General Khumalo, the Hero Who Silenced Villain Allan Wilson’s Guns

The posthumous conferment of National Hero status on General Mtshana Khumalo by President Mnangagwa and the erection of a memorial statue for First Chimurenga heroine, Mbuya Nehanda, at the intersection of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way is a symbolically apt move that corrects historical distortions of the Zimbabwean story by colonialists.

In recognition of his contribution to the struggle against colonial subjugation, General Khumalo’s legacy is set to be immortalised through the unveiling of a shrine at the site of his famous battle at Pupu .

The Pupu National Monument in the Lupane District of Matabeleland North, will be the commemoration site for the gallant National Hero, beginning this week.

As the custodian of the people of Zimbabwe’s cultural mores and values, President Mnangagwa affirms his commitment to the national ethos enshrined in collective memory.

General Khumalo, who was King Lobengula’s Imbizo Regiment commander, routed the colonial bastion embodied in the colonial begot Allan Wilson and his party (Allan Wilson Patrol) at the Battle of Pupu on December 4, 1893, in spite of the superior weaponry at their disposal. The battle set in motion the wheels of resistance that halted Ian Douglas Smith’s colonial train on April 18, 1980.

A military tactician, General Khumalo, commanded an elite group of fighters tasked to protect King Lobengula’s life and dignity as he trekked north.

He protected not only his king, but the dignity of the African peoples reduced to “half-devils half-children” by colonialists.

History is stubborn, for it cannot be wished away; yet colonists thought it possible to silence the African’s past through a subtle system of education, and glaring propaganda.

White supremacist deity, Cecil John Rhodes and his fellow settlers were aware of the pivotal role that culture and history play in the everyday lives of Africans, therefore, through Christianity, they robbed Africans of their spiritual connectedness to the land of their ancestors by destroying or desecrating their shrines. They then went on to build monumental shrines of their own heroes and themselves to immortalise the history of plunder, brutality and murder characteristic of colonialism.

Thus, when white settlers hoisted the Union Jack on September 12, 1890 on Harare Hill (Kopje) in Salisbury, they had already captured the indigenous people’s spiritual heritage.

Therefore, the foundation for the contestation of heritage in all its variables; tangible and intangible, as enshrined in the land, the abode of the ancestors and “mother” (Lan, 1985), was laid.

Rhodes informed opinion pertaining to the historical onslaught on the identity of Africans, and what constitutes blackness.

He influenced Rudyard Kipling, with his “half-devil half-child” idea of the African. Both Rhodes and Kipling were following the tradition of Hegel, Voltaire and Montesquieu.

In Hegel’s view, Africa, “the land of gold”, has “remained cut off” from “the rest of the world”. He asserts that the continent is “the land of childhood, removed from the light of self-conscious history and wrapped in the dark mantle of night”. In Hegel’s eyes, the African “exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state (in whom) . . . nothing harmonious with humanity is to be found”.

In the European’s eye, therefore, Africans have no history; hence, the use of the derogatory term “pre-historic” in their supremacist view of Africa before colonialism.

Presumed to have no history of their own, Africans “could enter history, but only as a beneficial result of European conquest”.

For a forward thrust to prosperity, there is a need to seek spiritual freedom through cutting of spiritual ties with white settlers and the United Kingdom.

As a starting point, all monuments linked to colonialism should fall and in their place shrines that immortalise the contributions of Africans erected. The warped supremacist idea that Africans are devoid of history worth talking about should be debunked.

Artistes, intellectuals, historians and journalists should play a pivotal role in informing Africans, particularly Zimbabweans on the importance of re-affirming and re-asserting our historical heritage and identity.

The idea that Zimbabwean history can be understood only if it is read against European history is a deplorable colonial mentality that should be exorcised.

Colonialists like Allan Wilson and his gang of settlers vanquished by King Lobengula’s men, led by General Khumalo at Shangani River on December 4, 1893, remain villains to Africans, no matter how brave they are said to have fought.

The settler community hails the 34 as men of men, for having died for a “worthy” cause, and recognised Allan Wilson through an annual holiday between 1895 and 1920; and a school for white children founded in 1940 as a modern high school for boys.

General Khumalo’s name was blotted out of history, yet he was the one who masterminded the routing of the said men of men.

His selfless and courageous men are not even known by their names. History appears not to remember them.

Allan Wilson’s name has been institutionalised as a training paragon, notwithstanding dastardly past.

Reliving the famous Pupu Battle, in an article titled “A Battle Won and a War Lost: The Wiping out of the Major Allan Wilson Patrol”, historian Pathisa Nyathi said the king and his close military advisors realised that the route to follow was due north, since the east was sealed off.

There were hostile Afrikaners to the south, which ruled out that direction as an option. To the west was Bechuanaland (Botswana), which had become a British Protectorate.

The north, the only option left to the king was teeming with settlers, who had arrived at KoBulawayo on November 4, 1893, and were keen on capturing the king, for he was a coveted trophy to boost their military egos.

Nyathi notes: “A pursuing party was hastily put together and began on the fateful hunt for the Ndebele King. The Ndebele soldiers under Mtshana Khumalo were masters at military decoy. The pursuers of the King were guided by tracks cleared through the bush to allow the movement of ox-wagons.

“At times a false route was cleared and the royal salute chanted loudly in order to derail the pursuers. In the meantime, the king would be moving on and gaining ground ahead of the white soldiers keen to capture him as they did with King Cetshwayo of the Zulu.”

A master of military decoy, General Khumalo created the impression that after the Pupu Battle, the king had died and was buried in a cave at Pashu’s country; a ruse that many fell for. Nyathi affirms that the funerary items placed on the grave were known to belong to the Ndebele King, among them parts of a horse saddle and diamonds.

In the meantime, King Lobengula proceeded through Tongaland and crossed the Zambezi River.

He meant to seek refuge among his kin at Chipata in Zambia with settlers and their sympathisers in hot pursuit.

According to oral traditions, as Nyathi points out, it was Dakamela Ncube, an isanuse from Babambeni Village, who saved the Ndebele King.

In collaboration with other spiritual persons they caused the rain to fall through a formula they concocted. A black beast was slaughtered and the fat covering its stomach along with medicines were placed on hot embers, leading to dark smoke wafting to the heavens.

Following this, the Shangani River became a furious deluge. A party was set up under the command of Major Allan Wilson to cross the raging Shangani River and monitor the king’s movements overnight, hoping to attack at the break of dawn.

Unbeknown to them, General Khumalo and his men were ahead of the situation.

They were privy to the manoeuvres of both Major Patrick Forbes and Major Allan Wilson’s parties. It was the former party that had the deadly Maxim gun (isigwagwagwa), which the Ndebele soldiers were wary of.

General Khumalo’s men were armed with their traditional spears: inzala, umdikadika (isijula, ijozi) and usiba. For forward propulsion, the usiba, a spear with a long handle, relies on aerodynamics.

They also had Martini Henry rifles and a few Enfields, which they got as part of fulfilment to the conditions of the 1888 Rudd Concession. Through his military genius, Nyathi avers, General Khumalo counteracted the patrol led by Major Forbes with its Maxim guns.

Enjoying the superiority of numbers, sound military tactics, the intervention of the natural and supernatural, and determination to protect their king and kingdom, the Ndebele soldiers moved in for the kill against the stranded Allan Wilson Patrol.

With everything against him and his 34 men, Allan Wilson lost to determined and resilient soldiers led by a tactical commander on that glorious occasion on December 4, 1893, thus momentarily stymieing Rhodes’ quest to hasten the subjugation of the indigenous owners of the land, through destruction of the Ndebele Kingdom and its monarch, Lobengula. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the remains of Allan Wilson and his 34 men be exhumed from their comfort zone in the Matopos, and be reburied at the site of their annihilation at the hands of the gallant sons of the soil led by General Khumalo.

Said the President: “As the Second Republic, we will remove the remains of those colonialists and rebury them where they lost the battle. How can the vanquished be honoured when the victors are not honoured?”

Indeed, why should losers be glorified at the expense of victors?

Why should colonialists like Rhodes be celebrated on Zimbabwean soil, through shrines that mock the owners and custodians of the land bequeathed to them by their forefathers?

It is this history that future generations should be privy to and revel in.

They should know and be proud of their heroes and heroines like General Mtshana Khumalo, Queen Lozikeyi, Mbuya Nehanda, Mgandani Dlodlo, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chaminuka, Chief Mapondera and scores of others, who sacrificed their lives in the First Chimurenga and others in the Second Chimurenga. Europeans, therefore should never be allowed to impart versions of our heroes in the psyches of our children and future generations.

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