Lobengula Khumalo was the king of the Matabele (or Ndebele) nation. He was born in 1845, and came to power in 1865, succeeding his father, Mzlikazi, a brutal and very feared warrior. In early 1894 Lobengula died, but much controversy reigned about the whereabouts of his remains.
King Lobengula was a very large man, appearing somewhat overweight and softly spoken, but woe betide any of his subjects who crossed him or showed cowardice, disobedience or disrespect – the punishment of death was swiftly executed and often involving very large numbers.
The king signed a concession in 1888 with Mr Charles Rudd (known as The Rudd Concession) despite his fear that he was being used by Mr Cecil John Rhodes, on behalf of England, who he feared had designs on his country. This is recorded by a famous statement by King Lobengula thus:
* "Did you ever see a chameleon catch a fly? The chameleon gets behind the fly and remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then the other. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly."
Lobengula gave his word that he would not harm any European settler, and although his army rebelled and engaged the BSAC forces just before Lobengula fled his royal village, he let it be known that he stood by his honour and never ordered an attack on the Europeans.
(More information can be found on Wikipedia and other historical sources.)
Picture of King Lobengula of the Matabele; by Ralph Peacock, based on a sketch by E. A. Maund. Published by Rhodesian National Archives c1950.
*Quote from King Lobengula Atributed to Neil Parsons: A New History of Southern Africa. Second Edition. Macmillan Press, London, 1993
The first book in the ‘Langbourne’ series. Set in 1891 it tells the story of two young Irish brothers who set sail for Africa to seek a better life. Based on a true story and actual events.
The second book in the ‘Langbourne’ series. This book continues the fascinating story of the Langbourne brothers as they explore deeper into Africa’s heartland, encountering the perils, fears and joys of this most mysterious continent. Based on a true story and actual historical events, this story is told from the perspective of these two young entrepreneurs.