This History Monday we will conclude the Ndebele Dynasty by looking at the Fate of his heir Njube and his three younger brothers
What is known is that Lobengula had appointed Mtupana, who has not been identified, as guardian for Njube, if not the others, and he did later play his part in maintaining contact with Njube although in effect being superseded as guardian by the Administration. The British South Africa Company assumed responsibility for the immediate members of the royal family by giving pensions to the queens and their sons and daughters, and to some brothers and sisters of the king. Njube and the next two by age of the ‘royal’ sons, his brothers Mpezeni and Nguboyenja, were identified by the Administration as closest to the throne, and Rhodes had them brought down to Cape Town in 1894. It was not likely that such a busy, often absent confirmed bachelor would give them real care, and the only two references we have to the boys’ treatment at Groote Schuur indicates that it could be callous. One occasion was when Rhodes asked one, or all, of the boys to remind some guests in what year it was that he (Rhodes) had killed their father; the other was when Rhodes speaking of the possibility of Njube’s accompanying him on a visit to Matabeleland warned him that ‘I must have no nonsense about your being king. You will have to wash plates and clean my boots. You understand?’. There may have been an element of jest in all this, insensitive as it was; for Sarah Gertrude Millin, the novelist who witnessed the latter occasion, also said that the boys loved Rhodes, evidenced by Njube’s naming his second son for him after his death.
Indeed it does appear that Rhodes spoiled the boys, at least as far as money was concerned; and the combination of expensive tastes and extravagance were in many ways to be the downfall not only of Njube but also of his sons after him. All in all, Rhodes’s taking the boys was partly a quixotic gesture of personal responsibility for their father’s fate but it was also a calculated manoeuvre to remove from their traditional political environment potential pretenders who were of an age that would make them amenable to European education and rule. The older non-‘royal’ sons, Nyamande and Tshakilisha, being born before 1870, were too old for this role and as sons of Lobengula’s
favourite wife Mbida, daughter of Lodada Mkhwananzi of Inqobo, were probably already too strongly defined in their traditional socio-political status to be of use for the Company’s purposes. Sidojiwa, the youngest of the four ‘royal’ sons, on the other hand, was regarded by the Administration as just too young to be sent away and of little potential importance politically because of the allegedly lowly birth of his mother, Ngotsha.
It was his age, in fact, that was crucial in marking Njube out, for what was to be his somewhat pathetic role of pretender, although not as tragic as that of his younger brother, Nguboyenja, who, the Company originally thought, would have been the successor to Lobengula, despite the allegedly low birth of his mother, Sitshwapa.
Thus when Bulawayo was in laager in 1896 and it was thought that the presence there of a son of Lobengula would confuse the rebels, it was the sixteen-year old Njube, as the oldest of the three in Cape Town, who was chosen for this role of unwitting decoy-cum-hostage. This plan, however, was abandoned while Njube was en route to Mafeking, for fear that it might give the Mlimo the idea of claiming credit for his return. Thus Njube, having commenced his education at Zonnebloem College in February 1895, stayed there until he completed his education, probably in 1900; while there he became a Christian, baptized as Alban, and he remained a devout practising Anglican till his death. Nevertheless his Christianity and his Western education did not enable Njube to evade his royal Khumalo birth even if he had wanted to; indeed it seems that after the failure in 1896–7 of the traditional leadership, which compromised his older brothers Nyamande and Tshakalisa, the Khumalo family turned to Njube, whatever his exact seniority was. Ranger, in line with his general argument, claims that it was Chief Umlugulu, son of Mlota Khumalo of Eyengweni and one of the most prominent leaders of the Rising, who tried to build a party in Njube’s interest and urged him to return to Matabeleland; but it seems rather that it was old Chief Mtshana Khumalo, of the Imbizo, recently become Nguboyenja’s stepfather, who had been notably inactive in the Risings, that took the lead in trying to arrange for Njube’s return and in so doing turned to modern forms of political expression. In April 1897 Njube was writing to Rhodes, rather incoherently and not for the first time apparently, for permission to return to Matabeleland for good, ostensibly to perfect his mother-tongue but probably because messages from family and supporters at home were making him homesick and impatient. Then some months later Mtshana applied for permission to go to Cape Town to visit the boys, and when this was granted he took the three boys’ mothers, along with Queen Mfunga (sister of Mpoliyana) and two other Ndebele in January to February 1898. A few months later we have examples again of Njube writing to Rhodes begging permission to go home for a holiday. According to Ranger the Rhodesian Administration was averse to allowing Njube’s return, and one of Rhodes’s correspondents urged him to get rid of Njube lest there always be trouble from the ex-rebel faction; but again it was not so much the ex-rebels as Mtshana who took the next step and engaged a European lawyer to attend a secret meeting of indunas at his kraal on Sauerdale to discuss their desire for one of Lobengula’s sons in Cape Town to become ‘Head Induna’. Also collections of money were begun in order to send an induna to Cape Town and Mtshana even sent messengers out to urge other indunas to boycott a meeting in Bulawayo organized by the Chief Native Commissioner Matebeleland to discuss the matter.
Consequently it was the collaborator by inaction Mtshana who was deposed early in 1899 for thus opposing the government, and not the active rebel Umlugulu,.
In April 1899 Somaxhegwana, son and heir to Mlizane Mathe of the Mhlahlandlela, most of whom like Mtshana had been inactive in the Rising, went to Cape Town to see Njube and on his return a meeting was arranged at Mtshana’s kraal to give the indunas messages from Njube. What exactly these were is not known but the Administration feared that the people believed that the European occupation would not last, that Njube would soon return to be king and would then seize all the cattle and return them to ‘thoroughbred’ Ndebele except the loyalists/collaborators of 1896. Somaxhegwana also became friendly with Karl Khumalo who had been involved in Mtshana’s meetings earlier, and had a kraal built for Njube. This caused Njube’s mother, Mpoliyana, to rebuke him, although it is possible that her letter was written for the Administration’s eyes in order to protect the family:
Rumours are about that you have ordered a kraal to be built for you by Somaxhegwana son of Mlizane and others.I wish to know at once if you did order the building of the kraal.My heart is very sore to hear these rumours about you. When I visited you in Capetown, I told you that Mr Rhodes is your only father, and that you are not to listen to anybody but him. You faithfully promised to do so. Do you believe people misleading you? My son cling to Mr Rhodes, he is your only father and guardian.
Njube replied emotionally:
I received your letter alright—it is clear you do not wish me to return home. I wish to know what you want from me, perhaps it is because you dont like me any more. I believe Bejana told you that I do not wish to return home, and wish you all good-bye.I was under the impression that you do not care about me any longer, since you drove away Mapitsholo, who came to your kraal to erect me a house, now you intend to drive away Somaxhegwana. What do you wish me to do? I must bid you all good-bye.If you wish to drive Somaxhegwana away, do so as you did to Mapitsholo, as I will not come home again, even if you reply to this letter, you better understand that I shall not reply to it, as well as I shall not return to my home.
Then in October 1899 Mpezeni contracted pneumonia in Cape Town and was sent to the Somerset Hospital where he died. The Cape Town Office of the Company omitted to inform either the London Office or the Administrator in Southern Rhodesia, and by March 1900 rumours began to reach Matabeleland which, not unnaturally, upset both the Ndebele and the Native Department. Thereupon the Administrator relented and at an indaba he held with the Chiefs in June he announced that Rhodes was coming up and would bring Njube with him—presumably because it was urgent to allay any suspicions among the Ndebele that the boys were not being properly cared for in Cape Town.There is little record of this visit but according to Ranger it made a ‘great stir’. Njube apparently summoned Mlugulu to go to Bulawayo to see him which Mlugulu did without asking the permission of the local Assistant Native Commissioner. A couple of other indunas in the Matobo District asked for permission to visit Njube, and both in this area and Mzingwane there was some curiosity about Njube. But that was all, apart from his religious activities; these centred on St Columba’s Native Mission in Bulawayo where he was a communicant but also included building a chapel at his mother’s place in the Matopos and encouraging his people to send for teachers.
Njube then went back to Cape Colony, never to return to the land of his birth. In about April 1901 he married Annie Mashiqa Mahlamini, a Mfengu girl, then living in the Stutterheim area of the Eastern Cape. Perhaps because of his need for money for the wedding there were rumours in Matabeleland that Njube was coming back to claim his property—and, indeed, all cattle—with the help of the old indunas; and Njube himself telegraphed the Administration demanding various sums of money in respect of ‘my property’. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland asked him to explain what this property was; no answer appears to have been forthcoming but the Administrator suggested that Njube was referring to £70 that Njube and his brothers deposited with the Administration in 1895, which, with interest, now totalled £94. Rhodes said that he had paid Njube this sum but it was agreed to give Njube a present of £50 for his marriage and to consider a regular allowance. In fact Rhodes obtained a job for him at the De Beers offices in Kimberley, in some sort of caretaking capacity, it seems. Queen Mpoliyana, his mother, then went to visit him in Kimberley and it was later discovered that Njube’s new wife was in Southern Rhodesia having travelled back with Mpoliyana, masquerading as her ‘slave’. The object of the manoeuvre was to have their first child born in Matabeleland. On sending this news to Kimberley, where the passes had been issued, the Administration also discovered that Njube was applying to the military authorities there for a pass to travel to Bulawayo at the end of November for a two-month visit. The British South Africa Company objected to his application, and a De Beers detective was set to watch his movements, until it was learned that the military authorities had prohibited Njube from leaving Kimberley.
While this was being done the Southern Rhodesian Administration sent his wife back to Kimberley on the grounds that her stay ‘would in course of time lead to intrigue and trouble’. Njube wrote to apologize to the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland for smuggling his wife into Matabeleland, but then went on to complain about his uncle Faku. Other letters followed asking the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland to sell Njube’s shotgun for him and some cattle to raise money urgently, needed apparently to complete his marriage obligations before the birth of his first child. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland tried to meet Njube’s wishes and discovered that the shotgun was worth only about £5 and that Njube possessed only one ox, which Dhliso had presented to him, and one presented by Faku to his wife. Njube, however, spoke of many cattle that had originally belonged to him, which the Administration had promised to return to him when he had finished his education, together with some land that Rhodes had promised.
It was presumably to clear up these ‘promises’, of which the Native Department denied all knowledge, that he now retracted an earlier disinclination to visit Matabeleland and requested permission to return —perhaps thinking that the official attitude to him might have changed with the death of Rhodes (at whose brief lying in state at Kimberley he had paid his respects).Late in 1902 Gambo (a loyalist, it should be noted) and some other chiefs went to Cape Town and there was considerable official concern as to what they had discussed with Njube in Kimberley en route as well as with Nguboyenja who was still in school in Cape Town; the fear was that dissatisfaction over the imposition of a poll tax was creating a situation that Njube could exploit. There was apparently talk of Njube making a visit early in 1903 and the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland advised against it on the grounds that some elders and relatives would help him raise fictitious claims to cattle and unsettle the people. Therefore, the Administrator held a meeting with Chiefs in Bulawayo early in January 1903 and ‘informed them definitely that N’jube would not be brought back, that he had married a Mfengu woman, and that the Government was paying him a subsidy sufficient to keep him in the Cape Colony’.
Njube conveniently at this point began to show an interest in moving to the Eastern Cape but whether this was because the Administration prompted him, or because Njube found his position in Kimberley untenable or because his wife wanted to return to her home area for the birth of her second child is not known. Whatever the reason, the Administration quickly decided to offer Njube a gift of £50 and a monthly allowance of £6 to help him settle down to farming in the Eastern Cape where he had gone on a visit to look for a suitable place to live for himself, his wife, young son Albert and his sick mother. Njube meanwhile demanded restitution for the cattle he claimed he had before 1895 and threatened to go to London to see the King if necessary; and he also engaged a lawyer to collect money in Matabeleland for this purpose and arranged for relatives to go to Cape Town to obtain permission for him to return to Matabeleland.
Nevertheless he agreed to draw his £6 a month allowance on a quarterly basis but asked for £150 capital to start farming near Port Alfred. However, he then said that £6 was not enough and that he still wanted restitution for the cattle; for this purpose he was sending an emissary to Matabeleland to collect money from friends and those who held his cattle.
These threats were worrying to the Native Department as nothing would unsettle the Ndebele as much as claims being made to cattle now in private ownership. The Administration’s view was that any cattle that Njube might have had had been lost during the rinderpest epidemic or the Rising, but it was prepared to give him a few cows and the £150 capital to help him settle, and to raise his quarterly allowance from £18 to £26, provided that he drop the cattle business once and for all.
This was apparently agreed and Njube rented some land and the Company made arrangements for the money to be paid to Njube via a local magistrate. But the Company soon learned that this was not the end of the matter, for a messenger from Njube began trying to collect money in Matabeleland. Also Njube quickly dissipated the £150
and within a matter of weeks claimed to be starving for lack of cash and in desperate need of the restitution of his cattle! The demands gradually became more strident. He needed, he said, at least £1 500 for a farm that he had undertaken to buy in the belief that his 350 head of cattle were to be restored. The details of the cattle were not very clear, but he asserted that he had left them with Queen Lozekeyi before leaving for Zonnebloem College and that the B.S.A. Company had thereupon seized them before the rinderpest. He also claimed that Lobengula had paid the Company £3 000 for a piece of land for his children.The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland apparently wanted to be generous but the Administrator overruled him, in the belief that Njube was being used by someone to extort money from the Company.
Early in 1904 Njube was visited by two of his uncles and he then informed the Native Department that he was returning to Southern Rhodesia, despite the Administration’s prohibition, in order to raise the money that he urgently needed by selling his cattle.
Whether it was a coincidence or not, the Administration was also worried at this time with a recrudescence of Mlimo messengers one of whom, Manyanga, from the Belingwe District, was caught going around Charter District demanding gifts and threatening that Lobengula’s son was going to raid the Shona to regain his cattle. The Government was so alarmed by the possibility of Njube’s return that the Chief Native Commissioner swore
an affidavit that Njube’s return would be ‘detrimental to existing security of property,
and . . . prejudicial to and dangerous to the peace’ of the country, in order to justify a warrant should that become necessary. The Administrator decided to appeal to the Resident Commissioner for the High Commissioner’s help to keep Njube out rather than be seen to arrest him after arrival. The ground for asking the High Commissioner this was that Njube was ‘dangerous to the peace of the territory’ in view of his support from ‘the less well disposed’:
The Matabele nation are divided on the subject [of his possible return], those that rebelled in 1896 being desirous that he should come back, when an effort would possibly be made to secure his recognition as king, while the ‘loyal’ portion of the nation do not desire his return.
The High Commissioner quickly responded by asking the Transvaal authorities not to issue the required pass should Njube apply and sending an arrest warrant to the authorities of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. The High Commissioner also informed the Governor of the Cape who replied that his officials were watching Njube’s movements but that he appeared to have no intention of going to Southern Rhodesia.The Administration, however, was not convinced; photographs were obtained from Cape Town and sent to Mafeking and correspondence on the subject continued until late May when the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland sent a verbal description of Njube which portrayed him as of medium height and ‘well dressed with hat aslant [with the] general bearing of [a] Cape boy’. Meanwhile the Company had been trying to settle Njube’s claims for cattle by offering him 25 head, which offer he accepted but then asked to be changed to £300. The Administration gladly paid this ‘in full and nal settlement of all claims against the British South Africa Company’. On the strength of this Njube bought a 205-acre farm, Hyman’s Party Location in Bathurst Division, for £600 (£300 cash and £300 on a bond) and spent some £200 of the Ndebele’s contributions on cattle.
But by the end of 1904 Njube was obviously in financial difficulties again; he told the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland that he needed more than double the allowance that the Administration paid him and that he was sending Simon Mhlatuzana to Matabeleland ‘to make collections for me. I am greatly starving’. The Administration gave him an advance of £20 on his allowance and more surprisingly decided to allow collections to be made under close scrutiny, and with no pressure from Chiefs on the people. By March the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland decided that the collecting had gone on long enough; the money was brought in and sent to Njube, who sent confirmation of receipt and thanks to various people.
By 1905 the Administration was much more relaxed. The Chief Native Commissioner wrote to Njube in October to ask if he had any objection to his sister’s proposed marriage; Njube said not and repeated the wish of another letter that he be allowed to come up to Southern Rhodesia to do some hunting. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland advised the Administrator that he had no objection; the Native Commissioner Matobo, however, thought it better that Njube be kept away and, in the absence of the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland, a definite refusal was thereupon sent to Njube. Njube replied a few weeks later to give details of the death of his wife and to repeat his request to be allowed a hunting trip of a few months duration.
The Administration replied that it would consider the request but nothing appears to have happened; instead later in the year a party of Ndebele accompanied his sister Nganugiso and his mother’s sister, Queen Mfunga, to see Njube in the Eastern Cape. The reason for this visit was probably Njube’s announcement that he intended remarrying, to Mary Nongokwakhe, a daughter of the late Gqunukwebe chief, Luthuli Kama of Iquibica (Qhibira) in the Middledrift district. This forthcoming event helped precipitate a new crisis for Njube. Firstly, Njube suddenly found himself regarded with as much suspicion by the Cape authorities as by the Southern Rhodesian. Rumours of unrest, even a rising, in the Eastern Cape were linked to his forthcoming marriage into the Kama family. For its acting chief, Ngangelizwe (Mary’s uncle), had become the main supporter of the Order of Ethiopia (because of his family’s close links with the Dwane family) which was now in rebellion against the Anglican authorities; and furthermore Ngangelizwe’s plans to give the Order land was causing bitter divisions among the Gqunukhwebe.
Such a combination of royalty and Ethiopianism had already been a worry for Rhodesians because of Lewanika’s involvement with the African Methodist Episcopal Church a few years earlier; and it was a fear to be etched more deeply in the psyche of Whites in southern Africa by John Buchan (who after leaving South Africa in 1903) published Prester John in 1910. Three years later this fear was to be given a specifically Rhodesian dimension by G. Heaton Nicholls (who had been in Barotseland when the A.M.E.C. had been active there) in his novel Bayete! ‘Hail to the King’!; this was not published until 1923, but its leading character was a man called Nelson, the elected successor of Lobengula, who turned to Ethiopianism and a simplistic Marxism as the only way of resisting the European in the modern world—and so successfully was this done that Nelson was set to become king of southern and central Africa.
The real-life ‘heir’ to Lobengula, however, did not have his fictional counterpart’s
many abilities and drive, and so the scare soon died down; but the second problem grew more acute. Njube’s chronic shortage of money now reached crisis point because of the costs of settling his dead wife’s estate and of preparing to take a new wife. Already his creditors, mainly European shopkeepers in Port Alfred, were beginning to press him and in an altercation with one of them Njube was assaulted. Njube in desperation decided to go to Johannesburg and nd a job, but in the meantime asked Simon Mhlatuzana to repossess Njube’s cattle and sell them. All aspects of Njube’s situation—the Ethiopian link, the indebtedness, and his desire to go to Johannesburg and to repossess cattle in Matabeleland—alarmed the Southern Rhodesian Native Department by virtue of their unsettling effect on the Ndebele. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland told Njube that he did not think Johannesburg a suitable place for him and that enquiries would be made about the cattle he claimed.
Mhlatuzana was told to let the Ndebele leaders know that the Administration would help
Njube out of his difculties and the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland advised the Administrator that Njube’s ‘wandering disposition’ should be curbed once and for all by settling him on a good farm. When the High Commissioner visited Bulawayo in October 1906, he met the Chiefs and Gambo obliquely referred to their desire for a paramount chief over them. The High Commissioner, forewarned, replied: ‘I will look after Njube . . . but Njube cannot come back as the Paramount Chief of the Matabele.’ Even this, however, did not stop talk about Njube returning, and so after considerable discussion within the Administration it was decided to send the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland to Port Alfred to see Njube and ‘arrive at some decision which would prevent for all time the agitation for Njube’s return’ and put an end to Njube’s attempts to reclaim cattle that might have belonged personally to Lobengula but since the distribution of 1895 were regarded as the private property of their individual recipients.
When Taylor arrived in Port Alfred in early November he found that the Ndebele had learned of his plans and had sent down Mhlatuzana and Sihluzo Khumalo to join Queens Mpoliyana and Mfunga in any meetings with Njube. For his part Taylor contacted a local
law agent, who had had dealings with Njube earlier while serving as an Inspector of Native Locations, and asked him to prepare a full report on Njube’s financial position.
It appears that Njube had on first arriving in the area leased a farm and tried to make
his living by sub-letting to, or share-cropping with, local Xhosa, with whom, however, he had soon quarrelled. Then, as has been seen, he bought Hyman’s Party and some cattle in 1904 but his farming had been a series of disasters with cattle deaths and crop failures on the mere couple of acres that he tried to cultivate. He had started constructing a brick house, probably with the money from the approved collections of 1905, but once such remittances from the Ndebele ceased he had abandoned building and moved into rented accommodation on a neighbouring farm. His debts were just over £100 and if he sold the farm for the estimated market value of £400 (£200 less than he had paid for it) he might just have enough to pay off these debts and the bond. This, however, would leave him with nothing and would not solve his pressing financial problems presented by his engagement to marry. Lobola of 30 head was to be paid and the Master of the Supreme Court required £124 to be paid into court as Njube’s late wife’s half-share of the net value of their estate which under Cape law had to be safeguarded as a maternal bequest to her children, Albert and Rhodes, before Njube could contract a new Christian marriage.
The Chief Native Commissioner’s assessment of Njube was generally favourable and particular point was made of his religious nature; however, he was ‘impulsive and easily led . . . lavish when he happens to have money, and very improvidential . . . [and] inclined to drink’. The local law agent said that he had neglected his farm and generally needed guidance, having ‘no idea of the value of money’ and being surrounded by hangers-on who took advantage of his good nature. Although all these personal problems had a direct bearing on any plans to make Njube settle down happily, the real point of the meeting was to settle the political questions. This being so the meeting had a stormy beginning. When Taylor explained that the High Commissioner had recently met the Ndebele Chiefs in Bulawayo and told them that Njube could not go back to Matabeleland, Njube quickly became angry and said that: he was leaving for Johannesburg at once and was going to lay his case before the High Commissioner. He could not understand why, as a British subject, he should be banished from his country. He was not aware that he had committed any crime. He made no claim to the Chieftainship, all he wanted was to be free to return to his home and enjoy the same liberty as any other Native of Matabeleland . . . Rhodes repeatedly told him that when his education was completed he would go back and live on . . . Rhodes’ . . . farm in the Matobos, and when Dr. Jameson was in Grahamstown he assured him that his cattle were still there and he would have them when he went back.
When Taylor insisted that the matter was not open to discussion Njube ‘asked why he was not killed at once’ and stormed out of the meeting. The next day he ‘apologised most
profusely . . . [and] stated he was in serious difficulties and did not know what was going
to become of him’. On the third day, after vainly trying to reopen the question of at least a short visit to Southern Rhodesia, he said he wanted to live near Johannesburg away from the harassment of his neighbours and creditors. When Taylor said he could not recommend this, Njube and the two Ndebele advisors asked if the Government could not buy him a good farm with some cattle in the Alexandra Division, pay off his debts, buy him a gun, increase his allowance, and settle the question of his 350 cattle in Matabeleland so that he could pay his lobola. Taylor undertook to present these requests to the Administrator; and on the last, but the most important, question he said that if enquiries substantiated Njube’s claim to the cattle he would get them. However, Mhlatuzana and Sihluzo, and later his mother, admitted that Njube’s cattle had all perished in the rinderpest; whereupon Njube asked if the government could not replace them. The two Ndebele representatives asked if chiefs could not lobola for Njube, and Taylor said they could if they wished; and this appeared to settle the matter.
On his return to Bulawayo, Taylor recommended that Njube’s requests be met: that a farm of 400–500 acres be bought by the Company and held in trust for Njube, that it be provided with basic requirements and a house, that his debts be paid, that he be given a gun, and his allowance increased to £180 p.a. so that he could support his mother and sister. All this was rather an expense but Taylor stressed that it would settle him down and facilitate his remarriage in which ‘he should be encouraged . . . as a matter of policy as it would tend to still further alienate him from his people’ some of whom had an Ndebele bride in mind and objected to a Xhosa match (which indeed may have been the reason for that cessation of remittances which had precipitated the whole crisis!). So strongly, apparently, did the Native Department welcome the marriage that it had ordered Chief Mapisa to withdraw the objections which he was said to have made.
The Department was also to enlist the help of Jameson as Prime Minister of the Cape to keep an eye on Njube’s finances and to see if there was any way round the Supreme Court’s requirement of £124 before Njube could remarry by Christian rites. The Master, however, could not relax the law and so the only solution that the Cape Native Affairs Department could suggest was that Njube should marry according to customary law and have the marriage solemnized later when he had paid the money into court.
While Njube was prepared to do this, in spite of his religious scruples, the uncle and guardian of the bride-to-be absolutely refused to even consider a non-Christian marriage. While all this was going on and while the Administration in Salisbury was considering Taylor’s report, more bills from creditors and pleas from Njube continued to flood in, until at last it had to be agreed that Njube’s allowance be increased from £104 to £200 p.a.; the Administrator, however, would not agree to Taylor’s recommendation that a farm be purchased and Njube’s debts paid off, lest that merely encouraged him and local traders to further extravagant credit. It was also at this point that the Administration allowed Njube’s younger brother, Nguboyenja, to come up from Cape Town to visit his relatives before going to England—a somewhat surprising decision in some ways, in view of the trouble with and suspicions about Nguboyenja over the previous months, but perhaps a deliberate attempt to divert the focus of Ndebele attention away from Njube. And to keep a better check on Njube the help of the Cape Native Affairs Department was obtained.
Njube, however, did not give up. In May he wrote a plaintive letter to The Bulawayo Chronicle complaining that not only was he banished without cause but also unjustly deprived of his cattle. According to the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland, this claim (made in spite of the admission by his family that his cattle had all died) was a blatant attempt to obtain sympathy and stir up an agitation against his exclusion from Southern Rhodesia. This fear appeared to be conrmed in August when Sihluzo Khumalo arrived as emissary from Njube, ostensibly to announce Njube’s forthcoming marriage; this involved asking for wedding gifts which, in the case of requesting
itodhlana le sinkwa (a steer for bread or food) was tantamount to claiming allegiance.
There was, however, no general appeal to the people, and much of the money that selected Chiefs and elders donated was spent by Sihluzo for his own purposes. This turn of events did damage to Sihluzo’s image and so encouraged the Native Department that it took over and forwarded to Njube some of the money collected.The Administrator was critical of this action as it tended to imply recognition of Njube—a danger which the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland himself had warned about a few days earlier: ‘there are several who are, and would be, only too glad to foster the idea of his recognition by the Government’. The Administrator’s view was that Njube was provided for by the Government and, therefore, did not need any gifts from the Ndebele, but, as the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland rather plaintively
said, it was difficult to stop the Ndebele from complying, and to know what to do, when
Njube was in constant correspondence with the more educated of his people. Meanwhile the process of settling the estate of Njube’s late wife had at last reached its
final stages and the Master of the Supreme Court agreed to accept a second mortgage bond on the farm to the value of £124 as Albert and Rhodes’s inheritance; and this at last cleared the way for Njube’s remarriage.
Njube was reported as enormously excited and wrote to express his heartfelt thanks to all who had helped expedite matters. As preparations for the marriage went forward, however, Njube and his two sons fell ill and asked for Mtupana, the guardian that Lobengula had appointed before his death, to come down. This was allowed after some deliberation but limited to three weeks (as Mtupana was not regarded as trustworthy by the Administration); in the event his visit was regarded as expedient because Mtupana’s presence at the marriage ceremony which took place on 8 October was thought to be divisive of Ndebele opinion in that Njube’s preference for a Xhosa over the Ndebele girls whom some Ndebele chiefs proposed has for all time alienated their sympathy and the whole question, in so far as the ‘raw’ Native is concerned, may now be regarded as a ‘closed book’.This, however, does not apply to what may be termed the educated class, who by correspondence . . . will continue to express their sympathy with Njube’s alleged grievances.
The ‘closed book’, however, obstinately remained open. Njube wrote to request that a collection be made for him and told Mtupana to ask permission to undertake this as soon as he arrived back in Matabeleland and also to regain Njube’s cattle for the lobola payment to Chief Kama; all this was forbidden by the Chief Native Commissioner. Sihluzo thereupon returned to Port Alfred and Njube, desperately trying to avoid being served with summons for debt, then announced that ‘I am leaving . . . tomorrow for Bulawayo . . . I cannot hold myself, seeing my children starving.’ The authorities in Port Alfred forbade Njube to leave and the Administration in Southern Rhodesia prepared to have its immigration officials stop him from entering the country. It appears that in fact Njube never left Port Alfred, but it was discovered that collections were being made by Mtupana and several chiefs in spite of the Native Department’s ban, on the basis that each Ndebele should contribute to Njube to help him get out of trouble.
Those involved were reprimanded and ordered to return the money to the donors.
Njube’s next tactic was to try to send Sihluzo back to Matabeleland with Njube’s new wife to present her to the people; the Native Department’s reply was to forbid this on the ground that the Ndebele had no desire to meet a Xhosa girl. Njube then tried yet another tactic and hired attorneys in Grahamstown to instruct Coghlan and Welsh in Bulawayo to ask why Njube had not been allowed back after the Anglo-Boer War, as Rhodes had promised, and why the Ndebele were not allowed to supplement his inadequate allowance.
Administration in reply said that no promise had ever been made and that Njube’s allowance was adequate. Njube’s next move was to write to say that he was returning to Bulawayo to sort out what had happened to his father’s property; and to this end he asked the authorities in Port Alfred for a pass to go to Bulawayo for a month to collect sufficient money to pay off his creditors rather than struggle on month by month. Instructions were immediately given to the police to prevent Njube’s entry into Southern Rhodesia, and despite reports of his being seen in the Bechuanaland Protectorate there was no real evidence that Njube had even left the Eastern Cape. The basic reason for the increasing tempo of Njube’s efforts was that his financial problems were reaching their crisis. It seems that the authorities in Port Alfred had virtually taken over the administration of Njube’s affairs and his allowance went straight to J. N. Cock so that he could placate creditors, and when Njube protested at this, a formal power of attorney for six months was obtained to regularize this procedure, although hope of staving off writs for civil imprisonment was fast disappearing.
The Administration, however, would not budge; and, following an obscure episode in which Njube wrote a letter signed ‘Sihluzo’, it told Njube that he would not be allowed to visit Southern Rhodesia and that his allowance would be sufficient for his needs if he practised some economies. A few weeks after the receipt of this news J. N. Cock seems to have intervened on Njube’s behalf but the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland strongly advised the Administration to have Njube warned of the ‘unpleasant’ consequences that would follow any attempt to enter Southern Rhodesia without permission. As for Njube’s repeated but vague claims to property the Native Affairs Department would investigate them if given the details. For the meantime Njube must learn to curb his extravagance and the only help that the Administration should give was to pay the expenses of Njube’s two children, Albert and Rhodes, who had recently been put in school in Grahamstown.
No more was heard of Njube until early 1909 when the Chief Native Commissioner wrote to a law agent in Port Alfred to say that the Administration did not want to interfere in Njube’s personal affairs. Then in April 1909 an uncle of Njube, Sikonkwana Khumalo, asked permission to visit Njube. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland believed that he had no power to stop him going but was opposed to such visit as secret meeting
always took place on return to plan for a paramountcy which unsettled the people in their ownership of cattle. The Administration, however, took a stronger line in forbidding the visit. Thus, when forwarding this instruction to Sikonkwana, the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland told the Superintendent of Natives in Gwelo that it was ‘inadvisable, from a political point of view, to tacitly, or otherwise, acknowledge in any form whatsoever that Njube’s association with the Matabele continues’. This seems to have been the end of this particular episode and the next that was heard of Njube was towards the end of the year when it was reported that he was still in debt and a writ of attachment had been issued but returned ‘nulla bona’; his farm was idle while he lived largely in Grahamstown where his mother had settled.
Later in the year the High Commissioner visited Southern Rhodesia and held an indaba of Matabeleland Chiefs at which the usual, rather oblique requests were made for Njube’s return. The High Commissioner replied that, ‘The son of Lobengula is well, and being well looked after in Cape Colony, but he is not coming back here.’ This blunt reply did not go down well and at the end of the indaba there was considerable delay, if not reluctance, in giving the High Commissioner the traditional royal salute; this so annoyed the High Commissioner that in a hasty attempt to put the blame on the Southern Rhodesian authorities he confused Njube with Nguboyenja and his visit to Matabeleland a year earlier: ‘a move that was unwise and dangerous . . . [and] for the future’, he ordered ‘that under no circumstances is the son of Lobengula to be allowed to return to Matabeleland, even for 24 hours, without the written permission of the High Commissioner’.
Somewhat alarmed, the Administration asked for a report from the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland. His reply settled any fears of outright political disaffection by making it clear that the Chiefs were divided into two sections which were both perfectly loyal to the Administration but differed over the issue of Njube’s return which had been discussed between themselves before the indaba. The one section took the view that, having failed before, they should not raise the matter again; to this the other section had retorted: ‘We know your reasons for not wanting the King’s son; you have committed yourselves by branding his cattle.’ Thereupon the former section gave in and agreed to support the pleas for Njube’s return but at the end of the indaba both sides had waited, not wanting to be seen to be the first to give the royal salute. The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland thought there might be some outside inuence being brought to bear on the Chiefs of Insiza, Matobo and Mzingwane, the centre of support for Njube, but he noted that the division was in some ways of long-standing historical origin, for the Chiefs of Bubi and Bulalima had branded their stock and represented the old Gapeni section that had been under Gambo before the Occupation. Whatever the reason, the Chief Native Commissioner thought it undesirable in future to hold a mass indaba which tended to make such differences a major issue.
On hearing news of the High Commissioner’s reply to the Ndebele and the events at the indaba, Njube in Grahamstown then tried the new tactic of appealing directly to the High Commissioner:I observe from reports of His Excellency’s speech in Rhodesia that I am not to be allowed to return to my own country. What the cause of this decision may be I know not and can only assume that it is a fresh ‘Colour Bar’ on the eve of Union . . . the late Lobengula’s property, wives, and son[s] Nyamanda
and Tsakalisa are still resident [there . . . and it] was definitely stipulated when
I was sent to Capetown to be educated that the Chartered Company would
not confiscate the late Lobengula’s cattle but would return [keep] them for me till I return[ed] from Capetown. Since my education was finished no
doubt with a view of retaining the late Lobengula’s cattle I have not been permitted to return to Bulawayo. As His Excellency has been pleased to assure the Rhodesians that I shall never be allowed to return to my home, I . . . petition that he will order the Chartered Company to send down at their cost to my farm at Bathurst the cattle belonging to my late Father with their increase. I should be obliged if you . . . would make it clear if . . . I am never to be allowed even to visit my home. I should be further obliged if His Excellency would . . . refer me to any Act of Parliament or any Proclamation
under authority of which he prohibits my return to my own home . . . In fine
I would respectfully ask . . . if Justice is to be denied to me a British Subject merely because . . . [of] the colour of my skin . . .
In response to this moving plea the High Commissioner contacted the Southern Rhodesian Administration indicating that Njube’s ‘letter will require to be carefully answered’. His own view was that Njube should be made to understand that it was not a case of personal blame attaching to him but that his position in Matabeleland would inevitably lead to misunderstandings and problems; the cattle question, however, should be settled and the British South Africa Company should pay up if any were due to Njube.
The Administration, in its turn, turned to Taylor for advice. He drew a crucial distinction between Njube, who by birth would have succeeded his father, and his brothers who would not; this distinction made it impossible for Njube to lead the life of a private citizen. Furthermore, Ndebele society was divided into two sections: the one was happy to ‘recognise that under this administration they have absolute security of property, irrespective of status, which was not the case during the regime of Lobengula’; the other did ‘not favour the policy of equal rights for all natives in so far as the acquisition of wealth in the form of cattle is concerned
. . . and keep in constant communication with Njube, and who advocate his return’.
Such a return to the country, he saidwould force the two opposing sections to look upon each other with suspicion, it would be the one topic of interest to the natives, not only in Matabeleland but also in Mashonaland, to which Province a large number of ‘Holis’ returned after the Rebellion, the whole country would become unsettled, reprisals would set in, cattle would be seized, and Njube himself could not help being influenced by certain of the Chiefs, with the inevitable result that the peace of the Country would be endangered . . . [particularly] as the ‘King’s’ son in Matabeleland he would lay claim to all cattle . . . supported by his advocates.Therefore, the Ndebele should be made to recognize once and for all that Njube would never return and that his claim to cattle would not be entertained.
The Administration, after some heart-searching, informed the Resident Commissioner that his own statement in January 1903 and the High Commissioner’s in November 1909,
that Njube would not be allowed to return, should be reaffirmed to Njube who should also be made to accept that, on the admission of his mother and the Ndebele envoys in 1905, he had no claim to any cattle.The Resident Commissioner, in forwarding this, drafted a reply to Njube for the High Commissioner to use; this was done almost word for word and it made it quite clear that Njube was not to return to Matabeleland and that ‘whatever cattle are now in the country are owned legally by private individuals and there are none which can be regarded in any sense as belonging to you’. When the High Commissioner informed the Colonial Secretary in London, the officials in the Colonial Office thought the case weak and so asked for assurance that the Southern
Rhodesia Administration was entitled on grounds of public policy and empowered by law to prevent Njube’s return and for an explanation for its change of attitude towards Njube since it had contemplated making him an interpreter in Southern Rhodesia in 1908.
This last point was, of course, another confusion with Nguboyenja but while the Administration was preparing its answers on this and the legal position, the outgoing High Commissioner, Selborne, who, as had been seen, took an even harder line on Njube’s return than the B.S.A. Company, informed the Colonial Secretary of his wish to leave on record my very deliberate conviction that Lobengula’s eldest son should not be allowed to return to Southern Rhodesia; and that in the absence of legal power . . . special legislation should be passed.There is absolutely no possibility of such a return turning out for the good of Lobengula or for the peace of the country. No matter what promises Lobengula may make, or what his intentions may be when he returns, his position becomes impossible . . . In my opinion . . . friction would at once commence. Every Matabele would go to him for advice; they would take to him case after case for settlement . . . and they would be asking him with unwearying reiteration whether he really was the son of Lobengula . . . because if he really was . . . he would not stay still under the white man’s dominion. He would, in fact, be goaded . . . into . . . rebellion and bloodshed.
The position of Dinizulu in Zululand was always impossible, and
the position of Lobengula’s son in Matabeleland would be still more impossible. This firm statement of policy was soon followed by a full clarification of the confusion
with Nguboyenja and the exposition of the Administration’s legal powers to prevent entry; and with this the Colonial Office officials let the matter rest.
The time for Njube’s return, however, had now passed. The episode of the indaba and Njube’s protest to the High Commissioner rebounded on Njube in that Gambo now openly took the initiative and started sending messengers around the countryside urging all to follow his example in branding former royal cattle and to recognize the ‘futility of any continuance of the agitation for Njube’s return’.
Furthermore, it was learned in 1910 that Njube was seriously ill with tuberculosis, and it was decided to move him to Aliwal North for its drier climate. The Administration undertook to bear the expenses of the move, including that of Njube’s mother. Two months later, however, it was learned that Njube had made no effort
to remove, perhaps because his indebtedness made it difficult to leave. The Administration immediately asked for a listing of Njube’s debts and assets and emphasized that he should be urged to move as soon as possible for his own good.But it was too late. Njube was too weak to travel and was dying.The Chief Native Commissioner telegraphed that Njube was to be provided with all care and medical attention at the Administration’s expense, and started making arrangements to send an Ndebele of standing down as quickly as possible lest the Administration be blamed or fears of witchcraft be allowed to develop.
The Chief selected was Nyangazonke who arrived in Grahamstown on 26 May 1910.
Sikupuzela, a daughter of Lobengula, began borrowing money so that she, too, could go down but the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland forbade her lest the importance of Njube, even in death, be magnified. The Administrator, however, countermanded this prohibition as unjustified and Sikupuzela continued her preparation to leave
but it is not known if she in fact left before news of Njube’s death came.Njube died in Grahamstown on 10 June 1910; a well attended funeral was conducted two days later at St Philip’s Church by the Revd W. Y. Stead, and Njube was buried in
the cemetery in the Fingo Village nearby. The event attracted the attention of several local newspapers which carried short pieces on Njube’s brief and tragic career; this was best epitomized by Grocott’s Penny Mail which said simply that ‘as an exile [he] quite lost heart’—lost to his people he had long been referred to back home as ‘Iqanda le Ngwenya’
(the crocodile’s egg [that is hard to find]).
This news of Njube’s death must have been something of a relief to the Southern Rhodesian Administration. The Chief Native Comm. Matabeleland noted hopefully that the ‘great concern, [and] expressions of sorrow . . . [that] were universal’ among the Ndebele were due to the fact that ‘the natives realise that the last connecting link with the Royal House of Khumalo has been severed’. When this extract was forwarded to the Colonial Office in August, the Colonial Secretary rightly queried whether or not ‘the difficulties which arose during A. Njube Lobengula’s lifetime might arise again when his son grew to manhood’ and indeed whether the Ndebele might not in the meantime regard one of Njube’s brothers as leader. These queries were dismissed by the Southern Rhodesian Native Department which, typically, thought in terms of some ‘correct tribal’ law rather than of current political realities among the Ndebele. Indeed, in dismissing any claims that Nguboyenja or Sidojiwa might have, Nyamande was not even mentioned because he had been born before Lobengula became king; similarly the young Albert and Rhodes were dismissed as having no ‘locus standi’ because Njube had not consulted his people before marrying their non-Ndebele mother.
Whilst the Native Department could not have foreseen the emergence of a traditionalist like Nyamande to articulate the people’s grievances over land in the 1920s, there was little reason to expect that children of the new generation would so easily abandon their own personal, traditional claims to cattle any more than Njube had. As he had clung, pathetically but obstinately, to an outmoded concept of cattle ownership, so he bequeathed the idea to his heirs, by telling them that part of his estate was 1 000 head of cattle which, he said, were still owed to him by the government. But if the book was not closed, at least an important chapter in the history of the royal family had reached its end. As an official at the Colonial Office laconically put it, when closing Njube’s file: ‘there is at present little risk of the Dinzulu history repeating itself in Matabeleland’.
The first concern of the Administration after Njube’s death was to break the news to the
Ndebele Chiefs and to assess their reactions. Their reception of the news seems generally to have been one of sullen silence, but there were reports of the open expression of relief by some and sorrow by others. It was of course expected of her position that Queen Lozekeyi should show greatest grief, and permission was given to Chiefs to visit her to give their condolences, although this was later regretted for fear that such visits might be made in a body to back her claim to become guardian of Njube’s children; careful watch was, therefore, maintained.
There seems even to have been a fear that there might be some sort of proclamation of a successor to Njube, but the Chief Native Commissioner assured the Administrator that neither Nguboyenja nor Sidojiwa were likely to command such support owing to the low birth of their mothers. This left only Albert and Rhodes, the young children of Njube’s first marriage; and Queen Lozekeyi did ask that she be allowed to take care of them, but the Native Department cautiously (and hopefully, no doubt) told her that their dead mother’s parents would presumably do that.
In fact the future of Albert and Rhodes was to be far from clear. The maternal relatives appear not to have made any claim on the children, and their stepmother and the Kama family certainly had no interest in them whatsoever—and even if they had, it is doubtful if old Queen Mpoliyana would have allowed them to take the children as she had never recognized Njube’s second wife or the child of that marriage. In fact it was with the old and almost invalid queen that Albert and Rhodes were living in the Grahamstown Native Location, dependent for their sustenance upon the Revd W. Y. Stead’s charity. Therefore, the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland asked Stead to continue to care for them and to send the account to the Administration.
In the meantime Stead as executor of the will was trying to wind up Njube’s estate. The only asset was £5. 11 left from the monthly allowance from the Administration for June; the debts on the other hand were nearly £600. The solutions arrived at were that the children should stay with their grandmother in Grahamstown who would receive from the Southern Rhodesian Government £8. 68 a month, in addition to her own monthly allowance of £1, and that the liabilities of Njube’s estate would be discharged by the government which would in return take over the title to the farm at Bathurst.
After the estate had been settled, the £124 deriving from the second mortgage bond of 1907 was put into the Orphanage Fund for them and it then became necessary to appoint Tutor(s) Dative to be responsible for the children. Stead wrote to say how wrong it would be to separate them from Queen Mpoliyana who cared for them better than any of the relatives in the Cape would; he, himself, had promised the dying Njube that he would be a ‘father’ to them and so he proposed that he, together with the Chief Native Commissioner and a relative of Njube, should be made legal guardians.
The Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland thought that Stead alone should be appointed as he was on the spot, and the Administrator—and this was arranged for mid-April 1911 when the hearing was held before the Resident Magistrate in Albany.
Meanwhile the Ndebele had been attending to their part in winding up the affairs of Njube—the raising of money for a tombstone. The lead seems to have been taken by Manja Mpondo Khumalo, who was to be prominent in the 1920s as a protagonist of the royal family’s cause, and the Native Department promised to assist in making the arrangements.
While the Ndebele were organizing their collections of donations, the Chief Native Commissioner Matabeleland asked Stead to obtain quotations and designs. The total estimated cost was about £50 and the £35 sufficient for the sort of memorial
that the Ndebele chose was raised by June 1911. It was decided that Manja should be their representative to go to Grahamstown to approve of the completion of the memorial and assist at the unveiling ceremony. The wording for an inscription was supplied and it was left to Stead to choose a text.
The ceremony took place on 13 August 1911 in Manja’s presence and Stead made a moving address in which he said that what the Ndebele had erected would ‘remain for a thousand years as a standing memorial of the devotion of his people’ who had never forgotten him although separated from them for so long. The inscription in Ndebele, translated, reads:Here lies the prince, the son of the King of the Amandebele, A. N. L. Mzilikazi of Matshobana who was born in 1880 and died 1910 and underneath was a quotation from John, 16: 33: In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Stead reported that Manja seemed well pleased with the memorial but wanted an iron rail put round it. The £5 required was soon subscribed by the Ndebele and the rail duly erected. In 1912 Queen Mpoliyana died of tuberculosis and the Administration bore the cost of her burial near Njube.
The annual allowance to the boys, Albert and Rhodes, was then reduced to £7 a month and it appears that they thenceforward lived
en famille with Steads their guardian; they thus grew up with Stead’s son, William Henry, who was later to become a Native Commissioner in the Southern Rhodesian Native Department. In this family environment the two boys appear to have settled well; their school work was good and by 1912 they had passed Standard 1 and Standard 2 with the best attendance record in the school. They were, Stead reported, nice, intelligent boys,
but their future was to be as problematic as their father’s sad life had been. His education, extravagance and exile, his expensive tastes and exogamous marriage all contributed to his undoing, and in all these respects his sons were the sons of their father and even more alienated from the traditional culture of the Ndebele and from their painful transition into the modern world. The enforced journey that Njube and his two younger brothers had taken to Cape Town in 1894 had in fact been to a limbo between two worlds, designed by Rhodes and the Company, from which there was no escape either for him or his sons later.
In 1956 the newly completed township in Bulawayo, Western Commonage No. 3, was named Njube.This was achieved, however, not without difculty because originally
‘Rufaro’ was the name agreed upon by the Western Commonage Advisory Board and the Bulawayo municipal authorities.The Ndebele then organized meetings and protests against this name which smacked of the rising Shona inuence in Bulawayo promoted, as it was, by ‘tribalistic’ bodies such as the Sons of Mashonaland Cultural Society.
So high did feelings run that there were fears that Christmas would see a repetition of the 1929 riots.
The choice of the name ‘Njube’ in preference to other Ndebele names was mentioned early in 1956,although the idea of adopting ‘Lobengula’ as a compromise was still being canvassed some months later only to be dropped for fear of confusion with Lobengula Street. Finally the Advisory Board agreed unanimously on Njube which the Council accepted. And that, with associated school, library and clinic, was virtually Njube’s only memorial in the country of his birth. In Grahamstown his grave was to be adjoined by those of his mother, in 1912, of his son, Rhodes, in 1937 and his widow in 1961, but they were all to fall into a very sad state and even danger of demolition. Only very recently, with the fading of the Zimbabwe nationalist project, has a renewed interest in their past led the Ndebele to remedy that sad state of disrepair. The crocodile’s egg has been found and there is even talk in Grahamstown and Bulawayo of hatching it out—by the declaration for the first time since Njube’s death of an agreed royal heir.
Roberts, R. (2010) Alban Njube Lobengula, Iqanda le Ngwenya: A Chronicle of a Royal Heir’s Exile and Despair. Heritage of Zimbabwe, 29. pp 1- 32.