World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article




Map of Zimbabwe showing Matabeleland
Map of Zimbabwe: Matabeleland is on the west

Modern-day Matabeleland is a region in Zimbabwe divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. These provinces are in the west and south-west of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The region is named after its inhabitants the Ndebele people. Other ethnic groups who inhabit parts of Matabeleland include the Tonga, Kalanga, Venda and other peoples. As of August 2012, according to the ZIMSAT or Zimbabwe national statistics agency, the southern part of the region had 683 893 people, with the make up of 326 697 males and 356 926 females with an average size household of 4.4 in an area of 54,172 square kilometres. As for the Matabeleland Northern Province, it had a total population of 749 017 people out of the population of Zimbabwe of 13 061 239. The proportion of male and female population was 48 and 52 percent respectively within an area of just over 75,017 square kilometres. The remaining Bulawayo province had a population of 653,337 in an area of 1,706.8 km2 (659.0 sq mi) Thus the region has a combined population of 2,086,247 in an area of just over 130,000 square kilometres and that is just over the size of England. The major city is Bulawayo, other notable towns are Plumtree and Hwange. The land is particularly fertile but dry. This area has important gold deposits. Industries include gold and other mineral mines, and engineering. There has been a decline in the industries in this region as water is in short supply. Promises by the government to draw water for the region through the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project have not been carried out. The region is allegedly marginalised by the government.[1]


  • History 1
    • Rozwi Empire 1.1
    • Ndebele Kingdom 1.2
    • British South Africa Company 1.3
    • First Matabele War 1.4
    • Second Matabele War 1.5
    • Birthplace of Scouting 1.6
    • British Rule 1.7
    • Sovereign Rhodesia 1.8
    • Zimbabwe 1.9
    • Matabeleland Freedom Party 1.10
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Part of a series on the
Coat of arms of Zimbabwe
Ancient history
Mapungubwe Kingdom c.1075–1220
Zimbabwe Kingdom c.1220–1450
Mutapa Kingdom c.1450–1760
Torwa dynasty c.1450–1683
White settlement pre-1923
Rozwi Empire c.1684–1834
Matabeleland 1838–1894
Rudd Concession 1888
BSA Company rule 1890–1923
First Matabele War 1893–1894
Second Matabele War 1896–1897
World War I involvement 1914–1918
Colony of Southern Rhodesia 1923–1980
World War II involvement 1939–1945
Malayan Emergency
Federation with Northern
Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Rhodesian Bush War 1964–1979
Rhodesia under UDI 1965–1979
Zimbabwe-Rhodesia June–Dec 1979
Dec 1979
British Dependency 1979–1980
Zimbabwe 1980–present
Gukurahundi 1982–1987
Second Congo War 1998–2003
Zimbabwe portal

Rozwi Empire

Around the 10th and 11th centuries the Bantu-speaking Kalanga arrived from the north and settled in southern Africa in the Mapungubwe ruins. Later they moved north and both the San and the early ironworkers were driven out. By the 15th century, the Kalanga had established a strong empire, known as Munhumutapa, with its capital at the ancient city of Zimbabwe. This empire was split by the end of the 15th century with southern part becoming the Rozwi Empire.

Ndebele Kingdom


In the late 1830s, some 20,000 Bulawayo ("the place of killing"). Mzilikazi was a statesman of considerable stature, able to weld the many conquered tribes into a strong, centralised kingdom. In 1852, the Boer government in Transvaal made a treaty with Mzilikazi. However, gold was discovered in the neighbouring area known as Mashonaland, the home of the Ma-Shona, in 1867 and the European powers became increasingly interested in the region. Mzilikazi died on 9 September 1868, near Bulawayo. His son, Lobengula, succeeded him as king. In exchange for wealth and arms, Lobengula granted several concessions to the British, the most prominent of which is the 1888 Rudd concession giving Cecil Rhodes exclusive mineral rights in much of the lands east of his main territory. Gold was already known to exist, so with the Rudd concession, Rhodes was able to obtain a royal charter to form the British South Africa Company in 1889.

British South Africa Company

In 1890, Rhodes sent a group of settlers, known as the Pioneer Column, into Mashonaland where they founded Fort Salisbury (now Harare). In 1891 an Order-in-Council declared Matabeleland and Mashonaland British protectorates. Rhodes had a vested interest in the continued expansion of white settlements in the region, so now with the cover of a legal mandate, he used a brutal attack by Ndebele against the Shona near Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) in 1893 as a pretext for attacking the kingdom of Lobengula. Also in 1893, a concession awarded to Sir John Swinburne was detached from Matabeleland to be administered by the British Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, to which the territory was formally annexed in 1911 and it remains part of modern Botswana, known as the Tati Concessions Land.

First Matabele War

Battle between British soldiers and Matabele (Richard Caton Woodville)

The first decisive battle was fought on 1 November 1893, when a laager was attacked on open ground near the Bembesi River by Imbizo and Ingubo regiments. The laager consisted of 670 British soldiers, 400 of whom were mounted along with a small force of native allies, and fought off the Imbizo and Ingubo forces, which were considered by Sir John Willoughby to number 1,700 warriors in all. The laager had with it small artillery: 5 Maxim guns, 2 seven-pounders, 1 Gardner gun, and 1 Hotchkiss gun. The Maxim machine guns took center stage and decimated the native force at the Battle of the Shangani.

Although Lobengula's forces totaled 80,000 spearmen and 20,000 riflemen, versus fewer than 700 soldiers of the British South Africa Police, the Ndebele warriors were not equipped to match the British machine guns. Leander Starr Jameson sent his troops to Bulawayo to try to capture Lobengula, but the king escaped and left Bulawayo in ruins behind him.

An attempt to bring the king and his forces to submit led to the disaster of the Shangani Patrol when a Ndebele Impi defeated a British South Africa Company patrol led by Major Allan Wilson at the Shangani river in December 1893. Except for Frederick Russell Burnham and two other scouts sent for reinforcements, the detachment was surrounded and wiped out. This incident had a lasting influence on Matabeleland and the colonists who died in this battle are buried at Matobo Hills along with Jameson and Cecil Rhodes. In white Rhodesian history, Wilson's battle takes on the status of General Custer's stand at Little Big Horn in the USA. The Matabele fighters honoured the dead men with a salute to their bravery in battle and reportedly told the king, "They were men of men and their fathers were men before them."

Lobengula died in January 1894, under mysterious circumstances; within a few short months the British South Africa Company controlled Matabeleland, and white settlers continued to arrive.

Second Matabele War

In March 1896, the Ndebele revolted against the authority of the British South Africa Company in what is now celebrated in Zimbabwe as the First Chimurenga, i.e., First War of Independence. Mlimo, the Matabele spiritual/religious leader, is credited with fomenting much of the anger that led to this confrontation. He convinced the Ndebele that the white settlers (almost 4,000 strong by then) were responsible for the drought, locust plagues and the cattle disease rinderpest ravaging the country at the time.

Mlimo's call to battle was well-timed. Only a few months earlier, the British South Africa Company's Administrator General for Matabeleland, Leander Starr Jameson, had sent most of his troops and armaments to fight the Transvaal Republic in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. This left the country's security in disarray. In June 1896, the Shona too joined the war, but they stayed mostly on the defensive. The British would immediately send troops to suppress the Ndebele and the Shona, only it would take months and cost many hundreds of lives before the territory would be once again be at peace. Shortly after learning of the assassination of Mlimo at the hands of the American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, Cecil Rhodes showed great courage when he boldly walked unarmed into the Ndebele stronghold in Matobo Hills and persuaded the impi to lay down their arms, thus bringing the war to a close in October 1896.[2] Matabeleland and Mashonaland would continue on only as provinces of the larger state of Rhodesia.

Birthplace of Scouting

Baden-Powell's sketch of Chief of Scouts Burnham, Matobo Hills, 1896.

It was in Matabeleland during the Second Matabele War that Robert Baden-Powell, who later became the founder of the Scouting movement, and Frederick Russell Burnham, the American born Chief of Scouts for the British Army, first met and began their lifelong friendship.[3] In mid-June 1896, while scouting in the Matobo Hills, Burnham began teaching Baden-Powell woodcraft and it was here that Burnham inspired and gave Baden-Powell the plan for the program and the code of honour of Scouting for Boys.[4] Practiced by frontiersmen of the American Old West and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, woodcraft was generally unknown to the British. These skills eventually formed the basis of what is now called scoutcraft, the fundamentals of Scouting. Baden-Powell recognised that wars in Africa were changing markedly and the British Army needed to adapt; so during their joint scouting missions, Baden-Powell and Burnham discussed the concept of a broad training programme in woodcraft for young men, rich in exploration, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. It was also during these scouting missions in the Matobo Hills that Baden-Powell first started to wear his signature campaign hat like the one worn by Burnham.[5] Later, Baden-Powell wrote a number of books on Scouting, and even started to train and make use of adolescent boys, most famously during the Siege of Mafeking, during the Second Boer War.[6][7][8]

British Rule

British settlement of Rhodesia continued, and by October 1923, the territory of Southern Rhodesia was annexed to the crown. The Ndebele thereby became British subjects and the colony received its first basic constitution and first parliamentary election. Ten years later, the British South Africa Company ceded its mineral rights to the territory's government for £2 million. The deep recession of the 1930s gave way to a post-war boom of British immigration.

After the onset of self-government, a major issue in Southern Rhodesia was the relationship between the white settlers and the Ndebele and Shona populations. One major consequence was the white settlers were able to enact discriminatory legislation concerning land tenure. The Land Apportionment and Tenure Acts reserved 45% of the land area for exclusively white ownership. 25% was designated "Tribal Trust Land", which was available to be worked on a collective basis by the already settled farmers and where individual title was not offered.

In 1965, the white government of Rhodesia, led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, declared its independence from Britain — only the second state to do so, the other being the USA in 1776. Initially, this state maintained its loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II as "Queen of Rhodesia" (a title to which she never consented), but by 1970 even that link was severed, and Rhodesia became a totally independent republic.

Sovereign Rhodesia

The white-ruled Rhodesian government struggled to obtain international recognition and faced serious economic difficulties as a result of international sanctions. Some states did support the white minority government of Rhodesia, most notably South Africa and Portugal. In 1972, the Zimbabwe African National Union began a lengthy armed campaign against Rhodesia's white minority government in what became known as the "Bush War" by White Rhodesians and as the "Second Chimurenga" (or rebellion in Shona) by supporters of the rebels. The Matabele, backed by Moscow, set up a separate war front from neighbouring Zambia.

The Rhodesian government agreed to a ceasefire in 1979. For a brief period, Rhodesia reverted to the status of British colony, until early 1980 when elections were held. The ZANU party, led by the Shona independence leader Robert Mugabe, defeated the popular Ndebele candidate Joshua Nkomo, solidified their rule over independent Zimbabwe. Matabeleland and Mashonaland continued as provinces of this new nation.


Following independence in 1980, Zimbabwe initially made significant economic and social progress, but tensions between the Shona and the Ndebele began to surface. The government responded with a series of military campaigns in which the North Korean-trained 5th brigade killed tens of thousands of civilians in Matabeleland.[9] By early 1984, the army disrupted food supplied in Matabeleland and much of the Ndebele population suffered food shortages. Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo finally reconciled their political differences by late 1987. The roots of discord remained, however, and in some ways increased as Mugabe's rule became increasingly autocratic into the 21st century.

In the early 1990s, a Land Acquisition Act was passed, calling for the Mugabe government to purchase mostly white-owned commercial farming land for redistribution to native Africans. Matabeleland has rich central plains, watered by tributaries of the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, allowing it to sustain cattle and consistently produce large amounts of cotton and maize. But land grabbing, squatting, and repossessions of large white farms under Mugabe's program resulted in a 90% loss in productivity in large-scale farming, ever higher unemployment, and hyper-inflation. White residents fled the country and strikes further crippled production, prompting ever more severe repression by the government.

Matabeleland Freedom Party

People in Matabeleland have described the 1980s massacres as genocide and insist they plan to have the perpetrators placed on trial at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

In 2006, the separatist [10]

See also


  1. ^ Musemwa, Muchaparara (Sep 2006). "Disciplining a 'Dissident' City: Hydropolitics in the City of Bulawayo, Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, 1980–1994".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ DeGroot, E.B. (July 1944). "Veteran Scout".  
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Proctor, Tammy M. (July 2000). "A Separate Path: Scouting and Guiding in Interwar South Africa". Comparative Studies in Society and History 42 (3).  
  8. ^ Forster, Reverend Dr. Michael. "The Origins of the Scouting Movement" (DOC). Netpages. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Matabeleland Freedom Party web site

External links

  • Beneath the Zanu PF, MDC feud – notes for Mbeki Mkhwananzi)
  • The History of the Ndebele people {Zimbabwe}
  • "Free State of Matabeleland"
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.