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Ndbele-Shona Relations

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HOW FAR TRUE IS THE ASSERTION THAT THE NDEBELE PEOPLE RELIED ON RAIDING ALONE FOR THEIR LIVELIWOOD?

There is so much truth to the claim that the Ndebele economy relied heavily on raiding and the various Shona communities especially those close to the Ndebele suffered as a consequence. In this essay it will be shown that from the advent of the Ndebele in the present day Matebeleland up to the imposition of colonial rule in the 1890's, there was never a decade without Ndebele raids into Shona territory. This essay will also show that how ever much significant raiding was, the Ndebele also relied on other activities including, tribute, agriculture and trade. It will be made clear that although highly significant, raiding alone does not fully explain the Ndebele economic way of life.

Both Mzilikazi and Lobengula pursued a consistent policy of raiding against one or the other Shona communities from the time of their arrival from present day South Africa. Apart from attacking the declining Rozvi, D.N.Beach cites Ndebele raiding activities which greatly affected the Chirimuhanzu dynasty in the 1850's. This would be repeated during the 1860's when the Kalanga and Tswana communities to the west were raided during the 1860 - 1 drought. That same decade (1868) the north-western Ngezi dynasty of Rimuka was also raided resulting in the flight of the Mashayamombe and Chivero rulers further north-east. The pattern continued during the 1870's when the Ndebele raided the Shona communities across a 70km radius from the western Duma on the confluence of the Mutirikwi and the Popoteke rivers to the upper Popoteke. Finally the Ndebele raided from the Chivi to Gutu in1892 and from Mupfure to Chishawasha in 1893. Thus the example cited above paints a picture of a consistent policy of raiding and therefore suggesting its central significance to the Ndebele way of life.

Although important raiding was by no means the only factor in the Ndebele economy. Agriculture was also significant. The Ndebele practised arable farming which yielded grains such as millet and rapoko.Farming was a seasonal and labour intensive involving family on individual plots of land. Even soldiers took time out to plant during the rainy season as the state had little to fear from external enemies who were engaged in planting too. There were special fields belonging to the king in each settlement. These were planted and harvested first and the produce given to the king. The importance of the cops to the Ndebele was underlined by the (inxwala) first fruits ceremony presided over by the king to mark the beginning of harvest.

The Ndebele were also pastoralists and cattle were important for political, social and economic purposes. The national herd was owned or controlled by the king and he distributed them in a manner that enhanced his position as head of state. Some he distributed to his indunas as an acknowledgement of their loyalty or as a reward for services rendered. Some he gave out to regiments for food, some to his wives for their personal use and as an inheritance for his sons. Cattle were also exchanged for European goods such as guns and ammunition and for Shona produce and young people who were incorporated into Ndebele society.

Tribute collected from subject Shona/Kalanga societies also contributed to the Ndebele economy. Tribute was usually in the form of grain, animal skins, cattle and even young me and women who were incorporated into the Ndebele state. As overlord of the Rozvi clans such as Svabasi, Lukuluba and Rozani, Mzilikazi exacted tribute. During Lobengula's tenure, Nemakonde and Chivi were some of the Shona chiefs paying tribute to the Ndebele. Those who paid tribute were not subjected to raids. Raids were more of punitive measures rather than the norm as evidenced by the 1893 raiding expeditions sent to punish Gomala in Masvingo for using Ndebele cattle to pay a fine imposed by the European settler administration.

Trade was carried out with the Shona and Europeans and it was also a significant contributor to the Ndebele economy. The Ndebele traded their cattle for the Europeans guns and ammunitions and for the grain and other agricultural produce of the Shona.
Further income was generated through hunting activities carried out by the Ndebele themselves or by the Europeans who had been granted concessions. Top of the list of the hunted animals were elephants that were highly prized for the tusks, and meat. European hunters such as Frederick Selous and Henry Hartley hunted extensively under license from Lobengula. The fact that Lobengula felt compelled to allow them to hunt in Mashonaland when the herds of Matebeleland had become depleted is a testimony to the significant contribution of hunting to the Ndebele economy.

Having examined all these aspects of the Ndebele society, it becomes evident that although important, raiding was by no means the exclusive economic activity. Trade, hunting, tribute and agriculture were also highly significant. Finally it was worth restating that raiding was not normally practised in the first instance but usually as a punitive measure to settle political and other quarrels rather than as a means of livelihood.
Metternich's reactionary Congress System began to fail in the late 1820s and the early 1830s. In Greece, nationalists were pushing for independence from Turkey. Metternich would have liked to suppress this movement, but Czar Nicholas I supported the Greek movement with the hope of increasing Russian influence in the region. Great Britain and France, hoping to stop Russian expansion in the Balkans, decided to join in. The result was an Anglo-French- Russian navy that smashed the Turkish fleet in 1827. By 1829, an independent Greece was internationally recognized. In addition to the Greeks, several Balkan states gained independence and Egypt broke out of Ottoman rule. The stability in Europe that Metternich had worked so had to preserve was starting to crumble.
It would soon get worse. In France, the reactionary Charles X had reigned since assuming the throne in 1824. Charles X's reactionary policies antagonized much of the French population, who were used to liberal and republican reforms. Charles thought of himself as divinely appointed to restore the "old ways", and he accordingly gave more power to the aristocrats and Catholic clergy. When the French Chamber of Deputies moved against these changes, Charles dissolved them, passing the four "July Ordinances" in 1830. First, he dissolved the Chamber of Deputies. Second, he censored the press. Third, he disenfranchised (took voting rights away from) the bourgeoisie. Fourth, he called for a new election, with the bourgeoisie no longer voting. Charles actions sparked the advocates of Republicanism into anger. The bourgeoisie and radical republicans from the lower classes quickly took to the streets of Paris in the July Revolution, rioting and setting up barricades to stop the military and end traffic and commerce. Charles X quickly abdicated, and the bourgeois leaders of the rebellion moved quickly to install a constitutional monarchy. The revolutionary leaders brought in the Duke of Orleans, known as Louis Philippe. He accepted constitutional monarchy and the principle of the July Revolution, and even changed the official flag of France to the Republican tricolor.
The July Revolution rippled through Europe, starting revolutions in Belgium and Poland. Belgium's revolution was essentially successful. The country ended up with self-government as long as it remained a neutral state, and the other powers agreed not to invade it. Polish nationalists, looking to the successful revolutions in Belgium in France, also decided to revolt in 1830. Czar Nicholas quickly crushed the Polish rebellion.
In Britain, the Tory Party demonstrated an increasing sensitivity to the middle class. Foreign Minister George Canning and Robert Peel became more "liberal" Tories, trying to satisfy the middle class, passing Laissez Faire laws, creating a more secular state, and even creating a police force. Problems remained, however. Most critical were the Corn Laws, which remained too high for manufacturers' tastes, and the Rotten Boroughs, which furnished Southern England with far more political representation than it deserved while neglecting populous manufacturing cities like Manchester. In the 1830s, a reform bill came up which would remedy these problems, but it was quashed by Prime Minister Wellington. Wellington's action led to rioting. Parliament realized it had to pass the bill, which it reluctantly did in 1832. The Reform Bill of 1832 simplified voting, although maintaining a property requirement, and abolished the smaller boroughs, giving their seats to the large industrial cities like Manchester.
As a result of the redistribution of British political power created by the Reform Bill of 1832, several reforms took place, beginning in 1833 with a Factory Act that limited child labor. In 1847, a Ten Hours Act passed into law, limiting the number of hours women and children could work per day.
Commentary
Spurred by the July Revolution in France, 1830 became a year of revolt. For the most part, however, those revolts resulted in little direct change. Though the revolution in France deposed a king, it also installed a new king: the revolution simply prevented the rights of the bourgeoisie from being trampled by Charles X.
To the reactionary rulers of Europe the July Revolution of Louis Philippe (1830) seemed like a dire thing. To the French bourgeois, it was merely a necessary action to maintain the rights they considered naturally theirs, and which they had won nearly fifty years earlier. Working-class Republicans wanted more, and they began to prepare for another revolt. The July Revolution, if sort of a disappointment to radical republicans, heartened revolutionaries throughout the rest of Europe. It sent a message: the preemptive suppression of revolution by the Continental System was no longer working very well.
Once the revolutions were in motion, however, the powers that be did often have the strength to put them down. Russia had no problem crushing the Polish rebellion. Yet Russia's success stemmed in large part from the domestic factors limiting Britain and France from using the Polish rebellion as a lever to hurt the power of the Russians. Britain was facing its own reform movement, and Louis Philippe did not want to appear to have Napoleonic ambitions. In other words, of the conservative powers, only Metternich and Austria refused to intercede against the Russians on ideological grounds. Britain and France, had they been able, might very well have placed the contingencies of politics above the demands of conservative dogma.
Surprisingly, it was in Britain, where no revolt happened, that the most change occurred. In large part this change resulted from the societal transformation created by the Industrial Revolution. Even so, the July Revolution certainly spurred the political process. The French July Revolution showed the British bourgeoisie that if there was a revolution by the lower classes, the bourgeoisie could quickly assume control and use a working-class revolution to middle-class advantage. The realization that the bourgeoisie was acquiring more and more power and could use that power to create a revolt led the Tory party to grant some concessions.
The British Reform Bill of 1832 was really a compromise, since the reformers did not get everything they wanted. However, the bill was very important in that it made way for future reforms. Especially since the manufacturing cities of the North finally had substantial representation, the balance of power in British politics changed. Wealthy businessmen became part of the political elite. Parties reorganized, and the Whigs, a few radical Tories, and the radical industrialists formed the Liberal Party, while most of the Tories formed the Conservative Party. Under this new political configuration, and with the certain progression of the industrial revolution, further reforms were destined to take place. Interestingly, one aristocratic tactic to maintain power involved allying with the workers to strike back at the wealthy liberal businessmen. Landed aristocrats now allied with the poor so they could overcome the Liberal industrialists who were coming to dominate Parliament. Soon, the liberal industrialists caught on to this ploy, and allied with workers on certain issues. In 1838, manufacturers encouraged workers to form an Anti Corn Law League, and in 1846, under Prime Minister Robert Peel, the Corn Laws were abolished. Of course, the abolition of the Corn Laws were not only out of interest for Laissez Faire, but also because of a horrible famine in Ireland. The emergence of a political system with two parties of generally equal power allowed the less powerful workers to play both sides against each other and thereby gain concessions such as the Ten Hours Act. Ultimately, these progressive concessions allowed the British to avoid revolution, since those least represented in British society still felt as if they had some means to bettering their situation.…...

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