‘uZulu noQwabe’: a trending debacle in KZN Newspapers? Part One
“Give us piece of the action! But Zulu Royal House Says: What action and who are you?” So read an article written by Khosi Biyela and Menzi Jele of the Daily Sun of Monday the 2nd of July. The article followed the run at the Playhouse in Durban of ‘uZulu noQwabe’, which highlighted the relationship between Qwabe and Zulu and the uBumbano LwamaQwabe’s move to correct the history of the Nguni people and getting Qwabe to be rightfully acknowledged as the heir of Malandela.
Jele and Biyela held a telephonic interview with Mr I.M. Gumede who is the chairperson and spokesperson of Ubumbano, to ask him about some of the issues that he is seen talking about in a video used in the show . Gumede affirmed to Jele and Biyela that they have held meetings with representatives of King Zwelithini Zulu and the Zulu Royal House. The two journalists then called Prince Mbonisi Zulu, a prominent member of the Zulu Royal House, to find out if it is indeed Mr Gumede’s words are indeed true. The article reports that Prince Mbonisi Zulu maintained he was not aware of these meetings and never took part in any of them, opening with, “The Royal House has lambasted claims by the Chairperson of the Qwabe clan that they are related…”.
I then spoke to Gumede to follow up on this as it was going to affect the content of my work ‘uZulu noQwabe’ hence the work features videos were Mr Gumede is quoted stating that the Zulu Royal House is aware of their mission and they are indeed behind the Ubumbano all the way.
Mr Gumede reassured me that all forms of documentation they were using had been approved in consultation with the Zulu Royal House, including the oral history that they had gathered from the custodians of Nguni history – the elders who specialize in this subject matter. When asked how they verify the truthfulness of their Qwabe oral history as some of the information archived in the minds of the elders might be tainted through loss of memory, he explained that they engage with elders of different regions to hear their interpretation of their history. On finding a common thread from stories that are told by people of different regions, provinces and villages who have never met, one can then start to identify the information as being truthful. They also rely on those that are mandated to research and compare the findings by digging into the archival material supplied, some of which are supplied by the Zulu Royal House as well as archives of foreign writers who documented the happenings of colonial times. On connecting all the links with both the Zulu side of the family agreeing with the Qwabes then accept and conclude on the information being factual. This, as he explains, is one of the strategies that they were advised by the Zulu Royal House to use.
He assured me that indeed they have had meetings with the Zulu Royal House on a number of occasions with Prince Gideon as the spokesperson and a few other members. Their first meeting was around 1999 or 2000 at the Holiday Inn in Durban with Prince Reggie Zulu leading a team of representatives as sent by King Zwelithini. Gumede says, “ Following that there was another meeting in Ulundi at the Linduzulu; one of the King’s Homestead where Ndabandaba and Myeni were the representatives of the King with Ndlovukazi Mandlovu welcoming us in.”
There was then another meeting in Nongoma where the King was hosting a ceremony for His family members. The King welcomed them at the gate and allowed them as representatives of Qwabe to then enter first as the elders so that they may then be seated in their rightful place during the ceremonies. Gumede also mentioned how the King then told them stories about other Qwabe representatives who had made arrangements in the 1980s but did not make it as their car overturned, killing all its occupants. He stated that the in fact they were the first groups of the few that had attempted to come into the Royal House with this issue to make it safely. That alone, as far as the King was concerned, was proof that they are the right people to have been chosen to come and address matters of the Qwabe and Zulu relations.
Mr Gumede also mentioned that there had been another meeting in Empangeni where King Zwelithini welcomed them in and met them in person for the first time. The King jokingly referred to the Qwabes as the long lost ‘prodigal sons’ that have returned home. He even referred to himself as ‘the heir of/succeeding Qwabe’. It was then that they first presented their intentions as Ubumbano lwaQwabe directly to him. King Zwelithini then confirmed that according to their knowledge it is indeed true that Qwabe and Zulu were sons of Malandela. They also then confirmed that according to their knowledge Qwabe was indeed the heir. The Zulu delegation also went as far as alerting his guests that in his homestead they have two ancestral huts where they have their traditional ceremonies and pay obeisance: the first one is Qwabe’s and the second one is Zulu’s. They then gave their blessing and support to Ubumbano LwamaQwabe on fulfilling their mission in correcting the history of the Nguni people. Documents containing information about the history of the Nguni people were exchanged.
Subsequently, When I asked Prince Mbonisi Zulu to verify whether or not he did deny the Qwabe people as reported by the Daily Sun, he stated, “…angikwazi ukuphikisa umlando mina. Ngingubani mina ukuqhamuka sengizophikisa izinto ezenzeka kudala ngiphike abantu bakithi ngoba umlando uyasho ukuthi uQwabe no Zulu bazalwa ndawonye. Bangabakwethu, sizalwa ukhokho oyedwa uMalandela. Sesike sihlangane futhi sixoxe sicobelelane lona lolulwazi, siyayazi inkambo yabo. Ababhali bamaphepha bayathanda ukubhala izinto ‘out of context’ bengaceli ukucaciseleka ngisho noma umuntu engakuzwanga kahle.” (“…I cannot suddenly dispute what is written in history. Who am I to suddenly dispute things that happened a long time ago, and deny my family members? History tells you that Qwabe and Zulu are of the same family. They (uBumbano LwamaQwabe) are our siblings, we are both born of the same ancestor; Malandela. We have met before and exchanged such information on numerous occasions so yes we know them. Writers like quoting things out of context without asking for clarity where they do not fully understand.)
The Treasurer of Ubumbano lwamaQwabe, Mr Zazi Gumede, who had met Prince Mbonisi Zulu on numerous occasions was the next person to confirm previous meetings. He recalled a meeting between the two of them that took place at Royal House in KwaMashu where he, Mr. Zazi Gumede, hand delivered a letter to Prince Mbonisi Zulu alerting the Zulu Royal House of Ubumbano’s first meeting in Etsheni lamaBele .
Both Mr Gumede and Prince Mbonisi agree that there have been various meetings between the two families and they both agree that the manner is which they receive each other is that of blood-affirmed siblings: “…ngingacela futhi nginxuse zonke izintatheli nabo ababhali bemidlalo yeshashalazi ukuthi baxhumane nendlu yasebukhosini ukucela imvume uma bebhala lemidlalo yeshashalazi ngaphambi kokuthi baze bayidlale lemidlalo. Siyobe sesibasiza ukubacacisela ngomlando kanye nendlela eqondile yesikompilo nenkubo mgomo yasebukhosini ngokubaxhumanisa nosomlando abafana noProfessor Maphalala ukuncela ulwazi okuyilona lona ukuze bangabhali noma benze ngendlela ekungesiyona,” kusho uMntwana uZulu. (“ …I would urge all journalists, creative writers and even playwrights to consult with the royal house for permission before they even stage these plays. We would then help them gain further clarity on issues related to our history and general ethical practice in the Royal House by linking them up with historians and custodians of our history and our cultural practices like Professor Maphalala,” says Prince Zulu).
Musa Hlatshwayo is a choreographer, performer and an Archival Platform correspondent.