The Stabbing of Shaka and Ndwandwe War that Led to the Movement of The Ngoni and Others From Zululand

by A.T Bryant, a Missionary in Zululand and Natal 
The evening was come, and brought an agreeable transformation of the scene. The bright variegated gaiety of the day had now become set in a background of jetty darkness, and, lit up by the lurid glow of bonfires of dried reeds, presented a weird and fascinating study in light and shade. It was a serenade in which the great chief was himself taking a part. Suddenly a terrifying shriek rent the air; and the fires went mysteriously out! The multitude was plunged in darkness, and confusion reigned supreme. Shaka the Terrible, Shaka the Divine, had himself been stabbed! Verily now hath come the end for many there present. What shall be done? The gathering wrath must be appeased somehow, else unhappy are they whose misfortune it must be to have to come near the wounded despot; for, says the adage, the wild-beast bites those who approach it. Now, the enemy whom Shaka just at that moment had uppermost in his mind was the Ndwandwe king, Zwide, whose power had not yet been broken and whose adherents, under Sikunyana, were even then threatening the northern boundary. Were there any of his people among the assembled masses? There had been; but they had ‘gone out’ as mysteriously as had the fires, and could not be found. Plainly these were they who had done the deed. So two companies of warriors were sent out in hot pursuit along the northern road. On the fifth day the party returned, bringing with them the bodies of three unfortunate and perhaps innocent individuals, whom they reported to have found and killed in the bush. The bodies were laid on the ground at about a mile from the kraal. Then, the ears having been cut off from the right side of the head, the whole multitude of 30,000 men and women filed along, screaming and wailing, each one as he or she passed, battering the bodies with a stick, which was afterwards dropped on the spot. Needless to say, the bodies were already invisible beneath a pile of sticks before many hundreds of the people had passed. Nevertheless the formality must be duly performed, if only to save one’s own person from suspicion of any sympathy with the criminals; so they went by vigorously whacking the pile of sticks. Finally, the whole multitude collected again about the kraal. Three men appeared, bearing the ears of the unfortunate individuals at the end of long sticks. The ears were publicly burnt in a great fire kindled in the centre of the kraal and in the presence of Shaka, whose wound was now considerably healed. As though to furnish pretexts for further slaughters, new crimes were invented. Immediately following the stabbing, had gone forth a prohibition that none should wear any body-ornaments, nor shave their heads, and no man whose wife was pregnant should approach the king. Transgressors in abundance were rapidly forthcoming, the thought of whose cold-blooded murder the gory monarch found ‘soothing’ during the days of confinement to his hut! Further, a force of 1,000 strong was despatched as a punitive expedition against the suspected tribe, returning in a few days, after having valiantly set fire to several unsuspecting kraals and then relieved them of some 800 head of cattle.
Ndwandwe War third Attack and Death of Sikunyana. 
Years had passed by since the last great campaign, and the Zulus were enjoying comparatively peaceful times in their homes. Their chief was sitting at ease in the cattle-fold along with his more familiar headmen, when suddenly a runner appeared, breathless and sweating, and announced that the Ndwandwe army, accompanied by its women and cattle, were already over-running the upper districts, coming, as they said, to retake possession of their father’s land.
It had happened that the old chief Zwide, after emerging from the reed-bed, had fled inland to about where the town of Wakkerstroom now is. There, with his two surviving sons, Sikunyana and Somapunga. he settled down and gradually collected around him whatever stragglers of his tribe might from time to time arrive.Seeing that the old chief was not to live much longer, his wives requested him to appoint a successor; hut that he might have peace at least in his days, he gave them nothing but an ambiguous sign. Upon his death, the partisans of Sikunyana urged upon their nominee the necessity of rendering his position secure by the riddance of his rival, Somapunga. This latter saved his head by flight, and found protection under the Zulu king Shaka, who kindly furnished him with a wife ‘to take care of him.’ And now at length about the year 1826, Sikunyana, grown strong and in undisputed possession of the chieftainship, followed his brother, not as a refugee, but
as an invader, ‘coming to regain the land of his inheritance.’
The whole Zulu land was thus once more aflame with the excitement of the coming fun. ‘Hurray! hurray!’ flew the password through the restful land, ‘the bride is already dancing in the court-yard ! Sikunyana, your sweetheart, has come to marry you!’ It chanced that just at that time Mr. Fynn was at Port-Natal, and being already well-known to Shaka, he too was called out for active service against the common invader. He found Shaka’s army already on the war-path — warriors, cattle-boys and baggage-bearers ‘few of whom were above the age of twelve years’, and girls carrying beer, corn and amasi for the refreshment of the more important men — in all a host of about 50,000 souls. The movement of so vast a multitude marching in close formation was traced only by a great rolling cloud of dust. Parched with thirst, they reached a swamp, where each fought wildly with the other for one drop of the saving liquid, with the result that the whole became at once transformed into a field of mud, and ‘yet this mud was swallowed with avidity,’ and within its soft embrace were left the corpses of many men and boys, who, in the mad rush, had been actually trampled down to death. Several days were occupied on this wretched march ; and so sore did Shaka’s bare feet become on the endless stony plains, that Fynn’s Hottentot servants were commanded to manufacture sandals for him out of raw cow-hide.
However, the conflicting armies eventually met in the valley below the Endololwane mountain. After several fierce engagements, ‘lasting altogether not more than an hour and a half ‘ and yet sufficiently long to leave heaps of corpses covering the field, the Ndwandwes were vanquished. Many sought refuge in an adjacent wood, others beneath the heaps of dead bodies, but were diligentby sought out and killed, after which the women and children, who had been mustered together high up on the aforesaid mountain, were likewise ruthlessly butchered. About 60,000 cattle arestated to have been captured.
After such excellent work, one would have expected the Zulu general to have had some meed of praise for his troops. Not so with this human monster called Shaka. For early the next morning, we are told, he had the regiments assembled before him for an angry harangue and for the customary ‘picking out of the cowards’ — several unhappy captains, whose only offence, no doubt, was the disfavour of their chief, and several poor soldiers who had the misfortune to be disliked of their headmen, or who were indiscriminately pointed out by these merely to please their cruel master and so save their own skins — brave men all, who but yesterday had fought valiantly for their lord and country, and were now butchered before him for his delectation ! In the afternoon the last act of this bloody performance consisted in the bringing before the king of a woman and a child, of about ten years of age, of the defeated tribe. For some time he found pleasure in gossiping with this woman, entertaining her with a pot of beer and a dish of beef, and then ordered both mother and child off to instant death! The life of the child was spared on the intercession of Fynn who was present.
From the woman’s account, it was learned that once again the defeated chief had succeeded in effecting his escape. He fled to the Tonga country, accompanied by a few of his people. A. party were immediately despatched in hot pursuit. Upon entering a certain Tonga kraal they found the inmates in apparent readiness for some festivity. On enquiry, they were told that Sikunyana, the Ndwandwe chief, was in a neighbouring kraal, where he had slaughtered a beast presented to him by the local Tonga potentate. With little trouble the quarry was duly bagged, and the last flickering light of the Ndwandwe power put out.
Mzilikazi, Founder of the Matebele Nation. 
The break-up of the Ndwandwe nation under Zwide and under his successor, Sikunyana, was replete with far-reaching consequences to the whole of Africa. Small clans, hitherto tributary to the Ndwandwean paramountcy, were now thrown on their own resources. Some found it more discree tnot to kick against the pricks, but others were more recalcitrant. Among these latter, were a section of the people united under certain headmen, as Beja, brother of Soshangane, of the Nxumalos, and Mlotshwa of the Kumalos, who, not content with the overthrow of Zwide, had themselves to be conquered again. They too at length were forced to bow before the Zulu monarch, from whom they at first received a measure of diplomatic favour, though ultimately the usual requital of this relentless tyrant, death. But more resolute and more successful than these was a certain induna named Mzilikazi (corrupted by the Suto and Chwana peoples into Moselekatze), son of Mashobana (of the Kumalo clan), by his wife Nompetu, daughter of his erstwhile sovereign, Zwide.
Upon the demolition of the Zwidean power, this headman assumed for a time a feigned submission and was quartered with the Zulu regiment stationed at the Bulawayo military-kraal beyond Eshowe, between the Mlalazi and Mhlatuze rivers. But life there was not after his taste, and, gathering together a small band of three or four hundred trusted followers (with whom, it is said, he had been sent on a raiding expedition by Shaka), he cut himself loose from his enforced allegiance and commenced wandering about the upper districts, burning whatever kraals he came across and forcing their inmates into his own service. In this way and by means of the ceaseless addition of fugitives from Shaka’s thraldom, he ere long, perhaps about the year 1826, succeeding in amassing a very formidable army of freebooters, a motley crowd from the Kumalo, Nxumalo, Mtetwa, and almost every other of the hundred original clans of Zululand. With this vast crowd of waifs and strays, he hastened towards the Transvaal, in the hope of building there a new kingdom all his own. But the wily Shaka met him on the Drakensberg with a force hastily sent to intercept him. The Zulu force was repulsed, and Mzilikazi hastened the quicker on his course ahead. Knowing that he would not be allowed to escape so lightly and that a further punitive expedition would be rapidly following behind him, he took the precaution to lay waste the whole country through which he passed, leaving neither people, nor stock, nor kraals, nor crops behind him. This method of destruction and wholesale pressure into his service became from now on his settled policy, so that when the Boer farmers trekked up in 1836, they found the greater part of Orangia and the Transvaal a miserable wilderness.
Mzilikazi first established himself at a place he somewhat prematurely named Ekupumuleni or the Place of Rest. ‘For three months’, says a Native account, ‘they had no rain and suffered keenly from want of water. The chief thereupon ordered all rain-doctors to be brought before him. All made up some medicine, but the heavens were unwilling, and the doctors failed to procure rain. The chief therefore ordered their execution. They were bound and thrown into the river’ (or possibly where a river ought to have been). An exploring party having already previously reported a fine land ‘of much water and green grass even during the dry season’ away north, Mzilikazi forthwith determined to remove to those parts.
After several days’ travelling, the armed warriors going on ahead, the women bearing the household gods and the boys driving the cattle behind, they came into touch with another band of refugees flying like themselves from the tyrant Shaka. Although these were marching under the headship of a clansman of Mzilikazi’s named Nqaba, son of Mbekwane, of the Kumalo clan, nevertheless for some reason or other the two parties fought. Nqaba being defeated, fled eastward into the Portuguese territory, where he subsequently met with and for a time united himself to the renowned Soshangane, near the Sabi river. The followers of Nqaba. afterwards becamefamous themselves as the abaNgoni of Central Africa.
Having reached a promising spot in the Marico district, Mzilikazi next proceeded to erect a large military-kraal in the Mosika Valley, but he subsequently removed his own private kraal to a still more pleasing sight, at Kapaying, fifty miles to the north. From this centre raiding parties were sent out to scour the country in every direction. They swept the land clean from the Drakensberg to the Kalahari, and in 1831 reached as far south as Thaba Bosigo, the mountain-stronghold upon which Moshweshwe, the paramount chief of the newly united Suto nation, had established himself after their sad experiences with Matiwana, the Ngwana chief. ‘The Matebele,’ writes Widdicombe, halted under the willow-trees which lined the banks of the Putiatsana, a pretty little stream not far from the foot of Thaba Bosigo. There they sat down and rested alter the fatigue of their long three-hundred-mile journey, bathing themselves daily in the cool, limpid water, sharpening their assegais, arranging their headplumes, and dancing their war-dance preparatory to investing the stronghold of the man they were sent to conquer. The Basutos watched it all from the heights above. They barricaded the few entries to their stronghold with huge boulders, and erected strong and substantial schanzen at any point where an ascent seemed possible;’ so when the Matebele came rushing on simultaneously from two different directions, they were met by such an avalanche of rocks and showers of spears raining down upon them from an invisible and unapproachable foe above, that they were compelled to retreat by the way they came. The Khatla tribe, however, the Harutse and several others, were less successful and had to submit to Mzilikazi. Even the Griqua chief, Berend Berend, who had dared to attack the latter in his new kingdom, was
defeated and himself killed.
It was about this time that Mzilikazi made his first acquaintance with Whitemen, at least during his own independent career. Mr. Moffat, the celebrated missionary, was then at Kuruman. He was quickly discovered by Mzilikazi’s raiding parties, and eventually became so great a friend of this latter, that the Matebele chief afterwards named one of his sons Kurumana, in honour of the missionary. When, then, in June of the year 1836, certain American evangelists, the Rev. Dr. Wilson, with the Revs. Lindley and Venable, appeared in the Mosika Valley, they were graciously welcomed and allowed to settle in the military-kraal. But it was not long before the warlike chief discovered that the principles they preached were hostile to his own practices, and he prohibited further exercise of their profession.
They had not been many months at Mosika, when, towards the end of that same year, the first wave of the Great Boer Trek from the Cape Colouy reached them. These farmers had serious brushes with roving Matebele between the Vet and Vaal rivers, where several Boers were killed and two girls captured and sent along as acceptable booty to Mzilikazi up north. Subsequently the Boers were attacked again, when in laager at Vechtkop, near the sources of the Bhenoster river, by a Matebele impi of 5,000 warriors, under their induna Mkalipi, of whom, after a short but fierce contest, 430 were left dead on the veldt, though the rest managed to depart with all the farmers’ cattle. The Boers, getting exasperated at this kind of harassment, resolved upon a combined attack on the lion in his den. One hundred and seven farmers, reinforced by another hundred of Griquas and Natives, assembled under Potgieter and Maritz, and, on the 17th. January, 1837, they surprised the Matebele army enkraaled in the Mosika Valley, and hunted them down like a herd of game until midday. The kraal was burnt, 6,000 cattle captured, and several of their own wagons recovered, whereafter, accompanied by the disheartened American missionaries before mentioned, the farmers returned to their head-quarters at Thaba Nchu, near the Caledon.
About the middle of this same year 1837, occurred Dingana’s campaign against Mzilikazi. Since Shaka’s demise, the Zulu army, through almost constant inactivity, had already lost much of its pristine verve. True, they were the victors in the fight, though their returning home in August with one at least of their regiments almost totally annihilated, can scarcely be deemed a triumph. However, the saving feature was that an unusually large number of cattle were taken, including many that had previously been stolen from the Boers; but the Matebele rallying, re-captured a great number. It was here that the Zulus made their first acquaintance with the comparatively huge, long-horned Afrikander cattle, about which so many exaggerated tales are told, and which became Dingana’s favourite breed.
Dingana was so elated over this his first and only martial success of any importance, that he could not refrain from despatching a messenger, during the first days of September, to Capt. Gardiner, a missionary adventurer then in charge of the British settlement at Port Natal, proudly stating that he had ‘killed all Mzilikazi’s people and captured their cattle.’ But his statement was altogether premature; for only two months after, in November, we find a strong Boer commando of 330 men, under Potgieter and Uys, marching against him. Weakened by their recent heavy reverses, the Matebele were easily routed. Between the Zulus and Boers, they found no security of tenure was now possible to them in the Transvaal. The Natives to the north were reported as of a much weaker race, fleeing upon the mere sight of a Zulu warrior. They therefore determined to seek a better fortune far away beyond the Limpopo. Dispersing and despoiling the peaceful Kalangas as they went, Mzilikazi finally established himself about midway between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, building for himself a large kraal which he named after that from which hehad originally sot out in Zululand, viz. kwa Bulawayo (the Place of him who was killed). Hero he rapidly brought the surrounding tribes to recognise his sovereignty, and so the powerful Matebele nation was built up and flourished, until the downfall of Mzilikazi’s son, Nombengula or, as the local corruption has it, Lobengula.
The name Matebele is not Zulu. It was derived from the Suto word le-Tebele, plur. ma-Tebele (a Kafir i.e. a member of any of those neighbouring tribes that did not speak the same language nor belong to the same ethnological group as the baSuto themselves). It was originally applied by these latter to the marauders from Zululand, as a term of contempt. Among the present-day Matebele scarcely anything of pure Zulu blood is longer traceable. Even so long ago as 1863, Mackenzie, who visited their country and was intimately acquainted with South-African races generally, was compelled to aver that ‘he found very few real Zulu soldiers; the flower of the army consisted of Bechuanas, and the younger regiments were principally composed of Makalaka and Mashona lads recently enlisted’. Nor is their language any purer than their blood. It consists of a large percentage of original Zulu roots, all more or less corrupted, and even perhaps a half dozen old roots, also probably changed, now obsolete and unknown in Zululand; but a very large proportion of the speech is made up of entirely foreign words, a miscellaneous and indiscriminate gathering from all and every one of those tribes they incorporated and whose mixed offspring now mainly constitutes the Matebele nation.
Soshangane, founder of the Gasa Nation
The Zulu-Kafir race would seem to be the fighting cocks of the Bantu breed. Those peaceful times of yore, which we are so pathetically told ever existed in and before the days of Senzangakona, were really only a lying dormant of their innate aggressive, plundering spirit. Once the ancient fire had been roused by Dingiswayo, and then fanned to a roaring conflagration by Shaka, there was no further possibility of holding in check the natural impulses of this people. One after another wild spirits of the race led forth, north, west and south, fierce turbulent masses to disturb the peace of the world, revelling in rapine and blood. Of Matiwana with his amaNgwana and Mzilikazi with the maTebele we have related. But there are two other bands of freebooters hailing from the Zulu country -the followers of Soshangane (afterwards in his new home better known as Manukuza), son of Sigode, younger son of Langa, chief of the Ndwandwe or Nxumalo clan (and therefore nephew of Zwide, great-solTand successor of Langa), and, secondly, the followers of Nqaba or Uzangandaba (or, as he was subsequently in Central Africa called, Uzwangendaba ), son of Mbekwane, a chief-man in the Kumalo clan, whose names will stand out in terrible prominence in the future history of almost every eastern Bantu tribe right away to the Victoria Nyanza. These so maintained the warlike reputation of their breed, that even Stanley could not cross the continent, as far away as the equator, without becoming nervously cognisant of the fact. ‘No traveller,’ he says, ‘has yet become acquainted with a wilder race in Equatorial Africa than are the Mafitte or Watuta (as he calls the abaNgoni wanderers). They are the only true African Bedawi; and surely some African Ishmael must have fathered them, for their hands are against every man, and every man’s hand appears to be raised against them. To slay a solitary Mtuta is considered by an Arab as meritorious, and far more necessary than killing a snake. To guard against these sable freebooters, the traveller, while passing near their haunts, has need of all his skill, coolness and prudence. The settler in their neighbourhood has need to defend his village with impregnable fences, and to have look-outs night and day; his women and children require to be guarded, and fuel can only be procured by strong parties, while the ground has to be cultivated spear in hand, so constant is the fear of the restless and daring tribe
of bandits.’
The party under Soshangane, or as we shall hereafter call him, Manukuza, took a north-easterly direction and continued their course uninterruptedly forward through various Tonga tribes, until they entered the Portuguese domain, compelled, in their present struggle for existence, to buy life for themselves only at the price of much shedding of blood, and to retain a footing on God’s earth only at the point of the assegai. The mixed mob of fugitives, comprising members, not only of the Nxumalo, but of the Mtetwa and several other of the hundred dispersed tribes of Zululand, with whom Manukuza had so far successfully cut his way into the heart of Tongaland, became now generally known among the surrounding tribes, not, of course, as Zulus (which they were not), but as abaNguni — a generic name in Tonga parlance designating a Native of what we call the ‘Kafir’ stock (whether it be Zulu or Xosa), as of a race and language distinct from their own ; indeed, just in the same way as the Suto tribes called these same people maTebele. The great nation, however, which afterwards grew up around this Kafir or Zulu nucleus, was mainly composed of the conquered people of multitudinous local Tonga clans, and adopted for itself the general name — quite unknown in Zululand, and hence probably derived from some Local source — of abakwa’ Gasa (the People of Gasa), or, as they are more commonlycalled on the Gold Fields, amaShangana.
The martial feats of Matiwana and Mzilikazi were reproduced by Manukuza in Portuguese East Africa without any diminution of their magnitude or gory brilliancy. The consternation caused among the British in the Cape Colony upon the appearance of Matiwana, and among the Dutch in the Transvaal by the appearance of Mzilikazi, was repeated in an equal degree by Manukuza among the much weaker Portuguese of the East Coast. Their contemporary documents bravely own up to the fact, and tell us of many humiliations their little garrisons had to meekly endure at the hands of this barbarian upstart.
It was about the year 1831 that he first appeared and settled near the Sabi river, midway between the Limpopo and Zambezi. While there, he was joined by the second roving mob of Zulu fugitives, members of the Kumalo, emaNcwangeni and other clans — also originally resident in the northern districts of Zululand about the coast — led by the aforesaid chief, Nqaba or Uzwangendaba. This is the section of Zulu refugees to whom the name abaNguni most persistently clung, and who, under a subsequent corruption of the word, became afterwards notorious in Central Africaas the abaNgoni.
But turbulent natures of this kind, fired with the spirit of independence and fight, could scarcely be expected to sit down together in peace. The inevitable contention arose, and the stronger chief, Manukuza, drove from the neighbourhood his brother, Mhlabawadabuka, who, along with the main portion of the recently arrived party under Uzwangendaba, inarched away still further north, accompanied by a considerable following from among his own people, leaving Manukuza in sole possession of another large section south of the Sabi river.
‘On the 22nd. of October, 1833,’ says Theal, ‘a strong body of warriors of the Gasa tribe appeared before the fort on the Espirito Santo (as the estuary of several rivers debouching at Lourenco Marques used to be called). They were provided with no other weapons than short-handled stabbing assegais, so they could not effect an entrance; but during the night of the 27th., the captain, Dionysio Antonio Ribeiro, seeing an opportunity to escape, evacuated the place, and with his men retired to the island Shefina, which lies close to the coast. On the following day the abaGasa destroyed the fort, and then pursued the Portuguese to the island and captured them all. The prisoners were brought back to their ruined habitation and were there put
to death.’
‘The captain of Inhambane, ‘ continues the historian, ‘was so rash as to attempt to assist a frendly clan against Manukuza. The result of the interference was the plunder of the village, on the 3rd. of November, 1834, and the slaughter of the captain and all the inhabitants, except ten individuals who managed to escape.’
‘In 1836, the military commandant of Sofala, Jose Marques da Costa, collected the friendly Natives in the neighbourhood, and with them and his negroes ventured to give the enemy battle, with the result that every individual of his force perished.’
But if such easy game was made of the Portuguese soldiery, what shall we expect was the fate of the more helpless Blacks? For more than a quarter of a century after the last lesson had been given the Portuguese, and especially during the years 1852 and 1853, the Bantu clans throughout the territory were one after the other miserably plundered or sometimes exterminated ‘with no more compunction than if they had been vermin.’ But at length towards the end of the fifties, the dreaded Manukuza had played his last game and failed, had fought his last fight with deathand succumbed.
Previous to this, however, he had already expelled from the land one of his sons, Mzila , who had fled inland into the Transvaal region; and another son, Maweya, now succeeded to the supreme power. This chief, much to the dismay of the little Portuguese garrisons, proved a chip of the old block. When, then, his brother Mzila, on the 1st. of December, 1861, applied to the captain of the garrison on the Espirito Santo for aid against his brother and himself posed as Portuga’s greatest friend, the captain gladly lent him what help he could in the shape of powder and guns. After half a year’s lighting, Maweya was completely crushed and Mzila reigned in his stead and ruled over all the country between the Zambezi and the Manisa, northwards of Delagoa Bay. At length Mzila, too, was called to his fathers, and duly succeeded by his son, Ngungunyana, who becoming obstreperous, was relieved of his chieftainship by thePortuguese, in the year 1895.
The whole of Manukuza’s or Ngungunyana’s country is only hazily known to present-day Zulus as kwa’Gasa or Gasaland, the home of the Shanganas. Yet their fathers knew it better; for, as Fynn records, Shaka’s army was thrice sent to invade that territory and bring home the head of Soshangana. They penetrated even as far as Inhambane, but all they ever brought back was perhaps not much more than one emaciated half of themselves and myriads of malignant malarial microbes to finish them right off so soon as they got back to their kraals.
We have said that, after the Zulu fugitives, fleeing from Shaka’s hands, arrived near the Sabi river, their leader, Manukuza quarrelled with his brother, Mhlabawadabuka, and that the latter, along with another and still more recently arrived batch of fugitives, set out for a new field of independence still further north. How far these two independent parties got in company we do not know; but it was not far, for in a short time there was another rift in the lute, and that portion of the refugees more recently arrived near the Sabi separated from their comrades, and, under the leadership of their original chief, Uzwangendaba, went on alone yet further northward, dropping, as they went, batches at the upper Sabi river and the lower Zambezi. This horde of Zulu fugitives became generally known throughout all that part of eastern Central Africa as the abaNgoni, aNgoni, awaNgoni, as well as under some entirely new names, as maZitu, maViti, waTuta and other appellations according as they migrated from country to country. “They crossed the Zambezi, about Zumbo, probably in November 1835, for at the time of their crossing, as Elmslie informs us, there was an eclipse of the sun. Directing their course due north, they fought their way along until they crossed the Tshambeze river flowing into bake Bangweolo, and, passing round the south-eastern corner of Tanganika, they entered the Fipa country.
Having at length reached a spot quite 1,200 miles from their old home in Zululand, these abaNgoni, or maViti, as they were here called, considered they had accomplished enough globe-trotting to suffice them for a season. So, after having duly enslaved the Jeri people whom they found in the land (the name of which people, by the way, they now appropriated as their own cognomen), there they settled for a time. They amused themselves by making periodical raids into the country round about, though not always to their own profit. There was a large tribe of waRori or waSango on their eastern boundary, enviously wealthy in cattle. But after quite a little campaign lasting through several months, our maViti found the enemy too strong for them and drew back into Fipaland, but not before having left a large number of their brethren as corpses in the Rori country and become reduced even still more by the separation of a considerable section of their following, who went off and formed the Hehe tribe, resident on the upper Ruaha river, east of the Roris and south ofthe Gogo people.
It is indeed astonishing how infectious the fighting temperament can become when those predisposed to it are brought under the requisite conditions. It would in as though every Bantu tribe that chanced to come into contact with the roving plunderers from Zululand and, being dislodged by them from their ancient home, were compelled to seek another by force of arms, eventually developed a type of life and character so like to that of their original conquerors as to become indistinguishable from them. Thus we find Central Africa nowadays filled with spurious Zulus; tribe after tribe, all declared to be of ‘Zulu origin’, but which, if we may judge from their languages, markedly varying one from the other and all bearing alike absolutely no resemblance to the Zulu (beyond that common to all Bantu languages), can have practically no Kafir blood in their veins, and are only Zulu in so far that they have once passed under the shadow of the Ngoni ascendancy. To tell the truth, these latter forced along with them as they went whole tribes of strange peoples picked up by them on their thousand-mile journey, and who in turn successfully cut themselves loose From their erstwhile masters and struck out for themselves into unknown localities, whose affrighted inhabitants attributed their coming to the universally notorious abaNgoni. The blood of the few Zulu families who had really originated in Zululand, was, by the time they had reached Central Africa, already considerably diluted by foreign admixture; and, as for the vast mass of the heterogeneous mob they had pressganged on their way, they were picked up mostly from numberless Tonga and kindred tribes, and were not Zulu at all. And in this way the Zulu name has Become credited with much glorification that is not honestly its due. Thus the brilliant martial exploits of the Hehes and Bungas about the sources of the Rufiji, and of the Gwangwaras north-east of Nyasa, all go to swell the exaggerated reputation of the innocent boys in our midst; for all of these tribes are mistakenly dubbed of Zulu origin.
The Masai are held to be the fiercest tribe in Eastern Central Africa; but, as Last avers, when waMasai meet waHehe, then comes the tug of war. For, says he, ‘they are frequently defeated in their contests with the Hehe. Only last year (1882) strong parties of Masai were nearly annihilated by the Hehe. I was once returning home to my station from a visit to Mpwapwa, when we were overtaken by a party of fifteen Masai, the remnants of an unsuccessful company who had gone to lift the cattle of the Hehe. Several of these were without shields, but carried two large spears, showing that they had been able to pick up some of the spears of their fallen companions, but had been obliged to secure their safety in flight by throwing away their shields’. Wherever they came from, it seems clear that these Hehe are comparatively new arrivals in their present land of domicile. They appeared, as Stanley was informed, as a powerful and strange tribe in the Ruaha country, soon after the invasion of Roriland by the Fipa abaNgoni or maViti, about the year 1844. There they set about despoiling or demolishing the local peoples in quite orthodox Shakan style. They overran Sagaraland, pigsticking the males and stealing the females of the industrious Itumba and Kaguru clans; then they administered some wholesome castigation to the bullying Ngurus of Zeguhaland; and finally, in more recent days, they have brought permanently to their knees the brave Roris, who had so long successfully withstood the onslaughts of the maViti of Fipaland.
Then, from these Hehe, or from the mother-tribe, the Fipaland maViti, emerged another lawless band, the Bungas. These unwelcome strangers first made their presencefelt, not far away from the Hehe, in the Gangi country, about the sources of the Ulanga, tributary of the Rufiji. They appropriated the south-eastern portion thereof as their own private domain, and then so far brought under their yoke a large section of the Gangi people, now known as the waHenge, that they not only recognised their paramountcy, but somehow or other came to assimilate a considerable quantum of their foreign language.
But revenons a nos montons! From the time the Ngoni wanderers left Manukuza on the far Sabi river until the period of their arrival in Fipaland, they had been ruled by a chief named Uzwangendaba. But while they still sojourned in Fipaland, this chief died, and, lacking fhe strong binding influence of a powerful head, the tribe rapidly fell to pieces. The heir-apparent was a boy named Mtwaro, who, however, resigned his right to another brother, Mombera. These being minded to continue their rule comparatively at rest in the Fipa country, another more ‘progressive’ party favoured a renewed trek yet further ahead. This more restless section of adventurers actually set out about the year 1846; and, giving the waRori a respectful berth, they headed for the Kanongo country to the north-east of the latter tribe, and from thence pushed further on, through Kawendi, to Ujiji town, an Arab and Native trading-centre of importance on the shores of lake Tanganika, and well known from the writings of Burton, Livingstone and Stanley. The unexpected appearance of these terrible plunderers in that busy little town caused an immediate panic in the market, and the money-making Semites found their transactions abruptly closed. Taking to heart the Shakesperean aphorism that discretion is the better part of valour, they and their Natives vanished en masse for Bangwe Isle, out in the waters of the lake. The wisdom of this step was immediately apparent, for the waTuta (as our psendo-Zulus were here called), having duly killed all who had remained behind and finding nothing further after their taste to plunder, speedily passed on. But they made a mistake when they thought to pass without tribute through the country, further along the lake, of those inveterate blackmailers the waHa. These headed them smartly off into the Nyamwezi land, where they were again recognised by their old name, the mwa-Ngoni. Cutting their way through tribe after tribe of this district, they eventually passed through the waZinza, and the vast expanse of Victoria Nyanza spread like a vision before them. But the sea has no fascination for the Zulu stock; so these lost sons of the tribe, after having wandered full 1,700 miles from home, had here reached their farthest point north and now retraced their steps southwards and settled themselves for a rest once more on the grassy downs of Gombaland. There, betwixt the powerful waHa tribe and the equally warlike people of Mirambo, an Nyamwezi potentate, the waTuta found time to indulge in a more beautiful occupation than fighting. An unusual amount of love-making seems to have been done here, and the results consequent on this were no doubt the most potent reason that caused this section of the abaNgoni to give up further aimless wandering and settle down permanently in the land. King after king sought the hand of a Tuta or Ngoni spouse, aye, even the terrible Mirambo himself ensured a permanent fighting alliance with these doughty warriors by taking one of their daughters into the bonds of wedlock.
Leaving this, the most advanced section of the erstwhile Zulu fugitives, still enjoying life on the pasture-lands of Goba, we shall now retrace our steps to the Fipa country, about 500 miles further south, on the south-eastern shores of Tanganyika, and where the waTuta left their brethren the maViti, under their hereditary chief,
Mombera.
The Gombaland party had scarcely separated from their Fipa comrades than civil strife broke out among the latter. Certain other sons of Uzwangendaba conceived the idea of contesting the sovereignty with Mombera. Fortunately the misunderstanding was amicably weathered by the rightful chief being willing to move away with his following, leaving the unsatisfied party, under Mperembe, where they were. Mombera marched off in a south-easterly direction, dealing death and devastation whereever obstruction was met with, until finally reaching the plains stretching along the north-western side of Lake. Nyasa. As everywhere else, these restless freebooters became the terror of all the tribes surrounding the lake, and that continuously until peace, now fairly permanent, seems to have been introduced among them by the efforts of the white missionaries.
The party left behind in the Fipa country, under Mperembe, afterwards followed south and joined their brethern, submitting once more to the paramountcy of Mombera, in 1891 still living, and now united constitute the great abaNgoni, or as the strange local tribes call them, maViti, nation of Nyasaland.
We have now fairly unravelled the history of these puzzling and pillaging nomads of Central Africa, these mysterious and much-named abaNgoni, aNgoni, mwaNgoni, these maZitu, maViti and waTuta, these waHehe, waBunga and waGwangwara.While from their migratory habits or their robbing propensities the Tumbukas of Nyasaland called them maZitu, and the Yaos of the same region, maViti, and the tribes of Tanganyika, waTuta, the name which clung to them firmest and longest was that which they obtained nearest home, from our neighbours the Tongas, viz. abaNguni, which afterwards by the interior tribes became transformed into abaNgoni. Strange to say they have themselves still further corrupted the form of the appellation — that is to say, given it a form altogether unpermissible according to the principles of their original Zulu language — by calling themselves abakwa Ngoni, the People of Ngoni, as though this latter were the proper name of some ancestor, whereas it is simply the Tonga way of saying ‘Kafir.’ For as we have already noted, it was not only the section of Zulu fugitives whose descendants are now speaking, as they say, itshiNgoni and dwelling along the shores of Nyasa, who were dubbed throughout Tongaland as abaNguni. The Natives of our present day Zululand, as well as the people of Manukuza or Soshangane who remained behind from the ‘further northward’ trek in Portuguese East Africa, were equally called abaNguni, and even to-day the few families of purer ‘Kafir’ or Zulu (i.e. non-Tonga) origin among Ngungunyana’s so-called Shangana people, are still known by it. But such families and such pure Zulu blood is nowadays among these latter people, and still more so among the Central African specimens, the Ngonis, the Vitis and the Tutas,practically non-existent. Those in the Portuguese territory absorbed all the Tonga clans and Tonga blood within their own very extensive sphere of influence. Those who travelled still further afield, into the central lakes regions, absorbed even still more as they went, Tongas, Karangas, Sengas, Bisas, Fipas, Rungus, Tumbukas and innumerable others, so that there is little possibility of there being much of the originalZulu blood, Zulu character and Zulu language left. The abaNgoni or maViti on the north-western, western and southern shores of Lake Nyasa have probably preserved more of the language—though perhaps less of the true mother blood—than any other section of the whole multitude of original wanderers. We sometimes hearthe Hehes, the Henges, the Bungas (on the upper basin of the Rufiji and Ruaha rivers)and the Gwangwaras or Tshondes (to the north-east of Nyasa), referred to as of the Zulu stock. But their ‘Zulu’ origin merely consists, as we have before said, in their having been at one time more or less incorporated, after conquest, into the migratory Ngoni nation, from whom they subsequently cut themselves loose, taking along with them no doubt a certain very small modicum of Zulu blood in a few of their higher families and their women, but never enough to leaven their language with anything more than a very remote and ordinary Bantu resemblance to the speech of the true Zulus.
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