Hundreds of people clad in colourful traditional gear, Saturday, converged at Mhlahlandlela to mark the 154th anniversary of the death of founding Ndebele nation king Mzilikazi Khumalo.
Mhlahlandlela, situated 22km from Bulawayo, using old Gwanda road was King Mzilikazi’s last kraal.
King Mzilikazi Khumalo died in September 1868.
This year’s event, returned after a two year hiatus due to the Covid-19 lockdown, with a huge turnout.
Commemorations kicked off with a march led by ‘amabutho’ from Matshobana suburb, via Mzilikazi to the Large City Hall before heading to Mhlahlandlela.
People were welcomed at Mhlahlandlela by Leo kaZulukaNdaba, descendant of Nyanda Matshobane, the last born of King Mzilikazi who remained in Mhlahlandlela.
The commemorations were organised by Mthwakazi kaMzilikazi Cultural Association.
King Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo was in attendance while another claimant to the throne Prince Zwidekalanga Khumalo was not in attendance.
Although organisers insisted that ‘there is no King at the event,’ King Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo, who was clad in full Nguni traditional attire, was welcomed by ‘amabutho’ who saluted him with the royal ‘Bayethe’ reserved for Kings.
Accompanying King Bulelani Lobengula was Hlangabeza Khumalo, a prince in the Mzilikazi Royal House.
Two chiefs were also in attendance, Chief Stanley Gwebu of Mzinyathini and Chief Nkululeko Ngqabutho Mathe of Matobo
Several political figures from across the political divide, notably ZAPU, Citizens Coalition for Change and Mthwakazi Republic Party attended the commemorations.
The Ndebele king also did not address the crowd, with some members of the crowd noting he was restricted by the government.
Zimbabwe’s constitution is silent on the monarch and in 2018, when the government blocked Bulelani Lobengula’s coronation as king of the Ndebele, they said there was no law in the country that allowed the establishment of a monarchy.
Matabeleland chiefs, represented by Chief Mathema, filed a court challenge against blocking the coronation on behalf of the Royal Crown Trust but that bid, however, failed.
The constitution – Section 281 only speaks to chiefs and the role played by the traditional institution.
In an interview with CITE, Ibhetshu LikaZulu Secretary General, Mbuso Fuzwayo, criticised the government for restricting people from fully practising their culture.
“It’s sad that at family level, they (the Khumalo) are not agreeable but that’s an aside., What is more sad is the government does not allow Ndebele to honour their king but allow the Mambo people to have a king who is government sanctioned because many a time you will have ZBC state institutions covering them,” he said.
“Though there is a contest within the family, the Ndebeles must be allowed to speak about their kingship. It’s sad but it shows the current government still wants to suppress the Ndebele people.”
Mike Moyo was installed the Mambo King in September 2019
Fuzwayo alleged the government was in panic mode due to the convergence of Ndebele people.
“The government because of its past that subjected Ndebeles to genocide, shows that this event is threatening for them to take place. This is why there were restrictions that were put in place that ‘ don’t recognise the king.’ So it’s clear that people because of past experiences know that if the government says, ‘don’t do that’ and if they cross that line, they will definitely either be killed or arrested. It’s clear that this government still has a project of suppressing Ndebele people,” said the cultural activist.