Respect Bhaca kingdom

Dear Zwelonke,

First, I must congratulate you on your historic coronation and wish you  well as you gain momentum in mastering your pivotal role to lead the Xhosa nation and restore its dignity.

The event on May 15 at Nqadu was a resounding success and we equally appreciate that our government went all out to make the coronation an event befitting of a king.

I must also welcome the commitment of President Jacob Zuma’s government to working with South African royals.

We, the Bhaca people, commit ourselves to mutual respect of and co-existence with other nations, such as Xhosas, and taking this country forward.

His Majesty, having listened to your speech on the day, I realised that if I did not respond to correct your statement as the direct descendant of King Ncapayi ka Madzikane,  as the king of the Bhacas and on behalf of the Bhaca people, I would be failing our people, the Bhacas.

I listened repeatedly to your speech with great interest, from the perspective of royal leadership and at a personal level as we have had personal encounters.

This time, I must address you at a royal leadership level, more especially because as leaders we need to understand that it can sometimes be very easy to mislead nations. In this respect, I would like to pick up from your speech when you said “Umhlaba wamaXhosa uqala ukusukela emzimkhulu ukuyoma eKapa” (The land from uMzimkhulu to Cape Town is the land that belongs to Xhosas as a nation).

Mntwanenkosi, this statement is misleading, disappointing, mischievous and irresponsible of a king. I will elaborate.

The land of the indigenous Xhosa people does not start with uMzimkhulu to Cape Town. The land you are referring to also belongs to the Bhacas – in particular  uMzimkhulu, iXopo, Port Shepstone, Harding, Kokstad, Bulwer, and others, until Mount Frere. I must also remind you that the land of the Bhaca people stretches all the way from Tugela River in KwaZulu-Natal until the Thina River before you cross over to amaMpondomise nation.

I have not come across any literature or oral history that traces the legacy of the Xhosas in any of these areas.

On the correct platform we can further unpack the initial interactions between the Bhacas, the Xhosas and other nations in the Eastern Cape – which I think is necessary.

Your starting point will be to understand the boundaries of the land that belongs to indigenous Xhosa people.

We Bhacas are in the Eastern Cape, while some of us, because of provincial demarcations, are in KZN. I must assert, the home of the Bhacas is in the Eastern Cape, KwaBhaca or Mount Frere.

This speaks to the misconception that the Eastern Cape is resident to Xhosas only, which is mere ignorance to some but mischief in the hands of the pedlars of propaganda.

Your Majesty, we, the Bhacas have fought many battles and wars to earn the right to exist and be established as this kingdom, independent of any other, but living alongside others, like Xhosas.

We have all become diverse, but there is something that binds us  together, that we are all Africans, in particular South Africans. Wars and such battles have long been over. We are now one country striving to promote tolerance and unity.

We should not lose sight of this by making irresponsible statements that will propel us to defend ourselves along tribal lines. The enemy is not among us anymore, but out there – and that enemy wants us to digress into the old feudal system and tribal wars.

The notion of Xhosa speaking people versus indigenous Xhosas must not be confused. It must be understood within the context of linguistic imperialism (the imposition of one language on speakers of other languages) where the Xhosa language was imposed as a mother tongue in the education system for the majority of other Africans in the Eastern Cape.

This was a silly arrangement made by colonial government and the oppressive former Transkei government simply entrenched this suppressive practice.

All these people were, however, stupid because this has come back to bite the performance of the public education system.

But a nation’s indigenous language is not powder; it does not just disappear in thin air. The imposition of this language “Xhosa”, in school in particular, has resulted in a fault line where people from other kingdoms and nations are being referred to as Xhosas, whereas they are not, but rather Xhosa-speaking people.

A foreign language does not change one’s identity. Even as you are able to speak English, does not make you an Englishman. These Xhosa speaking people in the Eastern Cape also learn Xhosa as they learn English.

In an interview at your coronation, the chair of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Mathanzima, emphatically said  “abantu abantetho isisixhosa” (Xhosa-speaking people).  He further referred to mutual respect among nations in the Eastern Cape. He did not refer to everyone as indigenous Xhosas. As he cautiously referred to this, someone who understands this dynamism would have seen his wisdom and realised what it was he was bringing to our attention.

We, Bhacas, are indebted to our forebears for our own language, culture and practice. At household level, Bhacas “bayabhobha”,  speak Bhaca as our language. This is why Bhaca learners perform badly in what is referred to as their “mother-tongue language” at school, which it is not.

As kings, it is expected we understand this. Bhacas are not Xhosas and therefore our land belongs to us as Bhacas, which therefore invalidates and rejects the claim that Xhosa land starts with uMzimkhulu.

It is misleading and disappointing that you would mislead your people with this statement. I am not sure of the intention if the king of a nation claims another nation’s land. But the risk is that it could be very easy to assume provocation and disrespect from the opposite side.

It is irresponsible particularly in the light of  what has recently happened in KwaZulu-Natal, which not only fuelled barbaric xenophobic attacks but further injected pessimism about the institution of royal leadership.

We must not accept it if leaders, more especially royals, become reckless. If we do, we then must accept the portrayal of  the institution as a threat rather than an asset in a democracy.

There is nothing wrong with languages influencing one another, but I submit that some people today do not know if they are speaking real Xhosa or something close to it. This, for me, means Xhosa itself as a language is at risk as well. For this reason, I believe we should rather be supporting one another in developing the languages of our respective kingdoms and nations.

Land is a sensitive issue. Bhacas have fought historic wars to be where we are today, a fact that made others uncomfortable. We therefore deserve respect from other nations surrounding us, as we return the mutual favour.

I find it worrisome that when colonial wars are over, when  21 years into our democracy we should be uniting and spearheading social cohesion, irresponsible statements are made that devalue fellow Africans.

In our democracy, the Freedom Charter has created an environment where Xhosas, Zulus and Bhacas for example, can live anywhere in the country. However that does not mean all parts of the land belongs to the nation you necessarily find in one particular place. There are Bhaca people in Limpopo, for example, but this does not mean our royal leaders should start claiming this land.

We are all South Africans and as the Freedom Charter states, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it”. Within this context, we must celebrate unity as diverse nations in Eastern Cape and in the country. We need one another and we must be able to call on each other for support. These nations can still live alongside each other with mutual respect. We must not be fuelling differences and hatred. We ought to emphasise principles of inclusivity and pluralism across ethnic lines. This is what we commit to as Bhacas.

On behalf of the Bhacas, I wish you and the Xhosas all the best in all your efforts as you reunite your people.

Madzikane II Diko

Ingonyama: KwaBhaca Kingdom


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