Episode 149 - Mpande defeats Dingana at the Battle of amaQongqo and Bhibhi the beautiful is killed

History of South Africa podcast

17-12-2023 • 24 mins

This is episode 149 and Mpande kaSenzangakhona and the Boers are going after Dingana.

We’re entering the 1840s where momentous events would continue to shape South Africa’s future.

After Shaka’s death in 1828 his half-brother and murderer, Dingana, was supposed to usher in stability. Instead, Dingana embroiled the AmaZulu in one war after another, trying to defeat Mzilikazi of the amaNdebele, fightign the baTlokwa, the amaSwazi, the Boers, and now, his own Royal line.

By ordering Mpande’s assassination, he had set off a chain of events that was going to boomerang on him and the coming Zulu Civil War had been in the offing for some time.

He’d also set off his own demise by failing to kill Mpande, who then fled across the Thukela River with over 17 000 adherents and about 35 000 cattle.

Mpande had met Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and negotiated with the Voortrekkers as the man they now called “The Reigning Prince of the Emigrant Zulus”. A Boer deputation of 28 men under the leadership of F Roos had visited him at his homestead not far from Port Natal in October 1839, where he offered to pay them the cattle owed by Dingana, over 19 300, and ceded the bay of St Lucia to the Boers.

Mpande also promised not to undertake any military activity without Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius’ knowledge.

Then as if to reinforce his power, he turned a blind eye to the killing of a much feared induna called Mpangazitha kaMncumbatha who was of the amaNdwandwe. Zwide’s people.

Mpangazitha had become an influential and brutal induna operating alongside Dingana, and one day he was killed in full view of the trekkers.

This shocked the visiting Boers, who watched as the induna was dragged, then beaten by successive men armed with fighting sticks, his blue robe spattered with blood as he was bludgeoned to death.

Mpande later said he didn’t order this killing, Mpangazitha had brought it on himself by his bullyboy tactics — the other induna just had enough of this egotistical man who’d committed a long list of human rights abuses against other people’s over the past decade.

Live by the sword, die by the knobkerrie I guess.

By Christmas, however, the British were gone from the garrison at Port Natal, Captain Jervis had sailed away with the British administration now mistakenly of the belief that the violence in Natal had dissipated.

Then Dingana sent a famous message to the Boers in Pietermaritzburg by the end of 1839, trying to discredit Mpande.

“He is not a man…” the messengers said “…he has turned away his face, he is a woman. He was useless to Dingana his master, and he will be of no use to you. Do not trust him, for his face may turn again…”
Coming from a man as pernicious as Dingana was rather hypocritical.
Ndlela’s impi on paper at least, looked the better of the two. Dingana had pulled together the top notch amabutho, the iziNyosi, the uDlambedlu, the imVoko which had remnants of the umKulutshane regiment. They’d been joined by the uKhokhoti, who’d also been at the Battle of Blood River/Ncome.

Mpande’s general Nongalaza led amabutho like the imiHaye who’d joined up with remnants of the imVoko who’d switched sides as well as the uZwangendaba who were a bit like a mercenary division drawn from the homesteads called the umLambongwenya, uDukuza and isiKlebhe.

Mpande’s army included the veterans iziMpohlo, formed during Shaka’s time, these were older men, scarred in battle and seeking one more victory before they’d retire to their imizi.

Not only were Mpande’s men feeling more optimistic, they knew that somewhere to their west the Voortrekkers were heading their way. Between these two organisations, most warriors fighting for Mpande were convinced they were going to win.

The canny Mpande had pulled off a diplomatic move of note. Had he waited for the Boers to arrive, he would have lost face — by striking first he was waging war without the muskets and the horses.