name =Lobengula Kumalo
title =King of
Matabeleland(also encompassed Mashonaland)
reign =September 1868 - January 1894
Mzilikazi(a.k.a., Mosilikatze; Umsaingaas) (Father)
consort =Lozigeyi (1st royal wife), Lomalongwe (2nd royal wife)
issue =Mpezeni (royal son) born in Bulawayo ca. 1880 and died at Somerset Hospital on 9 December 1899 of pleurisy, Njube (royal son), Nguboyenja (royal son) sent to Cape Town after death of Lobengula and buried at Entumbane near to
Mzilikazi, Sidojiwa born at Nsindeni ca. 1888 (royal son) and died 13 July 1960 (buried at Entumbane near to Mzilikazi), and at least one daughter
royal house =House of Kumalo
royal anthem =
MzilikaziKumalo, first king of the Ndebele people
mother =Princess of the Swazi House of Sobhuza I., an "inferior" wife of Mzilikazi
date of birth =ca. 1845
place of birth =
date of death =ca. January 1894
place of death =ca. 70 km south of the Zambesi river in
Lobengula Kumalo (1845–1894) was the second and last king of the Ndebele people, usually pronounced Matabele in English. Both names, in the
Sindebelelanguage, mean "The people of the long shields", a reference to the Matabele warriors' use of the Zulushield and spear.
After the death of
Mzilikazithe first king of the Matabele nation in 1868 the izinduna, or chiefs, offered the crown to Lobengula, one of Mzilikazi's sons from an inferior wife. Several impis (i.e., regiments) disputed Lobengula's assent and the question was ultimately decided by the arbitration of the assegai, with Lobengula and his impis crushing the rebels. Lobengula's courage in this battle led to his unanimous selection as king.
The coronation of Lobengula took place at uMhlanhlandlela, one of the principal military towns. The Matabele nation assembled in the form of a large semicircle, performed a war dance, and declared their willingness to fight and die for Lobengula. A great number of cattle were slaughtered and the choicest meats were offered to Mlimo, the Matabele spiritual leader, and to the dead Mzilikazi. Great quantities of millet beer were also consumed.
About 10,000 Matabele warriors in full war costume attended the crowning of Lobengula. Their costumes consisted of a head-dress and short cape made of black ostrich feathers, a kilt made of leopard or other skins and ornamented with the tails of white cattle. Around their arms they wore similar tails and around their ankles they wore rings of brass and other metals. Their weapons consisted of one or more long spears for throwing and a short stabbing-spear or assegai (also the principal weapon of the
Zulu). For defence, they carried large oval shields of ox-hide, either black, white, red, or speckled according to the impi (regiment) they belonged to.
The Matabele maintained their position due to the greater size and tight discipline in the army, to which every able-bodied man in the tribe owed service. "The Ndebele army, consisting of 15,000 men in 40 regiments [was] based around Lobengula's capital of
Gubulawayo." [ Martin Meredith, Diamonds, Gold, And War, (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), p.207-208 ]
The chameleon and the fly:"Did you ever see a
chameleoncatch a fly? The chameleon gets behind the fly and remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then the other. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly."
— "Lobengula"Neil Parsons: "A New History of Southern Africa". Second Edition. Macmillan Press, London, 1993.] ]
Lobengula was a big, powerful, tall man with a soft voice who was well loved by his people but loathed by foreign tribes. He had well over 20 wives, possibly many more. His father, Mzilikazi, had around 200 wives. It is said he weighed about 19 stone and he was a fine warrior though not an equal of his father. Life under Lobengula was less strict than it had been under Mzilikazi, although the Ndebele retained their habit of raiding their neighbours.
By the time he was in his 40s, his diet of traditional millet beer and beef had caused him to be obese according to European visitors. Lobengula was aware of the greater firepower of European guns so he mistrusted visitors and discouraged them by maintaining border patrols to monitor all travellers' movements south of Matabeleland. Early in his reign he had few encounters with white men (although a Christian mission station had been set up at Inyati in 1859), but this changed when gold was discovered on the Rand within the boundaries of the
South African Republicin 1886. Lobengula had granted Sir John Swinburne the right to search for gold and other minerals on a tract of land in the extreme south-west of Matabeleland between the Shashi and Ramaquabane rivers in about 1870, in what became known as the Tati Concession. However, it was not until about 1890 that any significant mining in the area commenced. Lobengula had been tolerant of the white hunters who came to Matabelelandand he would even go so far as to punish those of his tribe who would threaten the whites. But he was wary about negotiation with outsiders and when a British team came in 1888 to try to persuade him to grant them the right to dig for minerals in additional parts of his territory, the negotiations took many months. Lobengula only gave his agreement to Cecil Rhodeswhen his friend, Dr. Leander Starr Jamesonwho had treated Lobengula for gout once before, secured money and weaponry for the Matabele in addition to a pledge that any people who came to dig would be considered as living in his Kingdom. As part of this agreement, and at the insistence of the British, neither the Boernor the Portuguese would be permitted to settle or gain concessions in Matabeleland. The 25-year Rudd Concessionwas signed by Lobengula on 3 October 1888 and by Queen Victoria on 20 October 1889.
In a series of events leading up to the war, a rival tribe chief leader, Lomengula was killed by Lobengula's men in
Novemberof 1891 when Lomengula was asked to send word to rhodes' copany to inquire their reason for being in the area; Lomengula replied that he would not be so easily pushed around by him. Lobengula wanted to know exactly why the British South Africa Copany was encroaching on his land. [ Martin Meredith, Diamonds, Gold, And War, (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), p.280 ] It soon became obvious that Lobengula had been duped and that the British team really intended to colonise his territory. The First Matabele Warbegan in November 1893 and the British South Africa Company's use of the Maxim gunled to devastating losses for the Matabele warriors. As early as December 1893, it was reported that Lobengula had been very sick, but his death sometime in early 1894 was kept a secret for many months and the cause of his death remains inconclusive. The earliest accounts state it was smallpox, later it was diagnosed as dysentery, and some accounts mention poison, although this seems unlikely. Mlimo was assassinated by Frederick Russell Burnham, the American Scout working for Rhodes, and by October 1897, the white colonists had successfully settled in much of the territory known later as Rhodesiaand Matabeleland was no more.
The Matabele were related to the
Zuluand fled north during the reign of Shakafollowing the mfecane("the crushing") or difaqane ("the scattering"). Shaka's general Mzilikazi led his followers away from Zulu/Mthethwa territory after a falling out. They settled in what is now the south-western part of Zimbabwe, although claiming the sovereignty of a much wider area.
*"History of Rhodesia", by Howard Hensman (1900)
*"Scouting on Two Continents," by Major
Frederick Russell Burnham, D.S.O. LC call number: DT775 .B8 1926. (1926)
*"The Zulus and Matabele, Warrior Nations", by Glen Lyndon Dodds, (Arms and Armour Press, 1998)
* [http://www.afribilia.com/history.html Texts of the Moffat Treaty and Rudd Concession, signed by Lobengula, which gave Britain and the British South Africa Company rights over his land]
* [http://www.rhodesia.nl/hensman.pdf full-text of "History of Rhodesia"] , by Howard Hensman (1900)
* [http://www.bulawayo1872.com/history/lobengula.htm History of Lobengula: Last King of the Matebele]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9905E2D7103BEF33A25750C0A9679D94629ED7CF LOBENGULA IN A TRAP.; Not Believed that the Matabele King Can Escape] . "New York Times", 3 November 1893
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,850817-1,00.html The Skull of Lobengula]
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