Rozvis prevail over Swazi warriors

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By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu

A MONTH or so later, the Swazi pursuers arrived at the Ntsheka Wakapiyenyika Range after spending several days at the great Masvingo, that is at the Dzimbabgwe, where, so says oral legend, some of them caused some damage to the conical tower.
Against better military judgment, the warriors decided to follow Ntinhima and his people into the thickly wooded mountain instead of only laying siege.
The Rozvi had, meanwhile, collected rocks and boulders and placed personnel at every strategic spot.
The personnel were physically strong young men who could roll down the boulders and throw the rocks from above and hit any attackers or intruders on their heads in the meandering passages below.
It was, so think Kalanga oral historians, a very bloody battle with Ntinhima’s people showing no mercy whatsoever as even their women carried any portable objects and gave them to the men to use as missiles.
The whole Swazi contingent, except one most fortunate young man, perished.
The young man would live to liken the occasion to the Swazi versus Zulu battle in which King Tshaka’s army routed Sotshangana Nxumalo’s warriors in the early 1820s.
The difference was that in the Rozvi versus Swazi encounter in the Ntsheka Wakapiyenyika Mountain, only one Swazi survived to tell the tale later whereas in the other, which occurred earlier, Sotshangana and a relatively large number migrated to a safe region where they founded a new nation, amaShangaan kaNgungunyane.
The lone Swazi survivor took about four lunar months to walk back to Dzimbabgwana (Intaba zikaMambo) where some Swazis had remained to keep an eye on the defeated mambo’s subjects.
The young warrior was only skin and bones; his eyes were sunken deep into his furrowed face, his traditional skin attire (amabhetshu, madhumbu) were hanging loosely on his waisted waist, his hair had turned a sickly yellow and his lips had developed a maze of cracks.
He was a perfect specimen of a kwashiorkor case.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people of Rozvi extraction particularly, and many BaKalanga in general, were deserting the region for safer areas in what is now the Lower Gweru, Gokwe, the Sanyati area, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and westwards into the BaKalanga region in northern Botswana.
That massive movement of those people resulted in the spread of Rozvi clans such as the Mkoba, the Njelele, the Mapondera, the Mhasvi, the Gweru and numerous others in the Midlands, Chiweshe, Mashonaland East and as far as Manicaland.
As for Ntinhima and his group, they settled in what is now Masvingo Province where they spawned the large Rozvi population found there and neighbouring regions today, their highest concentrations being, arguably, in the Bikita District.
In Botswana, we find them at Tjangate, Men’we and also quite a few among the Ngwato community at Serowe.
In Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland region, Rozvi people are abundantly found in the Gwanda, Filabusi, Matobo, Beitbridge, Mangwe, Bulilima, Hwange, Nkayi, Tsholotsho Esigodini and Inyathi areas.
Some families of the mambo clan later changed their totem from the Kalanga ‘Moyo’ to the Ndebele ‘Nhliziyo’, a development that occurred most probably because of one or other of the following reasons: After the Ndebeles of Mzilikazi occupied the former Mambo Kingdom in 1838, some of their administrators later insisted all Kalanga totems should be in the Nguni language so that their meanings could be understood by the rulers; the other possibility is that because the Nguni order of social and cultural precedence was ‘Nguni first, Suthu second, and mahole third’.
The mahole were those tribes who were indigenous to this country, some of whom felt embarrassed by their low social status, and thus Nguninised their mitupo, ‘Moyo’ becoming ‘Nhliziyo’, ‘Gumbo’ becoming ‘Msipa’ and ‘Hungwe’ becoming ‘Nyoni’ or ‘Matshelela’, ‘Kulube’ becoming ‘Ngulube’, ‘Tjuma’ becoming ‘Nkomo’ and so on.
However, the overwhelming majority of the ‘Moyo’ clans continue to maintain their totem in its original language and those who Nguninised it are an exception rather than the rule.
The death of Mambo Tjilisamhulu (Nichasike) and the escape of Ntinhima from Fumubgwe to Ntsheka Wakapiyenyika must have happened in the 1834 – 1836 period.
After the return of the sole Ntsheka Wakapiyenyika survivor, the Swazi military leaders sent a message to their king post haste telling him that a part of his army had disappeared in a mountain in mambo’s country.
The Swazi king immediately sent a much stronger army commanded by Mbokodo, Ndumo, Mpezeni and Gomane.
That was about the end of 1836 or beginning of 1837 because no sooner did they reach Mambo’s land, that six men arrived also from KwaNgwane with instructions from their king for their army to return forthwith because Mzilikazi was on his way to Mambo’s Kingdom.
We know that Mzilikazi left his home at Mosega in the Marico region of the West Rand in March 1837 after he was repeatedly attacked by a combined Boer and Khoi Khoi force from across the Vaal River.
He must have left shortly after the Swazi king had sent his army as stated above.
The Swazis held consultations after receiving the king’s message. Mpezeni and Gomane said it would be unwise to return to their country because they were likely to meet the feared Mzilikazi on the way.
Mbokodo and Ndumo said it was their duty to obey their king whose instruction was that they must return immediately and not to desert their country.
After a series of heated discussions, Mpezeni and Gomane stood firmly for going further north to get away from Mzilikazi.
Mbokodo and Ndumo, plus a larger number of warriors than that of those supporting the other group, returned to KwaNgwane.
Mpezeni and Gomane went northwards and crossed the Zambezi River in about September or October 1838.
Some of their people later settled in various countries such as Nyasaland, now Malawi, with ‘inkosi yamakhosi uMbilwa’ as their sovereign head.
Mpezeni’s group conquered a part of what is now Zambia’s Eastern Province and established a kingship that is still thriving up to the time of writing this article.
Incidentally, it was to King Mpezeni that King Lobengula, Mzilikazi’s successor, went to seek refuge after he was defeated by Rhodes’ settlers in 1893 and eventually died there in about 1920.
That will be a part of this presentation in due course, when we narrate the defeat and destruction of the Ndebele Kingdom by Cecil John Rhodes’ colonial troops in November 1893.
Before we reach that stage, let us continue looking at how Mambo’s Kingdom came to an end, some people may say as a punishment by Mwali as stated in earlier instalments.
We have left Ntinhima in the Ntsheka Wakapiyenyika Mountain in the land of the BaHera from where he and his people later descended and settled, first in the Masvingo region, before spreading far and wide to become most probably the most widely scattered tribal group in Zimbabwe.
Among people of Rozvi origin, there are those of the Shangwe clans. They were famous for growing and processing a special type of pipe and snuff tobacco which they shaped like loafs or sometimes like cones.
That Shangwe tobacco was quite a flourishing rural industry in the 1940s and before in this country.
The Shangwe people lived predominantly in the Nkayi, the Gokwe and the Umniati regions.
They now seem to have been culturally and socially absorbed by other ethnic communities and their strong Rozvi language is now virtually extinct.
Its traces are found in Zambia’s Lozi (Rotsi, Rozi) language particularly in the common phrase: ‘Eni Shangwe!’ (Yes sir! madam! elder!).
Today the Shangwe people have become a part of the Zezuru or Korekore communities in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central. Some have been culturally incorporated into the Tongas, or Kalangas or Ndebeles of Matabeleland North and the Midlands provinces.
There is no Shangwe chief in any province.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sgwakuba@gmail.com

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