Mzilikazi – A Khumalo Prince (Book 1 of 4)
The story of Mzilikazi is told over four titles in this exciting series. In this extract from the first book, we meet Mzilikazi after he fought against his own grandfather, Zwide, at the Battle of Mhlatuzi River. After that battle Mzilikazi’s cruel great-grandmother met her end in an unusual way. Mzilikazi remained one of Shaka’s trusted generals, and was allowed to set up as chief of his father’s territory. Read about the growing dispute with Shaka that would force Mzilikazi to take his Great Road, using his fighting skills to defeat those who refused to subjugate themselves to him, and finally setting up his own great kraal where Pretoria central can be found today.
Now, Mzilikazi wasted no time in taking on the role of a victorious chief, with all the splendours that go along with it. He had a large kraal in a powerful place, and he finally had all the cattle and luxuries he could want. “This,” he thought, “is how a chief should live.” After some time, however, when his kraal had settled into the flow of everyday living, he was reminded of his debt to Shaka.
Shaka had sent a few representatives to join Mzilikazi on his conquest northwards, and they started to point out that the King had been promised a large portion of cattle. Although Mzilikazi gave the impression he would give the cattle to Shaka, he grew more arrogant every day, until the representatives realized the Khumalo Chief had no intention of giving over the prize. They sent word to Shaka, who was very sad his friend would try and cause this kind of trouble.
Shaka was very forgiving to Mzilikazi whenever they had a disagreement, but the Zulu King knew he had to stand by his word and demand the cattle back. Upon hearing the news Mzilikazi was refusing to comply, Shaka sent out a small party of dignitaries. These men were noblemen from the capital, Gibixhegu, itself, and they were dressed in their full battle uniform. They marched into Mzilikazi’s kraal with their shields and assegais, with the long black feathers of the widow bird, the valuable sakubuli, adorning their head-rings.
Mzilikazi was calculated in his responses to them, and when he met with them he asked them what they wanted. The men replied that they were there to ask when the cattle from the victory over Chief Ranisi were going to arrive at Gibixhegu. They said their Chief was getting more irritated by the day, and wanted to know where his cattle were. With an arrogant smile Mzilikazi said there would be no cattle going back to Shaka, unless the Chief himself wanted to come and take them in battle. The noblemen were speechless, until one of their members pleaded that Mzilikazi should obey Shaka’s laws. In response, Mzilikazi had the party arrested, and he cut the shiny black feathers from their head-rings, sending them back to Shaka disgraced.
Mzilikazi knew his actions would result in war, and so he had to move his people to a safe place and prepare for the next battle. He chose Entubeni, the Pass, which was on a mountain with a thick forest surrounding it and a flat top. Entubeni was situated in the upper Sikwebezi Valley, and stood out as a mighty fortress from the valley below. It had very steep sides, and there was only one path to the top. Here, he would be able to see Shaka’s forces when they marched in to attack, and they would not be able to reach him at the top of the protected stronghold. He moved all the Khumalo men, women and children, as well as plenty of food and supplies, to the top of the mountain, and waited patiently for the onslaught from Shaka’s troops.
Mzilikazi did not have to wait very long before his sentinels saw Shaka’s regiment. Called the Izimpohlo, or the Bachelors Brigade, it was made up of young men. They had followed the trail left by Mzilikazi and his people all the way to the river near Entubeni, but on the other side of the river the trail had disappeared. The Izimpohlo started to creep slowly along the steep incline of the mountain, wondering at every moment where Mzilikazi and his troops were hiding. They continued their search all the way to the base of the steep precipice of the Entubeni stronghold, until they had to stop amongst the thick trees and bushes, wondering where to go next. They were just thinking they would have to climb the steep cliff face when a sound like roaring thunder echoed down the mountain pass. The troop looked up in horror to see the entire mountain start to break and tumble downwards. Huge boulders started to crash all around the Izimpohlo, crushing many soldiers, and leaving the rest scurrying down the cliff.
Mzilikazi had stored these big rocks at the top of the mountain, and used them as a surprise against Shaka’s troops. From the bottom of the mountain, the Izimpohlo troops knew their assegais were useless against the falling boulders, and they were either crushed or pushed over the high mountain crevices. The rear guard of the Izimpohlo, who were out of the range of the boulders, were left stunned at Mzilikazi’s tactic, and in the following few days they tried to find a safe passage to the top of the mountain without getting crushed by the massive boulders.
Read more about Mzilikazi in books 2, 3 and 4 in the series: Mzilikazi–The Roving Conqueror (Book 2); Mzilikazi– The Great Bull Elephant(Book 3); and Mzilikazi– A Mountain Falls (Book 4). You can also read more about the events that led up to Mzilikazi leaving Zululand in The Battle of Mhlatuze River.