The last in a series of six poems from the Xhosa poet, Melikhaya Mbutuma. This was recited in March 1963, one month after the fifth poem (see also parts one, two and three and four for the background).

This final poem blames Matanzima directly for the desperate state of the Xhosa nation. Fulfilling his role as an imbongi, “as a spokesman of the nation”, Mbutuma denounces the illegitimacy of the regime, with its government-sanctioned violence and corruption. But he also criticises the widespread lawlessness and civil disorder, before turning on his own paramount chief Sabata, attacking him for his drunkenness. “I know these truths”, he says, “can be a cause for my arrest and prosecution”.

Despite frequent harassment by Matanzima’s police, Mbutuma survived and in 2002 owned a shop and a taxi service in Engcobo. Sabata, meanwhile, was arrested in 1979 and the following year deposed as chief. He fled to Lusaka, Zambia, where he died in exile in 1986.

This poem was recited in March 1963.

I am speaking near the peak of the Drakensberg Mountains, (1)
I am speaking facing the Mnqhwazi Mountains,
As I am speaking the Mnqhangi Mountains are facing in the opposite direction,
As I am speaking, the Mabel’entombi Mountains are showing their dismay,
As I am speaking, the Nkonkobe Mountains are absorbed in meditation,
As I am speaking, the Mayolo and Baziya Mountains look sad,
As I am speaking, the Gqaga Mountains are deeply grieved,
As I am speaking the Khalinyanga Mountains look ruffled,
As I am speaking, the Gulandoda and Bumbane Mountains are speaking,
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God. (2)

I dreamed that the royal scion was standing at the top of the Qetume Mountain (3)
With his arms outstretched and his eyes looking upwards to the heavens.
He was praying because of the terrible wailing and the bitter tears of his people,
Because of their torture and persecution.
I saw him once again, standing over Dalindyebo’s grave.
He could hear Nohajisi and her son, Sampu, crying. (4)
But Mvuzo and his son would not change their attitude. (5)
Jongintaba and Ndumiso became concerned, (6)
And a strong foreboding voice could be heard,
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

I came across the ancestors at the top of Xhalabile’s Mountains,
They said we were subverting the country by our great desire for power,
Things are so critical because of Kaiser Matanzima’s ambitions.
How could he strive for a higher position than paramount chief of all the Thembu?
He has shocked me by unleashing such destructive forces.
He has destroyed the reputation of the Thembu nation.
He imagines himself all powerful and important.
He reveals his true colours by accepting a position that is legitimately his.
For all his coercive ways, he will never be forgiven or forgotten.
No proper government ever forces people to do things against their will.
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

What has happened in Thembuland is a disgrace and a scandal. (7)
It has not been done by Thembu, but by invaders and foreigners.
A Thembu, a Coloured, and a White are one and the same thing.
We all share a common bond of belonging to a single nation.
Grobbelaar’s death is an obvious sign of political degeneracy.
Why kill an innocent poor White?
The curses of the Almighty be upon you murderers of children.
Where were those who stand in your way to liberty?
Die like dogs, you doers of evil and cruelty.
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

Ngangelizwe never fought against the colonial government, (8)
Peacefulness is one of the virtues
If only the magistrates and the Bantu commissioners could be subordinate to the paramount chief!
There are only two senior chiefs in Thembuland, (9)
There is the paramount chief of all the Thembu,
And there is Chief Zwelihle, who is senior to Matanzima.
Zwelihle is the great-grandson of Dalindyebo in the rafter of the great house.
Kaiser is the right hand son in Chief Ngangelizwe’s father’s house. (10)
These two chiefs are senior in their own account,
But their seniority is subject to Sabata’s paramountcy, as dictated by custom.
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

Good customs from foreigners are to be welcomed.
Customs designed for our permanent subjection should be rejected.
A surrender of our rights should be repugnant to us.
I know these truths can be a cause of my arrest and prosecution.
I once saw an army attack Qitsi villagers for a similar reason. (11)
All the same, men, be prepared to die for your rights.
The governments of the world are on your side.
Coercion and oppression are objectionable to civilised peoples.
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

I remember Mbombini Sihele, a giant with a husky chest,
I remember him calling for his deadly assegai,
I remember him calling for his murderous panga.
He was preparing to fight Qaqawuli’s enemies. (12)
He complained that the household of Phalo was being ruined.
If people could be resurrected, I would resurrect him and embrace him.
Today Qaqawuli has been buried alive like a sycophant.
The paramount chief has made protests, but to no avail.
The government is so powerful and knowing, no one can advise it.
Matanzima and the others have been learning from these intellectual giants.
Sabata is the servant of Jehovah, our God.

Worthwhile decisions come from the people,
They never come from the chiefs alone.
Nowadays, chiefs make unilateral decisions,
And it results in their having to be protected.
Please tell me, Chief Kaiser Matanzima,
If you express the people’s views, why have you been provided with a bodyguard?
As the nation’s spokesman, I deny your claim.
You have deviated from the views of the people.
As the nation’s spokesman, I deny your claim.
Turn back and you will see that you are alone, you have no following.
Your chieftainship has a precarious base.

It’s the White government that is propping you up,
Time and again we find you, son of Mhlobo, in high positions, (13)
You soar over us like an eagle.
Honourable chief, take stock and reconsider your position.
Crudeness and barbarity never make a man.
Kaiser Matanzinma, you are one of us but you have been misled by our enemies.
You have been misled by foreigners,
You are now too proud and stubborn.
You thought you were being educated, but you were being brain-washed.
Chieftainship is one course that is not studied in the classroom. (14)

People are shivering with fear,
they are afraid of your arm striking.
They are terrified of Mhlobo’s hunting dogs. (15)
What could be your reasons for serving the interests of our enemy?
What are they being so protective towards you?
What have these White officials done for you?
Is it worth the heritage of your forefathers,
your rights, and your children’s future?
There stand before you your embittered and wretched fellow men.
When their voice reached Jonguhlanga, (16)
he responded in a surprising way.
He does not drink European liquor but he swims in it.
He says the difficulties facing him are alarming;
at times dreads the thought of them.
I found him using brandy as a quencher of his worries.
He has found it a suitable substitute for the ancestors’ amasi. (17)
I found this depressing and distressing.
What can one do? These people are born in their positions.

I still look up to you, though with less hope.
I do not know whether you still have some life in you.
Builder of a nation that is being destroyed, I still appeal to you,
To you, great king, whose power is felt as far afield as Cape Town
And in the mine dumps of Johannesburg.
Is it lack of courage, men?
The Mpondo and Gcaleksa are willing to join hands with you.
Only they are afraid of the tall and graceful son of Mhlobo.
This is not surprising because he is the government’s favourite.
Even so, we are all agreed Sabata is the only paramount chief of the Thembu.
He is like Queen Elizabeth to the British.

Be calm and composed, Black multitudes.
You Poqo members, you are excluded, (18)
For you have acted stupidly and irresponsibly.
You have disgraced the whole Black nation.
Discipline and self-respect must reign among us.
The Government will listen to your views in discussion. (19)
Under the state of emergency this is difficult to achieve,
For we are bottled up and we cannot hold open discussions.
Wee cannot advise one another on matters that affect us all.
Thieves, you are also advised to stop stealing because by so doing
You are creating ill-feeling and misunderstanding.
Go back to your normal behaviour, fellow men, I beseech you.

We also appeal to you, Matanzima’s grandson,
to return to the senior Thembu chiefs.
Remember a single mind is more liable to stupidity and blunders.
Why must you press on at the peril of your own life?
Son of Mhlobo, you are not only ruining your future but that of your children.
It is you today, and it will be your son tomorrow.
Be advised, abandon the course you have chosen.
Things are bad enough as it is.
You are the weak link in the chain;
You are continually undermining our unity.
Return to the other Thembu chiefs, I appeal to you.

Here is the poem in the original Xhosa.

Ndithetha ndikufuphi nencam kaKhohlamba,
Ndithetha ndijongene neentaba zoMnqhwazi,
Ndithetha zifulathele iintaba zoMnqhangi,
Ndithetha zidanile iitaba zaMabel’entombi,
Ndithetha zithokombisile iitaba zeNkonkobe,
Ndithetha zilusizi iitaba zoMayolo ne Baziya,
Ndithetha zinesinqhala iitaba zeGqaka,
Ndithetha zimbatshile iitaba ze Khalinyanga,
Ndithetha zithetha iitaba zoGulandoda nezeBumbane,
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Ndiphuphe umntwan’ enkosi emi phezu koQetume
Wazolula izandla namehlo ajonga phezulu.
Wataruzisa ngenxa yesijwili nesimbonono,
Ngenxa yamagazi nemililo neentshutshiso,
Ngenxa yomzi kaNtu osezinxwalekweni,
Ndibe ndambona engxange phezu kuDalindyebo,
Walila uNohajisi nonyana wakhe uSampu,
Wathetha uMvuzo nonyana wakhe ngazwi linye,
Wavakalelwa uJongintaba noNdumiso,
Lavakala ilizwi elingqongqo liqondisisa,
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Ndidibene neshologu phezu kwentaba kaXhalabile,
Lathi lona siyamtyoda ngokuthanda amawonga,
Kunjenje nje nguKaiser ngokuthanda amawonga.
Yini na ukuzenza ingqanga phezu kokumkani?
Undincamisile ngoqhila umkhosi wentashabalalo.
Hayi ngokutshabalalisa abantwana bokumkani.
Ubunganga nobukumkani se busezandleni kuye.
Ubendimangalisile kakade ngokuphikisa ikumkani.
Hayi ngokuqweqwesa abantu undikhathazile.
NoRulumente ngokwakhe akaze aqweqwedise.
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Wathi okuhle ebaThenjini kulinyala nesikizi,
Akwenziwe baThembu kweniziwe yimigqakhwe,
UmThembu neLawe nomlungu inye lu nto,
Sizibopha ngebanti enye yobuzwe obunye.
Ukufa kukaGrobbelaar kusezintloko zimigqakhwe.
Yini na ukubulala isilambi seBhulu?
Iingqalekiso zikaSomnini zikubabulali beentsana.
Bebeyephi abantu abasesangweni lenkululeko yenu?
Yifani nje ngezinja benzi bobudenge nenkohlakalo.
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Ungangelizwe zange angene ngagazi kuRulumente,
Uxolo yindalo kukumkani bendalo kubaThembu.
Iimantyi noMongameli ngabancedisi bokumkani!
Nkos’ ezinkulu kabaThembu zimbini kuuphela,
Nkos’ ubukhulu bayo kukuphata umhlaba,
Alandele uKaiser kaMatanzima phantsi koZwelihle.
Kukumene uKaiser kokwabo Ngangelizwe.
Zombini ezinkosi zinenkosi ezingaphezu kwazo,
Kuba ubunganga bazo busithwe lifuthe lesiko.
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Amasiko amahle eentlanga alungile,
Amasiko angasivumeliyo isithethe asiwafuni,
Amasiko asinikezela ezintlangeni asiwafuni,
Ma kube lee kuthi ukunikisa ngamafa ubawo.
Phofu eli lizwi liyabulalisa liyatshabalalisa.
Ndibone ngempi iyihlome yahlala eQitsi.
Yifani madoda ngamafa namanchwaba uyihlo.
Urulumente nezizwe ngenene zingakuni.
Akukho nto ilunyanzelo, esizweni yimvisiswano.
USabata ngumnyulwa kaYehova, uThixo.

Ndiyamkhumbula uMbombini kaSihele,
Igongqogongqo elisifuba sigrongqololo,
Ndiyamkhumbula ebiza isinkenko sokufa,
Ndiyamkhumbula ebiza isinkempe sakhe,
Ehlaba egwuza iintshaba zikaQaqawuli,
Ethi lo mzi kaFalo namhla uyalahlekelwa.
Ukuba ebevuswa umntu ngendimvusa ndimxhawule.
Namhla uQawawuli uf’ ehleli ngokwelolo.
Ikumkani yesizwe yatsho ezimathontsi,
Kuloko uRulumente ufunde wada waphuma ulwazi.
Uva ngemfundo nezifundiswa zokwazi.
Umonyulwa kaYehova uThixo umile ukhathazekile.

Ilizwi lisiwe liphuma esizweni,
Alize liphume enkosini nakanye,
Nambla iinkosi ezikhoyo zigqiba ngokwazo,
Isiqhamo lihlazo lokugadwa kwazo.
Kha undixelele nkoso yam Kaiser kaMatanzima,
Ugadelweni uthetha izimvo zomzi nje?
Athi ke mna mbongi yesizwe nakanye.
Uzityeshele, usishiyile izimvo zomzi.
Athi ke mna mbongi yesizwe nakanye,
Kha ujike ujonge ngasemva uwedwa,
Ubukhosi bakho buselizeni uludingweni.

Hay’ umlungu madoda waninceda,
Kungoku nyasiralisela umfo kaMhlobo,
Usiralisela kukubi, uhamba ngentaka.
Kumbani wesizwe zola uthi cwaka,
Ubundlobongela abuze buncede mutu.
Ukaiser Matanzima ngumntu wakho kanye,
Ulahlekiswe kukulandela iintlanga,
Kungoku akafuni kuzithoba agobe kuwe.
Hayi yimfundo ukufundiswa kundilahlekisile;
Kanti ubukumbani nobukhosi abufundelwa.

Bayangcangcazela abuntu bayankwantya,
Bayayoyika inja afunza ngayo okaMhlobo.
Uwawole ngani na mfo ndini la magwangqa?
Yini na ade akugcine akukokose ngakasana?
Akwenzeleni na la mabandla akwaNtsasana?
Yini na ude uwanike ilifa luyihlo?
Nanzo ke izijwili zikrakra phambi kwakho.
Zithe zakuvakala kuJonguhlanga wenza umhlola,
Akaziseli izincwe zomlumkazi nyaziwonxa,
Uthi ukhathazwa zinzingo neentlupheko zomzi.
Ndifike esithi imbodlela liselwa lonxano,
Wathi ibulanti ngamasi okumhluthisa.
Yinto endisuke ndawa umxhelo ndanotyhafo,
Koko okhonjiweyo ngomnwe akaze adake.

Nditsho kuwe meephe endiphantse ndawuginya,
Bendingasazi ukuba kukho kutya embizeni,
Mbombosholo embumbi wezizwe zichithwa,
Kumkani ebunganga bumi ngaKapa,
Buye bathintelwa zinduduma zeRawuti.
Hayi-hayi ke madoda ukuswela ingubo!
AmaMphondo namaGcaleka ayavuma.
Bathi boyika ufafa lukaMhlobo ngebekunceda;
Kuloko usegumbini neziphatha-mandla.
Hambani siye ezizweni siye kuvumisa,
Lithi igqira ikumkani inye nguSabata,
Unje ngoLizibedi kwelaPhesheya.

Xolani zizwe xolani mabandla kaNtu,
Anixoleleki nina mabandla kaPoqo,
Nenze ngobudenge nangobutyhakala,
Niwunyelisile umzi kaNtu,
Xolani mabandla akowethu xolani,
URulumente woziva izimvo zenu nixoxa.
OluNxunguphalo nalo linobudakadaka,
Iinyaniso asiziva zigqunyiwe ngamagwala.
Buyelani mzi kaNtu nithethe izinto zenu;
Buyekeni ubusela nani nina babawayo,
Anibi ngoku niyaphanga niyatshabalalisa,
Xolani zizwe ithethile ikumkani yezizwe.

Ebotwe mfo kaMatanzima siya kudinga,
Ingqondo yomntu omnye iyoyiswa bubudenge,
Yini na ntamb’ ende ethi isongwa ibisombuluka.
Emva mfo kaMhlobo esisekweni sendalo,
Kunjenje kuwe ngunyana wakho ngomso.
Kubi mntwan’ enkosi, nceda roxa;
Athi ke mna mbongi yesizwe ibuyambo,
Ibuyambo madoda;
Ubunganga bobuzwe busithwe nguwe,
Ebotwe mntwan’ enkosi kwinkomo yomzi.

Archie Mafeje,
“The Role of the Bard in a Contemporary African Community”,
Journal of African Languages VI, 3 (1967), 212-219.


Footnotes

  1. The Drakensberg mountain range lies north east of Lesotho, a long way from Thembuland. The various mountains in the following lines are scattered all across South Africa, from Table Mountain in the south west to Zululand in the north east. Mbutuma’s claim is that the whole South African nation is dismayed and disturbed by events in the newly-constituted Transkei.
  2. As in Poem 4, the God of the Old Testament is repeatedly invoked as Sabata’s protector. Both Mbutuma and Sabata had attended mission schools.
  3. Qetume Mountain: A mountain in Thembuland, where Sabata’s grandfather Dalindyebo is buried.
  4. Nohajisi: Dalindyebo’s wife, Sabata’s grandmother. Sampu is Sabata’s father, from whom he inherited the chieftaincy.
  5. Mvuzo: Matanzima’s father.
  6. Jongintaba: Sabata’s elder brother, who acted as regent during his infancy. He is best known today for having adopted the orphaned Nelson Mandela. Ndumiso is Mtikrakra’s son, chief at Mpeto and a Sabata supporter.
  7. The following lines refer to the killing by Poqo, the armed wing of the PAC (Pan African Congress) of Norman and Elizabeth Grobbelaar, their daughters and a friend, at the Bashee Bridge campsite on 4 February 1963. Poqo is sharply criticised later in the poem.
  8. Ngangelizwe: Following the cattle killing, Ngangelizwe had been paramount chief at the time of the annexation. The Cape authorities demanded his dismissal, but conceded this was impractical since he was the only person who could hold the remnants of the nation together. For more on him, see Poem 5.
  9. That is, Sabata and Zwelihle, as explained.
  10. Meaning he was descended from a junior wife.
  11. In 1962, Matanzima addressed villagers at Qitsi, justifying their removal from their ancestral land. Hecklers were arrested and banished, while headman Jonginamba was hacked to death with pangas.
  12. Qaqawuli: A Mgudlwa chief whom Matanzima had deposed. Mbombini was one of his councillors.
  13. That is, Matanzima.
  14. Matanzima had studied law at Fort Hare.
  15. Again, Matanzima.
  16. Jonguhlanga: One of Sabata’s praise names.
  17. Amasi: A traditional drink of curdled milk.
  18. You Poqo members: The armed wing of the Pan African Congress.
  19. Throughout all six poems, Mbutuma’s stance has been that of a fierce traditionalist, demanding recognition of Sabata’s ancestral authority. But Apartheid’s Bantustans were based on a deliberate subversion of tradition, and Mbutuma’s concluding appeals for a return to consensus carry little weight.