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1819-1896 - Gaza Kingdom

The Gaza kingdom under Shoshangane in southern and central Mozambique is a state that has been neglected in South African history, even though it exercised considerable influence on the history of what are now the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. In terms of the geographical area that this kingdom occupied, it was the biggest of the African states of this period.

The bantustan Gazankulu was named after Lake Gaza and Gazaland in nearby Mozambique. It was located in the former Transvaal. Gazankulu was granted internal self-government in 1973. It ceased to exist as a political entity on 27 April 1994 and has been incorporated into South Africa. Gazaland, situated on the eastern side of South Africa between Mashonaland and the Indian Ocean, was Portuguese territory with the exception of a small portion on the west which was assigned in 1889 to the British South Africa Company.

Gazaland is the historical name for the region in southeast Africa, in modern day Mozambique and Zimbabwe, which extends northward from the Komati River at Delagoa Bay in Mozambique's Maputo Province to the Pungwe River in central Mozambique. The Komati River (also called Incomati River) is a river in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. Maputo Bay (Baia de Maputo formerly Delagoa Bay is an Inlet of the Indian Ocean on the coast of Mozambique. It was a district of the former Portuguese East Africa. Its name was derived from a Swazi chief named Gaza, a contemporary of Shaka Zulu.

In 1819 Shaka forced Soshangane of the the Gaza family of the Ndwandwe tribe to flee to Mozambique. Soshangane created a chieftainship there, and upon the death of the Shangaan chiefs, their bodies were returned to Ghost Mountain for burial. A branch of the Zulus under Manukuza (father of Mzila and grandfather of un-Gungunyana) established the aba-Gaza dominion. Mzila, at the head of the Gaza section, emigrated from Zululand,'l'and, continuing his way north, eventually fixed his headquarters on the upper waters of the Busi. The natives, "Umzila'a people" or "tribe," are a branch of the Zulu. Mzila, at the head of the Gaza section, emigrated from Zululand,'l'and, continuing his way north, eventually fixed his headquarters on the upper waters of the Busi. The Amatonga, Abendawe, and all smaller tribes, became subject to him, and his rule extended to the coast. Subsequently he moved back across the Sabi and took up his abode near the Limpopo. Mzila was the father of Gungunyana, and was also known as Nyamande. Mawewe displaced Mzila, the eldest son and obviously the rightful heir. Not content to let matters rest there, Mzila, in 1860, sought Portuguese assistance and succeeded in securing a treaty with them in December 1861.

The defeat of the warlike Zulus was the foundation of English prestige in South Africa, and of this the Portuguese were so well aware, that they spread the report that they and not the English were the victors at Ulundi. The overthrow of Cetywayo had long puzzled the chiefs of Gazaland, as they knew that his troops were superior to any Portuguese forces they had seen. The sight of the cavalry maneuvers at Aldershot solved the riddle, as the Zulus never had a force which could compete with the English cavalry. The aba-Gaza dominion was a source of perpetual trouble to the Portuguese until the subjugation of Gungunyana in 1896.

By 1891 King Gungunhama heard from outside sources that the Portuguese claimed sovereignty over his country. Gungunhana's country consisted of a tract eight hundred miles long by six hundred miles wide, and that the greater part, especially the uplands of northern Gazaland, is a very fertile and beautiful country, with an excellent climate throughout except in the swamps, full of rich pasturage and splendid land for corn-growing, and capable of supporting a large white population.

According to Gungunhama, it was not true that he or his father or grandfather, or any one authorised by them, had ever paid tribute to the Portuguese. On the contrary, since the Portuguese had entered the country, they had paid tribute to him as King of Gazaland, and up to the present had acknowledged him as supreme ruler. The Portuguese were, therefore, not speaking the truth when they described him as a chief tributary. The King does not want to have to fight the Portuguese.

He had every desire that portions of his country should be placed at the disposal of the white people who come into the place for farming, and that they should make roads and bridges, send missionaries and schoolmasters to them, and generally help the King to educate his people as much as possible. He wants the English people to assist him in suppressing the drink traffic, which is demoralising a large portion of his nation, and which has its entrance through Portuguese ports. The King said that his people were prepared to accept the English protection, and he was prepared to receive at his court a resident from the Queen who shall live with him, carry his words tothe Queen, and take the Queen's words to Gungunhama.

King Gungunhama constantly expressed his desire to put himself and his nation under the protection of "the Great White Queen," his hopes for the progress of his country and people being wholly based on confidence in English energy, enterprise and justice, and the expectation that his request for British protection would not be refused. The King of Gazaland stated that neither he nor his father Umzila ever had, and that he has not now, any treaty or agreement with the Portuguese; and furthermore, that on three previous occasions he had made determined efforts to obtain the protection of the English nation, and that he welcomed with enthusiam the prospect of being able to send his Indunas to England. He said "I am the Queen's man, and only the Queen's. I want the Queen to be my shield. These people," pointing to the Portuguese, "have troubled me and my father long enough."

Of Portuguese occupation there was none in the course of eight hundred miles. The natives one and all acknowledged the suzerainty of Gungunhana, and not a voluntary but a compulsory suzerainty, for they explained to us that Gungunhana's Indunas visited them annually and exacted tribute, which, if not at once forthcoming, was enforced. At the same time, the natives absolutely denied that Gungunhana's independence was in any way complicated by even a nominal Portuguese suzerainty, or that they themselves had any communication with the Portuguese, for the Banyan traders who bring in the rum which is the chief article of commerce have obtained and maintain their freedom of movement in Gazaland by claiming to be British subjects, and so obtaining the patronage of Gungunhana.

Gungunhana had to move to the south with the whole of his nation for the purpose of punishing Spelenyana, a tributary chief, the site of whose kraal Gungunhana occupied, to some extent disorganized the nation. The movement of 60,000 people — men, women, and children — could not be effected under several months. During the time of moving, of course, there was no ploughing, no seed-sowing, and the people in the trek suffered largely from hunger; 2,000 of them died on the way of starvation.

Umzila, King of Gazaland and father of Gungunyana, had more than one thousand wives, most of whom we saw at his royal residence in 1880. Gungunyana, his successor, had five hundred and twenty wives, and was fast securing more when his wooings were -coldly nipped in the bud by the Portuguese, and he was hurried away to Lisbon, and was only allowed seven of his more recent loves to accompany him. The Sabi country reverted to theoriginal inhabitants,but the powerof the paramount chiefs was gone, and it was split up into a number of sections, each under a chief subsidized and recognised by the Portuguese.

It is a curious instance of the prestige enjoyed by a warrior native race that although the subjected Abendawe and Amatonga probably hated the foreign rule as much as ever the Mashonas did the Matabeles, the head-rings given by Gungnnyana were worn, and considered as a great mark of distinction both by their owners and other natives. In South Africa there were several illustrations of military despotism, with which Europe was only too familiar.The most notable instance of this form of government was exhibited in the history of the Zulus under Tshaka, Mdigane, Mpande, and Cetywayo. Hardly less remarkable has been the history of those warlike Kaffir tribes— Amaxosa, Abatembu, &c.— inhabiting what used to be known as Kaffirland, and was included in the Cape Colony. But by the end of the 19th Century all had been swept away, including that of Gungunhama, son of 'Mzila, who ruled in Gazaland, but with a power already broken, and since 1896 deported by the Portuguese.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2012 19:12:40 ZULU