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Queen Lozikeyi: The force behind Ndebele uprisings

by Staff reporter
05 Aug 2021 at 06:14hrs | Views
THE grave of a matriarch viewed by many historians as one of the major forces behind the second Umvukela (uprising) that culminated in independence for the country is situated at KoNkosikazi in Matabeleland North.

The area and Queen Lozikeyi's grave are among the places of significance for the Ndebele people. The wives of the last Ndebele Monarch, King Lobengula, occupied the land in Bubi district following the disappearance of the King. Among the king's wives, Queen Lozikeyi is the most prominent because of her role as the King's senior wife.

Queen Lozikeyi is described as a no-nonsense woman who smoked a pipe and carried a whip and did not hesitate to use it even on men hence the Umfazi Utshay' Indoda moniker that Matabeleland women are known for. More than a century after the death of Queen Lozikeyi around 1919, calls have been made to immortalise her through declaring her grave a national heritage site.

The declaration would ensure the Government channels resources towards maintenance of the site. Historians say Queen Lozikeyi did not have a child with the King as her role was mainly spiritual.

It is said Queen Lozikeyi would guide Ndebele warriors before they went to battles so that they could return in one piece. Following her death, her spiritual significance remained in the hearts of the Ndebele people and it is said Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) freedom fighters visited her grave to ask for spiritual guidance as they fought the protracted liberation struggle.

A news crew yesterday visited KoNkosikazi area where it was led to one of the community elders Mr Enock Busani Ntini (87) who narrated the importance of KoNkosikazi. The crew had hoped to visit the Queen's grave but Mr Ntini said culturally, no ordinary person is allowed to just visit the grave as it is a sacred place and rituals have to be conducted before one can visit the site. Mr Ntini said the community prides itself in living on Crown Land which King Lobengula's wives called home after the disappearance of the King.

"Queen Lozikeyi was the most senior of Lobengula's wives but unlike other wives who had children, she never had a child with the King. Her duties were more supreme because it seems she was not just the King's wife but had a spiritual role in the kingdom. She was a spiritual medium and would spiritually prepare amabutho for battle ensuring that when they go to war they returned safely. This meant that the King respected her," said Mr Ntini.

He said due to her spiritual significance former freedom fighters also sought her spiritual guidance and protection when they were fighting the settler regime.

"I remember them coming here and asking to be taken to Queen Lozikeyi's grave. The gravesite is fenced, they would request for the gate to be opened for them so that they could pray at her resting place. The elders who were custodians of the grave would inform them about the rituals that are performed when one is visiting the grave. They had to remove their shoes among other requirements," he said.

Mr Ntini said he remembers an incident when a group of freedom fighters disregarded the rituals.

"They bulldozed their way into the place despite warnings from the elders who reminded them that it was at the Queen's grave where they could not do as they pleased. They were adamant and force-marched community members to also gather at the grave and before long, two young women fell into a trance 'babanjwa lidlozi', which started to question why guns were being brought to the graveside," said Mr Ntini.

He said the freedom fighters had to apologise and sought guidance from the custodian of the grave who had to appease the spirits.

Mr Ntini said Queen Lozikeyi's grave was of cultural significance to KoNkosikazi community as they hold several rites at the grave site including praying for rains. He said there was a need for the place to be rehabilitated or turned into a heritage site and its rich history documented.

Mr Ntini said the community has always ensured that the grave site is kept clean but more needs to be done as Queen Lozikeyi is one of the heroines of the liberation struggle. Historian and lawyer Mr Thomas Sibanda said there is a need to immortalise Queen Lozikeyi whom he described as a foremother of the liberation struggle.

"The significance of King Lozikeyi emerges following the disappearance of King Lobengula. But you would remember that the queens had a role to play, sort of an advisory role to the King. Queen Lozikeyi played that role and was very influential in the Kingdom. That is why after the disappearance of the King, she became sort of a de facto leader of the Ndebele people. She was the central figure in Umvukela wamaNdebele in 1896. Even during the peace negotiation between (Cecil John) Rhodes and Ndebele Chiefs, Lozikeyi was central," said Mr Sibanda. He said even naming of KoNkosikazi was in her honour.

"The place where the grave is, is named after her. The name Nkosikazi is in honour of her as it is an area where King Lobengula's Queen lived. Going forward there is a need to respect her grave and declare it a national heritage site. A heritage site becomes an educational centre, it becomes a tourist centre, it maintains and keeps someone's name, their history and role alive. It sort of immortalises her and makes her relevant to future generations,," he said.

Renowned historian Mr Pathisa Nyathi, who wrote a book called Lozikeyi Dlodlo: Queen of the Ndebele: A Very Dangerous and Intriguing Woman, said it will be unfair to blame people for neglecting her grave because it was not in their culture to spruce up graves.

"It's a new concept for them but they should be taught. So let's contextualise this neglect and avoid blaming innocent people. It's a general problem not confined to Lozikeyi's grave alone," said Mr Nyathi.

He said Zimbabwe was fortunate that the President, Mnangagwa, attaches great importance to issues of culture and heritage.

"When that is reported to him, I'm sure something will happen to preserve the heritage. Even us, we can contribute, for example if we each give US$5, we won't fail to come up with a respectable grave and monument at the site," said Mr Nyathi.

He said more needs to be done to preserve heritage sites such as Queen Lozikeyi's grave. Mr Nyathi said Queen Lozikeyi is a heroine of the liberation struggle as she played her role in resisting colonial rule when the whites tried to take over the country.

"Generally, the people who went to war were men. When you see a woman now taking over from a King and advising men it means she was respected. We are happy that we have written a very comprehensive book. Queen Lozikeyi is a woman who stood against colonisation. We are not saying that she carried a gun and fought the war but she provided leadership," said Mr Nyathi.

He said a comprehensive literature should always be readily available about important cultural and heritage sites.

"I did point out to the President that in all these sites there should be a well-researched narrative about the place. Like at the Lozikeyi Grave, we should know who she is, who are her parents or what is her lineage, when was she born, how she became Queen of the Ndebele. Same thing with Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomo's statue, there is nothing indicating who this person is and the next generation might not know what he represents," said Mr Nyathi.

He said Mbuya Nehanda statue also needs the same so that future generations understand the role she played during the liberation struggle and why they should respect her.

Source - chronicle

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