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Book Reviews, Literature

What was Gaza Kingdom during 1884-1895?

Today, we review one of the books that give light on what exactly was “Gaza Kingdom”. Many people have spoken and many have written giving accounts, some manufactured and some twisted, mostly to validate a “Gaza Kingdom”.

This book, authored by Gerhard J. Liengsang, titled: Nghunghunyani Nqumayo, Rei de Gaza 1884-1895. It is more than a political biography of Nghunghunyani, for it details the events that led to a Gaza entity. This book details the various movements of the Amashangaan clan,  the many capitals, the succession wars, the conflicts within the clan, and the overall reaction and constant opposition to Gaza by various Tsonga groups that challenged the Nguni (who later came to be known as Amashangaan) hostile presence. Published in 1986, it contains interviews with people who had directly faced the cruelties meted out by Gaza men and Amabulandlela. The book also has maps which show the various settlements of the nomadic Gaza people.

Interestingly, the book gives description of what people were called in those days; none of the interviewed mentioned the existence of people called Machangani up to 1895. The Gaza people called themselves Nguni, and called collaborators/wardogs/foot soldiers as Amabulandlela. Note that Amabulandlela is not an ethnic or tribal definition, but a social one. All Amabulandlela were NOT Nguni. The people who were not Amabulandlela or Nguni were referred to as Batonga/Vatonga/Vatsonga or by their tribe’s name; Vahlave, Vakhambani, Vahlengwe etc… The book narrates how the Valenge became known as Vacopi, by using bows and arrows to fight. Just like Amabulandlela, the term Vacopi is as a matter of fact, a definition of a social class than of ethnicity.

The book highlights conflict among Nguni people, between:

  • Those who refused to own Tsonga slaves,
  • Those who refused to head campaigns of terror,
  • And those who lived in peace with their hosts were referred to as Batonga/Vatonga/Vatsonga by their Nguni brethren

The issue of Gaza people dealing in slaves with the Portuguese is well detailed. The Nguni and Amabulandlela raided villages and captured people and sold them to the Portuguese. Many were then taken to Natal plantations, The Cape, São Tomé Islands, and Brazil etc. Also, the deals between Gaza people, Transvaal and Portugal to use the Tsonga land as labour reservoir for the booming Kimberly and Rand mines, and Natal farms is well detailed.

The book also delves into factors that ultimately led to the extinguishing of Gaza.

Gaza had become a vulture raiding entity, causing too much displacement for the natives and forcing them to fight each other (a reproduction of the culture they inherited in their homeland). Unlike many other authors, Liesegang, brings to light the role played by some Gaza men in helping Gaza fall. These men had now rejected the idea of raiding people, like Nkuyu. Nkuyu was a very important man in the Nqumayo family, but his opposition to raids, slavery, and killings made him unwanted. He also did not recognize the legitimacy of Nghunghunyani as ruler of the clan, since he did not even recognize Mzila. He recognized Mawewe as the legitimate heir. The role of Mpisani in supporting the assassination of Mafemani (whose mother had influence like that of Nghunghunyani’s mother, therefore making him a contender) is described in detail.

For those who want to understand the violent nature of psychological Shanganism, they can try read it.

Some of those interviewed, categorized Gaza as a colonial entity, claiming that the first war of liberation was against Gaza, even though the fall of Gaza is mainly attributed to Mousinho. The massive support Mousinho got from the chiefs around Gaza’s villages, showed that Gaza was never wanted by the people in whose lands Gaza was set up. The book explains how Britain developed this idea of a “Gaza Empire” because it was a plot in its war against Portugal over land. Britain had always wanted to take the whole chunk of land of Vatsonga because Vatsonga were already at an advanced social stage with improved farming and organised labour. Britain wanted to exploit this, so, British historians made up frontiers that were not real. The idea was to later on annex lands demarcated as “Gaza Empire” and make a British colony. Before Nghunghunyani could sign a vassalage treaty with Britain, Portugal saw it fit to extinguish Gaza.

The book details how in the absence of Magigwani and other Amabulandlela, the Nguni guards in the kraal – who outnumbered the army that Mousinho entered with, fled in fear. The book details the native jubilation when news of Gaza’s fall was heard. How natives swore at Nghunghunyani when he was being shipped. Even the tense relationship between the Nqumayos and the Dlamini Ntyayintyayi is revealed. The Dlamini also wanted to see the end of Gaza. Also, Magigwani’s failure to get support from Tsonga chiefs when he mobilised them under the idea of fighting against the Portuguese, fell into deaf ears because he was seen as a Gaza stooge. Not even Khosa chiefs listened to him; they even refused to give him refuge when Mousinho was chasing him.

The book is written in Portuguese (Simplified). Those who read history know the drill. It contains large amount of references, some already published, some archived, and personal interviews.

download-8Title: Nghunghunyani Nqumayo.
– Rei de Gaza 1884-1895 e o desaparecimento do seu estado.

Author: Gerhard Liesegang

Coordination: Luis Kovane

Collaboration: Moisés Mabunda, António Fanequisso

Publisher: ARPAC (Arquivo de Património Cultural)

Commissioning/Funding: UNESCO

Graphic Designer: Paulo Langa

Printing: Tipografia Progresso

Series: Embondeiro #8

Registration #01350/FBM/96

Year: 1986.

Featured Image Source: pordentrodaafrica.com

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