Lobengula

ca. 1836–1894
King of Matabeleland

Lobengula was the last ruler of the NDEBELE kingdom of Matabeleland in present-day ZIMBABWE. After the death of his father, MZILIKAZI, the founder of the kingdom, civil war broke out. Lobengula eventually won the war, and he took the throne in 1870. However, the kingdom remained in chaos.

Lobengula spent much of his reign trying to balance rebellious Ndebele groups and the demands of South African settlers and prospectors for land and mining rights. He agreed to some of their demands under pressure from Europeans, including the adventurer Cecil RHODES. Fearing that his kingdom was threatened, Lobengula also signed an agreement in 1888 with British authorities, pledging that he would have territorial negotiations only with Britain.

In response to continued threats from white settlers and miners, the Ndebele attacked an outpost of the British South Africa Company in 1893. Despite Lobengula’s requests for peace, the company retaliated brutally. An army consisting of the company’s police force and off-duty British soldiers attacked the Ndebele settlement of Bulawayo and burned it to the ground. Lobengula died of smallpox while retreating. (See also Southern Africa, History.)

Lobengula