Family History and Heritage Day in KwaZulu-Natal

  • Posted on October 18, 2011

Bhekamambatha Mbatha, Inkosi Sizwe Mbatha, uMntomuhle Khali kanye noSihlahla Mbatha leading the regiments of AmaMbatha in song. Photograph credit: Musa Hlatshwayo
Bhekamambatha Mbatha, Inkosi Sizwe Mbatha, uMntomuhle Khali kanye noSihlahla Mbatha leading the regiments of AmaMbatha in song. Photograph credit: Musa Hlatshwayo
Heritage month in KwaZulu Natal is always regarded as a colourful month of celebrations and gatherings that honour what has contributed to our current identity – our heritage. Arts centers, theatres, cultural centers and community organizations at large gather in celebrations of their heritage, their culture.  Amongst the top events that attract millions to this province, one can mention Umkhosi Mhlanga, which happens in Nongoma in early September, as well as uMkhosi weLembe otherwise known as Umgubho kaShaka, which takes place during the first weekend after the 24th of September in KwaDukuza. While this event still remains as the pinnacle of the Zulu nation’s cultural heritage celebrations, the focus has over the years shifted to include the many diverse cultures within KwaZulu Natal. Hence the day itself is no longer referred to as Shaka’s Day but rather ‘Heritage Day’. Not ignoring the obvious impact that these two aforementioned events have on our cultural heritage and our events calendar, I decided to follow two of the events that took place on the 24th of September in different locations within KwaZulu-Natal, namely the Mbatha Kinship Group’s Gathering as well as the Durban Family History Fair. 

The Mbatha kinship group celebrates its heritage

The Mbatha kinship group held a gathering at their iNkosi Sizwe Mbatha’s homestead at Vezunyawo in eNkonjeni, Mhlabathini. This gathering was chaired and coordinated by Senzo ‘Maswidi’ Mbatha together with Stanely Bongokwakhe Dladla.

The day started with an opening prayer, which was followed by welcoming remarks and speeches by those that represented the different clans under the kinship of amaMbatha. Mr. Mntonjani, the Chairperson of MaMbatha National Council explained that the aim of the gathering is to unite the Mbatha kinship group by sharing, gathering and celebrating as much of their history as possible. In his speech while speaking on behalf of amaMbatha of Mbeje, he then thanked iNkosi and his council for uniting the Mbatha group. Stanley Dladla then followed up and spoke on behalf of amaMbatha of Dladla and revealed that they are very happy to reconnect to where the Mbatha of Dladla had stemmed from. He revealed that all along they had not been aware that Mbatha and Mbeje are under one kinship group. He then explained that it is such lack of knowledge that had then caused problems back where they came from in the uThukela region.

“ OThukela uthola uMbeje eshade no Dladla. Uphinde futhi uthole uMbatha eshade noDladla. Ngikhuluma nje umfowethu engimlamayo uganwe uMaMbatha kanti nami nginengoduso yakwaMbatha. Kodwa ke sekuyiso isikhathi sokuthatha izinyathelo ngalenkinga.”

“ At uThukela you find Mbeje married to Dladla. You will also find Mbatha married to Dladla. As I speak, my older brother married MaMbatha and I am engaged to MaMbatha. But it is now time to take action about this havoc,” said Dladla.

Dladla also encouraged the Mbatha kinship group to respect and support iNkosi Sizwe Mbatha, the current iNkosi of the Mbatha kinship group and his vision. He then spoke about their organisation AmaMbatha Heritage Society where he revealed that their aim is to collect and preserve the history of amaMbatha, and to document the customs and the cultural practices of this clan. He also affirmed their support and recognition for iNkosi Sizwe Mbatha of Vezunyawo (Mahlabathini) and Inkosi Madubula Mbatha of Ndokozane (Nquthu) for their profound leadership.

Sihlahla Mbatha then spoke on behalf of amaMbatha of Shandu. He also echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers and stated that they, as the amaMbatha of Shandu, support the idea of uniting of amaMbatha.

As it would be expected imbongi Bhekamambatha Mbatha then adorned the amaKhosi of the Mbatha with their praises as recognized by the kin. Mr. Senzo ‘Maswidi’ Mbatha then presented the history of the Mbatha clan. His story went as far back as noting the origins of the first black person as having come from the North of Africa in Egypt.  He explained that the formation of Mbatha clans came from Mageba; the son of Zulu.

“ We are related to the Zulu clan. Our forefather is Mageba the brother of Phunga of Zulu of Malandela. This Mageba is one and the same who fathered Ndaba who later fathered Jama who fathered Senzangakhona who himself fathered Shaka, Dingane and Mpande. Mageba also begot Mpangazitha (Zitha) who begot Sontshikase father of Ndaba father of Shandu, Dladla, Mbeje, Nsibankulu and Mngeni,” said ‘Maswidi’ Mbatha in his speech.

INkosi Sizwe Mbatha then extended his gratitude to everyone for supporting his vision of unifying the clans of his forefathers. He suggested that those within the Mbatha kinship group who had married within the group should slaughter goats and cleanse their relationships by asking for forgiveness and blessings from their ancestors. He also urged those that are still in unmarried relationship with their kin to separate and recognize each other as siblings.

A collective decision was then made to establish committees in all district municipalities as well as in hostels in urban areas and in provinces outside of kwaZulu-Natal like Gauteng and Mpumalanga. ‘AmaMbeje Amahle’, Abafana BakaDladla’ and other local groups then took centre stage to entertain the attendants while bringing the proceedings of the day to an end in robust music and dance.

Anyone who is interested in following the developments of AmaMbatha or wants to know more about the future engagements of the group can contact Senzo Mkhanyiseni “Maswidi” Mbatha on 0766887004.

The Durban Family History Fair

The Durban Family History Center recently held a Family History Fair as part of its heritage day celebrations. This event was held in the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints on 144 Silverton Road in Durban from 9am till 4pm. The fair aimed to bring together genealogical societies, historians, writers, scholars, and anyone who is interested in the subject of family history and genealogical indexing.

Apart from the displays and the presentations at the stalls that were there, the agenda of the day included the following subjects: 
- beginning your family history,
- accessing original family history documents and indexes via the internet,
- preservation of photographs and documents as a means of preserving family history,
- how to self publish your family history,
- the family tree project (introduction of Oral Genealogy into schools), and
- Social networking your family history

I spoke to the Director of the Family History Centre, Bonita Bricknell, about her feeling on the impact of the fair. She said,

“I felt the talks were all very successful and we were grateful to Linda Ireland and Sibusiso Ngcoya for coming all the way from Pietermaritzburg to share with us their wealth of information. Linda Ireland discussed how if we make micro environments we will be able to preserve our photographs and documents much longer as in our homes it is difficult to control climatic conditions. One can also avoid direct sunlight and damp areas. Sibusiso Ngcoya gave a very interesting talk on how the Education Department is introducing Oral Genealogy into the schools after school ends as a means to tackle social concerns…and some teachers appeared interested in practicing this in their schools”.

Approximately 250 people attended the fair. The majority of the attendants were middle aged and seemed to enjoy the beginner’s courses that had been scheduled where a lot of the attendants’ questions were answered.

The following stalls formed part of the fair:
- The British Cultural & Heritage Association
- The Durban Family History Centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
- Easi Passport Services
- The Genealogical Society of South Africa : Durban Branch
- Ike’s Books & Collectibles
- The Natal Marriage Index
- Online indexing
- Scrapbooking
- The South African National Society
- The Van Riebeeck Society, and
- The World Ship Society

“This day was indeed a huge success as many people walked away motivated to move forward with skills and information they had obtained. Many were also very thrilled to find their relatives’  marriages certificates. There was even one lady who could not wait to get home to start compiling her information for publication and this was the same person who had been “dragged into the talk”, explained Bricknell.

As successful as the day was, it was also obvious that not many people wanted to try the Online Indexing and to learn how to socially network their Family History. I asked Bricknell what she thought could have contributed to this. She said this “is perhaps a reflection of the age of those who attended”, explained Bricknell.

Another discovery was the great need for volunteers in many communities such as Verulam, KwaMashu and Umlazi to photograph and transcribe gravestones in these areas. These are eventually uploaded to http://www.eggsa.org and are freely available to anyone who visits the website. Seeing that a lot of this requires the use of modern technology, Bricknull then urges the youth to volunteer their services and expertise in this regard. Anyone interested in doing so can visit the centre directly at number 144 Silverton Road, Berea.

Musa Hlatswayo is an Archival Platform correspondent.

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  • I’m a South african curator on an international Genealogy site, and we are desperately trying to get black South African ancestry lines onto the world tree. I’ve just used this article to update the children of Mageba: http://www.geni.com/people/Mageba-kaGumede/6000000014310252409
    according to Maswidi Mbatha’s version here. But it would be so much better if he and others would check what we’ve got and add in the enormous wealth of oral genealogy information onto this Tree too.

    By Sharon Doubell on 23/10/2011
  • t disgusting 2 find dat umuntu wakwa dladla aganwe kwambatha noma kwambeje, ziningi izintombi ngaphandle ezinebongo ezahlukene.

    By senzo blessing dladla on 08/11/2011
  • Hmm, Senzo, I wish there was a Google translate for Zulu - but without it I can only guess at the fact that you’re objecting to something to do with the erroneous separation of young girls’ from the outside huts’ clan names? I think you’re aiming it at the article - but if you mean the family tree on Geni, (and even if you don’t) I’d love you to come and take a look at what you think should be changed.

    By Sharon Doubell on 08/11/2011
  • Mthiya wen’othiya ngenkomo abanye bethiya ngehlahla.Ngiyakujabulela
    okwenzeka emaMbatheni,ingabe thina zizukulu zakwaMbatha ngomama samuke
    -lekile yini?ngoba kumanje sibiza yena sikhulele kwimithetho yasemaMbatheni.

    By Mavis on 12/12/2011
  • Thanks for educating me was totally lost

    By Sphamandla on 13/06/2012
  • Can yourl please send me information about AmaMbatha

    By ayanda mbatha on 01/02/2013
  • Can you please send me the “izithakazelo” for the Dladla surname.

    By Fani on 17/04/2013
  • Be MaMbatheni! Ngithanda ukwazi kabanzi ngemvelaphi nesiko lokhokho mkhulu bami.

    Ngakujabulela ukuhlangana nezizukulwana zika Phunga o Sontshikazi, sihlepulelane ulwazi ngemvelaphi yethu.

    By Lindiwe on 16/12/2013