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HomenewsWATCH: Pupu victory against settlers immortalised

WATCH: Pupu victory against settlers immortalised

The Chronicle

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Mashudu Netsianda in Lupane

HOME AFFAIRS and Cultural Heritage Minister, Kazembe Kazembe and Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Richard Moyo, yesterday conducted a tour of the Pupu Battlefield National Monument to assess progress on the preparatory works ahead of its commissioning by President Mnangagwa.

The commissioning of the memorial monument on the outskirts of Lupane Centre in Matabeleland North province which was scheduled for today, has been postponed to a date to be advised.

For many years, the account of the Battle of Pupu deliberately overlooked the African perspective. In telling the story of the Battle of Pupu, the colonialists intentionally snubbed the Ndebele perspective.

Government has, however, reconfigured the Shangani (Pupu) Monument, a place where King Lobengula’s Imbizo Regiment led by General Mtshana Khumalo, killed settler forces’ commander Major Allan Wilson and his fighters on 4 December 1893, to represent the whole story. 

Unlike in the past when the settler government portrayed Major Wilson and his forces as the heroes, the monument is now justifying the victors in that particular battle.

Until recently, a tapering stone pillar with names of a 34-soldier unit of the British South African Company (BSAC) that was ambushed and annihilated by more than 3 000 Ndebele warriors, was the only structure erected as a landmark by the Rhodesian government.

Despite their superior weaponry comprising Maxim guns and cannons, Maj Wilson and his forces were killed by King Lobengula’s brave warriors.

The epic battle that was fought on the shores of the Shangani River symbolises the beginning of a protracted resistance against settler regime.

The settler army reached the southern banks of the Shangani River on the evening of 3 December 1893 only to learn that King Lobengula had crossed the day before and that his entourage had briefly rested under the leadwood tree before proceeding north. 

Minister Kazembe said the memorial monument stands as a reminder of the resilience and victory of the indigenous people of this country against the strong hand of colonialists in the 19th century.

“The victory of the Ndebele army at this site serves as a true testament that the colonisers were not invincible. The Pupu Battle victory inspired the nation to continue fighting for its freedom until it won its independence in 1980,” he said.

“This project is very important in so many ways, and for starters when the settlers came to Zimbabwe intending to colonise us, our great-grandparents  fought back. With those primitive weapons that they had they were determined to stop the colonisation and the battle that took place here at Pupu is one such battle that nobody speaks about.”

Minister  Kazembe said the Pupu Battle is important in the country’s history, which is why Government took a bold step to reconfigure the narrative on what exactly happened.

“During  the battle that took place here 34 white settlers were killed, but nobody speaks about that and there were a number of regiments such as Imbizo, Ingubo, Insukamini, Ihlathi, Insizwa, Inhlambane and Nyamandlovu that fought and defeated the white settlers who were led by Major Forbes and Allan Wilson,” he said.

“The Pupu Battle inspired those that followed to engage in the liberation struggle because they were given hope by the victory over white settlers who were defeated right here at this national monument as they were trying to capture Ndebele King Lobengula.”

Minister Kazembe said as the country commemorates Heroes’ Day on Monday, the nation should remember the fallen Ndebele warriors who defeated the white settlers.

“These people who fought here are heroes and as we celebrate our National Heroes’ Day, we cannot forget the gallant sons who defeated the white settlers. Pupu Battlefield Monument is one of the many national monuments that we are going to ensure they are put exactly where they belong in the history of this country and this is how critical this place is,” he said.

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“We have put a cow-horn formation structure where the Ndebele warriors defeated the white people so this is very significant. We have also put solar lights so that at night it really shows that it is a national monument. 

“We also put huge sign-posts to ensure that the significance of this place is there for everyone to see.”

Some of the improvements include the erection of a perimeter fence, the construction of horseshoe-shaped exhibition wall panels at the site, ablution facilities and the drilling of a borehole.

The display panels show Ndebeles resisting colonial forces manifesting in the battle at Bonko by the Shangani River and at Gadade in Mbembesi. The exhibition also relives the burning of King Lobengula’s Royal capital at Emahlabathini. 

When the King got the news of the defeat of the Ndebele army at Bonko and Gadade he ordered the burning down of the royal town as per tradition and fled towards the Shangani River accompanied by a force of about 2 000 to 3 000 men.

The exhibition also shows the pursuit of the King by the pioneers. A force of 34 men, later known as Shangani Patrol, was assembled to pursue and capture the King. Pupu Monument is located on the outskirts of Lupane, the provincial capital of Matabeleland North. 

Pupu monumen2t Pupu Monument

The province played a critical role in the liberation struggle as the cradle of bold anti-colonial resistance in both the First and Second Umvukela/Chimurenga, which led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. 

“The white settlers themselves celebrated their loss and made it as if it was victory yet they were the ones who were conquered. They put their own monument in the form of an obelisk with 34 names of Maj Wilson’s patrol inscribed on it,” said Minister Kazembe.

“We left it for history to show that these are the people that were defeated by our great grandparents. We have built the cow horn formation to show that these people were actually defeated. This in my view clearly articulates what really transpired.”

Pupu National monument use

Minister Moyo said the reconfiguration of Pupu Battlefield National Monument is testimony of the Second Republic’s commitment to walking the talk in terms of development.

“The issue of reconfiguring and refurbishing Pupu Battlefield National Monument has been on the cards for years during the First Republic but nothing materialised,” he said,


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