Who Ruled by the Spear? Rethinking the Form of Governance in the Ndebele State
Abstract: The current
intellectual stampede over issues of governance in Africa has given birth to
ahistorical evaluations of the crises bedeviling the African continent.
Pre-colonial traditions and cultures have been unduly blamed for bequeathing
politics of disorder on the post-colonial state without being carefully studied
separately. This article offers a rebuttal to the emerging 'African exceptionalism'
thesis that blames pre-colonial traditions and cultures for the bad governance
systems being witnessed in Africa. It is a nuanced and systematic interrogation
and rethinking of the Ndebele system of governance in the nineteenth century.
The article arrives at the conclusion that one cannot generalize about
pre-colonial African systems of governance as they were not only diverse but
also complex, allowing for good governance and bad governance to co-exist
uneasily and tendentiously across space and time. As such the single-despot
model preferred by many Eurocentric scholars is too simplistic to explain the
complexities and diversities of African political systems. Even post-colonial
despotic rulers cannot justify dictatorship and violation of their people's
rights on the basis of pre-colonial African traditions, cultures and histories
because human rights and democracy were organically built into pre-colonial
African systems of governance as this case study of the Ndebele demonstrates.
One of the earliest attempts to understand the ontology of
African political systems and the forms of African governance is the
collaborative anthropological work of M. Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. In
this work, sweeping generalizations were made about diverse African societies
to the extent that African forms of governance were divided into centralized
and decentralized forms. Centralized forms were seen as undemocratic and
decentralized were reduced to democratic governance. The achievement of independence by African states that was
attended by problems of deepening democracy and increasing participation of all
citizens in political processes elicited new interests in understanding African
political systems and why democracy was difficult to institutionalize in
Africa. A number of explanations emerged including Eurocentric and Afrocentric
pessimist paradigms that blamed African pre-colonial traditions for bequeathing
authoritarian forms of governance and disorder on the continent. For instance,
Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz linked the crisis of democracy with
African culture that allowed for patrimonial forms of governance. Chabal and Daloz emphasized
continuities of pre-colonial political traditions across the colonial and
postcolonial periods as important in explaining current failures of governance
in Africa. To them, the crisis of governance in Africa is one of "modernity
rooted in the deep history of the societies in which it is taking place."
Sounding apologetic of the contribution of colonialism to the current failures
of democracy in Africa, Chabal and Daloz argued that "time has long passed when
we, Westerners, had to expiate the colonial crime of our forefathers." Instead, they posited that the
essential feature "most important to emphasize is the significance of
continuities in the political practice from the pre-colonial period." To them, colonialism failed to
overcome "the strongly instrumental and personal characteristics of traditional
African administration." Their conclusion was that African cultures were
ontologically hostile to good governance and effective administrations.
The thesis of continuities between
precolonial political systems and African traditions into the postcolonial
period is countered by scholars like Mahmood Mamdani and Peter P. Ekeh who
emphasize the contribution of the legacy of late colonialism to problems of
democratization in postcolonial Africa. According to Mamdani colonialism
bifurcated colonial populations into citizens and subjects. This became the
beginning of hierarchized citizenship determined by race within which white
settlers enjoyed citizenship rights and Africans as subjects suffered under
decentralized despotism called indirect rule with the African chief at its
apex. Colonialism ossified Africans'
identities into rigid ethnic groupings and sealed these through legal coding.
This created many problems for Africa. In the first place it meant that African
nationalism developed as ethnic consciousness. In the second place, it created
the intractable problem of the 'native' and the 'settler' which is sometimes
termed the national question.
In an endeavour to install democracy, many postcolonial regimes concentrated on
de-racializing civil space while at the same time reinforcing decentralized
despotism inherited from the colonial state at the local level as recognition
of African traditions and customary law.
Mamdani's arguments resonates with those of Peter Ekeh who argued that
colonialism introduced two public spheres (one for whites and another for
blacks) that resulted in Africans imbibing bourgeois ideologies, making them to
"fight alien rulers on the basis of criteria introduced by them."
My concern in this article is to
rebut what I will call the 'continuities thesis' between precolonial systems of
governance and the postcolonial because this gives ammunition to some
postcolonial African dictators to justify their non-accountable styles of
governance and blatant violations of human rights on the basis of African
tradition. Even long presidential incumbency by one person and life
presidencies are justified on precolonial tradition. The 'continuities thesis' is
founded on a false impression that democracy and human rights were brought to
Africa by people from the West. The case study of the Ndebele state is used
here to rebut the 'continuities thesis' on democracy without necessarily
ignoring the 'inventions of traditions' by colonial regimes as well as African
nationalists and postcolonial governments that has compounded African problems. The main weakness of the
constructivist paradigm that gave birth to the ideas of 'inventions of
tradition' in Africa is that it tended to privilege white agency over that of
Africans. African creative agency was sacrificed at the altar of missionary and
One of the glaring gaps in the
debate on governance in Africa is the lack of nuanced studies grounded on
precolonial African political systems of governance. There is a general belief
that precolonial governance was nothing but a long night of savagery and
violence within which the spear played a fundamental role under what Carolyn
Hamilton termed "terrific majesty."
Writing about the Ndebele south of the Limpopo River, Peter Becker saw nothing
in them but a "path of blood" in their trail of violent conquests. Thus besides rebutting the
'continuities thesis,' this article is a thorough revision of the earlier
characterization of the Ndebele system of governance. It reveals Ndebele
notions of democracy and human rights in the nineteenth century.
Mathew T. Bradley defined democracy
as "a configuration of governance molded by general values, biases, prejudices
and nuances of a given culture."
Like elsewhere, precolonial notions and practices of democracy and human rights
were informed by diverse African histories, African traditions and were
expressed in different languages and articulated in different idioms. Denial of
rights and freedoms permeated precolonial conflicts since not all African
precolonial governments were democratic or respected human rights. The common
reality was that democracy and human rights co-existed uneasily and
tendentiously with authoritarianism, patriarchy and militarism. But few scholars who chose to study
African systems of governance during the precolonial era tended to use the
single-despot model that was not confirmed by historical realities on the
ground in Africa.
A single-despot model of African
governance systems is inadequate because African societies were very diverse in
their ontology, thus defying simple generalizations. Each of the pre-colonial
societies had unique sets of rules, laws and traditions suitable for particular
contexts and historical realities. These rules, laws and traditions, commonly
termed customs, formed the basis of how people would live together peacefully
as part of a community, state and nation. Earlier African formations like those
of Egypt in North Africa, Nubia and Axum in North East Africa, Ghana, Mali and
Songhai in West Africa, and Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe in Southern Africa,
produced different political and economic systems of governance relative to
their environment of operation as well as historical circumstances of
Because of their magnitude, they all evolved complex systems of governance that
could hardly fit into a single-despot model.
The Ndebele and historiographical debates
The Ndebele have attracted a lot of studies ranging from
those by precolonial travelers, missionaries, colonial officials,
anthropologists, novelists, poets and historians. What was widely reported was
their reputation for what was considered to be 'bloodthirsty savagery,'
'martial spirit,' 'splendid despotism' and 'noble savages.' These descriptions
captured contradictory representations of the Ndebele within British colonial
imaginations. Within the colonial imagination, the Ndebele fell victim to
exoticization and demonization.
Later writings on the Ndebele were heavily influenced by early literate
observers' writing on the Ndebele and missionary records became primary records
for later academic works on the Ndebele.
The major historians who have
written on precolonial Ndebele history are Kent Rasmussen on the Ndebele South
of the Limpopo, Terence Ranger on Ndebele politics during the scramble period;
Ngwabi Bhebe on missionary activities in the Ndebele state; David Beach on
Ndebele-Shona relations, Julian Cobbing on Ndebele history from 1820 to 1896;
Pathisa Nyathi on the Ndebele history from 1820-1896; Enocent Msindo on
Ndebele-Kalanga Relations from 1860s to 1980s, Bjorn Lindgren on Ndebele
ethnicity, Ray Roberts on Ndebele royal family, and my own work on Ndebele
political system and their notions of democracy and human rights. Except for my work, the theme
of democracy is avoided in the writings on Ndebele history save for a focus on
revision of Ndebele-Shona relations which were described as characterized by
violence by colonial writers bent on justifying colonialism. Among all these
writers, Cobbing produced a more comprehensive revisionist study of the Ndebele
history, though the issue of governance and democracy was not his central
Despite the fact that Beach alluded to the myths dominating articulations of
Ndebele history and tried to explode some, he continued to describe the Ndebele
state as a 'mfecane' state that was organized along military lines. Msindo's recent writings accept
old-fashioned descriptions of the Ndebele state as militaristic and
authoritarian to the extent of seeing my concern with democracy and human
rights among the Ndebele as "a Zansi/Nguni-centric view of Ndebele history, which
defends pre-colonial political misdemeanors."
The scholars who continued to
emphasize Ndebele politics as a terrain of violence failed to distinguish
between two phases in Ndebele history. The first phase of Ndebele history
running from 1820-1840 was dominated by migration and violence and covers the
turbulent years of the 'mfecane.' The second phase of Ndebele history running
from 1841-1893 saw the Ndebele transforming themselves from a life of migration
and violence to a new full-fledged settled heterogeneous nation on the
Zimbabwean plateau. Violence became minimal and Beach used this to explain the
resurgence of Shona power.
The distinguishing features of this 'settled phase' and its processes of
consolidation of Ndebele power included a ceaseless
search for consensual governance. The issue of rights and human rights that
were pushed to the peripheries of politics during the formative stage of the
state now came to the centre the state politics. The actual realities of
power shifted during the 'settled phase' to the control of the means of
production which superseded the control of the means of violence as the base of
wealth, power and privilege. Major institutions such as amabutho (age sets) which were largely
geared towards the military, were quickly civilianized to suit the exigencies
of a less aggressive environment on the Zimbabwean plateau.
Robert Moffat, a London Missionary
Society (LMS) agent and long time friend of Mzilikazi Khumalo tried to
appropriate all positive changes in the Ndebele state as products of his
missionary efforts including the reduction in offensive wars. All positive
changes in Ndebele politics were to him attributed to his interventions and
interventions of Christian God.
The civilianization process also saw the practice of celibacy being relaxed. These reforms meant that those
Ndebele men who were renowned for courage and prowess in warfare were permitted
to marry and build villages for themselves. The king allowed the right to marry
and to establish a family to be accorded to many people during this phase of
Ndebele history. Renowned fighters found themselves settling down to carry out
civilian oriented duties like administering the segments of the Ndebele state, since
the state had expanded greatly.
The office of the king was
transformed and ritualized leading Julian Cobbing to write of the rise of an
ideological glorification of the person of the monarch. The king assumed the role of a
successful rain-maker, administering a system of grain production, distributing
cattle, and heading a cult of ancestor worship. At this time the king's
importance was best described in ritual terms. The king became the "rainmaker
in chief" and "a collector of charms and medicines designed not only to secure
rain but to protect the state against the machinations of its enemies." On top of this, the king
administered justice, maintained a monopoly over the important long-distance
trade to the South, and distributed the proceeds of tribute and of raiding. As
put by L. Vail and L. White, Mzilikazi was no longer the absolute and arbitrary
tyrant of "European travelers" tales.'
The king became involved more in ivory trade and spiritual satisfaction of
A strong aristocratic group emerged,
quite different from that which had held power because of its military prowess
in the 1820s and 1830s. Achievement or meritocracy was increasingly replacing
ascriptive status in the Ndebele state. Commenting on this new power
development, Cobbing noted that without king "there would have been an inchoate
collection of feuding chieftaincies."
However the king was no longer able to exercise absolute power with this new
development. Relatively strong subsidiary chiefs and headmen who maintained a
great deal of independent wealth and power based on personal ownership of
cattle and achievement had emerged. 'Royalisation' was taking new forms via
marriages to women of royal blood. As the power of this group increased,
kingship vigorously ritualized itself to the level of ideological glorification
through veneration of the king's ancestors who were invoked and propitiated in
national ceremonies as the state's protectors.
The refugees and captives of earlier
decades and those who were acquired in the southwest now coalesced into a
nation, broadening the heterogeneity of the Ndebele state. Some of them assumed
powerful positions as chiefs and commanded a lot of respect from the king.
Under the abenhla (those from the North) social strata that formed south of the Limpopo River, there
emerged a third additional social strata of amaHole. AmaHole were those people who were
assimilated into the Ndebele state within the Zimbabwean plateau. They were the
latest entrants into the Ndebele society. The top and proud Zansi (those from the South) who left
with the king from Zululand became a minority only identifiable through their
Nguni isibongo (surname) such as Mkhize, Gatsheni, Khumalo, Mkwananzi, Sithole and Gumede.
Democratic spaces opened up in line
with new social and political realities. The Ndebele society became more
tolerant, accommodative, and open to the reality of the numerical dominance of
non-Nguni groups. These non-Nguni groups were gradually accorded more and more
rights so as to placate them. Raiding which had been relied upon as an economic
as well as a political ploy was changed. Raiding lost much of its attributes as
an economic ploy and became largely a political ploy meant to weaken
neighbhours of the Ndebele and to punish the recalcitrant chiefs. In the words
of David Beach, raiding became target-specific.
Power and Governance Structures
The Ndebele system of governance crystallized around
the person of the king (inkosi). This reality led some scholars to
misinterpret this to mean that the Ndebele king was despotic and dictatorial. There is no doubt that the
Ndebele king was powerful, but not to the extent of becoming an absolute
monarch with all power concentrated in his hands. The Ndebele society had
developed very elaborate mechanisms which acted as checks and balances on the
power of the king. The hierarchy of power facilitated communication between the
leaders and the ordinary people. It also facilitated communication between the
lesser chiefs and the senior leaders up to the king (see Fig. 1).
Figure 1 demonstrates that even though the Ndebele king was at the apex of a power
hierarchy he was not an autocratic ruler with absolute powers. Other powerful
officials were active in the governance of the state as well checking absolute
dictatorship. These included the indunankulu yesizwe (prime
minister/head of the government). The king became largely a ceremonial head of
state. During Mzilikazi's rule, Mncumbatha Khumalo occupied this post and even
acted as a regent after his death in 1868. Mncumbatha was described by the
Ndebele as umqamelo wenkosi, which meant the pillow of the king.
He was so described because the king relied on him for advice. He acted as a deputy to the
king. He represented the king on various important occasions and could sign
treaties on behalf of the king as happened in 1836.
The Ndebele king did not rule by decree. State policies were subjected to serious
debate, and meetings were considered important in deciding the future of the
state. A loose group of the king's personal confidants comprising inner
advisers, collectively termed umphakathi, played a crucial role in
determining state policy. They also deliberated on the difficult judicial
decisions. Another set of advisers of the king were a large group of the
state's prominent men collectively termed izikhulu. It was
through these two councils that the ordinary Ndebele people were able to
participate in the government of their country. Umphakathi and izikhulu operated as
representative councils. The members of these councils, however, were mainly
rich people, rather than ordinary persons. They were not freely chosen by the
people, their positions were largely hereditary.
In theory, the king was the head of state, head of government, religious chief,
commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the supreme judge of all criminal
cases. In practice, however, the king was basically a ceremonial head of state
in all these posts and a source of unity in the state. There is need to note
that there was always tension between forces of centralization and those of
decentralization of power. The Ndebele king tried to keep as much power in his
hands as was possible, but the leaders of izigaba worked
tirelessly as well to gain more and more power and increasing influence in
It was these people who practically commanded the armed forces during military
assignments. They also determined outcomes of difficult judicial decisions.
While the king could differ with the views of his advisers on a number of
issues, he was often forced to endorse the popular views of his advisers.
The leaders of izigaba rather than the king were the practical representatives
of amahlabezulu (the ordinary population). The king had to listen to
their views in order to keep in touch with the popular sentiments of his
people. Chiefs of izigaba were initially appointed by the king
especially during the inception of the state and the formation of specific izigaba as the state
grew. Provincial chiefs, however, had to work hard to cultivate the allegiance
of the people within the territorial area of their rule. Upon the death of an
appointed chief, the king's power to appoint another chief fell away as the
deceased chief was to be succeeded by his eldest son from his senior wife (indlu
enkulu). If the senior wife failed to produce a son, other sons from junior
wives were accepted as successors.
Despite all these elaborate mechanisms of governance in the Ndebele, the system of
governance was not fully based on consensual politics. It was characterized by
a mixture of democratic tendencies on the one hand, and aristocratic,
autocratic and/or militaristic tendencies on the other. Tension, competition,
jealousies, and violence also characterized Ndebele system of governance.
Kinship was one major ideology in the Ndebele state that was a source of both strength
and weakness. Both Mzilikazi and Lobengula were known for suspecting their own
relatives to be their worst enemies and for harshness towards male royals,
giving rise to the popular Ndebele idea of a blood brother as umfowethu (umfo means enemy).
The whole idea of a royal house limited the chances of ordinary people to
participate fully in the governance of the state and to attain higher posts.
Only those connected to the royal family could readily attain the posts of
Politics in the Ndebele state were not open to competition as in modern day democracies.
Power was hereditary, that is, confined to royal houses. While the Ndebele
conceded that power was to be contested, they never tolerated opposition to the
incumbent leader. Their popular ideology was alikho ilanga
elaphuma elinye lingakatshoni (no sun has ever arisen before
another one had set).
The Ndebele emphasized that power belonged to those with power. The ruling
Khumalo house was praised as ndlangamandla (those who
rule because of their power).
Mzilikazi ruled until he died of old age without a clear successor. The
Ndebele feared even to mention the issue of succession when Mzilikazi was still
The Ndebele governance was also characterized by patriarchal ideology. Patriarchy
referred to a form of domination based on strictly personal loyalty to a
father-like ruler who invoked the sanctity of tradition to justify his acts. Ndebele patriarchal ideology
exalted the leadership of older men. Women, young men, and captives, generally
stood outside the centre of power. The Ndebele king was a 'father' figure and
the people he governed conveyed their respect by referring to themselves as his
'children.' Political life was acted out in terms of personal relations rather
than in terms of depersonalized and institutionalized law. The Ndebele
considered themselves as one family (uMthwakazi) and the
family was an idiom through which political conflict and alliances were
White observers tended to emphasize the existence of injustices and cruel punishment
among the Ndebele without a clear analysis of Ndebele notions of justice and
punishment. Rhodesian colonial officials, especially the Native Commissioners,
wrongly assumed that Africans brought cases to them because they offered a
superior kind of justice that was far much better than that offered by African
Others argued that among the Ndebele democracy and human rights were unknown
because the judiciary system was characterized by only two forms of punishment,
that is, fines and death.
Robert Moffat described the Ndebele system of justice as "tyrannical in the
strictest sense of the word" and that the king's word was law. All these were distortions and
falsifications of the Ndebele notions of justice and punishment.
In the Ndebele state, notions of justice and punishment were closely intertwined
with Ndebele customs and traditions. Political leaders of the state performed
both administrative and judiciary roles. In the execution of justice the
political leadership summoned the wisdom of other traditional officials in
society such as izanusi, izinyanga, izangoma (diviners,
wise men and magicians respectively). At times even the services of the
religious shrine such as Njelele were sought to establish justice.
Amacala (criminal cases) were basically divided into two categories, that is, amacala amakhulu (serious crimes) and amacala amancane (minor crimes). The serious crimes
included ukubulala (murder), ubuthakathi/ukuloya (witchcraft),
amacala ezombuso (political crimes) and ubufebe (prostitution
The king commonly dealt with serious crimes whereas minor crimes such as ukweba (theft) and inxabano
emagumeni/emizini (domestic misunderstanding) were dealt with by either abalisa
(headmen) or izinduna (chiefs) depending on the gravity of the case within
their respective territorial jurisdiction. Even abamnuzana (heads of
households) could deal with very minor cases without the interference of either
a headman or a chief.
A clear system of justice ran from the household up to the state level and there
were clear channels and mechanisms of dealing with various crimes and
punishment. Conflict resolution mechanisms were also available to cater and
protect both communities and private interests. While an attempt was made to
achieve even handed justice in the Ndebele state, the judiciary system, like
other state institutions, was prone to abuse and manipulation by the 'big men'
such as the king, chiefs, headmen and senior men to the detriment of others.
Witchcraft was considered to be one of the most serious offences equal to murder. It was
considered prejudicial to the lives and property of others in society. Death and illness were not considered to be natural among the Ndebele. They were attributed either to the anger of amadlozi (ancestral spirits) or
witchcraft. Diviners and magicians usually raised accusations of witchcraft (ukunuka
abathakathi) and their allegations usually led to trials.
In many occasions those who were accused of witchcraft were punished by death. The
Ndebele public ideology has it that umthakathi kancengwa uyaphohozwa
ngenduku (there was no sympathy for wizards and their fate was execution). A number of examples help to
strengthen this view. In 1880 Lobengula had his own favoured sister, Mncengence
killed because he thought she was responsible for the barrenness of the royal
In a separate occasion, Xukuthwayo Mlotshwa, the chief of Intemba, had nine
people of his own family executed because he suspected that his illness was
caused by them.
Despite the emphasis in the Ndebele public ideology that witches' punishment was death
and that there was no sympathy for them, it is also evident that among the
Ndebele doubtful and unproven charges of witchcraft did not lead to execution.
Instead, unsubstantiated accusation of witchcraft led to banishment away from
the mainstream of the Ndebele society. Villagers were reluctant to harbour
suspected witches and a place of refugee came into being for the victims of
such charges at a place called eZihwabeni between Solusi and Plumtree. Amagusu amnyama (dark
forests) of Matebeleland North were also places 'where witches were thrown to
In these places of exile, those accused of witchcraft were supplied with meat
and grain from the state coffers.
The other serious crimes were those related to political crimes (amacala
ezombuso). Those accused of these crimes faced serious consequences. The clear case in point was that of 1840-1842 known as the Ntabayezindunacrisis. Mzilikazi descended
mercilessly and ruthlessly on his close relatives, including his own children
and his wives, because they were accused on political grounds. Political opposition and
harbouring political ambitions were considered as criminal.
The prominent and powerful members of the Ndebele society tended to manipulate and
abuse their power and positions in the umphakathi and izikhulu to eliminate
one another by accusing each other of witchcraft and plots against the king.
The accusation of witchcraft was used as a political weapon in moves for favours.
One of Mzilikazi's closest confidants, Manxeba Khumalo (the son of Mkaliphi
Khumalo) was executed in August 1862 on a charge of witchcraft elaborated by
his rivals in the umphakathi. In 1854 Mpondo, another of
Mzilikazi's confidants was executed because he was accused of witchcraft. The real crime, however, was
that they were too close to Mzilikazi to the extent that they generated
jealousy from their colleagues who also wanted to be nearer to the king.
During the crisis of 1870-1872 following Lobengula's controversial accession to the
throne, prominent men like Mtikana Mafu and Thunzi Ndiweni who were respected
by Mzilikazi were eliminated after being accused of being witches and for
plotting against the king. Lotshe Hlabangana, a close confidant of Lobengula
was in 1880 accused of witchcraft by his rivals. He survived execution at that
time only to be executed in September 1889 on a charge of having misleadingly
commended the Rudd Concession of 1888 to Lobengula.
Despite all these executions, Tabler (one of the early literate observers on the
Ndebele history) pointed that Mzilikazi was not as despotic and tyrannical as
portrayed other white observers. He criticized the use of western Christian
standards to evaluate the Ndebele justice system. To him, Mzilikazi was
influenced by public opinion to carryout executions for witchcraft offences. Even among Ndebele oral tales,
Mzilikazi is portrayed as inkosi ebunene (a sympathetic and kind king)
and is said to have pardoned a number of accused people whom public opinion
wanted severely punished or executed. It was even mentioned by some informants
that if ever a criminal, including those accused of murder and witchcraft,
happened to run away to seek asylum in the capital, he or she became immune to
further harassment or execution.
Some of the methods used to punish offenders, such as piercing through anus of an
offender with a sharp stick and tying stones around the neck of an offender
before being thrown into water (mentioned by observers like Robert Moffat) were
horrific, though rare. What emerges from the above is a hierarchy of rights and
governance running from umuzi (nuclear or extended family) under umnumzana
throughimizi (villages) under abalisa (headmen), through the izigaba (provinces)
under izinduna (chiefs) to the ilizwe (kingdom)
under the overall administration of inkosi (king). These arrangements in the
Ndebele state, like every facet of Ndebele life and work, were shot through
with political import. There were complex dialectics between egalitarianism,
competition, tensions, clan and family intimacies, mutual assistance,
communalism, co-existing with domination, violence of the 'big men,' seniority,
aristocratic, and militaristic tendencies, under-pinned by patriarchal ideology
and an all embracing ideology of kinship.
Accountability and Legitimacy
A closer look at the governance styles of many Nguni pre-colonial societies tempts one to
argue that pre-colonial leaders were more accountable for their actions than
some present day African leaders. This argument is vindicated by the work of
such scholars as Claude Ake and Joseph Cobbah who uncovered that pre-colonial
leaders were accountable even for natural disasters. Among the Ndebele, proverbs and
praise poems reflected popular expectations of the subjects about their king
and the government generally. Ndebele oral literature was also an embodiment of
Ndebele claims against their state and leaders as well as a tale of criticism
of some of the actions of the king and all those in power. The king and his chiefs were
expected to be generous with food and productive resources. They were also
expected to provide protection against enemies and drought.
For the king to remain a legitimate ruler, he had to be very humane in his dealing
with his people. The Ndebele clearly expressed their fear and respect of their
king while at the same time celebrating their king's ability to 'eat' his
Mzilikazi was respected by his people mainly because of his ability to build
the Ndebele state, his ability to outwit leaders like Shaka and Zwide, and his
ability to seize cattle from his enemies for the benefit of the Ndebele. All
these qualities of Mzilikazi's rule were expressed in his praise poems. No
Ndebele doubted Mzilikazi's legitimacy because he was the undisputed builder of
the Ndebele state.
The Ndebele king's legitimacy was enhanced by judiciously distributing wealth to
his people in consultation with other influential men in the state. The chiefs
were also obliged to grant some material support to their subordinates. This
patron-client relationship had the potential of making and unmaking of kings.
Political power and economic wealth were interdependent. Mzilikazi and
Lobengula safeguarded their secular power through the strategic redistribution
of cattle and land to their followers. The simple logic of clientage
ensured that no one escaped accountability to the governed in the Ndebele
Some previous scholars distorted the whole issue of property rights in the Ndebele
state. One traditional argument was that the Ndebele king owned all the cattle
and all the land as his personal property. This was not true, bearing in mind that the king owned land in trust
for his people. The right to own property as an individual as well as in
association with others was embedded in Ndebele society. Cattle were owned at
two levels, that is, individual level and communal level. Inkomo zamathanga referred to
privately owned cattle, whereas inkomo zebutho or inkomo
zenkosi referred to communally owned cattle.
Land was available to every Ndebele person. The king and his chiefs distributed land
to their followers. Land among the Ndebele was neither sold nor bought and
every member of the state was entitled to it. The people who lost land to the
Ndebele were those who decided to migrate rather than accept Ndebele rule. The
Ndebele on arrival in the southwest embarked on a limited national
re-organization policy and this process saw some communities like those of
Malaba being moved to Tegwani River, and those of Mehlo being moved from the
headwaters of Khami River to Dombodema. The idea behind the process was not to deny these people their land but
rather the Ndebele intended to create a defence zone against the Ngwato using
these Kalanga families. Above all, the people who were incorporated and
assimilated into the Ndebele society were allocated land and other resources
and in return were expected to obey laws, customs, and traditions of the
Ndebele. They had to serve in the army and to attend the annual inxwala ceremony. The inkomo zebutho/national herd
or communal herds (inkomo zenkosi) were different from the king's personal
cattle. They were also different from the privately owned cattle/inkomo
zamathanga. The differences lay in the fact that the communal herd
was state property and while they were under the overall administration of the
king, even the king could not use them for his private affairs. It was this
state herd that was distributed to the provinces for people to tend and for
those without cattle to benefit from them in the form of manure, milk and meat.
The power of the king to distribute cattle gave rise to an ideological
glorification of the person of the king, especially among the poor who happened
to benefit materially from these cattle.
Among the Ndebele cattle (inkomo) constituted a vital branch of
production as the ownership of cattle determined social status and their
acquisition was the major long-term economic objective of all Ndebele males.
The Ndebele acquired cattle mainly through raiding and breeding. The cattle,
which were seized through raids, were first of all taken to the king for him to
distribute to his people. Cattle also expanded by natural growth. It was
through the distribution of cattle that the king was able to boost his
popularity among his followers. Baines watched the arrival of the raiders from
Gutu at Gibixhegu in 1870 and he pointed out that they were fairly distributed
following "tolerably equitable principles."
The accountability of the Ndebele leaders was usually expressed during indlala (famine),
where they had to provide food to the people. The king and his chiefs usually
distributed cattle and amabele (millet, sorghum and maize) to the
starving people. The king and the chiefs kept grain in secure places so as to
distribute to their people during times of crisis. Indlala among the
Ndebele was not just considered as a natural occurrence. Causes were to be
sought for it. Thus, besides distributing cattle and grain to the starving
people, the king was also obliged to investigate the causes of famine. If the
famine was caused by isikhongwana/intethe (locusts), the king and his
chiefs had to look for medicine and if the famine was caused by lack of izulu (rain), the
king had to send people to the rain-shrines like Njelele so as to get an
In this way, the Ndebele leaders tried by all means to be accountable to their
Religion played a very significant role in cementing legitimacy of the king. The Ndebele
kings were important religious leaders. The inxwala ceremony was
partly a festival of unity serving as a means of maintaining the power of the
king over his people. The numerous men and women who assembled around the
capital for inxwala ceremonies also came partly in order to renew
their allegiance to the kingship, politically to the person of the king, and
spiritually to the memory of the royal amadlozi as national
As a result of the central role played by the king in the religious affairs of
the Ndebele state, the kingship quickly acquired a deep-rooted religious
Ndebele society however, was not classless even though communalism was common. There
were the powerful royals and the weak, captives and non-captives, senior and
junior, old and young, women and men, able-bodied and disabled, and elderly and
the youth, etc. Power in general was stored in unequal human relations that
were underwritten by an ideology of lineage seniority and kinship. In the upper level of the
Ndebele state was the royalty who comprised the king and his relatives
constituting a ruling aristocracy. The royalty indeed enjoyed privileges and
rights that were far above other groups in the Ndebele society. They were the
richest as they were given cattle by the king so as to make sure they did not
constitute a threat to the king. The royalty received reflected authority from
the king. They were the prominent members of umphakathi. Mzilikazi's
brother-in-law, Maqhekeni Sithole and his cousin, Mncumbatha Khumalo, held
influential positions, whereas Lobengula's brothers: Ngubongubo, Sibambamu,
Nyanda, Muntu, Silwane, Fezela and Mahlahleni were prominent as his inner
Below the royalty were the Zansi (those from the South) who consisted of
those people who left with Mzilikazi from Zululand in the 1820s and their
descendants. This group of people in the Ndebele society formed an aristocracy
and claimed a number of privileges and rights far above other groups with the
exception of the royalty. The senior chiefs in the Ndebele state were drawn
from this group. They had power because they suffered with the king during the
turbulent years of the Mfecane and they had fought for him in
various battles of the migratory phase.
There was the Enhla group within the Ndebele society who comprised the
Sotho and Tswana people and occupied a position below the Zansi. Mzilikazi
incorporated these into the Ndebele state before crossing the Limpopo River.
They had suffered with the king since they accompanied the king up to
Matabeleland. The Enhlaalso had a claim to positions of authority and
power too based on their longer association with the Zansi. They largely
occupied positions of headmen under the Zansi who occupied
positions of chiefs.
Below the Enhla were the Hole group, which consisted of the Kalanga,
Rozvi, Nyubi, Nyayi, Birwa, Venda and other indigenous people of the southwest
who were incorporated into the Ndebele state mainly in the 1840s. Some early
observers had a wrong impression that the Hole were treated
as slaves in the Ndebele state.
The Hole were subordinated to the Zansi and Enhla groups
socially and politically. Even though they were belittled and looked down upon
by others, they were not really enslaved to the Ndebele. After all, they were the
largest group in the Ndebele society. By the 1890s, up to sixty per
cent of the inner Ndebele state was of Hole origin.
To Bjorn Lindgren, the words Zansi, Enhla, and Hole, were taken to
convey a sense of ethnic rigidity which ranked the Ndebele state into castes.
His anthropological research resurrected the old-fashioned reading of the
Ndebele society in terms of castes.
The reality is that people continuously moved across these categories as they
negotiated new alliances, usually by marriage, merit, and loan of cattle. A
respectable Hole was able to move closer to the Ndebele chiefs and could
become richer than a relative of a chief who had fallen into disfavour. In the
Matshetsheni isigaba, a Zansi man called Sinanga Khumalo was
succeeded as a chief by a Hole man called Ntuthu Msimangu. Ntuthu
was succeeded by another Hole, Swina Nkala.
One controversial issue that made early observers describe the Ndebele society as
an authoritarian state was that of existence of captives or domestic slavery.
In 1829, Robert Moffat mentioned Hurutshe children who were kept by one of
Mzilikazi's brothers as slaves.
The Ndebele practiced capturing of individuals as well as groups to incorporate
into the Ndebele society. However, European observers emphasized the existence
of captives as down-trodden slaves among the Ndebele. Such literate observers
like Cooper-Chadwick, Kirby and Posselt mentioned Ndebele raiders commonly came
with children and women as captives. These captives are said to have had their
hands tied behind their backs to ensure that they did not escape. The captives were first of all
brought and paraded before the Ndebele king in the capital. The Ndebele king
had the duty to distribute the captives. The females who were old enough to be
married were immediately distributed among their captors, especially chiefs.
The king took a percentage of well-selected captives to reside in the capital
and to work as royal servants. These selected captives were termed imbovane. Those who remained at the
capital as servants of the king received the best treatment, which led them to
be fanatical supporters of the king.
Ngwabi Bhebe noted that any Ndebele man of substance such as amaqhawe (those who
excelled in the military duties) who wanted to have a young captive, female or
male, could ask for permission from the king. Permission was granted only on
full understanding that the applicant had the means of looking after a captive.
The king was really concerned about the welfare of the captives. If the request
was successful, the applicant would take the captive to his own home where the
latter became, to all intents and purposes, a member of his 'master's' family
rather than a slave.
Thomas Morgan Thomas described the social conditions of the captives in the Ndebele
society as very humane involving being given good food and being allowed to
establish a family and to marry just like all other people. Giving credence to Thomas is
Ngwabi Bhebe who noted that even some captives enjoyed being Ndebele to the
extent of voluntarily translating their totems from Shona to Sindebele. He
gives examples of the Shumbas who changed to Sibanda, Nyangas who changed to
Nkomo, Gumbos who changed to Msipa, Shiris who changed to Nyoni, Dzivas who
changed to Siziba, Shokos who changed to Ncube and the Moyos to Nhliziyo.
Thomas Morgan Thomas who worked among the Ndebele through the Matabeleland Mission
from 1859 to 1870 noted that among the Ndebele, "the African slave is almost his master's equal, and enjoys from the beginning the
privileges of a child; and looks upon his master and mistress as being in every
respect his parent again".
Thomas added that in the Ndebele state servitude did not "convey the true idea of a slave"
because the captives could leave their patrons and live wherever they liked within the Ndebele kingdom and could even be masters on their own right. Captured boys, instead of
being kept as slaves as they grew up, were drafted into Ndebele amabutho and underwent
the same stages as any Ndebele boy. Captured girls too grew up into womanhood
in the same way as other Ndebele females and were either married by their own
adopted fathers or by other men. They were similarly regarded for lobola (bridewealth)
purposes as the daughters of the captor.
The issue of the existence of slaves in the Ndebele state becomes an issue in early
colonial law records, including instances of the Ndebele keeping as slaves
people captured on the Zambezi as well as disputes concerning the slaves
brought into the Ndebele state by the Gaza queens who were married by
Lobengula. Some later colonial civil cases concerned the slaves of chief
However, the fact that this issue appears from the early colonial law records
reflects that the precolonial Ndebele traditional forms of oppression and
domination of some group of people over others were now designated as slavery.
Even some forms of patron-client relationship between the royalty and their
captives could now be seen and interpreted as a form of slavery.
The other issue to consider is gender relations as an aspect of governance. The
Ndebele state was a male-dominated society and as such women were perpetually
considered to be minors (abesintwana). Their custody before marriage was vested in their fathers or eldest brothers where
the fathers were deceased. Upon marriage, the custody of women was transferred
to that of their husbands. Women were always subordinate to men. Women were not allowed to
partake in national issues such as war and they were not represented in the
public forums such as umphakathi and izikhulu where
national issues were debated and discussed. Politics was a preserve of men.
Women could however affect national policy and politics in general indirectly
through their husbands, brothers and sons who were prominent in the Ndebele
Women were not a monolithic group of dominated and oppressed people in Ndebele
society. The categories of women followed the pattern of the social division or
stratification of the Ndebele society into Zansi, Enhla and Hole. At the top
were royal women such as the sisters, wives and daughters of the king. There
were daughters, sisters, and wives of amaqhawe and other
prominent men such as chiefs who were also influential. There were also
daughters, sisters and wives of Enhla men as well daughters, sisters, and
wives of the Hole men. At the lowest level were captives who were still
undergoing probation. Within the top ranks of women, there was also the
hierarchy of senior and junior wives. Taken together, these divisions afforded
women different rights and privileges and were affected differently by male
domination and oppression.
The royal-affiliated women, like their male counter-parts, received reflected power
though not equal to that of their royal brothers. It is unfortunate that the
mothers of Mzilikazi and Lobengula died before their sons had become kings, so
that we do not know about their privileges. With a focus on the Zulu amakhosikazi, Jennifer
Weir has shown that royal women actively participated in state institutions.
She noted that among the Zulu, royal women were placed in positions of
authority in the amakhanda and were invested with a degree of
authority and autonomy, because of their age and freedom from ritual
constraints. Weir built her case from the works of Sean Henretta who is one of
the modern researchers to take exception to andocentric interpretations of
pre-colonial leadership, and Carolyn Hamilton who challenged the view of women
as a homogenous group marked by universal subordination.
The general insights drawn from other Nguni societies such as the Zulu and
Ndwandwe, makes it clear that the mothers of Shaka and Zwide had privileged
positions in society. When Nandi (the mother of Shaka) died she received a
state funeral whereas Ntombazi (the mother of Zwide) was renowned for keeping
the heads of the kings whom her son had killed. Helen Bradford was very
critical of the dominant attitude among previous researchers to simply view
Nguni societies as models of hierarchical patriarchy in which men dominated
both domestic and public affairs. She was also very critical of the tendency to
see royal women as mere mothers, aunts, sisters, and wives of kings and chiefs.
Bradford pointed to the dangers of taking at face value andocentric versions of
the South African past. Bradford concluded that the consensus on female
subordination and powerlessness was a twentieth century creation.
In the Ndebele state, we learn of some few exceptionally influential women like
Lobengula's sister, Mncengence who enjoyed reflected power and authority from
her brother, though she was eventually accused of witchcraft and killed. She
stayed in the capital, and possessed a lot of cattle just like men. She was
consulted on Lobengula's matrimonial affairs and as a favoured sister of the
king, she had the privilege of advising the king on state politics. The other influential woman
was Lozikheyi Dlodlo, a senior wife of Lobengula. Marieke Clarke who is working
on a full biography of Lozikheyi, has pointed out that she was as powerful as
any man in the Ndebele state. The king trusted her to the extent that she was
given control over the sacred state medicines. Lozikheyi lived in the capital
where she was the head queen. She led other queens in dances during crucial
national ceremonies. Lozikheyi was also a renowned rainmaker. During the fall of
the Ndebele state she played a crucial role in the resistance of 1896 through
making war medicines. She became a focal point of Ndebele opposition to British
rule. The place known as koNkosikazi in Matabeleland North was named after this
The king's daughters were another group of women who enjoyed privileges beyond that
of ordinary women in the Ndebele society. The daughters of both Lobengula and
Mzilikazi enjoyed some privileges far above other women. It was in line with
the wider stratification of the Ndebele society for them to be married to the Zansi and more so
to wealthy chiefs.
Royal women were widely used for political purposes by their brothers and
fathers. Both Mzilikazi and Lobengula deployed their daughters in the creation
of alliances between the powerful and wealthy chiefs and the royal house.
Even alliances between powerful states were cemented through the use of royal women.
A case in point is that of the alliance between the Ndebele royal family and
the Gaza royal family made by Lobengula and Mzila. Mzila sent more than ten
women to be married by Lobengula including his daughter Xwalile. Mzila in turn
married women from the Ndebele state.
The Enhla women enjoyed the 'privilege' of being married by the influential and
rich Zansi men, although the Enhla men were not
allowed to marry Zansi women. Zansi and Enhla men generally
looked down upon Hole women. However, the social stratification
that divided the Ndebele society did not succeed in stopping the proud Zansi men from having
illicit relationships with Hole women and subsequently produced
belittled offspring termed incukubili (half-breeds). It is crucial to note that
both Mzilikazi and Lobengula's policies of state expansion and consolidation
emphasized increments to their population and social harmony within the state.
This entailed encouraging intermarriages among different people of the Ndebele
The underlying idea of
marriage among the Ndebele was that marriage was not a contract between two
people, but rather a pact between the families of the man and the woman which
formed a bond of friendship between the members of such families. At times
pre-arranged marriages were made although they were rare. The lowest grades of women in the Ndebele state were the captives. They did not
enjoy the privilege of being married to men of their choice.
What is clear from this systematic rethinking of Ndebele governance is that it was
a complex mix of egalitarianism, communalism, tensions, competition,
co-operation, clan/family intimacies, and mutual assistance. This co-existed
with domination, violence of 'big men,' seniority, authoritarianism,
aristocratic and militaristic tendencies. All in turn were underpinned by
patriarchal ideology and an all-embracing ideology of kinship. This complex
situation permitted both respect for human rights as well as their violation.
As a result of the complexity of this system of governance, it defies the
simplistic single-despot model. There is a lot that constituted good governance
co-existing uneasily and tendentiously with bad governance. So, post-colonial
African dictators are not justified in claiming to be ruling according to
African tradition. Eurocentric scholars are also wrong in trying to justify
post-colonial crises of governance on the basis of pre-colonial way of doing
things in Africa. Perhaps the crisis of governance in postcolonial Africa has
more to do with the legacy of late colonialism as argued by Mamdani. This needs
another study to closely explore it.
and Evans-Pritchard 1940.
Chabal and Daloz
1999), p. xvii.
1996, pp. 3-10 and Mamdani 2001a, pp. 4-15.
2001c, pp. 63-73.
1975, pp. 98-103.
In Benin, the
Marxist oriented dictator Mathieu Kereku when challenged to live power after a
long presidential incumbency, he challenged the pro-democracy forces: 'Have you
ever heard or seen a retired king in Africa?' He explained that Africa you can
only see tombs of kings, which means it was a tradition for kings to die in
and Ranger 1983 and Ranger 1993.
Bhebe and Ranger
2001 and Simiyu 1988.
and Illiffe 1995.
1900; Moffat 1842 and Wallis 1945.
1978; Ranger 1967; Beach 1896; Cobbing 1976; Bhebe 1979; Nyathi 1995; Nyathi
1996; Nyathi 1999; Msindo 2004; Lindgren 2002; Roberts 2004; and
Wallis 1945, pp.
practice of celibacy, a man could not be allowed to marry and found a family
without having proven his prowess in war. Men used to serve in military service
for up to 40 years before being allowed to marry.
Thomas 1972, pp.
Cobbing, 1976 p.
Vail and White
1991, p. 92.
Cobbing 1976, p.
Cobbing 1976, p.
Mhlangazanhlansi 1944, p. 27. The combined number of AmaHole
was estimated to have constituted 60% of the Ndebele
Beach 1986, pp.
2004, pp. 62-65.
as treaty with the colonial government at the Cape on behalf of the king,
demonstrating how the king trusted this principal of his government.
2004, p. 80.
This is a popular
saying among the Ndebele speaking people about the a mutual way of accepting
defeat in an argument and acceptance of popular will to prevail over one
person's opinion and thought.
and Ncube 1995.
This is a common
Ndebele proverb warning those who are too politically ambitious to wait for the
reigning leader to disappear from the political scene for them to take over.
Kings never retired. They died on the throne.
The Khumalo royal
family praise names encapsulated how they came to be rulers including how
Mzilikazi squared up with the feared Zulu king Shaka and defied his oppressive
Gerth and Mills
1958, pp. 22-39 and Wylie 1990 p. 45.
Nyathi 1995 and
Child, 1958, pp.
Ranger 1999 pp.
2004, pp. 80-85.
Manuscript TH2/1/1 Thomas Journal, 12 April 18180.
McGregor and Ranger 2000, p. 25.
Manuscript LMS ML1/2/A Robert Moffat to Tidman, 25 December 1862.
There is a
mountain just outside the city of Bulawayo as one goes to the east where it is
said that as the Ndebele settled in Matabeleland some overzealous chiefs like
Ngudwane Ndiweni installed Nkulumane the eldest son of Mzilikazi as king of the
Ndebele because they thought the king had died. For two years Mzilikazi was
missing with another group of Ndebele followers because their journey to
Zimbabwe followed two paths. One of the reasons given for this somehow rebellious
act was that the Gundwane group wanted to celebrate inxwala ceremony and this
could not be done without a king who is supposed to lead the ritual activities.
The narration goes on to state that Mzilikazi eventually appeared and was very
angry that these people had installed his son as king while he was alive. His
response included sentencing a number of chiefs to death who were then executed
in this small mountain. This is the Ntabayezinduna crisis
Mzilikazi is said
to have even killed his rebellious son Nkulumane but this was not supposed to
be known by the mainstream Ndebele community. So the popular story was that the
heir apparent was taken to his maternal uncles in line with Nguni traditions.
But when Mzilikazi died in September 1868, Nkulumane was no where to be found,
confirming that he was killed alongside the rebellious chiefs.
Cobbing 1976, pp.
Gelfand 1968, pp.
Tabler 1955, pp.
Chief John Sangulube, Brunapeg, 10 April 1995.
Ake 1991 and
2007, pp. 160-189
Vail and White
1991, pp. 89-92.
Cobbing 1976, pp.
argument was later used the British conquerors to engage in primitive looting
of Ndebele cattle and Ndebele land on the false basis that they had defeated
king Lobhengula who was the owner of all these properties.
Tabler 1955, pp.
1, 1898-1901, pp.
1, 1898-1901, p. 15.
Cobbing 1976, p.
1975, pp. 107-110.
Government Delineation Report, Matshetshe Tribal Trust Land: History of the
2002, pp. 54-60.
Wallis 1945, pp.
1975, p. 107.
In the 1990s, a
new pressure group emerged in Matabeleland under the name Imbovane
YamaHlabezulu led by the late Mr. Bekithemba John Sibindi. Imbovane referred to
those captives who were well selected to work as royal servants. In political
terms, however, it meant a small ant that ate maize through barrowing into it
until it gets rotten.
2004, pp. 80-83.
Bhebe 1979, pp. 23-30.
Thomas 1864, pp.
Bhebe 1979, pp.
Thomas 1864, p.
2004, pp. 84-86.
Guy 1990, pp.
White 1975, pp.
Mahamba 1996, p.
Ndebele public ideology was that umfazi kalaHole
, meaning for marriage purposes men could marry across
the social divides with ease.
of Various Matabele Connected with the Royal House, November 1973.
Alexander, Jocelyn, McGregor, Joan and Ranger,
Terence. Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the 'Dark Forests' of
Matabeleland. Harare: Weaver Press, 2000.
Ake, Claude. "Rethinking African Democracy." Journal
of Democracy 2 No.1
Baines, Thomas. The Gold Regions of South Eastern
Africa: Bulawayo: Books of
Beach. David Norman. War and Politics in Zimbabwe,
1840-1900. Gweru: Mambo
Beach, David Norman. "Ndebele Raiders and Shona
Power." Journal of African History xv, No. 4 (1974): 633-651.
Becker, Peter. Path of Blood: The Rise and
Conquests of Mzilikazi.
London: Longman, 1967.
Bhebe, Ngwabi and Ranger, Terence. (eds.). The
Historical Dimensions of Democracy and Human Rights in Zimbabwe Volume One:
Pre-colonial and Colonial Legacies. Harare: University of Zimbabwe Publications, 2001.
Bhebe, Ngwabi. Christianity and Traditional
Religion in Western Zimbabwe, 1859-1923. London: Longman, 1979.
Bradley, Mathew. "The 'Other': Precursory of African
Conceptions of Democracy." International Studies Review 7, No. 2 (2005): 1-23.
Bradford, Helen, "Women, Gender and Colonialism:
Rethinking the History of the British Cape Colony and its Frontier Zones, c.
1806-1870." Journal of African History 37 (1996): 351-370.
Brown, Richard, "The Ndebele Succession Crisis,
1868-1877." Historical Association Local Series, Pamphlet 5, 1966.
Chabal, Patrick and Daloz, Jean-Pascal. Africa
Works: The Instrumentalisation of Disorder. London: James Currey, 1999.
Child, FH. "Family and Tribal Structure-Status of
Women." Native Affairs Annual (NADA) XXXV (1958): 65-70.
Clarke, Marieke Faber. "Queen Lozikheyi." Bulawayo
Gallery Magazine 1, No.1 (2000): 1-10.
Cobbah, Josiah. 'African Values and Human Rights: An
African Perspective.' Human Rights Quarterly 9 No. 3, (1987): 309-323.
Cobbing, Julian. "The Ndebele under the Khumalos, 1820-1896." Ph.D. diss., University of Lancaster, 1976.
Crawford, JR. Witchcraft and Sorcery in Rhodesia. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.
Cooper-Chadiwick. J. Three Years with Lobengula
and Experience from South Africa. Bulawayo: Books of Rhodesia, 1975.
Decle, Lionel. Three Years in Savage Africa. London: Methuen, 1900.
Ekeh, Peter. "Colonialism and the Two Publics in
Africa: A Theoretical Statement." Comparative Studies in Society and History 17, No. 1 (1975): 98-103.
Fortes Meyer and Evans-Pritchard Edwards. (eds.), African
Political Systems. London:
Oxford University Press, 1940.
Gelfand, Michael. Gubulawayo and Beyond: Letters
and Journals of the Early Jesuit Missionaries to Zambezia, 1879-1887. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968.
Gerth, Hans and Wright-Mills, C. (eds.). From Max
Weber: Essays in Sociology.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.
Guy, Jeff. "Gender Oppression in Southern Africa's
Pre-Capitalist Societies." in Walker, C. (ed.). Women and Gender in Southern
Africa to 1945. Cape Town:
David Philip, 1990: 34-45.
Hamilton, Carolyn. Terrific Majesty: Powers of
Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Hamilton, Carolyn, "Ideology, Oral Tradition and the
Struggle for Power in the Early Zulu Kingdom." MA. diss. University of Witwatersrand,
Hobsbawn, Eric and Ranger, Terence. (eds.). The
Invention of Tradition.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Illife, John. Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Jeater, Diana. "A Dying Practice? African Arbitration
and Native Commissioners' Courts in Southern Rhodesia, 1898-1914." Paper
presented at the University of Bristol, 1996.
Lindgren, Bjorn. "The Politics of Ndebele Ethnicity:
Origins, Nationality and Gender in Southern Zimbabwe." Ph.D. diss., Uppsala
Mahamba, Barbara. "Women in the History of the
Ndebele." MA. diss. University of Zimbabwe, 1996.
Mahlangu, PS. uMthwakazi: Izindaba ZamaNdebele
Mair, Lucy. Primitive Government. London: Pelican Books, 1962.
Mamdani, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary
Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers:
Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda. London: James Currey, 2001a.
Mamdani, Mahmood. "When Does a Settler Become a
Native? Citizenship and Identity in a Settler Society." Pretext: Literacy
and Cultural Studies 10,
No.1 (2001b): 63-73.
Mhlagazanhlansi (N. Jones). My Friend Khumalo. Bulawayo: Books of Bulawayo, 1944.
Moffat, Robert. Missionary Labours and Scenes in
Southern Africa. London:
John Snow, 1842.
Msindo, Enocent, "Ethnicity in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe:
A Study of Ndebele-Kalanga Relations, 1860s-1990s." Ph.D. diss., University of
Munjeri, Dawson, "A Brief Outline of the Political,
Economic, Social and Religious History of the Kalanga." Paper presented at the
History Seminar Series, University of Zimbabwe, 1987.
National Archives of Zimbabwe (N.A. Z) Historical
Manuscript TH2/1/1 Thomas Journal, 12 April 1880
N.A. Z Historical Manuscript LMS ML1/2/A Robert Moffat
to Tidman, 25 December 1862.
N. A. Z Historical Manuscript W18/1/1 Statement of
Various Matabele Connected with the Royal House, November 1973.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. "Giving Africa Voice within
Global Governance: Oral History, Human Rights and the United Nations (UN) Human
Rights Council." Malleswari, VB. (ed.). Human Rights: International
Perspectives. India: The
ICFAI University Press, 2007: 160-189.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. 'The Dynamics of Democracy
and Human Rights among the Ndebele of Zimbabwe.' Ph.D. diss., University of
Ndlovu, Tommy Matshakayile, Ndlovu, Doris and Ncube,
BS. Imikhuba Lamasiko AmaNdebele/ The Traditions and Culture of the Ndebele. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1995.
Nyathi, Pathisa. Igugu LikaMthwakazi: Imbali
YamaNdebele, 1893-1893. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1995.
Nyathi, Pathisa. Uchuku Olungelandiswe: Imbali
Gweru: Mambo Press, 1996.
Nyathi, Pathisa. Madoda Lolani Incukuthu: Imbali
YamaNdebele-1896. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1999.
Ranger, Terence. Voices from the Rocks: Nature,
Culture and History in the Matopos Hills of Zimbabwe. Harare: Baobab, 1999.
Ranger, Terence. "The Invention of Tradition Revisited: The Case of Colonial Africa." in Ranger, Terence and Vaughan, Olufemi. (eds.). Legitimacy and the State in Twentieth-Century Africa: Essays in Honour of A. H. M. Kirk-Greene. London: Macmillan, 1993): 62-111.
Ranger, Terence. Revolt in Southern Rhodesia: A
Study in African Resistance. London: Heinemann, 1967.
Rasmussen, Kent. Migrant Kingdom: Mzilikazi's
Ndebele in South Africa. London: Rex Collings, 1978.
Rhodesia Government Delineation Report. Matshetshe
Tribal Trust Land: History of the Tribe. Salisbury, 1964.
Roberts, Ray. "Traditional Paramontcy and Modern
Politics in Matabeleland: The End of the Lobengula Royal Family—and of
Ndebele Particularism?" Heritage (2004): 1-34.
Sangulube, John. Interviewed by Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni.
10 April 1995.
Shillington, Kevin. History of Africa. London: Palgrave, 1995.
Sibanda, Mayford. uMbiko KaMadlenya. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1981.
Simiyu, VG. "The Democratic Myth in the African
Traditional Society." Oyugi, Walter, Odhiambo, ES, Chege, Michael and Gitonga,
Afrifa. (eds.). Democratic Theory and Practice in Africa. London: Heinemann, 1988: 5-17.
Tabler, Edward. The Fair Interior: Chronicles of
Pioneering in Matabele and Mashona Countries, 1847-1879. Cape Town: AA Blakema, 1955.
Thomas, Morgan Thomas. Eleven Years in Central
South Africa. Bulawayo: Books of Bulawayo, 1970.
Thomas, Morgan Thomas. The London Missionary
Magazine and Chronicle
XXVIII (1864): 235-238.
Vail, Leroy and White, Louise. Power and the Praise
Poem: Southern African Voices in History. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991.
Wallis, John Peter Richard. (ed.). The Matabele
Journals of Robert Moffat, 1829-1860 II. London: Chatto and Windus, 1945.
Weir, Jennifer, "Ideology and Religion: The Missing
Link in Explanations for the Rise and Persistence of the Zulu State." Ph.D.
diss. University of Western Australia, 2000.
White, John. 'Amakhosikasi: Some Notes on the Queens
and Families of Mzilikazi and Lobengula.' Native Affairs Department Annual (NADA) XIII (1975): 109-112.
Wylie, Diana. A Little God: The Twilight of
Patriarchy in a Southern African Chiefdom. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 1990.
Zambesi Mission Record 1 (898-1901): 15-20.
Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni
is a Lecturer in African Studies at the
Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University, Milton
Keynes, United Kingdom. Before joining the Open University, Ndlovu-Gatsheni
was Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of International Studies at Monash
University's South Africa Campus in Johannesburg. He has published articles on
history and politics in Southern Africa in journals such as Journal of
Southern African Studies
and Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review. His book entitled The Ndebele Nation: Reflections
of Hegemony, Memory and Historiography is in press in the Netherlands. He is currently
researching on nationalism, memory and transitional justice in Zimbabwe.
Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, "Who Ruled by the Spear? Rethinking the Form of Governance in the Ndebele State," African Studies Quarterly 10, nos. 2 & 3: (Fall 2008) [online] URL: http://africa.ufl.edu/asq/v10/v10i2a4.htm