via Bulawayo24 NEWS | The Matebele Conquest and Gadadi 2013 by Vusisizwe Manala 05 October 2013
Lying between Limpopo, Zambezi, Ramauebane, Munyathi /Lundi / Ngezi rivers, the Matabele Kingdom was the last to be colonized by the Europeans save for Abyssinia who resisted Italian occupation by defeating the Italians at Adowa in 1890.Closer to home Matabele immediate neighbours either gave in to European encroachment without fighting or sought European Protectorate.
Western neighbour Bechuanaland the ruler Khama of the Bamangwatho had made his country a protected territory, the Nothern neighbour Barosteland, the Litunga had done the same like Khama and placed his Kingdom under the British Crown. The British recognized these Kingdom as Protectorates, while the British occupied land North of Matebeleland and merged with territory which was once ruled by Abagasa stretching from Sabi River to Pungwe River, after the occupation the British named the Territory Mashonaland.
Since 1890 occupation Mashonaland was ruled by the right of occupation. By 1893, three years after the creation and occupation of Mashonaland, the British then intended to attack the Matabele. It was a huge order by all standards, the Matabele were an offshoot of the Zulus had one of the most organized and advanced economic, political and military systems in Southern Africa.
Drawing from the Zulu experience, the British knew that the Matabele will by all means defend their territory. The British gambled with the Battle of Sandlwana, King Cetshwayo ka Mpande wiped them off, and the battle was still fresh in their minds and another defeat was unbearable. However the technology of 1879 had changed dramatically the industrial revolution had produced a Maxim gun much more efficient than the Old Danish gun which they had used at Sandlwana as a result the survival of Matabele lay in the hands of her neighbours both Caucasoid and Negroid.
The events leading to the Battle of Oct/Nov 1893 are complex to understand, Rhodes and Jameson quietly planned to invade Matabeleland. Rhodes had ambitions of conquering the whole of Africa and the last man standing was King Lobhengula and the Matabele.
Rhodes’ ambition was not only political but economical as well, he was interested in vast Gold mines which were managed by Englishman James Dawson, the wealthy of Matabeleland by the time of her conquest was estimated to be around 20 million Sovereign pounds which was three times richer that Great Britain.
Sometime between June 1890, Jameson the Administrator of Mashonaland, called for a great Indaba which is known as the Victoria agreement. The paramount objective of the Indaba was to plan for the invasion of the Matabele in that Indaba it was resolved that the Matabele must be destroyed beyond the surface of earth by all means necessary.
More personnel were recruited for that purpose many treasure hunters the Americans, Afrikaners were quickly recruited to prepare for the inevitable. We must highlight the following fact with clarity, the great Indaba to invade Matebeleland also involved the following Shona Chief who had for a long past relied for protection and cattle from Lobhengula and King Mzilikazi the great and in turn they provided more manpower in terms of Military batmen, Chiefs Bere, Zimuto and Gutu.
Sometime in July 1893 the opportunity seemed to present itself a Mashona Chief Bere stole a wire of Telegram from the British and was found guilty of theft. To cover up for the crime Chief Bere paid the ransom using Lobhengula cattle, we need to explain this for future generation of historians to separate fact from opinion.
The cattle that Chief Bere used belonged to Matabele Royal herd, many Chiefs even outside Matabele borders were given cattle to keep as part of amasiso tradition it was not raids as Eurocentric Historians would suggest.
It must be pointed out loud and clear that the cattle belonged to the Matabele. After Bere was convicted for theft he used King Lobhengula’s cattle to pay the fine imposed on him and this alone meant war. King Lobhengula appalled by this act, he sent a small regiment led by Manyewu Ndiweni and Mgandane Dlodlo to bring back the cattle, but the King’s emissaries were surprised to find the Cattle in whiteman ‘s possession but much to their bemusement was that Chief Bere Kraal was deserted every able bodied man employed in Whiteman’s farms.
The King’s emissaries were confronted by Alan Wilson and were asked to leave the Proctectorate of Mashonaland within stipulated time back to the Matabele border. The delegation delayed, the result was fatal Cpt Lendy shot at Chief Mgandane Dlodlo, the rest of the group went back to Matabeleland and reported what transpired. King Lobhengula weighing diplomatic and military options did not respond outright, his response was reinforcement of the borders on the Munyati Border King Lobhengula reinforced resident regiment of Amaveni with the Following regiments, Insukamini, Jingeni, Enxa and Moreni ( Sotho predominant regiment).
According to Denis Bishop the conquest of Matebelend was already underway ‘as the month of September passed, Sir Henry Loch mobilized the British Border Police (BBP) at Tati while Jameson mobilized volunteer columns at Salisbury and Victoria. Lobhengula faced a three pronged war from Western and Eastern fronts. The Salisbury Column started from Fort Salisbury on October 2nd with 258 Martini-Henry armed men, 60 Shona warriors, 16 ox-wagons, 276 oxen, two Maxims, a seven pounder, a Gardener and a Nordenfelt gun. There was no supply tail, and the column carried all its munitions and supplies with it. The ammunition consisted of 176,000 rounds of Martini-Henry cartridges, 16,000 Gardener rounds, 100 seven pounder rounds, 4000 Maxim rounds and 5000 revolver rounds.
The Victoria Column left Victoria on October 14th with 414 Martini-Henry armed men, 400 Shona warriors, 22 ox- wagons, three Maxims, a one pounder Hotchkiss and a seven pounder gun. This column also carried its own munitions and supplies. The ammunition consisted of 180,000 rounds of Martini- Henry cartridges, 1000 Hotchkiss rounds, 300 seven pounder rounds, and an unknown number of Maxim and revolver rounds. This column also had 250 bayonets for Martini-Henrys.
Meanwhile, to safeguard Imperial interests, the High Commissioner for the Cape, Sir Henry Loch mustered a force of 60 infantry, the Bechuanaland Border Police Regiment (12 officers and 212 men, 215 horses, 4 Maxims, 2 seven-pound guns, 15 wagons, 4 watercarts, 1 Scotch cart, 8 mules and 240 oxen), the South Africa Constabulary Police Regiment (225 officers and men, 191 horses, 1 Maxim, and 10 wagons) together with 250 Boers, and later 1000 Bechuana warriors. Information concerning the munitions and supplies for this column has not been found at this time. The column was called the Tuli Column, and placed under command of Colonel Henry Goold-Adams, and left Tati on October 11’.
The Salisbury and Victoria Column made a reconnaissance at Battlefields ironical the same place where Gukurahundi was stationed when Matebeleland was invaded in 1983, exactly 90 years after the Conquest.
The first battle was at Iron Hill mine, Insukamini was reinforced by Inxa, Jingeni, Ihlathi, Zinyangeni, Siseba and Moreni the latter was placed on the reserve as we have no records of it taking to battle. On the evening of 23 October 1893, General Forbes ordered an alert guard against an inevitable Matabele attack, but Manondwana Tshabalala delayed the attack instead he attacked on early morning on the 25th a rare Matabele attack.
The first attack scattered the Shona batmen, they advanced to European laagers with great zeal and determination, heavy shooting from European laagers repelled the brave Matabele. At 4:30 am the Matabele abandoned their attack. This was the first conscious effort to defend their sovereignty. The first Matabele attack routed the Shona encampment, they occupied fortified positions for four hours, they almost defeated the British in a single attempt, and the Laagers were saved by mounted forces.
The Matabele disappeared and allowed the Column to advance, back in the Capital King Lobhengula called for immediate war Council, a strong British force was advancing from Shashe King Lobhengula was faced with a double faced attack from both Eastern and Western frontiers, on the Western Border the council recommended that Chief Gampu Sithole to attend a combination of Tswana and British column, the Matabele fought gallant at Battle of Embakwe and delayed the attack from the West on the Eastern frontier, many more battles were fought on the drift of the river Mbembesi and Shangani.
The big battle was almost and always inevitable, King Lobhengula and the war Council concluded that the invading forces must be attacked when they cross uMguza river, the overriding objective was to attack when the mobility of the Laager and Horses was at their lowest point uMguza is a rocky river.
Things diverted from the plan, Chief Mtshana Khumalo who commanded young crack regiment of Imbizo (The called ones) made a surprise attack on the laager.
The Battle of Gadadi the semi-desert area was unexpected by both parties the Matabele in all their time they have never attacked in mid daylight and many times Matabele needed enough cover for the attack. The Matabele General made a hurrying decision; the European invaders took advantage and opened fire on the uncovered Imbizo men, the Matabele fought back very brave but heavy artillery from the Maxim gun, shot them down they were few survivors in the decisive battle. The British then advanced to the Capital on the 4th of November 1893 Leander Star Jameson raised the British South Africa flag which is different from the one which was raised in Mashonaland the Union Jack Flag.
Significance of the Conquest
After the Battle of Gadadi the Matabele lost their sovereignty, many efforts to gain the Matabele Sovereignty have proved futile. In 1919 the Matabele Home Society under Prince Nyamande challenged the British South Africa Company to return the Matabele Sovereignty.
The matter was referred to the Privy Court which ruled that ‘It is impossible to believe that a Matabele tribesman understand their Sovereignty at par with our citizens and the court concluded that the Matebele Sovereignty has been destroyed and replaced by a better system as defined by Matabele Order in Council.
From the Court judgment, the British government took over the governing of Matebeleland and merged it with sister protectorate Mashonaland in 1923. Upon the formation of the Federation of Rhodesia in 1953, Matebeleland was also transferred to the Federation.
In 1980 the British again transferred the mandate to rule Matebeleland to her sister colony Mashonaland under the Lancaster House Constitution.
Mashonaland was given 60% seats while Matebeleland 20% and, White Minority 20%.The White seats were to be shared proportionately after 10 years of Independence. According to United Nations statues on decolonization process Matabeleland is still under colonial rule.
Battle of Gadadi is celebrated annually at the scene of the Battle along Harare Road; the Battle is a celebration of Victory over fear, celebration of bravery and a way to rekindle the bravery of the past. The proceedings at Gadadi will start at 12-00 noon exactly the time of the attack.
This year event will feature a lot of talented artist, cultural leaders and academics.
At the end of the event we will give awards to the people who have excelled in all fields over the years and have shown bravery in all spheres be it sports, academic, civil society in the following categories, Brave Warrior category (Youth), Queen’s Ordinance (Women) and Post Humus category. Past winners include Moses Mzila Ndlovu, Paul Siwela, Abameli network, Father Marko Mkandla, Paul Siwela, the late Vivian Mguni, Patricia Tshabalala, Canaan Qedilizwe Maduma.