I do not think there are many people who are
as often asked now and then to pay tribute to their mothers as
happens with me. This can be an embarrassing exercise because
whatever good one says about one’s mother is likely to be taken as
a subjective view, for after all what else can one say about one’s
parent. I however have no qualms about doing so, for even during her
lifetime I knew that my mother was a very special person and that
she was a historic figure in her own right. She would be regarded as
such a figure even merely because she was the most senior daughter
of King Dinuzulu, being the full sister of a Zulu Monarch, King
Solomon Maphumzana ka Dinuzulu. But she fits into most of the
description in the famous words that “SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN GREAT,
SOME ACHIEVE GREATNESS, And SOME HAVE GREATNESS THRUST UPON THEM”.
She was born great being who she is but she also achieved greatness
and had carved a niche for herself in the annals of Zulu history.
King Dinuzulu, her father was exiled to the
Island of St Helena with his two uncles Prince Ndabuko ka Mpande, a
full brother of King Cetshwayo, and his half brother Prince Shingana
ka Mpande. Her two brothers King Solomon Maphumzana ka Dinuzulu and
Prince Mshiyeni Arthur Edward ka Dinuzulu were born on the Island of
St Helena when their father was still in exile. They were children
of Queen Silomo (Oka-Ntuzwa) of the Mdlalose clan. As was also their
elder brother who died on the Island in infancy. Other children of
King Dinuzulu who were born on the Island were Prince Nyawana David
ka Dinuzulu and his brother Prince Samuel Bhekelendoda ka Dinuzulu.
They were children of Queen Zihlazile (Oka-Qethuka) of the Magwaza
King Dinuzulu was allowed to return to Osuthu
Royal Residence in 1897. Princess Magogo was born at the time of the
Anglo-Boer War. It was assumed that this was at the turn of the
century about the year 1900. She attended only Primary School. She
grew up as a member of the Anglican Church to which her father was
converted during his exile on the Island of St Helena. She always
related to us how she was prepared with other children of the King
for confirmation by Reverend Father Willem Africander at Nkonjeni
Mission Station. They walked from the Nobamba Royal Residence to
Nkonjeni to attend Catechism lessons. She used to tell us of her
confirmation by Bishop Vivian what took place at Empaphiseni, which
was an outstation of the Nkonjeni Parish.
I shall not dwell on her life as a growing
child. But I can only state that when her mother Queen Silomo died,
she was affiliated to the House of Queen Bangwayo (Oka-Sonkeshana)
of the Buthelezi clan. The other people who made a deep impression
on her as a royal child at Osuthu were two of her grannies, King
Cetshwayo’s widows Queen Oka-Mkhayiphi and Queen Oka-Maganda.
When her brother took over as King in very
difficult circumstances she also formed young maidens Regiments,
IZINSINGIZI EZIMAGILO ABOMVU. These Regiments of maidens rendered
various services at the King’s Royal Residence.
In the 1920’s there arose a very serious
rift between two most important potentates in King Solomon’s
Osuthu Royal Area, Prince Mnyayiza ka Ndabuko and the Principal
Induna for the Osuthu Area Mankulumana ka Somaphunga Ndwandwe. The
King could not resolve it. The King was in a quandary. He was then
reminded by his Principal Induna, Mankulumana that the only person
who could help him to resolve this dispute was the Heir of the
Buthelezi clan – Mathole Buthelezi. It was then that the King
invited Mathole Buthelezi, my father, to come to assist him to
resolve this serious quarrel between these two important figures in
the Osuthu area. To cut a long story short, Inkosi Mathole resolved
the matter. After he was gone the King expressed his concern that
Inkosi Mathole was no longer within his reach as his forebears were
to the King’s forebears. Again it had to be the Principal Induna
Mankulumana ka Somaphunga who then suggested that the King’s
problem could be easily solved if he ‘SISA-ED” a heifer to him.
The King took this literally to mean that the principal Induna was
suggesting that he should in accordance with our SISA custom –
send a real beast, a heifer, to Inkosi Mathole. The King responded
by saying that even he as King, did not have as many cattle as
Inkosi Mathole had. It was only then that the Principal Induna
explained that he did not mean a real heifer. Princess Magogo told
us that whenever this matter was discussed, that she was just
serving beer to her brother at that moment, King Solomon, when this
discussion was taking place. She however saw the Principal Induna
pointing his head towards her, to explain that he meant that a
maiden be offered to Inkosi Mathole to bring him closer to himself
and back into the Royal fold.
Again I will cut a long story short by saying
that indeed King Solomon approached his sister Princess Magogo
later, to ask her to agree to marry Inkosi Mathole. She agreed. The
King departed from tradition by sending his Indunas to pay the
bethrothal visit to Inkosi Mathole’s Residence in Mahlabathini.
Asking them to tell Inkosi Mathole that he himself was the one who
was paying the bethrothal visit to him. This meant of course that
the Princess had to abandon her boyfriend Khiphakonke Ndwandwe, who
was the son of the Principal Induna Mankulumana Ndwandwe.
The marriage took place in the year 1926, a
year after the visit of the Prince of Wales to South Africa who was
later to be crowned as King Edward VIII and who later abdicated,
because of his love for Mrs Wallis Simpson.
As All Zulu people know, a day after the
marriage has taken place is the UBULANDA day. This is an occasion
where the two families sit together to bid each other farewell. On
this occasion if the bride has any chronic disease, the bride’s
people are under obligation to inform the groom’s people about it.
In the case of the Princess, the only “ailment” that was
mentioned was that she does not stop singing all day long. As all
Zulu people know, a newly-married young woman would not dare to sing
at her newly-found home as a bride. This was therefore a way of
seeking permission for the Princess not to be stopped from her “ailment”
which was SINGING.
I want to mention that her younger brother
Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu after whom she came, worked in what was
the Reef in the then Transvaal Province. So she visited him to say
goodbye and to comply with our custom of UKUCIMELA. When she was
visiting her brother, she met Pastor M M Langa of the Seventh Day
Adventist who converted her to become a member of the Seventh Day
Adventist Church. But throughout her lifetime she was allowed to
also receive Communion in the Anglican Church as a confirmed member
of the Anglican Church. She would in her singing include Hymns of
both these Denominations throughout her lifetime. She developed her
love for Psalter and loved singing some of the Psalms of David as
arranged in the Anglican Psalter.
She was a musician par excellence as everyone
knows today. Her repertoire was wide-ranging, ranging from Zulu
traditional music to classical songs including Hymns. Today we have
the Princess Magogo Opera, which is based on her life. She played
quite a number of Zulu instruments, such as UGUBHU, ISIQOMUQOMANA,
and others. She could also sing and accompany herself on the
auto-harp. Although she couldn’t read music she would also sing
and vamp the piano accompanying herself. She played the piano mostly
singing some of the Psalms of David.
Quite apart from her musical talents which are
today legend, she had a wonderful brain. She could recite the
praises of her forebears starting from Jama, Senzangakhona, Shaka,
Dingane, Mpande, Cetshwayo and Dinuzulu and ending up with her two
brothers King Solomon ka Dinuzulu and Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu.
She also knew by heart many of the Psalms of David which she would
recite often even when we had family prayers. One of her favourite
Psalms which always reminds of her is Psalm 91.
She was an authority on Zulu history. She was
consulted by many Academics and musicologists in South Africa and
others travelled from abroad to consult her. I remember just a few
who came up to our home more than once to consult her: Professor
Jack Krige, Professor Eileen Krige (Author of The Social System of
the Zulus (of the University of Natal), Professor John Blacking of
Wits, Dr David Rycroft of the School of African and Oriental Studies
in London, who was a musicologist, Dr Henry Weman – Organist at
Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden and Professor Otto Raum, an
Anthropologist of International fame who taught at Fort Hare
University. Those are just the ones whose names come to mind.
I remember that even her uncles who were alive
during my younger days such as Prince Mnyayiza ka Ndabuko and Prince
Phika ka Sitheku would recommend that she be consulted if there was
any information that was sought on Royal family issues and on Zulu
history in general.
She was also a composer of Zulu traditional
songs in indigenous idiom.
My respect for womanhood is something that was
inspired in me by having such a powerful woman as a mother, who made
such a mark on my own life. For example, when she recited the
praises of the Kings on special occasions such as the unveiling of
King Shaka’s Tombstone in 1954 and others, with male praisers,
they would fall by the wayside and she would be the last one left
alone in the field after they had exhausted what they themselves
know of the praises. And everyone kept quiet to listen to her. She
was a woman of great creativity and I remember many arguments that
she would have with males, where she would emerge with the definite
winner in whatever debate that was taking place. I would listen with
great interest for example to some arguments that she had even with
Theologians on theological questions and she would acquit herself in
spite of their erudition as trained Theologians.
The Princess created her own footprints.
Through her artistic talent she came to embody Zulu culture. She
gave to all who had the privilege to be in touch with her a unique
and lasting gift.
There was a gift of dignity. I remember the
Princess as a warm and nurturing woman. In my mind’s eye, she
always stands regally with an unmistakable air of dignity. To me her
life and memory bestow dignity on every woman who accepts her role
with courage and under the burden of heavy responsibilities.
Princess Magogo provided an example of how a
woman can take up a historical role amongst her people and touch the
lives of thousands of people across the world.
To me the Princess proved that a woman with a
broadness of spirit and a creativity of mind can make indelible
footprints on the soil of Africa and the world. Her obituary that
was written by Dr David Rycroft appeared in “THE TIMES OF LONDON”,
when she passed away in November 1984.
A couple of years ago she was bestowed with a
National Award, The Princess Magogo Sovereignty Award, by President
I thank the Mayor of Umzinyathi for wishing to
name the Municipal Building after Princess Magogo. May she cast her
shadow in everything that you do as you serve the National.