The part played by religious factors in the 1896-7 Matabele Rebellion (Umvukela) as told by Terence Ranger in Revolt in Southern Rhodesia 1896-7 and the shooting of the Mlimo

Terence Ranger Obituary (29 Nov 1929 – 3 Jan 2015)

In The Guardian Professor Terence ‘Terry’ Ranger is described as, “A champion of African nationalism, and one of the continent’s most radical and influential historians.” He passed away at the age of 86.

The authors[1] state that before moving to Rhodesia in 1957, Terry showed few signs of radicalism – or of his future career as one of Africa’s most influential historians as he was not political at Oxford where he completed a BA in history at Queen’s College and a doctorate at St Antony’s with his thesis on 17th-century Ireland.

While teaching at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Devon, he decided to apply for a lectureship in the history department at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. They say he went as an idealist and egalitarian, attracted to the idea of a multiracial society, but the place made him into something much more radical. It also threw him into the field of African history. He campaigned against the colour bar, edited the journal Dissent and formed the Southern Rhodesia Legal Aid and Welfare Fund to defend the many hundreds of nationalists kept in preventive detention. He was among a handful of white people who held office in the African Nationalist movement, earning the abuse of white settlers.

Before his deportation the Rhodesian authorities had “restricted” Terry to within a three-mile radius of his home, a narrow space that luckily encompassed the National Archives and he took full advantage by burrowing deeply into the records. Allen Isaacman[2] describes him as the pre-eminent historian of Zimbabwe and a leading figure in the then emerging field of African history.

Following his deportation from Southern Rhodesia in 1963 he went to a new history post in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from where he wrote Revolt in Southern Rhodesia (1967) and The African Voices in Southern Rhodesia (1970), After twelve productive years in African universities, in 1969 he and his wife Shelagh (née Campbell Clarke) went to the US to work at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he did further research on African religions. In 1974 they returned to Britain, Terry to take up a Professorship at Manchester University, where he focused on Zimbabwe in anticipation of independence in 1980. With independence he was allowed back into the country and did the research for Peasant Consciousness and Guerrilla War (1985) In 1987, he was appointed to the Rhodes chair of race relations at Oxford and wrote Are We Not Also Men (1995) and Voices from the Rocks (1999) as well as Violence and Memory (2000)

After retirement in 1997 Terry returned to the University of Zimbabwe where he encouraged a new generation of Zimbabwean historians amid a period of intensifying upheaval and economic turmoil very different from the early 1960’s and led by President Robert Mugabe, now a repressive and autocratic ruler with the ZANU-PF party. He was hugely disappointed with the political and human rights crises in Zimbabwe, a place he dearly loved.

He and Shelagh returned to Oxford in 2001 where he wrote Bulawayo Burning (2010) and in 2013 he published his memoir, Writing Revolt, on political life in Zimbabwe in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Photograph: David Wiley/African Studies Centre, Michigan State University. Comrades bid farewell to Terry Ranger on his deportation in 1963. L-R: Terence Ranger, Shelagh Ranger, Maurice Nyagumbo, Joshua Nkomo, Robert Chikerema, Robert Mugabe and John Reed

The Empire of the Rozwi Mambos

The Rozwi Confederacy came to an end only in the 1830’s with the invasion of the Jere people under Zwangendaba who arrived after fleeing Zululand during the Mfecane, firstly to Mozambique, then to modern-day Zimbabwe where they clashed with the amaNdebele under Mzilikazi, before crossing the Zambezi river into modern-day Zambia in 1835.[3] Ranger states the Rozwi legacy played an important part in the risings of 1896-7 and that it broke out in those areas where the Rozwi supremacy had been effective[4] and often standing in a relationship of ritual superiority to local chiefs.[5]

The nineteenth century Mfecane disturbances did not destroy the existing religious systems

The concept of Mwari, or Mlimo as he came to be called in Matabeleland as the High God was also common throughout the Shona area, but there were two significantly different ways to approach him.

One was through the spirit mediums or the Mhondoro cult and the other was the cult of the oracular deity, usually known as the Mwari or Mlimo cult.[6]

Ranger argues for two distinct systems

D.P. Abraham argued the two systems were originally a single system of belief and practice, that both the Mutapas and Rozwi were supported by spirit mediums and Mwari,[7] but Ranger believed the spirit mediums supported the Mutapas and the Mwari cult supported the Rozwi and despite connection between them, they remained distinct systems.[8]

Ranger believed that spirit mediums operated in north, east and central and parts of western Mashonaland, but not Matabeland, whereas the Mwari cult operated in Matabeleland and western Mashonaland, but not further east.[9]   

The Spirit Mediums of Mashonaland

This belief represents the idea of the increased power of the dead, the spirit mediums ability to communicate with the divine and their role protecting the land and people. Spirit mediums form the link between the living and the divine represented by a man or woman believed to be regularly possessed by an important ancestor spirit. In a trance the spirit medium speaks with the voice of the ancestor and the living and the dead could have a conversation. The living would approach the dead for advice, or to intercede with the divine on their behalf and, in turn, the dead could tell the living of their past and something of the spirit world.[10]  

These bold claims were regarded by most whites in the 1890’s as fraudulent, but some were impressed by the spirit mediums’ sense of vocation and service to the traditional values of their community.[11]

As already stated spirit mediums were closely associated with the Mutapas and their spirits were often ancestors of the king himself, or the original owners of the soil and even noted rain-makers.[12] It was an essential duty of the king’s, “to maintain contact with these powerful dead on behalf of the nation.” From them the king derived his power and he must communicate with them on behalf of the people. Before any major expedition or initiative the king visited the graves of his predecessors.

In the paramountcy’s that grew up around the Mutapas, their founder usually became its senior spirit and his medium the senior spirit medium with other nature-spirits and rain-makers finding a place in the hierarchy of mediums and this survived the collapse of the Mutapa Empire with the spirit mediums of important Mutapas such as Mutota, Nehanda and Karuva, or spirits such as Dzivagura and Chaminuka were still powerful in a wide area of Mashonaland with an almost ‘national’ status.

The double stratum of Spirit Mediums

Abraham argues for a hierarchy within the spirit mediums with the spirit medium of the paramountcy’s founder occupying a senior position along with important nature-spirits or rain-makers and a lower stratum of spirit mediums at a tribal level and revered in their local area.

When the Mutapa Empire functioned the spirit mediums had an important political as well as ritual role and this continued after the empire collapsed. In the paramountcy’s some of the spirit mediums were more influential than the chief and were inevitably involved in tribal politics. In this way they acted as integrating and stabilizing influences and continued in this role after the Mutapa Empire had largely collapsed.[13]

Ranger writes that the status of spirit mediums in Mashonaland was analogous to that of the Luo in Kenya described by Ogot, “No political superstructure such as a federation or a confederation existed, but many of the famous prophets who acted as counsellors to the chiefs and whose main function was to look after the spiritual well-being of the tribe and to prescribe moral standards against which the policies of individual chiefs had to be judged, were known and consulted all over Luo-land. This tended to emphasise the unity of the Luo as a group.”[14]

The Mwari cult of Matabeleland and adjacent areas

Ranger writes the Mwari cult was based on a different belief of the living establishing contact with the dead but the role of the dead in providing a bridge between the living and the dead is not stressed. It was believed that Mwari spoke directly to the living, not only in the thunder of a storm and in the wind, but as a voice heard most frequently in caves in the kopjes and that he could be approached by the living with sacrifice and prayers.

Ranger quotes Kuper, “Mwari is spiritual owner of the earth and creator of mankind. He intervenes actively in human affairs...He is not a remote ancestor and is not concerned with purely personal affairs, but only with matters of tribal importance; he punished acts, such as incest, which are considered contrary to nature and the perpetuation of the tribe with pestilence and famine. He manifests himself in such great natural phenomena as volcanic eruptions and lightning.”[15]

Those places at which Mwari chose to speak became regular shrines served by an organised priesthood. J. Blake-Thompson and R. Summers[16] described the organisation of the Mwari cult at its central shrine, “Mwari  speaks through or inspires the utterances of the chief officer of the cult, the Mouth; he receives petitions from another high officer, the Ear, and information from a less important officer, the Eye.”

Mwari speaks directly to the living

It was believed the dead had no role to play in this religion and that Mwari spoke directly to the living, not only in the thunder and the wind, but as a voice usually heard from a cave amongst the rocks and that the God could be approached by the living with sacrifice and prayers.[17]

In every district in which the Mwari cult had influence there were Wosana or Manyusa; messengers to Mwari from the chiefs and people of the district and from Mwari back to them. These messengers made at least an annual visit to the central shrine taking with them cattle and gifts as offerings for rain, or fertility, or relief from misfortune.[18] At the shrine reports on the situation in the districts were made to Maziso, the Eye; petitions were addressed to Nzewe, the Ear; and answers received from Muromo the Mouth.

The white opinion of the Mwari cult in the 1890’s was that it was ‘an elaborate and conscious swindle, designed to extract gifts from the credulous.”[19] Followers told the Rev Elliott in the 1890’s that a priest of Mwari would have been touched by the God and subject to trances and convulsions, but he would also be known by superior virtue. “If he honours others and is upright and good we know he is sent from Mngwali.” Elliott himself pointed out the cult priests were in quite a different class to the ordinary bone thrower.

However amongst whites the Mwari priesthood was regarded as sinister and fraudulent “witch-doctors” and this prevented any real understanding of the cult.

The Rozwi take control of the Mwari cult

Blake-Thompson and Summers write the value of working with, or controlling, the Mwari hierarchy was fully appreciated by the Rozwi Mambos and for this reason they initially based themselves at Great Zimbabwe which was evidently the site of the chief Mwari shrine. “Zimbabwe was a religious centre. All the miscellany of buildings on the hill and in the valley were attracted here because of the special sanctity of the site…The so-called eastern enclosure at Zimbabwe was the site of the Mwari cult activities; here the chief officers of the cult and the divine king of the Rozwi confederation joined in the ceremonies which assured the welfare of the monarchy and its subjects. This was the true centre of the whole complex and the most sacred spot in the whole Rozwi confederacy.”[20]

The Rozwi controlled the Eye, Maziso. In political terms the Eye was the most powerful because it was the effective link between the cult and the people as it supervised the external organisation of the cult and through it the Rozwi also controlled the secret intelligence service of the cult and in this way added to its military and political authority a sort of spiritual domination over many of the people.[21]

In the same way the influence on the spirit mediums survived the downfall of the Mutapas, the Mwari cult survived the demise of the Rozwi confederacy and this had an important influence on the rebellions in Matabeland (Umvukela) and Mashonaland (First Chimurenga) in 1896-7.

                   Rock formations within the Matobo National Park

How the amaNdebele regimental system remained intact after their 1893 defeat

Ranger tackles this question in chapter 4 of Revolt in Southern Rhodesia and initially discusses how the old military system under Lobengula with its Indunas, the sons, brothers and nephews of Lobengula remained as its leaders. Ranger writes, “after the King's [Lobengula] death the members of these regiments began to drift back to the Ndebele homeland, now occupied by whites, no longer in military formation, of course, but still with the full recognition of regimental responsibilities.”[22]

In June 1896 the chief Native Commissioner, H.J. Taylor, estimated the amaNdebele forces as numbering about 14,000 whose senior Indunas were the sons, brothers and nephews of Lobengula including Sikombo, Dhliso, Babyaan, Umsolo, Fezela and Mahlehleni. Ranger goes onto say the 1896 rising (Umvukela) involved the old regimental system, but with improved tactics from 1893 – no mass charges and the Matabeleland Native Police that deserted to the rebels brought with them better marksmanship.[23] “The Matabele soldier of today is a very different man to the Matabele soldier of 1893. Large numbers of them are armed and they seemed to have plenty of ammunition. There is no doubt that there has been a great deal of rifle practice by them for the last two years. They will not make rushes en masse but take shelter in a good situation…So far their tactics have placed our men at an utter disadvantage.”[24]

How the 1896 rebellion in Matabeleland (Umvukela) was organized and coordinated by Mwari the senior amaNdebele religious priest

Ranger explains that before the end of 1893 even the Indunas were, “to a large extent hereditary servants of the state. They had little in the way of ritual functions and depended on the king for their authority.”[25] When Mzilikazi died the regent Nombate (Ncumbata) had filled the interregnum,[26] but when he died Ncumbata’s son had been killed by Lobengula and when Lobengula died in early 1894 there was no accepted regent and the senior Indunas were very much divided among themselves.

There was, however, one man who symbolised the unity of the Matabele nation and who, therefore, played an extremely significant part in the organisation of the risings.”[27]

Mwari, the high priest was responsible for the conduct of the great dance and ceremony of first fruits (Inxwala) that annual demonstration of amaNdebele unity. He also performed the rights of burial for Mzilikazi, sacrificing cattle in commending the dead king to his ancestors and it was he who prepared the young Lobengula “by instruction, ceremonies and charms” for his installation as King on 17 March 1870.[28]

He was Umtamjana, who by the 1890’s had been replaced in succession by Umlugulu, ‘the head dance doctor’ and ‘King maker.’ Early in 1894 Umlugulu had been commissioned by Lobengula and the absence of a regent made Umlugulu the central figure in the amaNdebele organisation.   

Selous, then manager of Sir John Willoughby’s ranch at Essexvale (Esigodini) knew Umlugulu well. He writes he would complain about various aspects of the Chartered Company’s administration, particularly the misbehaviour of the native police and he says, ”always questioned me very closely as to what had actually happened in the Transvaal“ after almost the whole of the Matabeleland police force was captured in the Jameson raid.

Planning for an armed uprising begins in February 1896

By the beginning of 1896 Umlugulu and a group of senior indunas, Sikombo, Babyaan (Babayan) Somabulana and others were planning an armed rising and the restoration of the kingship. Meetings were held in February 1896 near Umlugulu’s kraal and it was he who “induced chiefs in other districts to join in the movement” and was the ‘chief instigator’ or the ‘mainspring’ of the rising. It was the intention to hold a Great Dance at full moon on the night of 26 March 1896 on the borders of the Filabusi mining district and at the dance, Umlugulu was to “go through the ceremonies” and proclaim a member of the royal house, Umfezela (Fezela) and inaugurate, in spite of the present government, a new regime and start the uprising.[29]

Police activity in the area prevented the Great Dance occurring and the premature murder of native police set the uprising in motion before the new King could be proclaimed.[30]

Also there was no coherent plan which many white observers commented upon. Selous wrote, “they would have done better had they worked under one intelligent general.” Baden-Powell commented in July 1896, “It is only, even now, internal jealousies among the rebel chiefs that save the whites from being blotted out. The attempt to make Nyamanda King, if ever seriously intended, fell through abortively; each of the great chiefs desires that honour for himself; and thus the different impis do not amalgamate to crush us.”

In fact it was even worse than this – some of the most senior indunas; Gambo, Mjaan, Faku, did not join the rising at all and neither did their followers.

              Jumbled rock formations within the Matobo National Park (Maleme Dam)

Even the rebels themselves were divided

Before the uprising many whites believed the amaNdebele impis were too divided amongst themselves to ever unite in a co-ordinated uprising and far from unanimous in their determination to fight. However Umlugulu persuaded the impis to come together and “he was certainly at the centre of the planning which preceded the uprising and after its outbreak he was a focus of loyalty for one of the two broad factions into which the rebels were divided.[31]  

Ranger writes that Umfezela had the support of Umlugulu and the older indunas, but it was Umlugulu, the ‘high priest,’ not Umfezela, who played the leading role of one faction. The other faction made up of the younger amaNdebele led by the induna Mpotshwana wanted Lobengula's elder son, Nyamanda as King and these differences were never resolved and so co-ordination between the amaNdebele regiments of the two factions was poor.   

To what extent did the Holi and tributary Shona join the 1896 Matabele rebellion (Umvukela)

Ranger states there was a striking difference between the 1893 invasion of Matabeleland and the 1896 uprising.

In 1893 the Holi were present but did not throw themselves with any enthusiasm into the fight. The tributary Shona made no contribution to the amaNdebele and, some joined the invading Salisbury and Victoria Columns as ‘friendlies.’ The Kalanga people of southwest Matabeleland and the Matobo remained neutral. Goold-Adams in command of the Southern Column wrote, “The Makalakas never answered the call to turn out and fight the whites but remained in their fastnesses…and sent representatives to the whites to ask for peace.”[32]

In 1896 in addition to the amaNdebele Zansi and Enhla regiments, large numbers of the Holi joined the uprising and the Shona of the east, north-east and north of Matabeleland were thoroughly committed to it. So much so that the Pall Mall Gazette reported on 28 March that the rebels were “not Matabele, but their enfranchised subjects.”

How Chartered Company rule united the amaNdebele, Holi and Mashona

Why the difference between 1893 and 1896? Ranger states the Holi and Mashona suffered under the Chartered Company rule in the same way as the amaNdebele. They did not lose their land in the same way and they did not suffer the same collapse of royal self-esteem, but they too were disarmed and forced to work in the mines and farms and their cattle were also seized if they refused to pay taxes. The first shots of the uprising were fired by Mashona at Belingwe at native police in early March 1896.  The acting Chief Native Commissioner S.N.G. Jackson sought permission, “to hunt out these troublesome natives” to “shoot any natives bearing arms in that district on sight” but before any action was taken the uprising took place.

The Mwari-Mlimo cult officers co-ordinated between the amaNdebele and ex-tributary Shona

The Mwari priesthood survived the overthrow of the Rozwi paramountcy with which it had been closely associated. The Rev T.M. Thomas wrote in 1872, “on arriving in their land about forty years ago, Umzilikazi found several Ama-Kalanga doctors and wizards there, and for a time, on account of their influence over the chiefs of their own tribes, and knowledge of the country, they were of much use to him as news-mongers and leaders of his troops on their raids into different parts of the interior.”

But once the amaNdebele had knowledge, they had little need for this Mwari priesthood as a co-ordinating agency and they were no longer used, but closely controlled and watched. The chief Mwari officials were permitted to reside at their two shrines in the Matobo and another at Manyanga (Ntaba zika Mambo) As Mwari was a god of fertility and the harvest, gifts to the shrines was permitted; indeed, the King sent gifts on behalf of the nation.  

Rev Thomas says the power of the Mwari cult rose when the King’s power was at a low ebb and its messengers were able to travel freely. He says Mwari messengers did not go around the military kraals, “until Mzilikazi had become old and feeble” and that they then rapidly built up a great influence.[33]

Similarly after Lobengula’s death there was a similar expansion of the Mwari cult’s activities between 1893 and 1896. Nganganyoni Mhlope[34] in his oral account of the outbreak of the uprising says, “in the time of Lobengula they were not allowed to go round the kraals and dance…When the white people came into the country, then the Wosana (messengers) started to go round from kraal to kraal.” He tells of the new prestige they enjoyed and says at Inyati the chief Mwari messenger was Mkwati. “He was just like an Nkosi (King) He was not an Nkosi, but we took him as an Nkosi because he had been sent to them by the Mlimo.”[35]

Whites believe there was a single Mlimo or high priest of Mwari

Clearly the Mwari messengers with their increased visits could still be of great use to the amaNdebele Indunas for co-ordinating activities between them.

Whites believed there was a single co-ordinating Mlimo, the high priest of the Mwari, and his orders were transmitted throughout the territories by his messengers. General Carrington, the Matabeland Relief Force commander said this in July 1896, “The Mlimo is a Makalaka institution, which has been adopted with great fervour by the Matabele…For special occasions the people appeared to travel enormous distances in order to consult the Mlimo and his orders fly about from one end of the country to another with great rapidity.”[36]

The organisation of the Mwari cult

However, in reality there was no single cult centre generally accepted as senior to all others and no single cult officer who commanded the obedience of all others. There were, rather, four cult centres of importance and a large number of scattered subsidiary shrines.

Rev Joseph Cockin described them from Hope Fountain Mission in 1872, “They have great faith in certain deified men. Amongst the Amaswena are numbers of men who claim to be gods. To the east amongst the Amatoppo Mountains there is a town named Ematjetjeni [Matonjeni] to the South is another named Enjeleli [Njelele] and to the southwest is a third, named Umkombo. These belong to a man named Ungwali, a God in whom the Matabili have great faith. They say he is not a man, but a spirit, and that you cannot see him nor feel him. He dwells in a cave or series of caves…not far from Emhlangeni (Inyati mission station) there dwells another God named Ujugwa.”[37]

Njelele shrine – exercised influence in the Matobo and south and west of Bulawayo

Matonjeni shrine – had influence between Essexvale (Esigodini) and western Mashonaland

Umkombo shrine near Mangwe fort – had influence over the Kalanga of south-west Matabeleland, northern Bechuanaland (Botswana) and the Tati concession

Manyanga (Ntaba zika Mambo) shrine – influenced the north and north-east of Bulawayo extending to the Gwelo (Gweru) and Selukwe (Shurugwi) districts  

The four Mwari cult shrines were still operating in 1896, although many counted Matonjeni and Njelele, both in the Matobo Hills, as one.[38] Thus Baden-Powell wrote, “the Mlimo is an invisible god who has three priests about the country, one in the northeast beyond Inyati, one in the south in the Matopo hills and one south west near Mangwe.”

In addition Ranger states there were subsidiary cult centres; one in the Transvaal (Gauteng) and others in various districts of Matabeleland and western Mashonaland. Even at cult centres there was no one cave sacred to the god; a Mwari messenger from Chibi district who made annual visits to the Matonjeni shrine testified in 1932 that, “during his period of service he had visited ten different caves there.”[39]

The Mwari cult’s influence in 1896

Ranger states that as the cult was especially concerned with fertility and that the outbreaks of rinderpest, drought, locusts all added up to considerable threats to the fertility of crops and made an appeal to the cult almost inevitable, particularly as the whites seemed to do nothing about them, except shoot cattle in a forlorn attempt to halt the rinderpest spreading.

Matabele Wilson wrote the people reasoned, “if such a thing had happened in the days of Lobengula, he would have sent people to the borders of his country and sprinkled medicine, and drove in posts and it would have prevented the disease from crossing into their country, but the whites are fools, they do not know anything about medicine of that description, and the cattle that the whites had in their possession had not cost them anything,[40] and the whites had not tried in any way to stop the disease, they had even shot the cattle that they had remaining to them…They said that the sickness and the bullet will soon deprive us of every living thing that we possess.[41]  

Ranger writes there is ample evidence to suggest that in the early months of 1896 the individual leaders, especially Umlugulu and Mpotshwana, were in constant contact with the leading priestly officers of the Mwari cult. The cult’s commitment to any action would require the agreement of a number of senior officials rather than one high priest, but such consultation and agreement was achievable. The cult commitment gave the rebel leaders not one, but four centres of intelligence, information and influence.

The Mwari cult officers believed the whites had neglected making peace with the land

Although the whites had conquered the amaNdebele in 1893, the Mwari cult had been ignored by them and many amaNdebele believed was therefore punishing them with the swarms of locust, drought and  rinderpest. For this neglect, most of the Mwari priests believed the whites must be driven out. Only then would the cattle recover, the rain fall and the locusts leave.    

So those going to Mwari were told, “These white men are your enemies. They killed your fathers, sent the locusts, this disease among the cattle, and bewitched the clouds so that we have no rain. Now you go and kill these white people and drive them out of your fathers' land and I will take away the cattle disease and the locusts and send you rain.”[42]

                      Native Chief Commissioner Taylor and Chiefs

The Mwari shrines committed to the rebellion

Three of the four main shrines committed themselves fully to the rebellion, only the Umkombo shrine in the south-west near Mangwe advised the Kalanga people to stay out and even warned white missionaries of their danger. Ironically this was the shrine where Burnham and Armstrong killed the cult shrine official Habangana

Ranger writes that there is little evidence about the Njelele shrine, the most senior and most influential in 1896 and there is no record of the names of any of the Njelele priests.[43]

The role of the Matonjeni  shrine is much clearer. The chief priest was a man variously described as Mwabani, Mwabane or Mtabane; the shrine was situated close to Umlugulu’s kraal on the Umzingwane river. He was the cult priest with whom Umlugulu worked most closely, his influence was strong in the Belingwe (Mberengwa) Chibi, Gutu and Ndanga areas of eastern Matabeleland and western Mashonaland. The influence of the Mwari cults was noted by chief Native Commissioner Herbert Taylor in 1896, “No Matabele live in the Belingwe district which is peopled by tribes of the Mashona type.”  

The influence of the Mwari priesthood in the Belingwe district as late as the 1920’s is described by the Native Commissioner Chibi who tells us there were families of Manyusa or Mwari messengers in the district who visited the Matonjeni shrine twice a year. On the first occasion carrying gifts from the chiefs’ and people in supplication for rain, on the second occasion for thanksgiving saying, “A Nyusa must not go to Mwari on his own accord - he must have the authority of his chief.”[44]

“…On their normal visits to Matonjeni the Manyusa of the various districts usually travelled together in a party. They went to the kraal of Matisa, the younger son of Mwabani; Matisa would send his mother to discover whether it was agreeable from Mwari to receive the deputation. Then Matisa would take the Manyusa to the cave and present their gifts. Mwari thanks the giver and then predicts when rain will fall and what he shall say to his chief on return and the number of cattle to be slaughtered. The Manyusa then returned home. On his return home, the Nyusa announces his return to his chief, after which a day is decided on for a gathering of the people to hear Mwari’s prediction, and on that day, cattle were sacrificed.”

This is also what probably happened in 1896, but we should note that in Chibi and Ndanga the local Mwari priests seem to have held back the people from rebellion.

Quite a lot is known about the leading priest at the north-eastern shrine at Manyanga (Ntaba zika Mambo) on the hill where the last Rozwi Mambo had died. He was Mkwati, a Leya in origin and had been captured by an amaNdebele slaving party near the Zambezi. Before 1893, he lived in the regimental kraal at Zingeni or Jingen, but afterwards move to Manyanga, or Ntaba zika Mambo where he established an oracular cave and rapidly built up a formidable reputation. Native Commissioner Jackson says that between 1893 and 1896 Mkwati’s prestige grew very rapidly indeed.

Mkwati had two outstanding allies. One was the woman Tenkela-Waponga, known to the amaNdebele as Usalugazana, the mother or wife of Mwari. Hughes and Van Velsen writing on Ndebele religious belief tell us that worship of Usalugazana amounted almost to ‘a parallel cult’ and it is not surprising that Tenkela should have been consulted by the amaNdebele leaders as well as Mkwati. In April 1896 Father Prestage wrote, “that Umpotshana (Mpotshwana)… went at the beginning of the last hoping to consult Usalugazana (mother of Mlimo) She advised that the amaNdebele should kill the white man in the country outside Bulawayo,  undertaking to send a bolt of fire to destroy Bulawayo with all its inhabitants at the time of rain.”[45]

Mkwati’s other ally was Siginyamatshe, the ‘stone-swallower,’ real name Siminya. He was an important Mwari messenger and lived at Ntabeni kraal near Bulawayo and worked especially with the Manyanga shrine.

Mkwati and his allies had considerable influence over the Shona of north and north-east Matabeleland. Because Mkwati was based at the site of the last Zimbaoe of the Rozwi confederacy, the memories of the old confederacy that defeated the Mutapa and Portuguese and appealed to his most militant supporters. Mkwati also had a close connection with the Mwari cult priests in the Hartley and Charter district.[46]     

He also acted as a link with chief Uwini, one of the most influential in the Gwelo (Gweru) district who was not only hostile to the amaNdebele and successfully defied them from his kopje stronghold with its numerous caves, but also instigated the many murders of white miners and prospectors in the Maven area.[47] Uwini resisted all efforts to bring about peace in the area and was described by Lt-Col Baden-Powell as, “Uwini was one of the chief leaders of the rebellion and was supposed by his people to be one of the chiefs appointed by the Mlimo and therefore immortal.”[48] Uwini was eventually captured and  tried by court martial and shot, like Chief Chingaira Makoni, an action that was controversial even at the time.[49]

The Mwari cult appealed to many rebels who were not united by tribal affiliation

The Mwari cult was used to bring the Holi of the old amaNdebele home area into the Matabele (Umvukela) rising in March 1896. But also included were the Karanga of Belingwe and the Rozwi and other Shona groups from Gwelo and Selukwe. By this time many of the Zansi and Enhla regiments themselves extended respect and even devotion to the Mwari cult and Mkwati and Siginyamatshe played important roles in persuading the Shona to join in and directed the first murders of whites.

Just before the rising broke out acting Administrator Duncan received a letter of warning from a settler in touch with “our old guide, Munisi - the man who led the Salisbury and Victoria columns into this country” in 1893. Munisi reported on the activities of the Mwari messengers amongst both the Shona and the amaNdebele and it seems highly probable that Mkwati was being referred to. “He informed them to go and put handles on their assegais - those who had hidden their arms when the country was taken to take them from their hiding places and clean them as he was going to kill all the white people after the corn was reaped.”[50]

Nganganyoni Mhlope[51] told Foster Windram, “first place where we started to fight was Inyati… We were going to kill all white people because we had news that the Mlimo was going to help us…Mkwati brought back the message from the Mlimo…We did not touch anything at the store at Ntaba zika Mambo because we had been told that we were not to touch anything belonging to the white people. We were told that the Mlimo would come and take them. There was a man who was delivering the message. His name was Mkwati and he came round collecting all the things…When we killed the white people it took some time and Mkwati came and stayed at the store and told us to bring everything there. He was just like an Nkosi.”

Whilst Mkwati was provoking the north-east into rebellion, Siginyamatshe was in the kraals south of Bulawayo. At his trial, Umgalu, induna of the Elebeni kraal said, “that the accused came to his kraal just before the fighting. He came with a lot of girls in front, who were jumping and dancing and clapping their hands; he said he came from the Mlimo. He said, you must close up the road and if any white men come, you must kill them.”

The Mwari cult played an important moral part in maintaining amaNdebele morale in the rising

Ranger writes that the moral role played by Mkwati and his supporters was more important than the military command of the Indunas in the first few months of the rising when they persuaded the amaNdebele regiments to stay in the vicinity of Bulawayo even after their military defeats. Selous, who expected the regiments to act in a co-ordinated way as in 1893 wrote, “All through they behaved in an incomprehensible manner, their leaders apparently never arranged any settled plan of campaign, the consequence being that there has never been any understanding or community of action…All through there appears to have been a general belief amongst them that they would receive supernatural aid from Umlimo or God but…they would have done far better had they worked together under one intelligent general.”[52]

Baden Powell saw the power of the Mwari cult, “They were fanatics. They believed everything Mlimo told them and this really accounted for much of their courage.”

The amaNdebele forces allied themselves to the priests of the different Mwari shrines

Umlugulu and the senior indunas consulted Mwabani of the Matonjeni and also with the Njelele shrines, whilst Mpotshwana and the younger commanders worked with Mkwati and Siginyamatshe.

To say, as Selous did, that the Mwari cult had, “only been an instrument employed by the actual leaders of the insurrection to work upon the superstitions of the people” is clearly wrong.

After their passive role during Lobengula’s reign the cult gained an increasing influence over the amaNdebele from the time of Lobengula’s death in early 1894. By 1896 Umlugulu and three of the four Mwari shrines were in favour of rebellion. Other ethnic groups were also drawn in, “not because the Mwari priests were allies of the amaNdebele, but because they spoke to the memories of their pre-amaNdebele past.”[53]

For example, Mkwati and the Rozwi had no reason to love the amaNdebele. They told the Rev Elliott in 1893, “How can we pray now that the Ma Tebele have conquered us? We are afraid to go pa dzimbahwe (to the graves) but offer our little offerings in our villages and houses. Our oppressors have taken all we had.”[54] 

Native Commissioner Fynn detailed a plot that Mkwati and chief Uwini hatched to take their revenge upon the amaNdebele for overthrowing the Rozwi confederacy by encouraging them to rebel and then be beaten by the whites and then kill them when they fled to the Gwelo area.

Ranger writes that the Shona people to whom Mkwati and other cult priests appealed joined the 1896 rising, “to safeguard their interests and their way of life, not to restore the amaNdebele monarchy…they had at no time any intention of being the tools of the amaNdebele.”[55]

      Important amaNdebele Chiefs in 1896-7

The 1896 rising was a coalition of different, sometimes hostile groups

Ranger thinks the fact that these disparate groups were able to launch their murderous attacks on whites in an uprising that was roughly synchronised and put a military force around Bulawayo that kept it in a state of siege for several weeks was due to the continued authority of amaNdebele institutions and the influential Mwari cult and the fact they managed to coordinate well through their messengers.

In most parts of Matabeleland the men of authority – the Chiefs, Headmen and Indunas joined with the Mwari priests to bring out their people in revolt against the whites.

However in some areas, the Kalanga of the south-west, the leadership combined with the Mangwe shrine to keep their people out of the rising and in others, Ndanga and Chibi for instance, the leadership kept their people out of the rising despite the advice of the Mwari priests. Important amaNdebele leaders such as Gambo, Mjaan and Faku did not join the rising.

Khama III of Bechuanaland (Botswana) could have cut the road to the south if he had encouraged his people to join the rising, but he had no sympathy for the rebels and in fact allowed the recruitment of ‘friendlies’ for Goold-Adams Southern Column[56] and allowed all the supply wagons through his country.

King Lewanika of the Lozi in Barotseland (Zambia) was also hostile; he assisted traders and missionaries to escape northern Matabeleland and arrested members of the amaNdebele royal family when they tried to escape across the Zambezi river.

However what is clear is that the Matabeleland uprising was not united to an anti-settler cause with Khama and Lewanika staying aloof, chiefs Gambo, Mjaan and Faku staying neutral and divisions between the amaNdebele who supported Umlugulu and Umfezela and those young warriors who supported Mpotshwana and Nyamanda.

The military events arising after the outbreak of the Matabele Uprising (Umvukela) in late March 1896

These are dealt with in two separate articles. Firstly, Bulawayo and the Matabele Rebellion (or Umvukela) – Part 1, the first few weeks and the patrols sent to rescue outlying farmers, prospectors and storekeepers and secondly, Bulawayo and the Matabele Rebellion (or Umvukela) – Part 2, after the first few weeks, a change in tactics. Both articles are under Bulawayo on the website

Wikipedia: (L-R) Bob Bain; Fred Burnham, Maurice Gifford                                Frederick Russell Burnham in 1901

in the 1893 First Matabele War

The shooting of the Mlimo incident in June 1896

This event has attracted much controversy over the years and Ranger goes into it in some detail to which I have made additions. However we have already seen that there were at least four main Mwari cult centres and that at each different cult officers performed the functions of the Maziso the Eye, Nzewe the Ear, and Muromo the Mouth and there was no single leader, the Mlimo.

However in 1896 intelligence collected by spies and from captures consistently claimed that the Mwari cult and a central organising figure, a man called the Mlimo, were the mainspring behind the uprising. It began to be believed in Bulawayo that if this person could be captured or killed, the rising might collapse.

Frederick Russell Burnham’s account goes as follows, “in June [1896] a young man came through the lines and knocked on the door of the small brick house…He asked for the Chief of Scouts as he had something to tell me. On seeing my wife inside, he said shortly, ‘I prefer not to talk before women.’ Then he told me his name was Armstrong and that he was the Native Commissioner stationed at Mangwe, in the pass through the Matoppo mountains. He said that a certain Zulu who had a Matabele wife had betrayed to him the location of the Mlimo’s cave in the Matoppos. Armstrong had come to propose to me that we go together, find this cave, killed the Mlimo and put an end to the source of all our troubles with the natives.”[57]

The proposal seemed risky, but Burnham considered it doable and received permission from General Carrington[58] and Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey, the current administrator of Matabeleland[59] to go ahead.

        Lt-General Frederick Carrington                          4th Earl Grey

Burnham and Native Commissioner Bonar Armstrong scouted on the edge of the Matobo Hills eventually finding the cave but noticed there were huts at the base of the kopje. Burnham then states that the Zulu informant then informed them that an amaNdebele regiment was to be ‘doctored’ the next day and its Indunas would be meeting the Mlimo himself at the cave site.  

This account seems a little disingenuous. On 2 November 1893 an impi under Induna Gambo attacked the Southern Column under Goold-Adams[60] as it advanced slowly on Bulawayo. However by 1896 we know that the Kalanga people who inhabited the district did not take an active part in the uprising and the Mwari cult officers remained neutral at the Umkombo shrine near Mangwe. Even the road through the Mangwe Pass, vital for supplies and reinforcements, remained open throughout 1896-7. The pro-uprising cult centres at Njelele and  Matonjeni on the eastern Matobo both committed themselves fully and encouraged the rebellion, but it seems doubtful that the Umkombo shrine would have ‘doctored’ an impi before fighting.

Burnham writes he and Armstrong rose before dawn on 23 June 1896 and reached the cave unseen and concealed themselves. Soon after they saw some men approaching along the path and Burnham says, “I saw with surprise that a man striding in advance of the others was not a Matabele at all, but a pure Makalaka,[61] one of the ancient people of the country. He separated from the ring kops [Indunas] and kept on alone, moving higher and higher up the path to the cave; pausing at certain points along his ascent to make cabalistic signs and utter prayers. as if he were a high priest preparing to meet the God supposed to dwell inside the cave and for whom the great Milimo acted as a mouthpiece.”[62]  

Only amaNdebele married men wear head rings (isidhlodhlo) made from beeswax that was sewn into the hair to make it secure and therefore would have made it easy to separate the amaNdebele from the Makalaka.  

NHM. Thomas Baines sketch of amaNdebele dressing their head rings

The Mwari cult was established in the region long before the amaNdebele arrived and the cult’s officers were largely Kalanga or Makalaka.  In the article on Ivon Fry he says, The Matabele once told me that Lobengula went to visit his father’s grave at Entumbane.[63] A voice called out from the inside of the grave; “Who are you and what do you want?” The King replied: “I am Lobengula, King of the Matabele and I have come to see my father's grave. Who are you?” The answer came: “I am the Mlimo.” Lobengula replied: “You are not, your voice is that of a Makalaka.”[64]

The ‘Mlimo’ is shot and killed

Burnham’s describes the man as having a “forceful, hard, cruel” face and is convinced he is the Mlimo. “He was the author of all our woes. Because of him, my little daughter was dead[65] and the bones of hundreds of brave men and good women were scattered on the veldt by hyenas.” Carrington's command, “Capture him if you can, kill him if you must, do not let him escape” rang in my ears. The moment had come for action; but after all, it was young Armstrong’s skill that had located our arch enemy and I knew Armstrong never intended to ride back to Bulawayo until the Mlimo was dead. I whispered, “Armstrong, this is your work. When he enters the cave you kill him.” No,” he replied, “you do it.” So as the Mlimo came in, I made a slight sound and gave him his last chance to turn the white man's bullet to water. I put the bullet under his heart.’

 Illustrated London News: Frederick Russell Burnham shooting Habangana

They ran from the cave down the zig-zagging path to set fire to the huts at the base of the hill and then ran to their concealed horses. Only then apparently did the amaNdebele regiment begin to pursue them, “For two hours we were hotly pursued and had a long, hard ride and a running fight over hard ground until we were nearly exhausted, but the savages abandoned the chase after we had crossed the Shashani river. On looking back we saw a huge sheet of flame and volumes of black smoke rolling over the granite dome above the cave and knew our work was well done. We arrived at Mangwe at 6:30 pm, caught the military wire and sent in our report into headquarters.”[66]

To substantiate their claim of having killed the Mlimo they obtained affidavits from Indunas in the Mangwe area that the man killed was Habangana and was the Priest of the Mwari cult at Umkombo shrine and the chief ringleader of the rebellion. But when Rhodes was negotiating with the Chiefs for a peaceful end to the rebellion and Dshobani’ s son was sent into the Matobo to negotiate with them, the Chiefs denied all knowledge of his father and refused to acknowledge any authority coming from him.[67]

Chief Native Commissioner Herbert Taylor produced a report in 1899, three years after the event and after Armstrong had left the Native Department that said, "Armstrong by threats and bribes caused certain natives to perjure themselves and to swear to what was not true" and included an affidavit by "one Jonas, head messenger at the A.N.C's office at Mangwe," who said, "I swore on oath that Jobane[68] was the M'limo, I knew I was lying at the time, I have never received any cattle from Mr Armstrong but he paid me the five shillings." There were others who made similar declarations, Marshall Hole lists the same names as Taylor, but they have gone missing.[69]

Clearly the man and those inhabitants of the western side of the Matobo had not played any part in the rebellion which had been plotted and sprung from the eastern side. However, the authorities were convinced and Grey’s secretary wrote to the London directors of the BSAC saying, “a very brave act on the part of Native Commissioner Armstrong and Mr Burnham…who at the risk of their own lives killed the principle Mlimo in his cave in the Matoppos, which is the head centre of the witchcraft and superstition which has had such a fatal influence upon the natives of Matabeleland in their rising against the Government.”[70]   

Burnham was presented with a gold watch by Administrator Grey and was the hero of the hour. Armstrong received his watch several months later, almost as an afterthought, and sent it back marked “Refused by Addressee”[71]

Frank Dodd, Illustrated London News: Burnham and Armstrong ride for Mangwe after killing the Mlimo, pursued by Matabele warriors.

Serious doubts arose at the time about Burnham’s and Armstrong’s claim to have killed the Mlimo

Oliver Ransford quotes from the Marquis del Moral’s diary stating that Justice Watermeyer had confided in him saying, “The whole thing was a fake and a lie of self-glorification of young Armstrong and Burnham.”[72] In other entries the Marquis wrote, “The old timers laugh at his pretensions” and later, “Several men don't believe it because they don't trust the yarns of either Armstrong or Burnham.”

Real doubts began to surface when it was learned that Mkwati, the Mwari cult priest at Manyanga (Ntaba zika Mambo) was alive and Rhodes directed that Justice Watermeyer carry out a judicial inquiry.[73] Unfortunately his report into the whole affair has been lost and the National Archives do not have a copy. 

However both Burnham and Armstrong now began to be spoken of as liars who made up the story for fame. Armstrong was now trying to get people to call him ‘Mlimo Armstrong.’

Marshall Hole[74] denounced the whole affair as a hoax.[75] Hole claims to have seen Watermeyer’s report as he was a senior BSAC official in Bulawayo at the time and wrote that Armstrong was Native Commissioner at Mangwe when he heard from an African named Kunji of the Mwari shrine near Banko’s kraal and the Shasi river, “That there was a certain cave where the Makalanga used to offer up sacrifices to the ancestral spirit known as the Mlimo. He concocted a story in connection with the cave, and the rites that were carried on there, which completely deceived Earl Grey and General Sir Frederick Carrington” and Armstrong also implied the site was the Njelele shrine. Grey and Carrington were both new to Matabeleland and accepted the story and approved a plan[76] to capture or kill the priest even though the western Matobo has stayed neutral and not taken part in the rebellion. When the two arrived at the site, Kunji pointed out an old man named Dshobani[77] working in the fields as a suitable victim. The two conspirators ordered Dshobani into the cave and shot him in the back, after which they both rode back to Mangwe at a hard gallop to lend credibility to their story of being chased by the AmaNdebele.

Another mystery was why Armstrong approached Burnham, the Chief of Scouts, rather than his superior in the Native Department, chief Native Commissioner Herbert Taylor. It may be that he knew that Taylor by then suspected the main instigator of the rebellion was Mkwati, the Mwari priest at Manyanga (Ntaba zika Mambo) and nowhere near Mangwe in the western Matobo and would have vetoed the plan.[78]  

Ranger quotes the American scholar R. Webner who did research work amongst the Kalanga in the Plumtree district in 1961 and they confirmed the man Dshobani was the Mwari high priest at Umkombo, but not the Mlimo and we now know there was no single individual representing the Mlimo. His successor, Njenjema, was one of those associates of Dshobani held in custody at Bulawayo after the shooting. 

Ranger believes the whole story was invented by Burnham[i] and agreed to by Armstrong who was probably in awe of Burnham’s reputation. Emmerson claims that during the inquest, “Armstrong by threats and bribes caused certain natives to perjure themselves and to swear to what was not true” and later obtained declarations that “all the natives about here [Mangwe] say the Native Police told them... that Mr. Armstrong had ordered them to persuade the natives to say that it was the 'M'limo' – and they did this as they feared Mr Armstrong although they knew the dead man was not the 'M'limo' at all.[79]

Armstrong was later replaced as commanding officer at Mangwe laager by Colonel Napier, who accused him of causing serious breaches of discipline as well as wastage and unauthorised detention of food. Emmerson believes, “Armstrong was guilty of fabricating at least part of the Mlimo story. And it is unlikely that Burnham could have been entirely innocent of the deception…”[80] Ranger “goes so far as to suggest that the whole story was a product of the Scout’s imagination. A story which Armstrong went along with.”

Emmerson concludes that the Mlimo affair casts doubt on the truth of much of the rest of Burnham’s book and certainly the African chapters and describes Burnham as, “loud, brash, boastful and conceited” and the book as falling into the category of ‘camp-fire tales.’

Other than Burnham's writings, what accounts we have are marred by obvious prejudice and remoteness from the events concerned.

Even the piece on Burnham in Wikipedia under the heading ‘Assassination of Mlimo’ states, “the turning point in the war came when Burnham and Bonar Armstrong, a company native commissioner, found their way through the Matopos Hills to a sacred cave…” where they killed an officer of the Mwari cult. This was a false narrative peddled by Burnham and entirely incorrect. [81] The same article states, “The two men escaped and rode back to Bulawayo” another inaccuracy as they rode to Mangwe and telegraphed the news to Bulawayo.

The full story will likely never be known.




D.P. Abraham. The Monomotapa Dynasty. School of Oriental and African Studies and Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 1960

F.R. Burnham. Scouting on Two Continents. Books of Rhodesia, Silver Series Vol 4, Bulawayo 1975

J. Alexander and D. Maxwell. Terence Ranger obituary. The Guardian. 18 Jan 2015.

M. Clarke. The Plumtree Papers. A History of Bulalima-Mangwe and Life in Rhodesia up to 1922. Plumtree: The Plumtree Foundation, 1983

P. Emmerson, Research Officer at National Archives of Rhodesia who wrote the foreword to the Books of Rhodesia version of Burnham’s book Scouting on Two Continents

B.M. Fagan, A History of Southern Rhodesia, London, 1963

M. Hole. The Making of Rhodesia.

Allen Isaacman. Terence Ranger (1929–2015) In Memoriam. American Historical Association. 1 Oct 2015.

T.O. Ranger. Revolt in Southern Rhodesia 1896-7. A Study in African Resistance. Heinemann, London 1967

O. Ransford. Bulawayo: Historic Battleground of Rhodesia. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema,1968



[1] The authors of Terence Ranger’s obituary are Jocelyn Alexander and David Maxwell

[2] Allen Isaacman is the Regents Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.

[3] Zwangendaba’s warriors travelled northwards into modern-day Tanzania by 1845 where they fought the Ufipa people and Zwangendaba was injured by a poisoned arrow before retreating south to where he died and was buried

[4] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P9

[5] Ibid, P13

[6] Ibid, P17

[7] Ibid, P17-18

[8] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P18

[9] Ibid, P18

[10] Ibid, P19

[11] Ibid, P19

[12] The spirit medium of Mhondoro we Dzivagura was based in the foothills of the Mavuradonha mountains and was a chief ritual officer of the Mutapa Empire. It is believed that wherever he went good rains followed. To thank the god of water for what he did for the people, Chief Gosa, the paramount chief of the Mtwara, gave Dzivaguru a young virgin, Nechiskwa, who was to cook and to care for him. Dzivaguru led a celibate life while on earth, treating the girl with kindness but never once taking her as his wife. He walked into a big pool of water and never came out again.

[13] Ibid, P20

[14] Ogot. British Administration in the Central Nyanza District of Kenya, 1900-60 in Journal of African History, Vol IV, No 2, 1963

[15] Kuper, Hilda, Hugues AJB, and Van Velsen, J, The Shona and Ndebele of Southern Rhodesia, London, Int. African Inst. Ethnog. Surv. Afr. Southern Africa, pt IV 1954

[16] J. Blake-Thompson and R. Summers. Mlimo and Mwari : Notes on a Native Religion in Southern Rhodesia. Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI. AFAINDEX5. 1956

[17] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P22

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid, P23

[20] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P23-4

[21] Ibid, P24

[22] Ibid, P133

[23] Ibid, P135

[24] Ibid, P136 Cable from Selous, Colenbrander and others to Rhodes, 12/04/1896

[25] Ibid, P136

[26] See the article The arrival of the AmaNdebele in Matabeleland and the succession of King Lobengula under Matabeleland South on the website

[27] Hughes, AJB. Kin, caste and nation among the Rhodesian Ndebele. Lusaka, Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1856 (Paper No 25)

[28] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P137. These activities were described by the Rev Thomas Morgan Thomas

[29] Ibid

[30] See the article Bulawayo and the Matabele Rebellion (or Umvukela) – Part 1, the first few weeks and the patrols sent to rescue outlying farmers, prospectors and storekeepers under Bulawayo on the website

[31] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P139

[32] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P140

[33] Revolt in Rhodesia, P143

[34] See the article Mambo Rebellion Memorial – with three oral history accounts collected by Foster Windram in 1936 and 1938 concerning the killings at West’s store under Matabeleland North on the website

[35] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P144

[36] Ibid, P145

[37] Ibid

[38] This continues to be the case with many websites stating they are the same

[39] Ibid, P146

[40] i.e. the cattle had been confiscated from the amaNdebele after the 1893 invasion of Matabeleland

[41] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P147

[42] Ibid, P148

[43] Even today it is believed to be taboo to point at the Njelele shrine as bad omen will follow. Known mainly for rain-making the shrine is visited during August and September before the rain season with offerings being left for the Mlimo 

[44] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P150

[45] Ibid, P153

[46] See the article Chief Chinengundu Mashayamombe’s stronghold, Fort Martin and Cemetery under Mashonaland West on the website

[47] See the article Gweru Memorial (Matabele uprising, or First Umvukela, 1896) under Midlands on the website

[48] Uwini as a Rozwi chief was hostile to the amaNdebele. He challenged Lobengula from his stronghold for years, yet a common wish to overthrow the white settlers made him an ally of the amaNdebele in 1896. However the old association between the Rozwi and the Mwari cult was probably the compelling factor

[49] See the article Baden-Powell in Matabeleland during 1896 where he learned the principles of Scouting under Bulawayo on the website

[50] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P155-6

[51] See the article Mambo Rebellion Memorial – with three oral history accounts collected by Foster Windram in 1936 and 1938 concerning the killings at West’s store under Matabeleland North on the website

[52] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P157

[53] Ibid, P158

[54] Ibid

[55] Ibid

[56] See the article The Southern Column’s skirmish at the Singuesi river on 2 November 1893 revisited under Matabeleland South on the website

[57] Scouting on Two Continents, P249

[58] Robert Baden-Powell was second in command

[59] In 1896 the Administrator of Southern RhodesiaSir Leander Starr Jameson, was disgraced by the Jameson Raid and the British government, then headed by the Marquess of Salisbury, asked Lord Grey to serve as Jameson's immediate replacement, staying in that role until 1897

[60] See the article The Southern Column’s skirmish at the Singuesi river on 2 November 1893 revisited under Matabeleland South on the website

[61] Not that while the Kalanga and Makalaka are related, they are not the same. The Kalanga are a distinct ethnic group with their own language, culture, and history who have lived in the southwest of Zimbabwe and in Botswana for thousands of years and long before the amaNdebele arrived in the 1830’s. The term "Makalaka" is an external label first applied by the Portuguese as Mocaranga to those tribespeople living in Mashonaland. It is likely the man was in fact Kalanga. 

[62] Scouting on Two Continents, P256

[63] See the article Mzilikazi’s Grave under Matabeleland South on the website

[64] See the article Ivon Fry’s reminiscences of Bulawayo and Lobengula in 1888 – 89 under Matabeleland South on the website

[65] Nada Burnham (May 1894 – 19 May 1896) daughter of Frederick and Blanch (née Blick) Burnham and died at Bulawayo of fever and is buried in Plot #144 of the Pioneer Cemetery

[66] Scouting on Two Continents, P258

[67] Chief Native Commissioner Herbert to Grey. Emmerson. Foreword P7

[68] Habangana, Dshobani and Jobane refer to the same man and priest at the Umkombo shrine  

[69] Emmerson, Foreword P9

[70] Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, P186

[71] The Plumtree papers, P45

[72] Bulawayo: Historic Battleground of Rhodesia, P111-112

[73] Chief Native Commissioner Taylor states in a report to Grey that when he heard that doubts were being openly expressed on his and Burnham’s story requested an inquiry. Emmerson, P7

[74] Marshall Hole joined the British South Africa Company in 1889 as a clerk and rose through the ranks to become Civil Commissioner of Bulawayo and then Administrator of North West Rhodesia.  

[75] Making of Rhodesia,

[76] Clearly both Grey and Carrington hoped killing the Mlimo would be a short-cut to the end of the uprising  

[77] Habangana, Dshobani and

[78] Emmerson, Foreword P6

[79] Ibid, P8

[80] Ibid, P9


[81] Emmerson (Foreword P4) says the story was “largely a figment of his [Burnham’s] very fertile imagination

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