The Sivalo-Mahlangu Chieftancy in Nkayi

By Thomas Sibanda

King Mzilikazi encountered the Mahlangu people at a time when they lived at Ndubazi in present-day Mpumalanga province of South Africa. The Mahlangu chieftaincy is established in Nkayi, Matabeleland North.

The Mahlangu people joined Mzilikazi in South Africa. Their group included other clans of the Ndebele of South Africa with surnames such as Mabhena, Sibindi, Sikhosana, Masombuka, Mkhwananzi (Gawu, Makhwentaba), Jubane, Mgutshini, Ndlovu (Mthombeni /Gegana).

Centuries ago, the Ndebele of South Africa had hived off from their Nguni relatives, crossed over the Drakensberg Mountains and settled in the highveld among the Sotho/Tswana peoples.

King Mzilikazi and his people attacked these Ndebeles who were under chiefs Magodonga Mahlangu, Sibindi and Mabhena. Chief Magodonga Mahlangu was reputed for having magical powers which King Mzilikazi could not match.

Chief Magodonga Mahlangu was able to get himself submerged underwater with a flaming firebrand and emerge after a while with the brand still alight. King Mzilikazi tried to match his adversary but failed. It took his senior doctor Mphubane Mzizi to imobilise Chief Magodonga.

Mzizi kept close watch over Chief Magodonga to locate where he relieved himself. After doing that, Mzizi stealthily went to collect a small piece from the chief’s faecal matter.

That way, Mzizi mixed the faeces with strong impande thus empowering King Mzilikazi and ensuring that Chief Magodonga Mahlangu’s powers vanished.

King Mzilikazi attacked Magodonga and his armies successfully & thereafter ordered his execution. Many of his people were rounded up and incorporated into Mzilikazi’s society. The Ndebele of South Africa existed before the Ndebele of Mzilikazi.

Chief Magodonga’s people were conscripted into a regiment called IZimpangele, therefore, their cultural incorporation began before Mzilikazi came to establish his Ndebele state southwest of the Zimbabwean plateau.

Among the men who belonged to IZimpangele was Mveleleni whose wife, a Mabhena, was expecting. Mabhena gave birth to a son who was aptly named Sivalo, for he was going to be the last child, isivalo. Sivalo never saw his father.

It is said that Mveleleni Mahlangu was accused of flirting with the royal wives before King Mzilikazi’s group arrived on the Zimbabwean plateau. Mveleleni and others fled back to South Africa fearing royal retribution for their moral transgressions.

Sivalo grew up to become a prominent man in King Lobhengula’s capital. Together with Sihuluhulu Mabhena, they supervised royal matters within isigodlo at the time when Magwegwe Fuyane was induna yezinduna at KoBulawayo.

Sivalo was in the party that accompanied King Lobengula Khumalo in his flight to the north. It was Sivalo and Sihuluhulu Mabhena who were given gold by the fleeing king to negotiate for peace with the whites. The men given the gold squandered it and were prosecuted for that.

Sivalo is also the one who was dispatched by the king to return and torch KoBulawayo to ashes. Sivalo also took care of the royal wives beyond the Shangani River following the military engagements at Pupu on 4 December 1893. Sivalo was later a strong ally of Queen Lozikeyi.

Sivalo was succeeded by Mleke Mahlangu who was succeded by Solomon who reigned as chief for a remarkable 74 years until his death at the age of 97 in 2014. In 2016, Solomon was succeeded by Edwin Bhululu, the son of Mleke kaSivalo Mahlangu.

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