Agenda4Action: Mpho Ncube on UK Mzilikazi Celebrations

Agenda4Action:  Mpho Ncube on UK Mzilikazi Celebrations
Published: 23 November 2014 | by


with Thembani Dube

This coming Saturday(8th September 2012) all roads lead to Leicester for the Mzilikazi Day celebrations. Mzilikazi Day celebrations have been taking place in the United Kingdom for the past four consecutive years. The organization that is behind the initiation of these yearly celebrations is called Ubuntu UK. The founders of this organization composed the likes of Mpho Ncube, the spokesperson of the organization, Lucky Moyo of uZambezi, Themba Ndiweni, Mrs Lucia Dube, Thembani Dube and Rori Masiane. I caught up with the spokesperson of the organisation, Mpho Ncube and held an interview with him to shed light on Ubuntu UK and its activities and objectives as an organisation. I asked him to explain to the public why the organization was called Ubuntu UK?

Mpho Ncube: We called it Ubuntu UK to emphasise how we want to combine the universal values of Ubuntu philosophy with our own Matabeleland heritage so that there is a two-way cultural exchange between where we now live (UK) and where we originally come from (Matabeleland).

Thembani Dube: Give us a brief history of the formation of Ubuntu UK and what necessitated its formation?

Mpho Ncube: King Mzilikazi Day celebrations were launched in September 2008, in Pimlico, London UK. The idea of a King Mzilikazi Day celebration came after the realisation that there is now a big population of people from Matabeleland in the UK but whose presence one would never see or feel in the streets of the UK , certainly not in any organised form, like say, the Irish and St. Patrick's Festival. Ubuntu UK is the organisation that was born out of the September 2008 launch celebrations. Drawing on the expertise of renowned social and cultural activists from Matabeleland and beyond, Ubuntu UK's main objective is to develop an all year round programme of activities that will identify the artistic talents and achievements of the people and friends of Matabeleland in the UK. It sets out to develop and provide the organisational capacity for the fullest creative and expressive celebrations of Matabeleland culture in the UK.

Ubuntu UK, via the King Mzilikazi Day celebrations, also aims to provide impetus to the renewal of Matabeleland cultural pride so that we too can take our rightful place alongside other nations of the world. We aim to motivate people of Matabeleland (and those who are not from Matabeleland but nonetheless identify with the culture) to come out of the shadows and participate in this renewal project without fear or apology.

Ubuntu UK, alongside other such initiatives in Matabeleland and elsewhere, is a grassroots driven organisation which gives people of Matabeleland, of every age and social background, "ownership" of their heritage. The creative, imaginative and expressive culture of Matabeleland mustbe unleashed for the entire world to see. What we are saying is that today, King Mzilikazi's legacy of state-building and multi-culturalism belongs to all of us and in saying this, and we do not seek to usurp or disrespect the Khumalo clan.

Whatever reservations one might have about our strategy, think of King Mzilikazi Day as simply a celebration, a showcase of Matabeleland culture and not as being about succession, chieftainships, subjecthood and all the other arguments. In other words, on this day, we are just sons, daughters and friends of Matabeleland expressing our cultural selves.

Thembani Dube: What is the importance of commemorating King Mzilikazi in the Diaspora?

Mpho Ncube: It is more the legacy King Mzilikazi bequeathed to us rather than the man himself that we are commemorating in the diaspora, the legacy of tolerance, respect, innovation and multi-culturalism. However, this is not to say that we are forgetting who the man was, his private life and family which is why it is important for us to also remember this great warrior-king and nation-builder because of the rich history and heritage he built for us. It is a history and heritage we must be proud of and share with the rest of the world as a way of passing it on to our children and future generations.

Thembani Dube: Ubuntu UK holds the fort as being the pioneer organization to lead the way in the Mzilikazi commemorations in the Diaspora and we have seen these commemorations becoming international in scope and being celebrated in America and South Africa. Other countries, where we have a lot of our communities, for example Australia and Canada have not done so yet. What is Ubuntu UK's reaction to this?

Mpho Ncube: King Mzilikazi commemorations have always been held KwaBulawayo and even there, they were largely viewed as a private family affair as opposed to them being a Matabeleland national celebrations. Ubuntu UK from the very outset sought to change that perception by giving ownership of the commemorations back to you, me and every other citizen of Matabeleland, whoever and wherever they are. Once more and more of our people saw that it was possible to own their history and heritage, it encouraged other Matabeleland communities in South Africa and America to organize themselves and assert their cultural identity in those lands. In the places that you mention, where the commemorations have not yet happened, it is our hope that someone there will soon take up the challenge and begin the task of planning and organizing the event, all it takes is courage. We have a template that we are ready to share with our people wherever they are and who would like to hold their own commemorations. Of course, there is no one-size-fits- all, our template can be adjusted to fit local conditions as long as there is no departure from the fundamental aim of reviving Matabeleland cultural pride.

Thembani Dube: Lucky Moyo and Mantongande have been consistent Mthwakazi artists to back these commemorations and perform during the celebrations. They have never missed one of these celebrations. Tell us about the man and the woman and their dedication to this cause?

Mpho Ncube: The legendary Lucky Moyo and his group uZambezi and our gospel princess Mantongade have been a pleasure to work with. These two artistes have been there with us right from the very start and their unswerving support has made our celebrations the success story that it is today and I really can't thank them enough. Lucky will be in Leicester this coming Saturday. All I can say is that people must come and see him on stage to fully appreciate his performances. Ubuntu UK wishes to express its gratitude to every one of our poets, singers, story-tellers, dancers, Djs and musicians who at one point or another, graced our celebrations ,siyabonga, toboka, re a leboga, thank you.

Thembani Dube: Some time ago Albert Nyathi graced the UK Mzilikazi commemorations and it was a great to see him performing for this important day. Are there any plans to get more prominent Mthwkazi artists involved in these commemorations?

Mpho Ncube: Yes indeed, part of the two-way cultural exchange I mentioned earlier will involve more and more Matabeleland artistes showcasing their work in future celebrations. Ubuntu UK is working towards developing a solid programme of facilitating this exchange whereby we will see our musicians, singers, poets, painters, Djs and comedians stage gigs in the UK.

Thembani Dube: We have one of the most prominent Mthwakazi musicians and a great cultural revolutionary, Lovemore Majaivana "Golide" Tshuma who is based in America but now a retired musician. In your view what will it take to get this great Mthwakazi music and cultural revolutionary to come out of retirement and perform at these commemorations?

Mpho Ncube: The case of Lovemore Majaivana is a very difficult one. Stories abound as to why this legend no longer makes music but unless we hear from him direct, we will never know the real reasons. It will take all our effort to coax him out of "retirement" but I personally don't recommend every Jack and Jill pestering or lobbying him because this will annoy him more but rather put together a reputable team of elders who will make the right approaches and find out why he has turned his back on the music scene.

Thembani Dube: Many people have said that it takes Mthwakazi people a long time to buy into an agenda but once they have bought into the agenda, they remain a very loyal and dedicated people to that agenda. What has been Ubuntu UK's agenda to get Mthwkazi people and the friends of Mthwakazi to come to these celebrations and be part and parcel of them?

Mpho Ncube: Yes indeed but you know one of the biggest obstacles we encountered in the beginning and had to overcome was the fear that held our people hostage. It was a fear of self expression, a fear of one's self that had turned many into rootless, acultural people who saw no value and pride in their own history and heritage. It took a while before people understood what the King Mzilikazi Day celebrations are all about and we had to work very hard to dispel the many myths that were taking hold in the public consciousness. For example, many in the Christian movement had assumed that the celebrations are a kind of amadlozi ritual while those in politics wanted to appropriate them for their own agendas. Yet more others were indifferent or disinterested because they now considered themselves too "sophisticated" for what they saw as a "backward" culture.

All these view-points were a reaction to the central question we were asking of them, which was "Who Are You?" For the first time in their diaspora lives, our people were being made to dig deep into their inner-selves and re-think their place in the world when other immigrant cultures were asserting their cultural identities. We made the point that every label that one acquires in life , politician, teacher, rich, poor, fat, slim, ulova etc does not define who you are and will always change over time but your heritage will always define you and can never change. So, to answer your question, we gave the people a 100% ownership stake in the celebrations. Right from planning to execution, we invited them to come on board and contribute to the development of the celebrations and we have not been let down. No idea is too small or irrelevant; all of us have something to give to this great revival project.

Thembani Dube: The last Mthwakazi King to resist imperialist forces and who fought them tooth and nail with his great warrior Impis in defence of the great Kingdom was King Lobengula. Are there any plans to commemorate King Lobengula here in the UK?

Mpho Ncube: Well, no. As I said earlier, we are not commemorating individuals per se but rather the legacy (history and heritage) of all our founding kings and queens including King Lobhengula and Queen Lozikheyi to name but two. In naming the celebrations "King Mzilikazi Day" we are not excluding those who came after and valiantly fought to uphold the principles of the new-found state of Matabeleland. Bonke siyabakhumbula, amaqhawe eSizwe ngempela.

Thembani Dube: The Mzilikazi Day commemorations have been held at home for a long time now. In Ubuntu UK's view, is it high time that there is an international co-ordination of these commemorations and that there should be a concerted effort to involve Mthwakazi chiefs and elders to guide and grace these commemorations?

Mpho Ncube: International co-ordination of the celebrations is the next logical step and the more we have the celebrations world-wide, the greater the need will be for uniform scope in the execution of the event. The need to involve our elders cannot be over-emphasised, here in the UK we haven't seen more of our elders come forward to participate yet we know they are out there somewhere. The wealth of knowledge our elders and chiefs possess must be tapped into so that there is continuity from one generation to the next, which can only be a good thing for us as a people.

Thembani Dube: This year's Mzilikazi Day's commemorations are held in the great city of Leicester. Tell us about what Mthwakazi people and friends of Mthwakazi people should expect on this great day in this great City?

Mpho Ncube: Yes, for our fifth year of celebration we are in the midlands city of Leicester, the first time we are venturing out of London. The day brings a taste of Southern African traditional foods, Braai/BBQ, colourful costumes, dance, music and poetry. An interactive approach has been adopted for this year in order to engage the public in the history and cultures of Matabeleland. It promises to be a great family day filled with activities including drumming & dance workshops, shield and knobkerrie workshops featuring multi- talented Brazilian musician Paulo Carnorth, energetic poet Edwin "Iqhawe Enkundleni" Mathe, music legend Lucky Moyo and uZambezi, budding teenage musician Kabelo Ncube and many more.

Thembani Dube: This year's theme is, "Ubuntu- Rekindling togetherness". Tell us why this theme is important?

Mpho Ncube: One of King Mzilikazi's biggest legacies is multi-culturalism when he brought together various ethnic groups and languages together to build the Matabele state. This year's theme therefore is a call to go back to basics and defend this legacy at a time when divisionist forces are threatening to destroy the peace and cohesion of our communities in Matabeleland. Matabeleland is a model example at a time when modern states are struggling how to be multi-cultural so you see; we have something to teach the world.

Thembani Dube: Some sections of the Zimbabwean community have decried these commemorations and are of the view that they should not go ahead in Zimbabwe and abroad. What is Ubuntu UK's take on such calls?

Mpho Ncube: In Zimbabwe there is the 21st February Movement celebrations, Heroes Day and many other similar events held every year so why not King Mzilikazi Day? For far too long, other communities in Zimbabwe and abroad have instilled fear and loathing in our people - a fear of ourselves, a loathing of our history and heritage. Now we are saying not anymore, we are asserting our cultural rights and taking our rightful place alongside other cultures of the world.

Thembani Dube: Finally, what are Ubuntu UK's plans for the future?

Mpho Ncube: On a personal note and after launching the first ever King Mzilikazi Day Celebrations in Matabele diaspora history and directing the celebrations in the last four years, I will be handing over the reins to a new team at the end of this year's celebrations in Leicester. It is a team that will be headed by a wonderful young woman who has already been at the fore-front in preparations for this year's celebrations and has shown that she will be a very capable torch-bearer who will take Ubuntu UK to the next level in the next few years.

Thembani Dube: That is Mpho Ncube, the spokesperson for Ubuntu UK. Thank you for being part of Agenda4Action programme Ncube. Best wishes for this year's celebrations.

Mpho Ncube: Ngiyabonga, ndoboka, ke a leboga, thank you Mthembo and to all of you who continue to support this cultural effort, ngilithanda lonke. Vuselela Ubuntu!

Source: uMthwakazi Review

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