Prince Zwidekalanga Khumalo, a descendant of King Lobengula, has lashed out at President Robert Mugabe’s praise singers for abusing the Ndebele royal salute Bayethe in honour of the 88-year-old Zanu PF leader.
Addressing members of the Bulawayo civic society organisations on Tuesday, Khumalo said the royal salute was exclusively preserved for members of the Ndebele royal family.
“We have had people from our region here who have praised President Mugabe saluting him with Bayethe. That is a royal salute. This trivialises the royal institution,” he said.
“I am of a royal institution. My grandfather was the first born to King Lobengula.
“But we have a person who was elected in some election in 1980 being saluted with the royal salute. What we know is that Bayethe is a salute exclusively for royal families and royal families are royal because of heredity and not by appointment.
“It is therefore important for people to be culturally aware of the things that we do as praise poets,” he said.
South Africa-based local historian Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu corroborated Khumalo’s claims, adding it was wrong to salute Mugabe with the honour Bayethe since he was not a member of the royal family.
Ndlovu, a professor of history based at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, told NewsDay Bayethe was a Nguni royal salute exclusively for the royal family.
“Personally, I don’t feel it (royal salute) can just be used with anyone, particularly anyone who doesn’t fall under that category. Ndebele literature, particularly ethnic literature, makes it clear that you could not say Bayethe to one king when one was still alive,” he said.
But Bulawayo-based historian Pathisa Nyathi said the salutation was just a way of paying tribute to a societal leader and was not confined to the royal family. “You don’t craft these concepts in stone.
Bayethe was not about a specific individual, but about a post that you held in society,” said Nyathi.
“It was a salute by people to a person they held in awe. Therefore this person (modern leader) is a manifestation of a king as it were. The king was not just about flesh and blood, but the important leadership role they played in society. There are people who play that role today. The issue is royalty is no longer there. Do you then kill your language because of that. “If there are people that are believed to have done a lot for their followers, then you will always need the praises (poems) and the salute of Bayethe. What is important is what role the person is playing in society. It was because (King) Mzilikazi was doing something for the people that he was saluted that way. There are people today who are doing a lot for the people. The salute is about how they are viewed by their followers,” Nyathi said. Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment.