Nguni. Not the skin you have hanging in your bosveld hide-away or covering your ottoman. The people. The pastoralist tribe who ventured southwards from Central Africa and the Great Lakes in search of pasture for their cattle. They`ve been doing that since 1400 AD.
Of course today you cannot walk up to a dark-skinned individual in Johannesburg and ask them to point out the nearest Nguni relative. Chances are they will think you`re enquiring about a nearby butchery. The reason for that is the Nguni tribe no longer exists in the fashion it used to. The Nguni settled in South Africa with its favourable climate. Some moved on, even more South. And where they landed up…they got different names, often linked to geological beacons or tribesmen whose names carried through the centuries.
Today they are known as Xhosas, Zulus, Matabele, Pondo, Ndebele, Swazi…the list goes on. A plethora of what was a driving force for thousands of years in the development of Africa. Even today, the tribes that stayed behind in Central Africa, are forever migrating South Ward. The search for pastures has turned into a search for towns with railways, hospitals and schooling. Still very much alluring. As can the 9 million odd illegal immigrants in South Africa testify to.
Few white people in South Africa are aware that we have royal families. And as the royal families in Europe, the distaste is just a party in the papers or Mercedes Benz away from being vocally protested as utter nonsense and wastage.
But who ARE these people ? These kings…these tribes. Pardon me being totally un-pc. We thought you guys where just BLACK. That`s it. We`re white. And well…you`re…you know. Black.
I mean I know who the Zulus are. They live in Natal. They nearly wrecked the `94 Election. Quite a violent bunch. Shaka Zulu etc. That 80`s show on telly. Do I really know who they are ?
Zulu was a boys` name. A boy born to Malandela and his wife Nozinja. They were one of the original Nguni settlers who made their homestead on the banks of the Umfolozi river area.
Zulu and his wife moved away from his parent`s homestead and by the end of the 18th Century, they had five sons. The youngest, Senzangakhona, seemed to be a bit of a bugger and it wasn’t long before he had the neighbouring clan`s daughter in trouble.
Nandi did not know she was pregnant (or did her best to hide it). The tribesmen started talking about her swelling stomach. Of course there was an explanation : It must have been the Ushaka ! Ushaka was a feared stomach ailment of the time - a kind of beetle that enters the stomach and leads to being bloated and uncomfortable. It comes as no surprize then, when the beetle turned out to be a baby boy – he was named Shaka Zulu. His origins a permanent shame over his head.
The child bore the grunt of many a joke in his childhood. And as he was borne out of wedlock, he was often ostracized and many believe this is what turned the boy into a fearless and aggressive man later in life.
And aggressive he was. He unified all the tribes under the Zulu clan and built an army of 50 000 in little more than a decade. He did not colonize. He wreaked havoc. He killed maimed, burned and left desolate most of the Eastern seaboard and midlands of South Africa. Some of the tribes who refused to join him and lived in hiding, turned to cannibalism as a way to survive.
Shaka Zulu “cleaned” the surroundings of any man and animal that was not loyal to him and his war machine. Some clans huddled together against his onslaught. Enemies became friends just to avoid the certain death Shaka was going to bring. Swaziland is a living remembrance of this today. At his mother, Nandi`s funeral – 7000 human sacrifices where made to honour her under his insistence. His name was feared and travelled far. So much so, that when the white men arrived in Port Natal in 1824 – much of Kwazulu Natal south of the Tugela was empty of human inhabitants.
The rest we can say is History.
So when I read the newspaper and see images of a homestead in northern Kwazulu Natal being erected in the area of the Umfolozi river, I don`t see a man drunk on power yielding his sceptre of rule with arrogance.
I see a Zulu not born royal; trying what is acceptable in Zulu culture: If you are NOT born royal…nothing stops you from forming a new clan and vying for prominence through money and power in the larger sphere that is Zulu society. If not by birth, than by Rand and political clout.
I see the Zulu king, not by accession…but by political wheeling and dealing…forging a legacy. I see the leader of an ethnic group whose language is most spoken and who outnumbers all other ethnic groups, hi-jacking an entire ideology for a race-free and liberal South Africa. An ideology that was fought for with blood.
I see a new Zulu dynasty being born, like Shaka, out of wedlock. A shame to his culture. A shame to his traditions.
I see the story of ethnic-superiority and right to rule repeat itself. In South Africa of all places.
How sad when I looked up the meaning of Zulu:
Zulu means Heaven.