‘We’ll recover Mzilikazi armband from UK museum’

The organisers of the King Mzilikazi commemorations to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, next month have said at this year’s event they will focus on the recovery of King Mzilikazi’s armband which is kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the United Kingdom.

“We will send a delegation of Mthwakazians to go and recover the king’s ornaments. The King’s armband was sacrilegiously taken off his body when it was exhumed by some barbaric fortune hunters in 1896,” the organisers said in a statement.

King Mzilikazi Khumalo’s descendants from Zululand will on Saturday September 10 join some Zimbabweans based in South Africa for the commemoration of the death of founding Ndebele nation leader in Johannesburg.

Historian Phathisa Nyathi could neither confirm nor deny the existence of Mzilikazi’s armband at a British museum, but said there is a report of a break-in to King Mzilikazi’s grave in the 1890s.

“Generally, it was the behaviour of the white, mostly fortune hunters, who knew about the customs of Africans to bury royals with the items they used, to loot these graves.

“In the 1890s there are people who vandalised his grave and there was a ceremony to appease his spirit. Black cattle had to be slaughtered. That incident is recorded in history, though it is not clear what they looted,” he said.

Nyathi said the “looting and desecrating” of African graves, especially royal ones, was rampant in the colonial era as this was the case with the supposed King Lobengula’s grave in Binga district, Mapungubwe in South Africa, Great Zimbabwe and Khami Ruins.

The organisers of the Johannesburg commemorations said eminent historians like Rhodes University history professor Julian Cobbing, University of South Africa (Unisa) professor Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu, and Misheck Matshazi, a history professor who wrote the book, Mthwakazi: The Birth of a Nation, will address the gathering.

“Moreover, this year there is a special invitation to all the Khumalo royal family through their Mzilikazi Cultural Association, plus for the first time ever, the appearance of the house of Prince Njube Lobengula Khumalo whose son, Rhodes Lobengula Khumalo formed the famous Highlanders Football Club in 1926.

“Significantly Prince Bulelani Lobengula, the grandson of Rhodes Lobengula Khumalo, will be present.

“Beyond this, there will be numerous groups from KwaZulu who will be present, accompanied by mas’kandi music groups like the world-renowned Ingane Zoma, who recently released a hit song about the suffering and marginalisation of the Ndebele people in Zimbabwe,” the organisers said.

Prince Zwidekalanga Khumalo said the Bulawayo celebration will be held on 10 September at Mhlahlandlela, a few kilometres from the King’s grave.

In America, the celebrations will be held next weekend, while in the United Kingdom they will be held in October.

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