THE heir apparent to the Ndebele Kingdom is safe and well in northern South Africa, according to shock new research.
History enthusiast Colls Ndlovu, who is researching a book, claims to have also found the grave of Nkulumane, the first son of King Mzilikazi, who had a brief reign as Ndebele King and has long been thought to have been killed on the orders of his father.
Ngwalongwalo Mzilikazi Khumalo, born on March 13, 1938, told Ndlovu his father, Ndlundluluza Mzilikazi Khumalo, was the son of King Nkulumane.
Nkulumane was installed as King when he became separated from his father who led his tribe from Zululand across the Limpopo River into modern day Zimbabwe in 1838. Mzilikazi’s journey took him to Botswana, where he remained for many years while the group led by Nkulumane settled in Bulawayo.
The group led by Nkulumane gave up the King for dead and hailed his young heir as successor. On his reappearance, Mzilikazi asserted control. Accounts of what followed differ, but it is generally accepted that Mzilikazi ordered Nkulumane to be taken back to Zululand, although another opinion says Nkulumane was executed along with dozens of chiefs who installed him in what is known as Ntabazinduna, just outside Bulawayo.
Mzilikazi died in 1868, and according to the Dictionary of African Historical Biography, he never revealed Nkulumane’s fate “nor did he designate another heir”.
Lobengula was installed as King in 1870 after a delegation he sent to KwaZulu-Natal to look for his half-brother, Nkulumane, searched for a year and could not find him. His ascent to the throne was unpopular with some of Mzilikazi’s decorated troops, notably Mbiko Masuku, who led an uprising which was violently crushed.
Ndlovu was researching a book on ‘The Assassination of King Lobengula’, the last Ndebele King who is believed to have died in 1893, when he stumbled on the tantalising findings.
His research took him to the Phokeng township just outside Rustenburg, in the North West Province of South Africa, where he met Ngwalongwalo, who claims to be a third generation Prince and direct descendent to King Nkulumane.
Ndlovu told New Zimbabwe.com from South Africa on Monday: “This is an exciting moment for the Ndebele people and indeed all Zimbabweans. History is being rewritten ... a lot of what we have been told about our history is being proved to be fiction.
“We are now learning about the richness of our culture, and the umbilical link between our people and Zululand.
“We have found Nkulumane’s grave, and found his grandson, our King.”
According to Ndlovu, Ngwalongwalo is “more than ready to go to Zimbabwe” if “his people come forward and ask him to, but he is not going to impose himself. He has not pushed it.”
“His house is within a kilometre from King Nkulumane’s grave, and close to the Royal Bafokeng Palace in Phokeng. The area is known as Nkulumane Park and the people who live there speak Ndebele fluently, including Ngwalongwalo. They call him ‘inkosi yamaNdebele’.”
Discovery ... Colls Ndlovu (left) with a man identified only as George, who says he tends
to a grave believed to be that of Ndebele King Nkulumane
Ndlovu’s findings appeared to immediately trigger-off a potential power struggle with King Lobengula’s descendents who say the findings, if true, are only of “theoretical interest” and have no significance on any future plans to revive the Kingdom and install a King.
Lobengula’s descendents say because Nkulumane could not be found to take over when King Mzilikazi died in 1868, the crown moved from Nkulumane’s lineage and to the Lobengula clan. Nkulumane and Lobengula had different mothers, the former’s mum, MaNxumalo, considered the senior wife.
Prince Zwide kaLanga Peter Khumalo, who says he is a fifth generation descendent to Mzilikazi, on the Lobengula side, said: “A grave on its own doesn’t authenticate that it is Nkulumane buried there.
“The whites attempted once to set up a decoy in South Africa to pretend it was Nkulumane returning to take over the throne here, it could easily be the grave of that person.
“We need more evidence.”
He said his family would take an interest in the matter “purely from a historical point of view”.
Prince Khumalo added: “There is no thought in the family to prove it beyond technical doubt. Exhuming the body and checking the DNA is culturally not something we are willing to do. We can’t be digging up graves.”
The Prince, who fronted the construction of Old Bulawayo – a restoration of King Mzilikazi’s last royal residence – said the “royal structure moved on from Mzilikazi to Lobengula according to the King’s wishes” and any future monarch would “not go back to Nkulumane.”
He added: “Researchers should not create Kings. In any case, the account of what has been found as you describe is full of factual dislocations.
“If Lobengula became King, he was not a half King. Nkulumane was cursed by his own father. The issue of descendents of Nkulumane does not arise anymore.
“King Lobengula’s children are known, and the descendents of those children are known, here and in South Africa. They are not mysterious. So if ever the Ndebele people woke up tomorrow and said ‘we want a King’, it has to be resurrected where it ended – and that is from King Lobengula and his descendents.”
Ndlovu says his interest is not to see the revival of the Ndebele kingdom but testing some accepted legends about Ndebele royalty, in particular the “disappearance” of Lobengula in 1893.
“We have generally been told that the King disappeared. I will in my book prove that he was sacrilegiously assassinated by the forces of the colonising company. Dr Leander Star Jameson, a colonial army enforcer, immediately set out on his ill-fated Jameson Raid into the North West part of the Transvaal areas.
“Our suspicion was that perhaps Dr Jameson had Prince Nkulumane in mind, now that Lobengula was dead. So we decided to intensify our research in that area of the North West.”
Ndlovu said he was “pleasantly surprised” to discover Nkulumane’s grave which he says will dispel “myths” that he was put to death on the orders of his father, King Mzilikazi.
“It turns out Mzilikazi asked a full regiment to accompany Nkulumane back to Zululand. On his way there, he passed through the Rustenburg area, among the Sotho people, and stayed for sometime.
“As he was about to proceed with his journey south, the tribe was attacked, and Nkulumane rallied his forces and defeated the invading forces. Then the Bafokeng King said ‘stay here, and you will be protecting us and enable the survival of our nation’. He settled there, got married to MaNdiweni and had a family, and a son named Ndlundluluza Mzilikazi."
A group of MPs from Matabeleland were said this week to be meeting chiefs from the area and the Khumalo family to probe Ndlovu's findings.
Hidden treasure ... Signs leading to what is believed to be
King Nkulumane's grave in the north of South Africa
Fit for a King ... The fenced grave believed to be that of Ndebele King Nkulumane
Here lies the King ... A tombstone says 'inkosi yaMadebele AkoMzelekaze uKolomane Mzelikaze
Wafa ngo nyaka wo 1883 ngenyanga ka August 21'. Researcher Ndlovu believes Nkulumane's
name mispelt by the local Sotho people who pronounce 'so' as 'su'