The relationship between the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Zulu Kingdom goes back at least two centuries. The last time a King from eSwatini paid a state visit to KwaZulu-Natal was in the 1800s when King Sobhuza the first (aka Somhlolo) paid a courtesy call to his counterpart.
Although cordial in the beginning, this visit ended up badly with the Eswatini King having to leave unceremoniously following a warning from Queen Nandi that King Shaka was planning to murder his guest.
And so Somhlolo left in the cover of darkness. This marked the beginning of a dangerous relationship. The Kingdom of Eswatini was small and seemed an easy target for not only the Zulus but the most powerful clan at the time, the Ndwandwe.
To that end, King Somhlolo established diplomatic relations with the Ndwandwes by asking for a hand in marriage to one of King Zwide’s daughters. The arrangement was simple, this Ndwandwe Princess would have to give birth to the next King of the nation. And so it was that Tsandzile Ndwandwe, known as La Zidze to her people, became Queen and gave birth to King Mswati II.
Apart from giving birth to a king, the Ndwandwe princess also introduced new elements into the ancient and sacred Incwala ceremony. A sacrosanct kingship ceremony that is practised only when a King is sitting on the throne, in the event that there is an interregnum the ceremony is not held.
Anyway, back to the kingdoms. The Zulu armies invaded the Kingdom of eSwatini several times after the demise of Shaka. It is a well-established fact that King Dingane died at the hands of Emaswati. This made a bad situation worse. King Mpande continued where his brothers had stopped. He carried out more military campaigns into Swazi territory such that one could swear he wanted to annex the Kingdom.
However, the Emswati moved further into the interior of their country and that made it more difficult for the Zulus to achieve their expansionist goals.
Following the well-chronicled battle of Isandlwana where the valiant Zulu army defeated the red coats, imperial Britain saw to it that the Zulu royal hegemony is forcefully removed. This they did by putting King Cetshwayo into exile and therefore exterminating fundamental aspects of Zulu culture and tradition, one of which was the Incwala or uMkhosi Woselwa. The king could not practise uMkhosi Woselwa in exile, and so in effect that custom ceased to exist, at least for more than a century.
Well, things changed in the 1970s when King Goodwill Zwelithini found it prudent to seek blessings from King Sobhuza by asking for a hand in marriage for one of his daughters. After careful consideration, Princess Mantfombi was chosen to take up this difficult task.
The princess did a stellar job, she reintroduced several lost customs including uMkhosi Womhlanga, and most importantly uMkhosi Woselwa.
This has brought the Zulu nation together, made the nation stronger and also introduced a new tourism aspect for the Zulu nation.
So, 29 October 2022 will go down in history as a very important day, not only for Zulus but Emaswati as well, after some 200 years of hostility we have come full circle.
Author – Vuthelazasha Ndaba