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This article is about the traditional Kingdom. For other uses, see Mthwakazi (disambiguation).
Kingdom of Mthwakazi
Capital Bulawayo
Official languages Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa.
Government Monarch
 -  10th - 17th Century MuThwa Dynasty
 -  17th - 18th Century Mambos of the Kalanga
 -  19th Century Mzilikazi
 -  19th Century Lobengula

Mthwakazi is the traditional name of the proto-Ndebele and Ndebele kingdom that existed until the end of the 19th century within the area of today's Zimbabwe.[1] Mthwakazi is widely used to refer to inhabitants of Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in Zimbabwe.[2]


The word Matabele is an anglicised term that was used by the British, a spelling that is still common in older texts, because they found it difficult to pronounce the word amaNdebele. Moreover, in the early 19th century, the Ndebele lived in territories populated by Sotho-Tswana peoples who used the plural prefix "Ma" for certain types of unfamiliar people or the Nguni prefix "Ama," so the British explorers, who were first informed of the existence of the kingdom by Sotho-Tswana communities they encountered on the trip north, would have been presented with two variations of the name, first, the Sotho-Tswana pronunciation (Matabele) and second, the Ndebele pronunciation (Ndebele or AmaNdebele). They are now commonly known as the "Ndebele" or "amaNdebele" under Zimbabwean rule (but were officially known as the Matabele under British rule[3]).


The word Mthwakazi was derived from the name of Queen Mu­Thwa, the first ruler of the Mthwakazi territory.[4] The Mu­thwa pseudo­-dynasty survived up to around the 18th century. She was the matriarch of the AbaThwa, the San people. With the arrival of Bantu people, the Mthwakazi territory became, increasingly, a center of diverse cultures. These local groups maintained their local autonomy, however, boundaries were fluid and intermarriages were common. The later arrival of the Nguni peoples, in the late 18th century and early 19th century, saw the Inter-­Cultural Society of Mthwakazi evolving into a sovereign state that was recognised by both neighbouring African states and foreign (European) powers.[5] Mthwakazi has a long history of diverse cultures and arts. Imbongi (poets) began poetically describing the wonderful social structure of Mthwakazi with references like “uMbuthwa okazi” (the great collective union), which when speaking sounds like Mthwakazi. Mzilikazi is said to have marveled at the great diverse and collective union saying “Saze sabasihle isizwe sakoMthwakazi, uMbuthwa okazi!, undlela zimhlophe!, njenginsimu yamaluba”, loosely translated as: “O, how beautiful, great and diverse the union is. It is like a garden of flowers”. Several peace treaties, marking the borders of Mthwakazi, were signed and Mthwakazi existed as a sovereign state. However, the colonial powers, occupying the eastern neighboring state at the time (British Mashonaland Protectorate[6] ), later disregarded these agreements and invaded Mthwakazi on the 3rd of November 1893. Mthwakazi faught a bitter defensive battle at Gadade, Mbembesi, but was overpowered by the enemy which used an arsenal of arms which were technologically more advanced than that of Mthwakazi warriors, hence lost and so began a long period of occupation and rule by conquest.[7]

Mzilikazi's Settlement in Mthwakazi[edit]

In 1839, Mzilikazi and his people finally settled north of Ramaquabane River, the south western region of what in 1980 became Zimbabwe. Mzilikazi, contrary to propaganda in Zimbabwean history books, did not conquer Mthwakazi nor did he establish Mthwakazi. In fact, Mthwakazi existed as a highly devolved state with a pseudo­dynasty of the AbaThwa (the MuThwa maternal dynasty). It was led at the time by the Mambo of the Kalanga and included many chieftainships of the Tonga, Sotho, Venda, Nambya, Kalanga, Karanga and others. Mzilikazi negotiated to settle in Mthwakazi and this gentleman's agreement is what led to the understanding that: UMthwakazi wawubuswa ngobudlelwano bukaMambo loMzilikazi, loosely translated as Mthwakazi was governed by a coalition of Mambo and Mzilikazi. It was in the first battle with the Boers, post Mzilikazi's settlement in Mthwakazi, along the Limpopo river that the first sketchy military council was established, which included the Chiefs from all over Mthwakazi territory, including notably Mambo of the Kalanga and Mzilikazi.before mzilikazi came in to settle in this "anonymous" land.the portuguese were the first to come and they traded for ivory with the shona groups in the munhumutapa empire.These shona groups built stone structures such as khami and the great zimbabwe ruins.The shona groups which were found in this so "anonymous" area are the kalanga,venda,nambya(these make up the western shona dialects);and the karanga,zezuru,torwa,barwe (made up the eastern shona dialects)Mzilikazi came in and fought against htese people and defeated them and made them his subjects.Even today the kalanga language is mainly spoken in botswana as it was assimilated by the Ndebele in Zimbabwe.[7] A strong army was to be established, however, by virtue of Mzilikazi already having a standing army, he became by default the “Commander in Chief of the Armies” (Inkosi yamabutho) and men were enlisted to join his army. The Limpopo river was successfully defended and Mzilikazi became by default the leader of Mthwakazi. The effects of Mthwakazian success, led by Mzilikazi in campaigns defending the Limpopo line in battles against the Boer attacks of 1847–1851, were so much that it persuaded the government of the South African Republic to sign a peace treaty in 1852.[8] With time, due to absolute power Mzilikazi was gaining, Mthwakazi developed into a Kingdom.[9]

Mthwakazi under Lobengula's Leadership[edit]

Lobengula, (born c. 1836, Mosega, Transvaal [now in South Africa]—died c. 1894, near Bulawayo, Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe]), second and last king (1870–94) of the Mthwakazi (Matabele) nation. Lobengula—the son of the founder of the Ndebele kingdom, Mzilikazi—was unable to prevent his kingdom from being destroyed by the British in 1893.

After Mzilikazi died in September 1868, the succession of Lobengula was not accepted by Mangwane (one of Mzilikazi’s older sons) and some of the izinduna (chiefs), and he succeeded to the throne only in 1870 after a period of serious civil war. Lobengula faced a rebellion in June 1870, and in 1872 he repelled an invasion by Mangwane and a pretender backed by the British in the Natal colony. Lobengula maintained Mthwakazi power over a huge section of Highveld until the Witwatersrand gold discoveries of 1886 drew attention to the gold in Mthwakazi kingdom and in the neighbouring Mashonaland. Soon after, a treaty of friendship was signed with the British in February 1888 (the Moffat Treaty), however it was distorted by the British government in order to declare the kingdom a British protectorate.[10] In October 1888 Lobengula signed a limited mineral concession with a group of Cecil Rhodes’s of business associates, led by C.D. Rudd, but it too was distorted: manipulated to appear as a gold concession to his entire kingdom, in 1889 it was accepted as authentic by the British government and used to charter the British South Africa Company (BSAC).[10] Lobengula refused the BSAC access to the areas under his control (Mthwakazi), and in 1890 the BSAC occupied the neighbouring Mashonaland. Due to constant interference and friction between the two sovereign states, a border line was agreed between Mthwakazi and the British Mashonaland Protectorate.[10] After British settlers failed to find much gold in Mashonaland, Leander Starr Jameson, the BSAC administrator after 1891, induced settlers and some native Mashonaland inhabitants to join an invading force against Lobengula’s Mthwakazi kingdom in September 1893 with promises of gold claims, land, and cattle. To justify the invasion, false and mendacious claims were made that the Ndebele intended to attack Mashonaland. Faced with this attack as well as a simultaneous invasion by British imperial forces from the south, Lobengula left his capital, Bulawayo, and the invaders could not capture him, he disappeared in the direction of the Zambezi River. It is conventionally presumed that he died in late 1893 or early 1894; there is no certainty, however, and there were rumours that he had crossed the Zambezi and found refuge with Mpezeni’s Nguni people in North Eastern Zambia.

Lobengula’s son, Nyamande, succeeded his father in 1896 and that same year led a rebellion known as the Umvukela “the Uprising” against the BSAC administration. Although the rebellion was unsuccessful, it still presented a serious and expensive threat to the BSAC and was put down only by the intervention of British imperial troops.

The Struggle in Mthwakazi under Rhodesia[edit]

After the 1893 invasion, Mthwakazi has been ruled by conquest ever since. The existence of Mthwakazi under the “Rule by Conquest” for more than 120 years, has been perpetuated to deny Mthwakazi statehood, subjecting it to alien interest, domination, subjugation and rendering the rulers to corruptly exploit Mthwakazi's economic resources. The “Rule by Conquest” emerged as an unprovoked bloody invasion by the British South Africa Company mercenaries, and violated the 1888 Moffat Treaty of Peace and Unity. The invasion was promulgated by Britain through the Royal Charter on 29 October 1889.[11] On 14 August 1893, at Fort Victoria in British Mashonaland Protectorate the BSA Co signed a secret contract called the Victoria Agreement pledging to give each mercenary “a free farm 6,000 acres with the title deed value of 9,000 sovereign pounds, 15 gold reefs, 5 gold alluviums, a share of looted cattle (600,000) one half going to the BSA Co another half being shared equal between officers and men, a share of the Kingdoms’ mineral consisting of two 20 liters tins of biscuit one full of pure gold with another one full of uncut diamonds all worth 10 million sovereign pounds and a provision of forced and cheap labour of the conquered people once Mthwakazi was conquered.” On 18 July 1894, Britain promulgated the Matabeleland Order-in-Council, legitimizing the Victoria Agreement as the jurisdiction of ruling Mthwakazi by conquest as well as the legal bases of the constitution of the “Rule by Conquest”. Once the Matabeleland Orderin-Council was in place, the BSA Co proceeded to expropriate all the fruitful lands from the Inter-Cultural Society of Mthwakazi, dispossessed them of 600,000 cattle and any other valuable properties, displacing people by exiling them to the inhabitable two Native Reserves where they remained poor, as forced and cheap labour. The BSA Co promptly formed the conquest government which ruled by terror, imposed deprivation situations against the people of Mthwakazi and opportunity reservations for the rulers. The conquerors promulgated hash laws including the Masters and Servants Act and made the conditions of forced and cheap labour unbearable. The culture and the traditional education system of Mthwakazi was broken down including the crucial support system that was based on the extended families and had assisted the people to help each other during hard times such as death, famine and disasters, were broken down during displacement. The society got disorganized followed by the personality disorganization and permanent extreme poverty of the whole Inter-Cultural Society of Mthwakazi. In 1923, Britain promulgated the constitution of Racial Domination which ruled Mthwakazi jointly with Mashonaland and made the White people the constitutional rulers while it left the Inter-Cultural Society of Mthwakazi without franchise. The racial domination ruled with violence and detentions without trial calumniating into the 1970s liberation war which further displaced the people.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s government pointed out that: The natives are probably in law and equity the real owners of the land which the settlers occupy. The proposed tax amounted to a charge for the occupation of their land and that it would arouse great antagonism on the natives of Lobengula. (Africa [South] 441, Imperial Secretary to Company 29 August 1892) “It would be idle to ignore the fact that, between the subjects of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and those of this native monarch [Lobengula] whose sovereignty she was prepared to recognize, there was in all judicial conceptions a great gulf fixed, which it would, perhaps, be only fanciful to span --- Some tribes are so low in the scale of social organization that their usage and conceptions of rights and duties are not to be reconciled with the institutions or legal ideas of civilized society. .... the Ndebele Sovereignty --- had been broken up and replaced by a new, better system as defined by the Matabeleland Order-in-Council of 1894 (Report of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, delivered on the 29th of July 1918, London 1918).

The Struggle in Mthwakazi under Zimbabwe[edit]

At the end of the bush war, Britain promulgated the 1980 black majority rule constitution which transformed the Racial Domination into Tribal Domination by granting Mashonaland 60 seats, Mthwakazi 20 seats, and the white community 20 seats in a single parliament, thereby making Mashonaland the constitutional ruler of Mthwakazi. Mthwakazi remained un-decolonized. In March 1983, when Mthwakazi expressed disgruntlement and bitterness about the failure of Britain to decolonize her in terms of the United Nations Declaration on the granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Resolution 1514 [XV]) of 1960,[11] the response was a genocide. Britain assisted Zimbabwe to recruit and train the mercenary force called the 5th Brigade and perpetrate the Gukurahundi genocide that slaughtered in excess of 20,000 people in cold blood, burnt many of their dwellings, forced women to sing in praise of Mugabe, the then Prime Minister, when their husbands were being killed, later forced to dig their graves, bury them and dance on their graves while still singing. Some people disappeared, women were raped while the pregnant ones had their wombs ripped open with the bayonet of the gun, with the claims that the perpetrators were looking for unborn dissidents in the wombs of their mothers. During these perpetrations, Britain assisted Zimbabwe to conceal the genocide by deceiving the world, purporting that there were low scale skirmishes in Zimbabwe and the government was maintaining law and order against the dissidents. Zimbabwe did all this in order to force Mthwakazi to admit that Zimbabwe had become their new master. Britain did all this purporting to be helping Zimbabwe to build itself as one nation by absorbing Mthwakazi without the concern of the people of Mthwakazi. Britain only gave way to the first democratic elections in 1980,Nkomo wanted to contest as the patriotic front with mugabe's zanu pf but Mugabe rejected the move.Britain did not grant anyone seats in parliament but,it was democratically contested and zanu won 58 seats pf zapu won 20 and so on with other smaller parties. Britain had nothing to do with the election results distribution. It was just there to oversee the transition from colonialism to freedom. The British Americans even the Russians never wanted Mugabe to be the prime minister at all but it was majority rule that brought him to power[12]

The aim of Britain in backing the genocide was: To conceal all the information which exposes its crimes against humanity and the abuse of human rights in the deposed Kingdom of Mthwakazi through assisting Zimbabwe to eliminate the Inter-Cultural Society of Mthwakazi and obliterate any clue that indicates that. The people of Mthwakazi now live a stateless life because Britain rewarded Her BSA Co mercenaries with the homeland of Mthwakazi after its conquest. On the other hand, the aim of Zimbabwe in committing the genocide was: To build power of revenging the legendary tribal disputes of superiority between Zimbabweans and the people of Mthwakazi in the pre-colonial era, and forcefully absorb Mthwakazi into a permanent ZANU State, a one Party State of Zimbabwe! The aim of the third collaborator, North Korea, remains unknown. However North Korea did muster the capacity by training the mercenary 5th Brigade force which perpetrated the Gukurahundi Genocide in its preconceived plans. Nevertheless, the overall aim of committing the Gukurahundi Genocide was: To muster the capacity building of Zimbabwe in order to devastate the sovereignty of Mthwakazi and help Zimbabwe to build itself as a nation, by forcefully absorbing Mthwakazi, so that Zimbabwe can win the legendary tribal contest of superiority over Mthwakazi, and Britain can conceal all the information which reveal that Britain conquered Mthwakazi, exterminated its people, dispossessed them of their land, permanently displaced them, looted their cattle, subjected them into forced and cheap labour thereby permanently impoverishing Mthwakazi. To the people of Mthwakazi, the road to freedom, decolonization and self-determination remains slippery and the objects elusive.[13]


  1. ^ Brief History of Mthwakazi (English). Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  2. ^ Mthwakazi Foundation Inc. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  3. ^ Official Yearbook of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia, 1924
  4. ^ Siwela, Paul. "Background of Matabeleland (Mthwakazi)". MLO. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Umhlahlo wesizwe, sikaMthwakazi. "The Atlas of Mthwakazi". Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Alpers, Edward A. (April 1970). "Dynasties of the Mutapa-Rozwi Complex". The Journal of African History (Cambridge University Press) 11 (02): 203–220. doi:10.1017/S0021853700009944. 
  7. ^ a b Mthwakazi, Mthwakazi. "The Draft Constitution of Mthwakazi". Draft Constitution. Mthwakazi Union. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Bulawayo1872. "History profile of Mzilikazi: King of Matabele". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Website, Mthwakazi Info. "History of Mthwakazi". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Britannica, Encyclopedia. "Lobengula". Britannica. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Mthwakazi, Info. "Human Rights Violations In Mthwakazi". Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  12. ^ African, History. "Gukurahundi". Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Gatsheni-Ndlovu, Sabelo (2013). Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa. Myths of Decolonization. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-2-86978-578-6.