Sobhuza I (1780-1836) who ruled Swaziland from 1815 until his death, was also called Somholo, ‘the wonder’, because just before his birth his father Nduvungunye was struck by lightning. It was he who led his people away from the turmoil of the wars associated with the rise of Shaka Zulu, settling them in what is now central Swaziland. In this, he was a comparable figure to Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, to Soshangane of the Gaza, and Zwangendaba of the Ngoni.

In a tibongo which is full of affection, Sobhuza is praised for rescuing his people, hiding them in the forests of the Drakensberg mountains until it was safe to emerge. Key verbs are “arrived”, “escaped”, “stands”, and “emerges”, key images of things threatened surviving, and of things buried coming to light. The Imbongi is Mutsi Dlamini, a cousin of Sobhuza II.

Let him alone, the son of Langa. (1)
Let him go upstream the Crocodile river. (2)
Let him remember his mother’s home.
Let him remember at Mjindini.
Let him remember them the Mdlulis,
The Bhekiswakos
People of Logoba,
You were crooked,
You bent before the king arrived. (3)
The little morning star, Lakubheka, (4)
Summoned you.
You escaped,
Child of Ndaba.
Like a conjured rock.
They buried you in large forests
On the Mdzimba mountain. (5)
And in them, Masikasale
And in them, Mangulube. (6)
There’s no facing one another,
It’s dim.
You count branches,
Calf of the elephant.
Woe, to your enemies.
This we say
Because you control the rain;
Because you control also the sun
Calf of the elephant.
Over the king’s children
You spurt blood and flesh.
Beauty, like a buck’s gall.
Beauty, like the birds of Showe
Whose white tails are in mud. (7)
I can’t praise you enough,
Child of Ndaba.
Up to this day,
Tears drip down into the pillow.
Gleaned, he stands
Still stands the army
Out he emerges
From a wooden rampart.
And trees broke.
Hail, Your Majesty
Great as Matsapha and Delude (8)
Together with Nkothake
You of the Inner Circle!
Emerge!
Let’s bask in you.
We’ve basked with you in the clouds.

Translated by Thoko Ginindza,
from her Tibongo teMakhosi netetiNdlovukazi
(London, 1975), p.15.


Footnotes

  1. Langa: Legendary Swazi king.
  2. The tibongo begins with Sobhuza’s ancestry among the Simulane and Mdluli peoples. The five places mentioned, lying north of Swaziland’s modern border, were all part of Sobhuza I’s kingdom by conquest.
  3. They suffered before Sobhuza rescued them.
  4. Lakubheka: Sobhuza’s mother by adoption, who ruled as Queen Mother, or Ndlovukati, until he became king.
  5. Mountain range near Mbabane.
  6. Masikasale, Mangulube: The names of sub-chiefs, hiding with Sobhuza.
  7. Not identified. It may be the male widow bird (see Praises of Sobhuza II, footnote 1). Showe is in South Africa.
  8. Matsapha, Delude, Nkothake: These three names, referring to members of the “inner circle” were presumably Swazi warriors, known to Imbongi Dlamini. Matsapha, formerly Swaziland’s airport, is now the name of the industrial centre, outside Manzini.