To The Victoria Falls
Enter the Ndebele
The second group of Ndebele, which had included Mzilikazi’s eldest son and acknowledged heir, Nkulumane, had by this time given up on Mzilikazi as dead, and its elders were preparing to name Nkulumane as their new chief. However news reached Mzilikazi, who was apparently none to pleased of this premature story of his demise, or of his son’s premature claim to his title.
In 1839 Mzilikazi and his people followed the course of the Gwayi river and up a tributary, the Bembesi (the unpleasant one), to meet with his ‘lost’ tribe. On nearing their settlement he sent forth a messenger to announce his imminent arrival, causing chaos amongst the elders. They sent a messenger, begging for his pardon and explaining they had genuinely thought him dead. According to common historical tradition, Mzilikazi, after reuniting his people, had his son and key advisors sent south, and along the way, murdered.
However Nkulumane's grave was recently rediscovered, in Rusternburg, north-west of Johannesburg, South Africa, indicating that he did reach his intended destination alive and well. Why he did not return upon his father's death to claim the thrown is unknown, and he lived in the area until his death in August 1883. There are direct descendants of his still living in the area.
The lands Nkulumane had found met with Mzilikazi’s approval and became the new homeland for the Ndebele, later known as Matabeleland. Here Mzilikazi founded his last settlement, also called Mhlahlandlela, built in the Zulu style, the settlement essentially being an enormous circular stockade. Here Mzilikzi lived out his days to an old age unusual for Zulu chiefs.
Mzilikazi died in 1868 following a period of ill health. According to custom his death was kept secret for a period of time. His body was then placed in a wagon and, with a second wagon loaded with his possessions, taken to a hill named Entumbane in the Matopo Hills. Mzilikazi's body was placed inside a granite-walled cave which was sealed with stones. His possessions, which included clothes; utensils; sleeping mats; beads; ornaments and brass rings, were placed in another cave with the wagon which had transported them and sealed.
While his journey had begun with only a few hundred followers, under Mzilikazi's leadership the group's numbers had risen to, at their peak, some 20,000 people as conquered peoples were absorbed into the group. Mzilikazi's greatest success was infusing his diverse population with a sense of common nationhood, one shared by the Ndebele community today.