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 Lobengula (2nd half 19th century) King of Matabeleland

At the time of King Lobengula ("He who drives like the wind"), Matabeleland, or Manamatopa, was the most powerful economic and military force in Southern Africa since the Shaka Zulu kingdom in the beginning of the 19th century. Lobengula was a descendant of the potent Khumalo dynasty.

According to British missionary J. B. Thompson,

"Lobengula was a man of greater than six feet in height, strongly built, with a commanding presence. He was a daring hunter, intelligent and observant. He believed greatly in witchcraft and the history of his reign is full of instances of shocking occurrences caused through this belief."

Other sources speak of a wise man, who had trust in the white colonialists from Europe. That was probably the biggest mistake in his life. He signed five major concessions with Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company from 1880 to 1888. By the first four, Lobengula was promised to receive annual fees from the whites who tried to earn his faith this way. The last one, the so-called Rudd Concession, made the other concessions look pale. The British secretly agitated the neighbouring tribe. During the skirmishes between the Matabele and their neighbours, Rhodes' emissaries presented themselves to the distracted Lobengula. The king received guns and ammo in exchange for total land rights to the British, giving Rhodes complete license to exploit the land and people of Matabeleland. When Queen Victoria confirmed the Rudd Concession, the takeover was complete.

Lobengula set up various armed attempts to counter the invasion of his country. The 1893 Matabele War gave the British army an excuse to occupy all of Matabeleland. Lobengula, his general Mjan and a small leftover of his once powerful people were driven to a point approximately seventy kilometres north of the Zambezi River. Sir James McDonald, in his book Rhodes. A life depicts the now very ill Lobengula’s last hours:

"He felt his end was near, and calling together those faithful warriors who still remained with him, he said go now all of you to Rhodes and seek his protection. He will be your chief and friend. To the fighting men present he said: You have done your best, my soldiers; you can help me no more. I thank you all. Go now to your kraals and Mjan, the greatest of you all, will go to Rhodes, who will make things all right for you. To all of you I say Hambani guhle, go in peace! Before twenty-four hours had elapsed, Lobengula was no more and Mjan in due course reached Bulawayo and gave this account of his last hours. The old King died on the banks of the Shangani River from smallpox, with only a few of his councillors by him, and deserted by all save three or four of his regiments."

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