The history and representation of the history of the Mabudu-Tembe

Kloppers, Roelie J. (2003-12)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: History is often manipulated to achieve contemporary goals. Writing or narrating history is not merely a recoding or a narration of objective facts, but a value-laden process often conforming to the goals of the writer or narrator. This study examines the ways in which the history of the Mabudu chiefdom has been manipulated to achieve political goals. Through an analysis of the history of the Mabudu chiefdom and the manner in which that history has been represented, this study illustrates that history is not merely a collection of verifiable facts, but rather a collection of stories open to interpretation and manipulation. In the middle of the eighteenth century the Mabudu or Mabudu-Tembe was the strongest political and economic unit in south-east Africa. Their authority only declined with state formation amongst the Swazi and Zulu in the early nineteenth century. Although the Zulu never defeated the Mabudu, the Mabudu were forced to pay tribute to the Zulu. In the 1980s the Prime Minister of KwaZulu, Mangusotho Buthelezi, used this fact as proof that the people of Maputaland (Mabudu-land) should be part of the Zulu nation-state. By the latter part of the nineteenth century Britain, Portugal and the South African Republic laid claim to Maputaland. In 1875 the French President arbitrated in the matter and drew a line along the current South Africa/ Mozambique border that would divide the British and French spheres of influence in south-east Africa. The line cut straight through the Mabudu chiefdom. In 1897 Britain formally annexed what was then called AmaThongaland as an area independent of Zululand, which was administered as ‘trust land’ for the Mabudu people. When deciding on a place for the Mabudu in its Grand Apartheid scheme, the South African Government ignored the fact that the Mabudu were never defeated by the Zulu or incorporated into the Zulu Empire. Until the late 1960s the government recognised the people of Maputaland as ethnically Tsonga, but in 1976 Maputaland was incorporated into the KwaZulu Homeland and the people classified as Zulu. In 1982 the issue was raised again when the South African Government planned to cede Maputaland to Swaziland. The government and some independent institutions launched research into the historic and ethnic ties of the people of Maputaland. Based on the same historical facts, contrasting claims were made about the historical and ethnic ties of the people of Maputaland. Maputaland remained part of KwaZulu and is still claimed by the Zulu king as part of his kingdom. The Zulu use the fact that the Mabudu paid tribute in the 1800s as evidence of their dominance. The Mabudu, on the other hand, use the same argument to prove their independence, only stating that tribute never meant subordination, but only the installation of friendly relations. This is a perfect example of how the same facts can be interpreted differently to achieve different goals and illustrates that history cannot be equated with objective fact.

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