This podcast series, The Weight of History, explores the past as understood and told by these remarkable leaders in the early 1900s. Their stories are about the time before the Zulu kingdom rose to prominence. They tell us about the complexity of foreign affairs, political intrigue and contested accessions. We hear about the role played by powerful men and women in securing political futures, in support and betrayal, and in strategising and supporting one candidate for a kingship over another.
Of special interest in this series is to hear different accounts, one from an Mthethwa royal house perspective, and another from a Zulu royal house perspective, about how the Mthethwa king Dingiswayo installed his candidate, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, as chief of the Zulu, at the time a small chiefdom. Both of these historians understood well that the way the history of the distant past was represented by them was critically important in the politics of the 1900s. They chose their words carefully. Highly experienced political figures, both proved to be skillful and subtle in how they presented the past. They understood well the weight of history in the present.
Part One: The History of Mthethwa as Recounted by Mashwili kaMngoye, Grandson of the Famous Mthethwa King, Dingiswayo
Episode 1: Mashwili kaMngoye and his account of the early life and accession to the Mthethwa kingship of Godongwana, later known as Dingiswayo
In the first episode of this series, Mashwili gives an account of the early life of Dingiswayo, then known as Godongwana, and his accession to the Mthethwa kingship.
Episode 2: An age of conquests and the consolidation of Mthethwa
In this episode, we hear about the growth of Mthethwa power under King Dingiswayo, and about his death, as described by his grandson, Mashwili kaMngoye.
Episode 3: Mthethwa-Zulu relations and the death of King Dingiswayo
This episode focuses on the way in which King Dingiswayo supported a young commander in his army, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, to take over the chiefship of the Zulu from his father.
You will find the praises of Dingiswayo kaJobe, presumably by Mashwili kaMngoye, in chapter 6 of uBaxoxele. Click here, and navigate to page 24.
If you wish to read more about Mashwili kaMngoye you will find a helpful biographic note here.
Part Two: The Early Life and Accession of King Shaka as Recounted by Ndlovu kaThimuni, Grandson of Mudli kaNkwelo
Episode 1: Ndlovu kaThimuni and his account of the birth of Shaka
In the first episode of Part Two, Ndlovu gives an account of the birth of the famous Zulu king, Shaka kaSenzangakhona.
You will find the original published text in chapter 9 (pages 59-67) of James Stuart’s uBaxoxele here, and a translation into English here. You can consult versions of the notes taken by Stuart on which the published text was based here.
Episode 2: The boyhood of Shaka
In this episode, Ndlovu gives an account of Shaka’s youth, and we follow the story of the political strategising by powerful political figures of the day, Mnkabayi kaJama and Ndlovu’s grandfather, Mudli kaNkwelo.
You will find the original published text in chapter 10 (68-72) of James Stuart’s uBaxoxele here, and a translation into English here. You can consult versions of the notes taken by Stuart on which the published text was based here.
Episode 3: Shaka’s accession to the Zulu chieftaincy
In this episode, Ndlovu discusses Shaka kaSenzangakhona’s time living at Mthethwa and how he acceded to the Zulu chieftaincy with the support of the Mthethwa king and Ndlovu’s grandfather, Mudli kaNkwelo.
You will find the original published text in chapter 11 (pages 73-80) of James Stuart’s uBaxoxele here, and a translation into English here. You can consult versions of the notes taken by Stuart on which the published text was based here.
If you wish to read more about Ndlovu kaThimuni you will find a helpful biographic note here.
The podcasts are a product of the Five Hundred Year Archive based at the University of Cape Town. They were produced by Showcast Media.
The episodes were read by Mbongiseni Buthelezi. The script was prepared by Henry Fagan, Sizakele Gumede, Carolyn Hamilton and Chloe Rushovich. Original music was composed and performed by Thokozani Mhlambi. For the full version of the original music, click here.