Chapter 5.

Revels after Victory.

The town of the Barolong having been mercilessly sacked, their cattle posts and homesteads flattened to the ground and the surviving occupants scattered in all directions, all their belongings having fallen into the hands of Mzilikazi's victorious army, the King, on learning of their success, ordered the warriors to remain on the Malmani River with their booty until he had prepared a feast for their reception. The Feast of Welcome and an elaborate programme having been decided upon, the King sent messengers to the Ngwaketsi, Bakwena, Bakgaka and other Bechuana tribes, inviting their chiefs to attend a Matabele festival or send representatives to Inzwinyani, if they could not attend in person.

This army of destruction was led by Langa, second living son of Mzilikazi — an impetuous youth, very jealous of the dignity pertaining to his station. Despite his extreme youth, he had several times vowed to wage war against his people, if, on the death of his father, they attempted to pass him over in favour of his elder half brother of another house. This lightning raid on Kunana was his first military exploit. His army was composed mainly of young men supplemented by a few of the senior divisions.

By day-break, on the day of the feast, there was a significant stir among the Matabele people. The call had sounded the previous afternoon from hill-top to hill-top so cowmen left their herds in charge of small boys, villagers left the women behind and, travelling all night, hastened towards the capital, where they were that

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day expecting to count the booty and divide the trophies of victory. By the first streak of dawn, thousands of men began to assemble at the great rallying place, the circular stockade in the centre of the city, surrounded by the King's headquarters. It was already crowded with a curious and expectant multitude from every quarter of the King's dominion. There were tall men and short men, old men and young men, stout brawny fellows and lanky or wiry ones — a motley mass of black manhood. Some wore furry jackal-skin caps, others had their heads cropped, while, here and there, a few appeared with black circlets on their heads — the insignia of their rank — others wore nothing at all; but every one of them carried his spears and shield.

When Mzilikazi emerged from his dwelling, surrounded by his body-guard and accompanied by his chiefs, arrayed in their brilliant tiger-skins, the effect of the recent history was manifest by the satisfaction on every face. The appearance of the royal party was hailed with tumultuous shouts. The rattle of the assegais on the shields rivalled even the rattle of a heavy hailstorm. The court jesters sang and leaped, bedecked in all manner of fantastic headdresses, till the cattails round their loins literally whirled in the air.

The King, with more than usual dignity, acknowledged the royal salute of “Bayete” from thousands of leather-lunged Matebele. Having seated himself upon his wooden throne, which was decorated for the occasion with lion and leopard skins, King Mzilikazi surveyed the excited mass of humanity before him. With so many thousands in attendance, it was no uncommon thing for a joyous festival of the kind to end with a death sentence on

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any who might upset the uncertain temper of Mzilikazi the Terrible; therefore men grasped their shields and gripped their spears and stood erect, lest a faulty pose should irritate the eye and rouse the ire of the Great One. The crowd stood breathless and at high tension, while the court jesters and mbongis were lauding the greatness of Mzilikazi and reciting the prowess and deeds of valour associated with his ancestry.

Whistles blew, drums began to sound and hundreds of men chanted a song of victory, while thousands of warriors stamped a rhythmical mark-time in harmony with the tom-toms. The excitement grew, while the soldiers broke into their familiar war dance.

The infection was not limited to the men. Long files of Matebele women were descending the hills along the tortuous footpaths leading into the capital from every direction. They carried on their heads earthen pots full of beer for the entertainment of the conquering heroes, singing at the same time praises of the victors. Nearly every one of the files of singing women was headed by a group of syncopating cymbalists, ringing or beating time with their iron cymbals in a rhythm with their steps, as they wound their way down towards the level valley bottom, across which the city lay. The women of the city were busy in between their huts, outside the frenzied crowd of warriors. Their business was to cook and to prepare the eatables for the festival which was to follow the great indaba in the assembly; yet they also caught the infection. Beside the numerous fire places in the court yards, groups of shimmying girls sang the praises of Langa — a high-born son of the Great One, — and warbled national ditties to the glory of Matebele arms. Some women carrying their babies astride their hips minded the boiling

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meat-pots and joined the chorus of singers, while others tinkled little rattles in harmony with the shimmy.

They had heard that such an enormous booty of horned-cattle had never before been captured in the history of human warfare. No one, much less a woman, cared to know the cause of the raid, for the end had amply justified the means. They knew, and for them the knowledge was enough, that Prince Langa had raided the Barolong cattle posts, killed the owners and captured every beast. Hence their joy was too great to consider the relatives of their own young fighters who fell at the point of the spears of the Barolong defenders.

The members of a constantly warring nation like the Matebele had been drilled from childhood to face the most devastating situation without the tremor of an eyelid. To-day, especially, the booty more than counter-balanced the loss of the good Matebele blood spilled in the enterprise. With this magnificent addition to the national wealth and the national food supply, it should be impossible in future, for the sister, wife, or mother of a spearman, to run short of beef; so the women of the city were in high glee.

They danced and sang:

    Come, let us sing!
        Mzilikazi has a son.
    Come, let us sing!
        Langa is the name of his son.
    Come, let us sing!
        Langa has a spear.
    Come, let us prance!
        His sword is a sharp pointed spear.
    Go forth and summon the girls of Soduza
        To the dance;

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    Go call the maidens to the Puza,
        And the dance;
    For Mzilikazi has a son!
        Langa, the Fighter, is his son!

The whole of the city was in a swirl, for the music of the merry-makers was keeping the dancers in motion.

Suddenly, King Mzilikazi gave a signal, and the dancing and the singing in the inner circle ceased; far away in the distant outskirts of the city was to be heard a swelling chant mingled with the rumble of the tom-toms; ever louder and louder droned the barbaric music — the victorious army of Langa was returning; the victorious army from Kunana laden with the spoils of victory. As they entered the great enclosure, the Home regiments squeezed aside and prepared a way for Langa and his young warriors to approach the King. The new-comers had their own mbongis who loudly proclaimed the latest success that the youthful army had scored for the Matebele arms.

At another signal from the King the drums within the enclosure began again to beat in unison with those of the victorious army now also within the enclosure. The young warriors were elated at receiving from their elders that shout of welcome hitherto given only to veterans, and they knew that their King was more than satisfied with their martial deed. Sitonga, a tall induna, with a big sonorous voice, stood forth from among the King's bodyguard and harangued the crowd.

“My Lord and Chiefs!” he said, “Who Is Sitonga, that King Mzilikazi the Great, the terrible ruler of land and clouds, should select him to congratulate his heroes after so great a feat of arms. Yet I am as proud of the honour conferred on me as I am of the achievement of these youths. We are here to celebrate the success of

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an expedition led by Langa, a worthy son of a royal father and a noble mother.” To this there were loud shouts of “Bayete!” The speaker proceeded, “To greet the success of an expedition against Tauana the rebellious Rolong Chief, and what a success! Langa has blotted his name off the face of the earth. Tauana will die nameless and unhonoured.”

“You know, my chiefs, that there are certain croakers in our midst, their ears are deaf and their eyes are blind to Matebele virtues. They have only one philosophy and that is the decadence of the Matebele nation; they say the milk of the mothers of to-day is not conducive to the growth of bravery in our children's livers. All that the milk of the present day mothers can nourish, they say, is faint-heartedness. Where are those croakers now? Let them stand forth and eat their words, for Langa has shattered their contention. The fact is, there is not a drop of bastard blood in Langa's body — there runs through his veins the reddest of Matebele blood regulated by the throbbing of a royal heart that knows no fear — (Bayete!).”

“We heard with dismay the wrongful murder of Bhoya by a Barolong brigand. This brigand enjoyed the King's magnanimity, and was allowed to share the sunshine and the blessing of rain with us. His wives, like our women, we permitted to garner the produce of the land. But as soon as he was drunk with the brew of his wives, he dared to lay his wretched hands on the person of the enjoy of his King. While some of us were stunned by this villainy, Langa wasted no time, he quickly taught the brigand the lesson of his life. Thanks to Langa, son of the Terrible One, all Barolongs, if any are still alive, shall henceforth know how to run when a Matebele appears in view. Oh, Langa, you are a Prince! Your royal father

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is pleased with your achievement and so are all the people here assembled.”

This oration was punctuated by vociferous cries of “Bayete.” Sitonga proceeded: “The Great One has sent invitations to all the Bechuana chiefs: Makabe is here and Sechelle too. The Bahurutshe are strongly represented and the Bafokeng have also sent delegates. These visitors join our festival with their chieftainship undiminished. Each of these chiefs shall drive home a share of the booty, and show his people that as long as the Bechuana are loyal to us, Mzilikazi is their shield; but let an enemy provoke us and he shall taste the full force of Matebele temper. Tauana was foolhardy enough to brave the anger of Mzilikazi, the most high; and the anger of Mzilikazi fell upon him. I have seen the ashes of his city and the corpses of his wives and children. I have also seen the dead bodies of his chicken-hearted blacksmiths, who knew as little about fighting as they did about the dignity due to royalty. Tauana shall offend us no more. The vultures are feeding on the corpses of his people, and those of them who were fleet-footed enough to outrun Langa's spearmen are eating dirt to-day. The Jwala  1  you will drink this afternoon is brewed with the grain from Tauana's corn-bins, and this evening we will be dividing his cattle.”

“Oh, Langa, descendant of the Great Matshobani, we are proud of you! No race with such valiant princes should be ashamed of its royal house.”

Vigorous speeches, just as loudly cheered, were delivered by other orators, doing homage to Prince Langa. “As long as you are alive,” they said, “we will sleep and

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rest secure in the belief that you are guarding us from every danger.”

Following these speakers came Gubuza, Commander-in-Chief of all Mzilikazi's armies; a man with a striking personality. He had an arresting glance that always commanded respect. He carried a round head with little ears, over a shapely pair of broad shoulders. Although the Matebele usually walked unshod, Gubuza was distinguished by using sandals like those worn by the Barolong. For some reason, the soles of his sandals were invariably made from the dewlap of an eland, instead of the ordinary cow-hide. As he discarded his leopard kaross on rising, his smooth black skin shone over his ample frame, the blackness of it throwing into relief his bare thighs and arms.

The splendid proportions of his immense symmetrical frame struck the attention of men and women and gained their admiration even before he spoke. Hence, he received an ovation that befitted not only his personality but his position as leader of the terrible armies of Mzilikazi; but as his speech developed, the cheers gradually diminished until at length there was a manifest feeling of disappointment on the faces of the excited populace.

He said, “No my chiefs, I am not so hopeful as the previous speakers. Gubuza has sat at the feet of many a wise man; I have been to Zululand, to Swaziland, to Tongaland and to Basutoland. I know the Northern forests, I know the Western deserts and I know the Eastern and Southern seas. Wiseacres of different nationalities are agreed that cheap successes are always followed by grievous aftermaths. Old people likewise declare that individuals, especially nations, should beware of the impetuosity of youth. Are we sure that Bhoya was guiltless?” he asked. “Was there provocation? Supposing

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there was, are we satisfied that the Barolong could have maintained order in any manner short of killing Bhoya and his companion? Did Bhoya simply deliver his message or did he violate Barolong rights in any way? Did he not perhaps terrorise the children or molest Barolong women? My Lords and my Chiefs, I am a King's servant and know what I am talking about. I ask these questions because men of my circle too often forget that they are emissaries of the King. They sometimes think that they are their own ambassadors; they are too apt to forget that without their ambassadorship they are but menials of low station. Royal appointments have on some of them the same effect as strong drink in the heads of other men.”

By this time the buzz of dissenting voices was making it positively difficult to follow the speaker, who continued amid frequent interruptions. “I have heard nothing from previous speakers to indicate that the Prince had asked Tauana for any reasons; nothing to show that he would not in due course have appeared in Inzwinyani and explained his action.”

Several voices already interjected, Tula  2 , for the crowd had heard enough and were not disposed to submit to any further infliction of Gubuza's unpatriotic views.

In the ensuing din only his last remark could be distinguished amidst the uproar when the speaker concluded: “My Lord and my chiefs, I am afraid we have made a fresh enemy.”

Several speakers jumped up all eager to reply. Dambuza, one of them, refusing to give way, raised his powerful voice and thundered: “Gubuza, I am ashamed of you.” Cries of “Bravo, Dambuza.”

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Thus encouraged, Dambuza continued: “We all know you as a warrior and nothing can rob you of your military distinction. There is no need that you should be jealous over the success of the Prince who received from your training all the prowess and valour he displayed against the rebellious Barolong. Surrounded, as we are, by unknown people in a not too friendly world, how could we command respect if not only Matebele but even ambassadors of our King may be killed by anyone who might be disposed to do it?”

“My Lords, I am a pure blooded Indhebele — loud applause) — and I breathe the pure air in the belief that should a man or a beast shed a drop of my blood, the King's majahas  3  will settle him before he had had time to relent; but if I may be killed with impunity by any one, whatever his grievance, then life is not worth living. It matters not whether it be a beast with four paws or only two, anyone or anything spilling Matebele blood should suffer a violent death. I for one, feel certain that Tauana got much less than he deserved. He should not have been allowed to escape. I will never again salute Gubuza, if he would tolerate the life of anyone who killed a Matebele person. I would rather be a Bushman and eat scorpions than that Matebele could be hunted and killed as freely as rock-rabbits.”

The speech was received with uproarious cheers, with which the King seemed delighted. With a laugh, Mzilikazi vacated his seat as a sign that the speeches were over. Dancing proceeded with boisterous fury, after which there was great feasting and revelry.

Up on the plateau above the city, herdsmen were

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ascending and descending the escarpment above which large herds of horned cattle were gathered. After much singing and dancing, beef-eating and beer drinking, the male portion of the revellers surged up the hillside to the top of the plateau where they inspected the captured Barolong herds. The animals were not chewing the cud after the manner of kine. They, too, seemed to feel a disturbance in the atmosphere. On the surrounding hills, bushbuck and rhebuck peeped through the tree-stems from the distance and marvelled at the commotion. They had never seen so vast an assembly of man and beast, and they wondered what was in course that to-day these proverbial hunters should pay no heed to them.

It would seem that the surprise of the cattle was not a bit less than that of the game. Oxen bellowed for they all failed to recognise the cowmen. Wherever they looked the Barolong oxen saw only strange men with strange faces and stranger methods. The calves had been separated from their mothers early that day and the latter were now being milked and the milk (straight from the teats of looted cows) was distributed among Matebele piccaninnies with distended bellies to incite their courage thus early in life.

Hundreds of calves remonstrated loudly against this wholesale theft of their mother's milk. They seemed to ask what their elders had their big horns for, if hornless people could with impunity practice such systematic robbery at their expense. Hundreds of cows seemed to low some explanation in reply. What it was, they alone knew, but the bulls and bullocks on the other hand held down their heads, switched their tails and waved their dewlaps as if lamenting their impotence. They seemed to take the situation mechanically as the ways of men and wars.

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The chiefs were now admiring the booty and dividing the spoils of war. This kept them busy till after sunset. The rejoicings were continued after the disposal of the large booty, for the whole nation had gone pleasure-mad.

The moon rose above the hills, and appeared like a huge ruddy orb of fire above the tree tops. As she cleaved her way upward and mounted higher and higher up the skies, she laid aside her orange glow and assumed a silvery hue. She lit the night with her everlasting radiance as though doing her best to serve the revellers as brilliantly as did her sister orb throughout the day.

Mzilikazi withdrew from the crowded circus and summoned his privy council to a night meeting. Retracing his steps in the moonlight, he left his bodyguard at the gate of the stockade beside his quarters, and entered the spacious dwelling of his youngest and dearest wife. She regaled the councillors with some beer of her own brewing, and, as they drank, her lord rejoiced in their adoration of the excellence of her brewing.

Ntongolwane the magician was there, an so was Gubuza, the leader of the armies. Matambo and Dingiswayo being among the indunas present as well as Tabata and Dambuza. Everybody was in a merry mood, for the King was pleased with himself.

“Well, Tabata,” asked Mzilikazi, “How did you like the boys and their revels?”

“O, most noble King,” replied Tabata, “It was the grandest sight I ever saw. Thy servant rejoiced at every turn. It was a feast for the ears and a feast for the eyes as well as for the mouth.”

“Quite true, Tabata,” said Dambuza, “Quite true. The feast was grand — I liked the martial bearing of the serried ranks of the several divisions. What a tremendous

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impression they must have made on our Bechuana visitors! I liked the dances, I liked the drums, I liked the lot of cattle; in fact I liked everything, not excluding the shimmy of the girls. There was only one thing to mar the splendour — which I am sorry to say, irritated and offended my ears. Gubuza, my chief, your speech was one fly in the milk. Your unworthy words stung like needles in my ears. You would do better in future to confine your activities to fighting, of which you know everything, and leave speeches to men who can talk. A woman would have made a better speech, for you have not spoken like a warrior, you spoke like a coward. You would do more good if you went and told the dancers on the hill that you are sorry for what you said this morning.”

Gubuza made a reluctant reply. He said, “I am sorry if my words wounded the feelings of the Chiefs. When I spoke this morning, I had seen some of the cattle but was not then aware that the booty was so large. When I reached the plateau and saw the swarms of Barolong cattle I felt a quiver on my breast as though it had been touched by a spear; for I am convinced that the owners of so many cattle will never rest until they recover them. It should not be forgotten that all these cattle belonged to men and not to children. It is clear that they increased and multiplied under the wands of clever magicians or they would never have bred in such abundance. We know not the manner in which the Barolong prepare their spells, and I shudder when I think of the day when the revengeful owners of those herds will come back for them. The carousels of those who are now enjoying themselves will not save us from their wrath.”

Now the Great One joined the discussion, which meant that everybody else had to listen and applaud. “To me,”

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said Mzilikazi, “everything went off successfully. If Gubuza had not spoken I should have been very sorry. You see, a man has two legs so as to enable him to walk properly. He cannot go far if he hops on one leg. In like manner a man has two hands; to hold his spear in the one and his shield in the other. With a spear in his right hand, without the shield in his left, be he ever so agile, he is entirely at the mercy of his opponent. For the same reason he has two eyes in order to see better. A man has two ears so as to hear both sides of the dispute. A man who joins in a discussion with the acts of one side only, will only find himself in the wrong.”

“In every grade of life there are two sides to every matter. There are riches and poverty; beauty and ugliness; health and sickness; wisdom and folly; right and wrong; day and night; summer and winter; fire and water. One cannot exist without the other. Without you, I could be no King, and without me you could be no nation; and it was wise of Gubuza to remind us that side by side with our infectious joy, there is such a thing as sorrow. Langa paid a price for his victory, and in the midst of our rejoicings some mothers' eyes were wet with tears. But taking everything into consideration, notwithstanding Gubuza's warning in my ears, I feel that the balance is entirely in our favour.”

“Gubuza will remember the last time we returned from a buffalo hunt. Our pack-oxen were laden with beef and eland hides and everybody was satisfied; yet some men had been gored to death by infuriated wounded buffaloes. I commanded Gubuza to start vigorously and train the young men for a bigger chase on the track of human buffaloes. I told him that, when the training of the army was complete, all the neighbouring nations must be subjugated

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and broken down until our law should govern from the desert to the sea. He promised me he would train and never stop until rebellious tribes are subdued and distant nations, from Sekukuku's mountains to the Tembu and Pondo seas are conquered, and Chaka himself acknowledged our supremacy. That sounded like a child's dream, but to-day's events have proved that before we are very much older the dream will become a reality, and the Matebele sword shall become the terror of the nations of the world.”

The speech was interrupted by grunts of approbation and the King asked: “Did you see our Bechuana visitors? What did they say of the fate of their rebellious compatriots?”

“Oh, we saw them,” said three of the listeners. “They were lost in admiration. When they heard that this great and successful enterprise was the achievement mainly of beardless youths, they expressed their conviction that no king has ever commanded an army as invincible as the spearmen of Moroa Matshobani.”

To this there was a chorus of laughter in which the King joined heartily, and after sundry helpings to more beer, Mzilikazi said: “I think Gubuza, we should reward the boy for his daring. We could promote him to the command of the Sibongo regiments and make him Chief of the Amasizi. And if he likes, he may settle them on the territories from which he has cleared the Barolong pest. The further training of these young fellows should be carefully watched so as to make them fit for the next great conquest in the expansion of our authority. Let this success be known among the nations so that foreign armies may tremble each time they hear the mention of the name, Amandhebele.”

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This terminated the midnight council — a termination which registered another landmark in the history of the Matebele.

Out in the moonlight, the drums were still busy and the revellers were dancing and the hills resounded to the shrill voices and handclapping of the women until dawn, by which time, the voices of some of the revellers were hoarse with over-exertion.

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Chapter 5.

Revels after Victory.

The town of the Barolong having been mercilessly sacked, their cattle posts and homesteads flattened to the ground and the surviving occupants scattered in all directions, all their belongings having fallen into the hands of Mzilikazi's victorious army, the King, on learning of their success, ordered the warriors to remain on the Malmani River with their booty until he had prepared a feast for their reception. The Feast of Welcome and an elaborate programme having been decided upon, the King sent messengers to the Ngwaketsi, Bakwena, Bakgaka and other Bechuana tribes, inviting their chiefs to attend a Matabele festival or send representatives to Inzwinyani, if they could not attend in person.

This army of destruction was led by Langa, second living son of Mzilikazi — an impetuous youth, very jealous of the dignity pertaining to his station. Despite his extreme youth, he had several times vowed to wage war against his people, if, on the death of his father, they attempted to pass him over in favour of his elder half brother of another house. This lightning raid on Kunana was his first military exploit. His army was composed mainly of young men supplemented by a few of the senior divisions.

By day-break, on the day of the feast, there was a significant stir among the Matabele people. The call had sounded the previous afternoon from hill-top to hill-top so cowmen left their herds in charge of small boys, villagers left the women behind and, travelling all night, hastened towards the capital, where they were that day expecting to count the booty and divide the trophies of victory. By the first streak of dawn, thousands of men began to assemble at the great rallying place, the circular stockade in the centre of the city, surrounded by the King's headquarters. It was already crowded with a curious and expectant multitude from every quarter of the King's dominion. There were tall men and short men, old men and young men, stout brawny fellows and lanky or wiry ones — a motley mass of black manhood. Some wore furry jackal-skin caps, others had their heads cropped, while, here and there, a few appeared with black circlets on their heads — the insignia of their rank — others wore nothing at all; but every one of them carried his spears and shield.

When Mzilikazi emerged from his dwelling, surrounded by his body-guard and accompanied by his chiefs, arrayed in their brilliant tiger-skins, the effect of the recent history was manifest by the satisfaction on every face. The appearance of the royal party was hailed with tumultuous shouts. The rattle of the assegais on the shields rivalled even the rattle of a heavy hailstorm. The court jesters sang and leaped, bedecked in all manner of fantastic headdresses, till the cattails round their loins literally whirled in the air.

The King, with more than usual dignity, acknowledged the royal salute of “Bayete” from thousands of leather-lunged Matebele. Having seated himself upon his wooden throne, which was decorated for the occasion with lion and leopard skins, King Mzilikazi surveyed the excited mass of humanity before him. With so many thousands in attendance, it was no uncommon thing for a joyous festival of the kind to end with a death sentence on any who might upset the uncertain temper of Mzilikazi the Terrible; therefore men grasped their shields and gripped their spears and stood erect, lest a faulty pose should irritate the eye and rouse the ire of the Great One. The crowd stood breathless and at high tension, while the court jesters and mbongis were lauding the greatness of Mzilikazi and reciting the prowess and deeds of valour associated with his ancestry.

Whistles blew, drums began to sound and hundreds of men chanted a song of victory, while thousands of warriors stamped a rhythmical mark-time in harmony with the tom-toms. The excitement grew, while the soldiers broke into their familiar war dance.

The infection was not limited to the men. Long files of Matebele women were descending the hills along the tortuous footpaths leading into the capital from every direction. They carried on their heads earthen pots full of beer for the entertainment of the conquering heroes, singing at the same time praises of the victors. Nearly every one of the files of singing women was headed by a group of syncopating cymbalists, ringing or beating time with their iron cymbals in a rhythm with their steps, as they wound their way down towards the level valley bottom, across which the city lay. The women of the city were busy in between their huts, outside the frenzied crowd of warriors. Their business was to cook and to prepare the eatables for the festival which was to follow the great indaba in the assembly; yet they also caught the infection. Beside the numerous fire places in the court yards, groups of shimmying girls sang the praises of Langa — a high-born son of the Great One, — and warbled national ditties to the glory of Matebele arms. Some women carrying their babies astride their hips minded the boiling meat-pots and joined the chorus of singers, while others tinkled little rattles in harmony with the shimmy.

They had heard that such an enormous booty of horned-cattle had never before been captured in the history of human warfare. No one, much less a woman, cared to know the cause of the raid, for the end had amply justified the means. They knew, and for them the knowledge was enough, that Prince Langa had raided the Barolong cattle posts, killed the owners and captured every beast. Hence their joy was too great to consider the relatives of their own young fighters who fell at the point of the spears of the Barolong defenders.

The members of a constantly warring nation like the Matebele had been drilled from childhood to face the most devastating situation without the tremor of an eyelid. To-day, especially, the booty more than counter-balanced the loss of the good Matebele blood spilled in the enterprise. With this magnificent addition to the national wealth and the national food supply, it should be impossible in future, for the sister, wife, or mother of a spearman, to run short of beef; so the women of the city were in high glee.

They danced and sang:

    Come, let us sing!
        Mzilikazi has a son.
    Come, let us sing!
        Langa is the name of his son.
    Come, let us sing!
        Langa has a spear.
    Come, let us prance!
        His sword is a sharp pointed spear.
    Go forth and summon the girls of Soduza
        To the dance;
    Go call the maidens to the Puza,
        And the dance;
    For Mzilikazi has a son!
        Langa, the Fighter, is his son!

The whole of the city was in a swirl, for the music of the merry-makers was keeping the dancers in motion.

Suddenly, King Mzilikazi gave a signal, and the dancing and the singing in the inner circle ceased; far away in the distant outskirts of the city was to be heard a swelling chant mingled with the rumble of the tom-toms; ever louder and louder droned the barbaric music — the victorious army of Langa was returning; the victorious army from Kunana laden with the spoils of victory. As they entered the great enclosure, the Home regiments squeezed aside and prepared a way for Langa and his young warriors to approach the King. The new-comers had their own mbongis who loudly proclaimed the latest success that the youthful army had scored for the Matebele arms.

At another signal from the King the drums within the enclosure began again to beat in unison with those of the victorious army now also within the enclosure. The young warriors were elated at receiving from their elders that shout of welcome hitherto given only to veterans, and they knew that their King was more than satisfied with their martial deed. Sitonga, a tall induna, with a big sonorous voice, stood forth from among the King's bodyguard and harangued the crowd.

“My Lord and Chiefs!” he said, “Who Is Sitonga, that King Mzilikazi the Great, the terrible ruler of land and clouds, should select him to congratulate his heroes after so great a feat of arms. Yet I am as proud of the honour conferred on me as I am of the achievement of these youths. We are here to celebrate the success of an expedition led by Langa, a worthy son of a royal father and a noble mother.” To this there were loud shouts of “Bayete!” The speaker proceeded, “To greet the success of an expedition against Tauana the rebellious Rolong Chief, and what a success! Langa has blotted his name off the face of the earth. Tauana will die nameless and unhonoured.”

“You know, my chiefs, that there are certain croakers in our midst, their ears are deaf and their eyes are blind to Matebele virtues. They have only one philosophy and that is the decadence of the Matebele nation; they say the milk of the mothers of to-day is not conducive to the growth of bravery in our children's livers. All that the milk of the present day mothers can nourish, they say, is faint-heartedness. Where are those croakers now? Let them stand forth and eat their words, for Langa has shattered their contention. The fact is, there is not a drop of bastard blood in Langa's body — there runs through his veins the reddest of Matebele blood regulated by the throbbing of a royal heart that knows no fear — (Bayete!).”

“We heard with dismay the wrongful murder of Bhoya by a Barolong brigand. This brigand enjoyed the King's magnanimity, and was allowed to share the sunshine and the blessing of rain with us. His wives, like our women, we permitted to garner the produce of the land. But as soon as he was drunk with the brew of his wives, he dared to lay his wretched hands on the person of the enjoy of his King. While some of us were stunned by this villainy, Langa wasted no time, he quickly taught the brigand the lesson of his life. Thanks to Langa, son of the Terrible One, all Barolongs, if any are still alive, shall henceforth know how to run when a Matebele appears in view. Oh, Langa, you are a Prince! Your royal father is pleased with your achievement and so are all the people here assembled.”

This oration was punctuated by vociferous cries of “Bayete.” Sitonga proceeded: “The Great One has sent invitations to all the Bechuana chiefs: Makabe is here and Sechelle too. The Bahurutshe are strongly represented and the Bafokeng have also sent delegates. These visitors join our festival with their chieftainship undiminished. Each of these chiefs shall drive home a share of the booty, and show his people that as long as the Bechuana are loyal to us, Mzilikazi is their shield; but let an enemy provoke us and he shall taste the full force of Matebele temper. Tauana was foolhardy enough to brave the anger of Mzilikazi, the most high; and the anger of Mzilikazi fell upon him. I have seen the ashes of his city and the corpses of his wives and children. I have also seen the dead bodies of his chicken-hearted blacksmiths, who knew as little about fighting as they did about the dignity due to royalty. Tauana shall offend us no more. The vultures are feeding on the corpses of his people, and those of them who were fleet-footed enough to outrun Langa's spearmen are eating dirt to-day. The Jwala  1  you will drink this afternoon is brewed with the grain from Tauana's corn-bins, and this evening we will be dividing his cattle.”

“Oh, Langa, descendant of the Great Matshobani, we are proud of you! No race with such valiant princes should be ashamed of its royal house.”

Vigorous speeches, just as loudly cheered, were delivered by other orators, doing homage to Prince Langa. “As long as you are alive,” they said, “we will sleep and rest secure in the belief that you are guarding us from every danger.”

Following these speakers came Gubuza, Commander-in-Chief of all Mzilikazi's armies; a man with a striking personality. He had an arresting glance that always commanded respect. He carried a round head with little ears, over a shapely pair of broad shoulders. Although the Matebele usually walked unshod, Gubuza was distinguished by using sandals like those worn by the Barolong. For some reason, the soles of his sandals were invariably made from the dewlap of an eland, instead of the ordinary cow-hide. As he discarded his leopard kaross on rising, his smooth black skin shone over his ample frame, the blackness of it throwing into relief his bare thighs and arms.

The splendid proportions of his immense symmetrical frame struck the attention of men and women and gained their admiration even before he spoke. Hence, he received an ovation that befitted not only his personality but his position as leader of the terrible armies of Mzilikazi; but as his speech developed, the cheers gradually diminished until at length there was a manifest feeling of disappointment on the faces of the excited populace.

He said, “No my chiefs, I am not so hopeful as the previous speakers. Gubuza has sat at the feet of many a wise man; I have been to Zululand, to Swaziland, to Tongaland and to Basutoland. I know the Northern forests, I know the Western deserts and I know the Eastern and Southern seas. Wiseacres of different nationalities are agreed that cheap successes are always followed by grievous aftermaths. Old people likewise declare that individuals, especially nations, should beware of the impetuosity of youth. Are we sure that Bhoya was guiltless?” he asked. “Was there provocation? Supposing there was, are we satisfied that the Barolong could have maintained order in any manner short of killing Bhoya and his companion? Did Bhoya simply deliver his message or did he violate Barolong rights in any way? Did he not perhaps terrorise the children or molest Barolong women? My Lords and my Chiefs, I am a King's servant and know what I am talking about. I ask these questions because men of my circle too often forget that they are emissaries of the King. They sometimes think that they are their own ambassadors; they are too apt to forget that without their ambassadorship they are but menials of low station. Royal appointments have on some of them the same effect as strong drink in the heads of other men.”

By this time the buzz of dissenting voices was making it positively difficult to follow the speaker, who continued amid frequent interruptions. “I have heard nothing from previous speakers to indicate that the Prince had asked Tauana for any reasons; nothing to show that he would not in due course have appeared in Inzwinyani and explained his action.”

Several voices already interjected, Tula  2 , for the crowd had heard enough and were not disposed to submit to any further infliction of Gubuza's unpatriotic views.

In the ensuing din only his last remark could be distinguished amidst the uproar when the speaker concluded: “My Lord and my chiefs, I am afraid we have made a fresh enemy.”

Several speakers jumped up all eager to reply. Dambuza, one of them, refusing to give way, raised his powerful voice and thundered: “Gubuza, I am ashamed of you.” Cries of “Bravo, Dambuza.”

Thus encouraged, Dambuza continued: “We all know you as a warrior and nothing can rob you of your military distinction. There is no need that you should be jealous over the success of the Prince who received from your training all the prowess and valour he displayed against the rebellious Barolong. Surrounded, as we are, by unknown people in a not too friendly world, how could we command respect if not only Matebele but even ambassadors of our King may be killed by anyone who might be disposed to do it?”

“My Lords, I am a pure blooded Indhebele — loud applause) — and I breathe the pure air in the belief that should a man or a beast shed a drop of my blood, the King's majahas  3  will settle him before he had had time to relent; but if I may be killed with impunity by any one, whatever his grievance, then life is not worth living. It matters not whether it be a beast with four paws or only two, anyone or anything spilling Matebele blood should suffer a violent death. I for one, feel certain that Tauana got much less than he deserved. He should not have been allowed to escape. I will never again salute Gubuza, if he would tolerate the life of anyone who killed a Matebele person. I would rather be a Bushman and eat scorpions than that Matebele could be hunted and killed as freely as rock-rabbits.”

The speech was received with uproarious cheers, with which the King seemed delighted. With a laugh, Mzilikazi vacated his seat as a sign that the speeches were over. Dancing proceeded with boisterous fury, after which there was great feasting and revelry.

Up on the plateau above the city, herdsmen were ascending and descending the escarpment above which large herds of horned cattle were gathered. After much singing and dancing, beef-eating and beer drinking, the male portion of the revellers surged up the hillside to the top of the plateau where they inspected the captured Barolong herds. The animals were not chewing the cud after the manner of kine. They, too, seemed to feel a disturbance in the atmosphere. On the surrounding hills, bushbuck and rhebuck peeped through the tree-stems from the distance and marvelled at the commotion. They had never seen so vast an assembly of man and beast, and they wondered what was in course that to-day these proverbial hunters should pay no heed to them.

It would seem that the surprise of the cattle was not a bit less than that of the game. Oxen bellowed for they all failed to recognise the cowmen. Wherever they looked the Barolong oxen saw only strange men with strange faces and stranger methods. The calves had been separated from their mothers early that day and the latter were now being milked and the milk (straight from the teats of looted cows) was distributed among Matebele piccaninnies with distended bellies to incite their courage thus early in life.

Hundreds of calves remonstrated loudly against this wholesale theft of their mother's milk. They seemed to ask what their elders had their big horns for, if hornless people could with impunity practice such systematic robbery at their expense. Hundreds of cows seemed to low some explanation in reply. What it was, they alone knew, but the bulls and bullocks on the other hand held down their heads, switched their tails and waved their dewlaps as if lamenting their impotence. They seemed to take the situation mechanically as the ways of men and wars.

The chiefs were now admiring the booty and dividing the spoils of war. This kept them busy till after sunset. The rejoicings were continued after the disposal of the large booty, for the whole nation had gone pleasure-mad.

The moon rose above the hills, and appeared like a huge ruddy orb of fire above the tree tops. As she cleaved her way upward and mounted higher and higher up the skies, she laid aside her orange glow and assumed a silvery hue. She lit the night with her everlasting radiance as though doing her best to serve the revellers as brilliantly as did her sister orb throughout the day.

Mzilikazi withdrew from the crowded circus and summoned his privy council to a night meeting. Retracing his steps in the moonlight, he left his bodyguard at the gate of the stockade beside his quarters, and entered the spacious dwelling of his youngest and dearest wife. She regaled the councillors with some beer of her own brewing, and, as they drank, her lord rejoiced in their adoration of the excellence of her brewing.

Ntongolwane the magician was there, an so was Gubuza, the leader of the armies. Matambo and Dingiswayo being among the indunas present as well as Tabata and Dambuza. Everybody was in a merry mood, for the King was pleased with himself.

“Well, Tabata,” asked Mzilikazi, “How did you like the boys and their revels?”

“O, most noble King,” replied Tabata, “It was the grandest sight I ever saw. Thy servant rejoiced at every turn. It was a feast for the ears and a feast for the eyes as well as for the mouth.”

“Quite true, Tabata,” said Dambuza, “Quite true. The feast was grand — I liked the martial bearing of the serried ranks of the several divisions. What a tremendous impression they must have made on our Bechuana visitors! I liked the dances, I liked the drums, I liked the lot of cattle; in fact I liked everything, not excluding the shimmy of the girls. There was only one thing to mar the splendour — which I am sorry to say, irritated and offended my ears. Gubuza, my chief, your speech was one fly in the milk. Your unworthy words stung like needles in my ears. You would do better in future to confine your activities to fighting, of which you know everything, and leave speeches to men who can talk. A woman would have made a better speech, for you have not spoken like a warrior, you spoke like a coward. You would do more good if you went and told the dancers on the hill that you are sorry for what you said this morning.”

Gubuza made a reluctant reply. He said, “I am sorry if my words wounded the feelings of the Chiefs. When I spoke this morning, I had seen some of the cattle but was not then aware that the booty was so large. When I reached the plateau and saw the swarms of Barolong cattle I felt a quiver on my breast as though it had been touched by a spear; for I am convinced that the owners of so many cattle will never rest until they recover them. It should not be forgotten that all these cattle belonged to men and not to children. It is clear that they increased and multiplied under the wands of clever magicians or they would never have bred in such abundance. We know not the manner in which the Barolong prepare their spells, and I shudder when I think of the day when the revengeful owners of those herds will come back for them. The carousels of those who are now enjoying themselves will not save us from their wrath.”

Now the Great One joined the discussion, which meant that everybody else had to listen and applaud. “To me,” said Mzilikazi, “everything went off successfully. If Gubuza had not spoken I should have been very sorry. You see, a man has two legs so as to enable him to walk properly. He cannot go far if he hops on one leg. In like manner a man has two hands; to hold his spear in the one and his shield in the other. With a spear in his right hand, without the shield in his left, be he ever so agile, he is entirely at the mercy of his opponent. For the same reason he has two eyes in order to see better. A man has two ears so as to hear both sides of the dispute. A man who joins in a discussion with the acts of one side only, will only find himself in the wrong.”

“In every grade of life there are two sides to every matter. There are riches and poverty; beauty and ugliness; health and sickness; wisdom and folly; right and wrong; day and night; summer and winter; fire and water. One cannot exist without the other. Without you, I could be no King, and without me you could be no nation; and it was wise of Gubuza to remind us that side by side with our infectious joy, there is such a thing as sorrow. Langa paid a price for his victory, and in the midst of our rejoicings some mothers' eyes were wet with tears. But taking everything into consideration, notwithstanding Gubuza's warning in my ears, I feel that the balance is entirely in our favour.”

“Gubuza will remember the last time we returned from a buffalo hunt. Our pack-oxen were laden with beef and eland hides and everybody was satisfied; yet some men had been gored to death by infuriated wounded buffaloes. I commanded Gubuza to start vigorously and train the young men for a bigger chase on the track of human buffaloes. I told him that, when the training of the army was complete, all the neighbouring nations must be subjugated and broken down until our law should govern from the desert to the sea. He promised me he would train and never stop until rebellious tribes are subdued and distant nations, from Sekukuku's mountains to the Tembu and Pondo seas are conquered, and Chaka himself acknowledged our supremacy. That sounded like a child's dream, but to-day's events have proved that before we are very much older the dream will become a reality, and the Matebele sword shall become the terror of the nations of the world.”

The speech was interrupted by grunts of approbation and the King asked: “Did you see our Bechuana visitors? What did they say of the fate of their rebellious compatriots?”

“Oh, we saw them,” said three of the listeners. “They were lost in admiration. When they heard that this great and successful enterprise was the achievement mainly of beardless youths, they expressed their conviction that no king has ever commanded an army as invincible as the spearmen of Moroa Matshobani.”

To this there was a chorus of laughter in which the King joined heartily, and after sundry helpings to more beer, Mzilikazi said: “I think Gubuza, we should reward the boy for his daring. We could promote him to the command of the Sibongo regiments and make him Chief of the Amasizi. And if he likes, he may settle them on the territories from which he has cleared the Barolong pest. The further training of these young fellows should be carefully watched so as to make them fit for the next great conquest in the expansion of our authority. Let this success be known among the nations so that foreign armies may tremble each time they hear the mention of the name, Amandhebele.”

This terminated the midnight council — a termination which registered another landmark in the history of the Matebele.

Out in the moonlight, the drums were still busy and the revellers were dancing and the hills resounded to the shrill voices and handclapping of the women until dawn, by which time, the voices of some of the revellers were hoarse with over-exertion.


Footnotes & References

#NoteDescription
1JwalaNative beverage
2TulaKeep quiet
3MajahasSoldiers