally disappeared in some circles or evolved in such a way that only distorted and inadequate facts are yielded. However, there is literature available which gives an insight into the traditions associated with the advice given to a leader. As mentioned earlier the late Mayford Sibanda offers the following but  realistic account of the advice given to Lobengula by his father's Chiefs in UMbiko kaMadlenya,.

Ndunankulu Mncumbatha; 
"Nkosi, nanzi induna zikayihlo sezibuthene lapha ukuthi zikucebise ngoba kuvele kungumdabuko ukuthi amakhosi acetshiswe ukuze abuse ngengalo enhle kube lobomi lokuthula ezweni. Akulasihlahla sema singela mpande, kanjalo akula nkosi engema ingelabo abayisekelayo, abayicebisayo. Akutsho ukuthi wena Nkosi sikucebisa nje ngoba awazi uyisiwula, kodwa abadala bathi umfula ugcwala ngezifudlana, ilihlo lilinye aliphumeleli."
Despite the fact that the scene is set at a time when the Ndebeles were about to be confronted with two wars, a civil uprising against Lobengula and later a war against the white colonialists, the Ndebele people could not find it in themselves to proceed without a well informed and advised leader. Modern day political and traditional leaders should take such rites seriously.

The account continues with another of Mzilikazi's Chiefs;

"Lobhengula, namhla uyinkosi yesizwe esikhulu. Angazi noma uzasibusa njengalokhu uMzilikazi ayesibusa. UMzilikazi wasibusa ngemfanelo ngoba kunguye umdabuli waso; abadala bathi umqambi wengoma kayoni. Kodwa wena ungasuye mdabuli waso, ungazange ulwe izimpi ezinkulu njengabo Tshaka laboMzilikazi, akutsho ukuthi ngeke ubuse ngemfanelo. Khumbula ukuthi abadala bathi ayigwazi ngokumisa.
Into yokuqala esifuna uyazi yikuthi ubukhosi butshoni. UbuKhosi mntaneNkosi yakithi abutsho  ukuthi usuyingqwele uyabathelisa bonke; abantu sebeyimpahla yakho...
Nxa uyiNkosi kutsho ukuthi awusaphili eyakho impilo, awusaziphileli wena, usuphilela amadlozi labantu. Ungummeli wamadlozi ebantwini, yikho abantu bezanyamezelela iziphambeko zakho ezincane. Yikho kwathiwa iNkosi kayoni."
Although the leader that the Ndebele people are expecting to emerge may not necessarily have the same King (iNkosi) status, the duties bound to the people are in many ways inextricably intertwined as the following account shows;
"Ngenxa yokuthi umele abantu futhi, njalo lawe uyakwazi ukuthi abantu abala mcoli, abantu kabalanto enhle, uzakwetheswa imilandu engapheliyo, izindlebe zakho ziza kuzwa okuzilayo, amehlo akho azabona imihlola. Yikho kwathiwa iNkosi ligodi lezibi. Kukho konke lokhu bekezela.
Abantu banzima ukubabusa njalo banzima kakhulukazi ukubanelisa ubathokozise bonke. Amakhosi amanengi ayaphaphalaze ngokuthemisa abantu izinto ezinengi athi phambili ehluleke ukuzenza. Kulula ukuthembisa, kunzima ukufeza. Kunjenje, wena ungasuke unje uthembise abantu okunengi ngoba usesebunzimeni bokuthi abanye abantu bakayihlo abakufuni, ukuze bakuvune, kuthi nxa usuhlezi kuhle ubusukhohlwa ukufeza izithembiso. Abantu bayakwazi lokho yikho bathi indaba yomakhosi ayibanjelwa mlandu. Mntanami, ungathembisi abantu izinto ongazoze uzenze. Kungcono uthule, abantu bethuke usubenzele okuhle."
Furthermore, the present day Zimbabwean state in which the Ndebele nation finds itself is in a very precarious situation mainly because of BAD leadership, to put things lightly, and this has been the case for many years. As such, history will always judge Robert Mugabe much harshly than it will ever do Joshua Nkomo. Despite his much heralded faults, especially by the now disenfranchised Ndebele nation, Joshua Nkomo showed some positive qualities which can be attributed to such strong cultural rites and which earned him the name Father Zimbabwe, perhaps his rural upbringing fortunately exposed him to those rites. 
"Umsebenzi omkhulu weNkosi yikugcina isizwe sihlale sisinye, sinyandanye ibhade lapho okuvela iminkenke ngoba indlu engalutho ukudilizwa yiziphepho ngeleminkenke emdulini, elophahla olungabotshwanga lwaqina. Ukuze iNkosi isizwe isigcine simanyene, kayingahlungisi abantu isazisa abanye iseyisa abanye. Inguyise wabo bonke, ngakho kayingabandlululi abantu isithi lo liNguni lo nguMtshabi lo ngumSuthu."
"Abantu bayafana mntanami, bonke ngabantwabakho. Ukuhlungisa ngokwabafokazana labantu abalengqondo ezimfitshane. Wena uyinkosi, ungaphezu kwezinto ezinjalo. Hlonipha bonke abantu abakayihlo labo bazakuhlonipha bakuthande. Musa ukuba lesihluku uphatha abantu kadedengu, ngoba bazakhala izinyembezi zabo zithontele phansi ziyobikela abaphansi, abaphansi bakuhlamuke, izitha zakho zikuhlasele zikunqobe kalula. Awubekwanga ukuthi uhlukuluze, ubekelwe ukuthi weluse, ukhuze, ududuze abantu abakayihlo."
However, despite Joshua Nkomo's good qualities, conclusions have been drawn on the monumentally disastrous decisions taken by him, the effect those decisions have had on the overall situation of the Ndebele people, and that future leaders will have to guard against such decisions. Discussions such as this one cannot proceed without some ground being covered on the aspects which safeguard a nation in the face of enemies, as the following account will show;
"Ungagolombi izimpi ngabomo. Nxa uhlasela, hlasela izizwe eziyizitha njalo usuqale wahlala phansi wabona ukuthi lesisizwe silamandla angakanani. Musa ukuhlasela izizwe ezibombayo ezivuma ukuthela. Nxa isizwe  sibomba sivuma ukuthela, sikhonza kuwe, ungabusasihlupha. Khumbula phela Khumalo ukuthi impi kayakhi lizwe. Impi kayilamagcobo. Impi icikiza isizwe, sinciphe ngoba iqeda amajaha abezazala andise isizwe. Ngakho musa ukuthanda izimpi kakhulu.
KODWA, KODWA, isizwe noma sisinengi njengesihlabathi solwandle, nxa siyisizwe samagwala sifana lamabele agcwele insimu angazukuvunwa agcwale ngitsho loba iqoma. Insimu engenganani ilamabele avileyo ingcono kulodedangendlale wensimu ogcwele ingululwane. Amajaha kawabuthwe afundiswe impi. Nxa isizwe silezitha kaziphume izimpi ziyehlasela ziphange umcebo. Noma abadala besithi ukulwa kakwakhi sizwe, baphinde bathi impi izala amadoda. Amadoda ngama doda ngokulwa lokunqoba lokuphanga imfuyo ezizweni. Kodwa izimpi kazilwiwe ngonanzelelo Musa ukulingisa uTshaka owathanda izimpi kakhulu, walela amajaha ukugana, izintombi zaze zaqoqoza zingazalanga, amadodana abantu aphelela empini. Hayi, ungakwenzi lokho, kucikiza isizwe. Amajaha aseke alwa avumele agane akhe imizi azale, isizwe sive.
Izimpi kazingalwiwa kuthunjwa abantu ukuthi babe yizichaka ngoba lokho kuyazila. Abathunjiweyo abangenziwa izibotshwa bagqilizwe, kabaphathwe ngesihle, bangeniswe emabuthweni esizwe babe yingxenye yesizwe babe lamalungelo wonke afanele umuntu ophefumulayo owazalwa kabuhlungu ngumfazi.
Umncumbatha wacina ngokuthi;
Kawungabathandi abamhlophe wedlulise ngoba bazafuna ukusikelwa imihlaba abantu baswele lapho abazadlisa khona inkomo zabo. Umhlaba ngowamadlozi, awusiwo wamuntu. Akulamuntu olemvumo yokubiyela umhlaba athi akungangeni omunye umuntu, ngokwakhe yedwa. Kuyazila okunjalo." [2]
In conclusion, once the Ndebele nation takes the leadership vacuum issue seriously enough, they will realise that it is them and only them that can make that leader. On the other hand, those prospective individuals who have a potential to lead should be brave, work in tandem with the people and above all seek unity, otherwise sizabe siluqunga oluzama ukukhula egumeni, ebusika.

[1] Nkomo, Joshua, The Story of My Life, Methuen.
[2] Sibanda, Mayford, Umbiko kaMadlenya, Mambo Press.
[3] Karenga, Maulana, Selections from the Husia Kawaida Publications.

©Mbodlomani Gojwana