IMG 20201015 WA0021A WSU academic’s chronicling of the abaThembu tribe’s history and evolution over an almost 300-year period from the 16th to the 19th century afforded the scholar the opportunity to acutely scrutinize the most defining moments in the tribe’s history.

Through his book, titled: “A History of the AbaThembu People from Earliest Times to 1920”, history lecturer and humanities and creative arts departmental head Dr Jongikhaya Mvenene has sought to narrate the history of abaThembu from the reign of uKumkani Nxeko in c. 1650, to the death of uKumkani Dalindyebo in 1920.

“As a historian, I observed that the history of AbaThembu needs to be unearthed, rewritten, and decolonised. The importance of this cut-off date (1920) lies in the fact that uKumkani Dalindyebo’s reign was characterised by relative stability compared to those of his predecessors,” said Dr Mvenene.

The book, published this month, also scrutinizes the tribe’s relations with white settlers, missionaries and other abeNguni communities, and how and why the abaThembu’s conflict with amaXhosa and collaboration with whites gradually weakened their kingdom to such an extent that they  gave up power to the settlers.

Dr Mvenene said most the critical theme to this book is its exploration of the divisive role of white settlers among abaThembu people, and the use of missionaries as pawns in the hands of the settlers in their attempts to subvert traditional leadership.

“While examining the collaborative relations of the tribe’s iiKumkani and iiNkosi with the colonial governing authorities and the consequences thereof, which brought about a further split within the abaThembu kingdom, this book also analyses the relations within the abaThembu traditional but unequal leaders,” he said.

Through the abovementioned analysis, Dr Mvenene strives to help the reader comprehend how and why both internal and external factors and influences were, in varying degrees, responsible for the rise and development of a split in the House of uKumkani Ngubengcuka.

Over and above its significant contribution to the country’s literature, the book further adopts a cross-sectional, well-rounded and multi-disciplinary approach to the relations among the traditional leaders, the colonial governing authorities and the missionaries in the abaThembu tribe.

Dr Mvenene, who started writing the book in 2015, proudly stands by the book because of the veracity of its content owing to the multitude of rigorously tested and critiqued documents, journals, newspapers, unpublished manuscripts and oral evidence.

“In the interest of uprooting the sting of Eurocentricism in the history of South Africa, we need to re-enact the past by integrating the accounts of the voiceless people whose history has been presented as an appendage in this country’s history into the written historical sources,” he concluded.

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By Thando Cezula