Myths and legends can be entertaining; especially for young children yearning for some adventure, but this does not mean we should allow this insidious toy to be used as propaganda to turn our history into a self perpetuating stereotype.
Any propaganda based reiterations of our history should be evicted with immediate effect. The world has placed Mthwakazi national aspirations second to capital gain and without our diligence; our history is ripe for corruption.
In some cases, this corrupt history has been used to justify Zvimba’s oppression of Mthwakazi. From calling Mthwakazi a copy cat barbaric horde that happen to stumble on insignificant success to tying a noose around the necks of Bosso fans by tagging any revolt as the extension of barbaric culture.
But this should come as no surprise, Mthwakazi is a cultural spring that shoots a multi cultural nation, it is a dripping honeycomb that demands attention. But such demands are often met by dictorial regimes draining every drop, summoning their media armies and spreading propaganda as a way to cover their inadequacies.
But all of this is failing, not because Mthwakazi is screaming in chorus of voices from the past but because the very existence of Mthwakazi is a testament to the type of nation we are.
Apart from the historical anomaly that was the birth and growth of Mthwakazi in the midst of Mfecane’s destructive power, only the space of hemmed in between the battle of Mbembezi lempi yamahloka sets up a solid defence against this altered version of history.
This is because this space of time managed to manifest intelligence, diligence and the ability to evolve in Mthwakazi actions, a trinity that will tear the barbaric stereotype tag.
Zimbabwean historians have often hid behind the finger of spiritually for Ndebele bravery. One of these fingers states that Mthwakazi would not have braved Jameson and his men if isangoma had not claimed his medicine would turn bullets into water. A myth that seems to have ben borrowed from the jungles of the Congo and the Maji Maji rebellion.
To support this claim, pre war rituals that included smearing the warriors with various herbs and medicines the eve of the battle of Mbembezi.
A sound argument to an unschooled mind. It would be synonymous to claiming it is the rain clouds that make eagles fly above the clouds despite the eagles flying at the same altitude in the bluest of skies.
The same logic applies to Mthwakazi, the warriors would have drenched their bodies in medicine if they were to face an army of unarmed midgets at Mbembezi. It was Mthwakazi culture and tradition for these rituals to take place, it had no relation with the enemy there were about to face.
Then there is the case of how many Mthwakazi warriors knew of bullets, let alone understood the power of the maxim gun?
Take away King Lobhengula, his close associates and high generals and you will be left with a score of commanders would have relied on second hand information of the power of the muskets. As historical commentary goes on show, most of these men described the guns as smoke farting sticks that blew metal pebbles to their warriors.
Tell me these men had logical reason to fear some metal pebble when large stabbing spears had struggled against their shields and I will call you a lair.
Which leads me to ask why would an army that had no fear of the enemy’s main artillery have to be brainwashed into fighting that enemy? We are talking battle hardened warriors here. Why would there need to be brainwashed to fight an enemy they didn’t fear? Why? Why? Why? Because such a belief would solidify Zvimba’s Mthwakazi stereotype that claims Mthwakazi are brainless fools who would buy into anything.
The battle went on; a many warriors earned legendary battle scares but lost the life which would have found joy in sharing the battle tales with their grandchildren. As the wise folk say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and stronger Mthwakazi became after losing 6000 warriors eMbembezi.
To the dismay of our neighbours, Mthwakazi’s growth was of a mental creed. With all former battle tactics crushing against the glass ceiling, change was on the horizon for Mthwakazi warfare. It’s ironic that the major causality of this growth was a pair that grew into the national symbol for Mthwakazi; The large shield and ikhlwa combo, Mthwakazi’s secret weapon were rendered useless by the colonial forces and hence, they were relocated to the historical memorabilia aisle because persevering with them would have been worse than running with dead weight.
Another change came in the form of preferred battle terrain. The maxim gun had favoured the open plans and for Mthwakazi to counter the 600 round a minute juggernaut, they had to learn how to fight in the undergrowth and in claustrophobic areas. The controlled test, which put an end on the Shangani patrol, further backed this idea.
The cow horn rush needed open plans and Mthwakazi could not rely on it anymore which led to new chapter in Mthwakazi warfare, siege.
Armed with a new method that had shown some success, new tactics, Mthwakazi was ready to reclaim her sovereignty, yet most contemporary Zimbabwean historians would smear the start of the Mthwakazi rebellion to a priest blaming the drought on the colonial settlers.
Whilst this piece of propanga elements of truth, we should not forget that for siege warfare to prosper, you need to starve an enemy out.
The drought had robbed the new colonial settler’s stores of food to wait the siege out. Swarms of locusts provided Mthwakazi amabutho with a good food source which the colonial settlers over looked and more importantly, Jameson was more than 3000 miles away with his soldiers reducing the likelihood of Mthwakazi being attacked from the rear. All in all, nature and events favoured an Mthwakazi attack then.
And Mthwakazi took their chance, started out of reach of the maxim gun, they patiently sent the colonists to starvation and if the Cambridge journals of the Bulawayo siege are to be believed, another month and the city would have imploded.
True the siege failed and Mthwakazi was forced to return to the drawing board, but that is not what the propagandist are looking to alter, their target is the mental aspect of Mthwakazi success which they wish to paint over as barbaric impulse.
The water bullets story is myth that was recycled from European propaganda. The idea that Mthwakazi was a brainless horde living of Shaka’s brilliance falls flat when Mthwakazi abandons Shaka’s tactics and almost brings Britain to her knees during the siege of Bulawayo. And let us not forget how this intelligence evolution is still progressing, ZAPU’s guerrilla warfare has given way to activists using social media as their preferred terrain.
But they can’t, Mthwakazi clearly shows a high level of intelligence as they evolve, not just to survive but to counter the enemies most effective weapon. Our history will ever be used to justify our mistreatment, especially when its brilliance is so easy to spot.