The relationship between Shona and Ndebele people and British began in October 1888 at the signing of Rudd concession between Lobengula and Cecil Rhodes' BSACo represented by Charles Rudd. This followed the coming in of many whites that named themselves as the pioneer column. In 1891 British South African Company took over the ownership of the land occupied by these newcomers named as Mashonaland. In 1894 they tried to extend their control to Ndebele under Chief Lobengula who resisted for sometime and afterwards he fled and died in the wilderness leaving his kingdom under British colonial rule in 1894.
The British government then instituted their administrative and exploitative economic policies. Settlers increased in number, that necessitated more land grabbing (land alienation) followed by forced labour and overtaxation. With all these, in confidence of their traditional gods the Shona-Ndebele had to rebel hence the famous Shona-Ndebele uprising (Chimurenga) of 1896-97.
1. Land alienation:
CAUSES OF THE REBELLION.
Following the occupation of Mashonaland and Matabeleland in 1894 by white settlers, Africans were pushed to less productive reserves or turned into landless squatters on European farms where they had to pay rent in form of produce or cash so as to avoid expulsion from their own kingdom.
In Mashonaland, land '}'as grabbed without permission from the local chiefs on the claim that Lobengula had given the land to the British South African Company in the Rudd concession which was not true. The land policy therefore caused resentment to both the Ndebele and the Shona leading into the outbreak of 1896-97 rebellion.
Colonial government introduced hut tax which the Shona and Ndebele were not happy with. This tax was oppressive in nature and the population was forced to pay at a threat. Those who had no cash to pay the tax> had their cattle confiscated. This hut tax was so disturbing in that people were forced to congest in few huts which increased their suffering.
The Shona and the Ndebele hated the operation of the forced labour system. Labour was often recruited by force with the help of armed policemen Flogging was a common practice and Africans were made to work under near slave conditions.
The British interference with the exisiting African economies:
Before the coming of the British South African Company rule, the Ndebele were mainly cattle raiders raiding from the Shona while the Shona had Ivory trade with the Portuguese. The Ndebele raiding system under this colonial rule turned a crime while the Shona control of their trade shifted to the hands of the British. The Shona were forced to buy goods from South Africa that were more expensive than those produced by the Portuguese hence a cause for 1896-97 uprising.
Loss of cattle:
Following the 1893-94 British-Ndebele war, African heads of cattles were stolen or killed D) the British forces e.g. its estimated that before the war Ndebele had 250,000 heads of cattle but after the war only 40,000 were remaining. The rest of cattle had been distributed to the white soldiers, some to policemen and others driven to south Africa by whites. The remainder would be given out to African collaborators especially the chiefs. The colonial government officers distributed this cattle out on the grounds that they formerly belonged to the ablished Ndebele Monarchy and therefore they had exterminated it.
111a period between 1894-97 the Ndebele and Shona societies were hit by a number of natural calamities. In 1895, there was a drought while in 1896 there was locust attack. All these reduced on crop harvest. In 1896 a rinderpest outbreak swept herds of cattle. In trying to solve the rinderpest problem, cattle were slaughtered under Company administration orders which increased the African misery. These natural calamities added to famine created a desperate situation that led to the rise of Chimurenga rebellion.
The role of religion:
The miseries of diseases, famine and suffering made the religious leaders to be quite important to the Shona-Ndebele people. According to their priests and spirit mediums the remedy to the African problems laid in fighting a religious war against the whites whom they blamed for such misfortunes. They argued that, if whites could be driven out, locusts, diseases and all misfortunes would be taken away and rain would come. Their leaders promised victory and those who could refuse to fight would be punished.
In Mashonaland there was a male priest called Kagubi while the Woman was named Nehanda. They both played a significant role injnobilising the masses against the Europeans. In Matembeland there was the Mwari cult or MEmo cult priests. These had
been very powerful during the time of Lozi kingdom but after its collapse, it was allowed to operate in Ndebele Shrines especially in Matapo hills.
It is imperative to note that the organisational support of Mwari cult or Mlimo spirit in both Shona and Ndebele provided confidence among the fighters. For example, Mkwati their leading priest once remarked"
"Now go to these white people and drive them out of our father's land and I
will take away the cattle diseases, locusts and give you rain".
Thus such a promise to end misfortune gave courage to the fighters to believe that European weapons would be harmless to them. Sometimes Mkwati could threaten and issue more serious wannings that:
"Mlimo will kill all who have made peace with whites, we are going to fight again ... "
8. Loss of political independence:
The white occupation of Matabeleland was followed by deliberate attempts to transform the whole structure of Ndebele society. The dismantling of the Ndebele kingdom involved the breaking down of the regimental system and destroymg the authority of the Ndebele traditional chiefs. Ndebele kingdom was transformed and divided up into districts ruled by white men but not Indunas. Africans began to be oppressed, Ndebele chiefs were mistreated and even lost respect hence the Shona-Ndebele uprising.
9. In Matabeleland, natives were upset by the use of the Shona police who had been slaves of the Ndebele. The white recruitment of the Shona into police was welcome as a chance for the Shena to revenge on Ndebele their traditional enemies. More to this, the company rule took up the responsibility of punishing the African people in a brutal way involving flogging which was bitterly hated by the masses.
10. Failure of the Jameson Raid 1895:
In 1895, Jameson raid led the protectorate police to raid President Paul Kruger of the Boers in Transvaal. The Ndebele took this advantage as many white policemen had gone to raid. Ndebele attacked white settlement, raided farms, looted their cattle and cut off the communication lines. The news that Jameson raid had failed encouraged them. They realised that even the Whitemen could be defeated. The Ndebele began the war and the Shona followed,
11. Hatred of Christianity:
The Shona were deeply religious and strongly attached to their traditional religion. But Christianity introduced by missionaries had had a tremendous impact on the Shona society. The spread of Christianity disrupted the Shona way of life and undermined their traditional institutions. This is why their traditional religious leaders played a leading role in the war. Because of the respect people had in their traditional religion; they turned their traditional religious leaders into their military leaders to fight the British imperialism.
THE COURSE OF THE REBELLION.
The Matebele rebellion which first broke out in March 1-896had not been planned at all. No
precautionary measures had been instituted by rebels against whites for example. This was because the Ndebele regimental system had been disbanded and when the war broke out the Ndebele army was raised in series.
In addition, they were poorly armed and not well organised. Their initial success therefore was because of absence of a strong company police that they had distributed in other parts of country and leaving only 40 at the headquarters, as they never expected any war. Following the disbanding of the regimental system.
But after proving the abortion of the Jameson's raid of 30th December 1895, the Ndebele and the Shona were encouraged to revolt as they thought that the company was not
powerful. The British defeat by the Boers gave the Ndebele hopes to defeat them also.
The trouhle began in 20TH March. 1896 when the Ndebele murdered two Shona policemen in
their area working on behalf of the British. Three days later, the whole of Mat abele land was
in a rebellion busy massacring European families, destruction of property on farms in mines and stores.
Within two weeks about 143 Europeans had been killed. Only those living in Bulawayo, Gwero and Baligwe survived because they formed defensive enclosures made of Wagons around their towns.
On the side of Shonaland, the action Vs the British began on 15th June 1896, it also began
by killing Europeans on scattered settlements. In the first week, about 120 Europeans bad been killed.
This followed the sending of British reserve troops that had been stationed in Cape Town. Fearing the war after some serious exchanges they also entered the bush and began the guerilla warfare tactic.
As hopes of success faded away, the remaining Shona rebels handed over their weapons to the British. Mkwati seems to have been killed by the Shona themselves because of false protection. Both Kakubi and Nehanda were captured and executed in 1898.
ORGANISATION OF THE REVOLT.
The period 1896-97 witnessed a climax of a rebellion against the foreign rule in Shona and
Ndebele Societies. The old regimental system had been replaced by military organisation since 1894.
After the defeat of the Ndebele and the Shona chiefs in 1894, they turned their loyalty to religion as a symbol of unity and leadership. Therefore Umlugulu and Nyamanda were main religious leaders of the revolt.
Nyamanda was Lobengula's eldest son and during the struggle he presented the wishes of the young generation while Urnungulu was the chief priest of the Ndebele nation and supported by old genefation. They both worked hand in hand in spearheading the cause of the revolt The trusted gods of the Ndebele were called the Mlimo or Mwari cult.
Among the Shona the leading priests were Mkwati at Thobazikamarubo hills and Siginyamatshe in Matopohills. They were both responsible for spiritual unity among the fighters; their main spirit mediums were Kakubi and Nehanda who provided courage and support for fighters.
When the war began, most tribes joined Ndebele and Shona. The bond of unity that had brought people together was to fight against a common enemy. Germany sent well armed soldiers with machine guns and howitzers to rescue the European volunteers who were raised from the Cape and Transvaal. Some hundreds of African troops came from societies that had collaborated e.g. Kbama of the Lozi Kingdom.
With such a force the Ndebele were defeated easily. One of their forces went to Umgusa River while the main body retreated into the Matopohills from where they began series of guerilla attacks. In December 1896, the Ndebele agreed to sign peace treaty with the Cecil Rhodes.
RESULTS OF THE SHONA-NDEBELE REBELLION ..
1. After the negotiations between Cecil Rhodes and the Ndebele Indunas in the Matopo hills, the people of Matabeleland were promised a relaxed life e.g. an adquate land, amnesty for their leaders and payment of the Induna services. The British promised to respect African people and their chiefs. By the end of 1898, peace had been restored in Matabeland.
2. The British government introduced new procedures to check on ill-treatment of the Shona Ndebele people. All the former brutal systems of Administration were withdrawn. For example the 1903 increase in hut tax from 10 to 2 pounds a year was abandoned. The
colonial secretary set the tax at 1 pound a year with' even a delay in collection .
3. The rebellion resulted into loss of lives and property of the Shona and Ndebele. Trade and agriculture were also disrupted. The rebellion was very costly to suppress on British side. This contributed to the deteorration of the British South Africa Company financial position.
4. Mistrust of African Traditional Religion: After-the rebellion had been suppressed, many Shona and Ndebele withdrew their trust from the traditional religious beliefs. They turned to the Christian missionaries and adopted Christianity plus Western Education.
5. The rebellion gave light to the African that there is a need to face reality in any war. It was through this rebellion that the Shena- Ndebele realised the importance of first assessing the strength of the enemy (Europeans) before facing them on a front line.
6. The Ndebele were promised their original Iand which they really got. and some of their leaders were employed in the administration.as the paid servants of the State. Most of their leaders were not victimised as was.the case-with the Shona leaders. The Shona surrendered without any conditions and lost political authority.
7. Furthermore, a number of reserve camps were set aside for the Shona and the Shona squatters were to move into these reserves. The young Shona who had been recruited into the company police were dissolved and a local government police under whitemen was set up. In 1898, Mashonaland was opened up for more white settlers. This made them to lose hope of regaining their independence.
8. In return, the Ndebele warriors were to be disarmed and an weapons given to Rhodes.
Therefore. the Ndebele lost their military strength and succumbed (agreed) to SUbjugation. More to that the Matabele who instigated the rebellion were to be tried in courts. Thus in Negotiations to end Ndebele rebellion some of their grievances were attended to unlike the Shona.
9. In the History of central Africa, Shona-Ndebele staged a significant impact to British colonisers e.g. at the onset of the revolt the company was caught unaware and in Matabeleland 143 Europeans were murdered while in the Mashonaland 119 were killed in the first week.
10. Reversing this state of affairs involved heavy re-inforcements that were too expensive for the company government. Eventually the company was forced into bankruptcy and it was because. of this that the British stepped in 1900 to establish direct British administration. The Shona-Ndebele rebellion therefore led to the failure of the British South African Company in Africa.
The British South African Comapany discredited itself in the eye of the British government in its failure to maintain law and order in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and Transvaal republic.
11 . After the silencing of the rebellion, Shona and Ndebele 'people became vulnerable to European exploitation e.g. the payment of hut tax, land grabbing and forced labour became part and parcel of their life.