Book Extract: Dingiswayo – To The Heart Of Heritage, Or Chief Among Narratives

August 7, 2020

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Heritage Publishers have published four new titles in the Our Story series: Shaka, Dingiswayo, The Rebellion of Langalibalele and Matiwane’s amaNgwane. First published in 2015, this heritage series has grown from 14 to 23 titles with another eight titles to be published by the end of 2020. The series has been purchased and catalogued by the Library of Congress in Washington and is formally approved by the Eastern Cape, North West and Gauteng Departments of Education – the only provinces to have called for book submissions in the recent past.



In this extract, the young Godongwana, who became known as Dingiswayo, flees from his own father who wants to have him murdered.

Mthethwa chief Jobe kaKhayi had several sons, including Godongwana, the eldest, followed by Mawewe, whose mothers were of different tribes. Godongwana was born in about 1780 to Mabamba kaDonda, near present-day Melmoth here in KwaZulu-Natal. Godongwana learned that although he was the first-born of Jobe’s Chief Wife, the chief favoured his second son. He and Mawewe became rivals for the chieftainship. In 1804, when Godongwana turned 24, Mawewe’s friends, his fellow circumcision initiates, with the aim of establishing Mawewe as the successor to his father, circulated a rumour that the eldest brother intended to assassinate the chief. Impatient of his father’s rule, the first-born may well have conspired against the old man’s life. Jobe, on being informed of this by Mawewe’s mother and believing the rumour, ordered a party to destroy his son and his adherents, but Godongwana escaped with his loving younger brother, Tana, and thus began his life as a fugitive.

On the first night of their escape to a hut in the mountains, Godongwana and the loyal Tana were woken by the executioners sent by their father. Tana scrambled out of their hut first, stooping through the low doorway. Godongwana heard him gasp as the first assegai lodged in the boy’s back. As he himself emerged, he saw the executioners repeatedly stabbing the already-dead Tana. Godongwana managed to flee from the kraal, but when he pushed his way through its fence, his back became a sea of pain from the barbed ‘iThatha’, the assegai stuck deep in his side. He staggered briefly but continued in his headlong flight, closely pursued, until he reached the nearby emaWunzi forest, where he could sit down and rest.

Godongwana groaned as he awoke and moved his stiff body into a more comfortable position. The events of the last few days were confusing because the pain and the ever-present fear of death had occupied all his thoughts. He cried for the innocent Tana, murdered because Jobe may have seen even this little boy as a threat. Now that he was rested and could walk again, Godongwana decided to leave this shelter at daybreak as it was too close to his father’s kraal.

Early next morning, Godongwana heard the voices of Jobe’s men calling through the forest as they searched for him. Wincing, he crawled under a fallen tree. The hunters came closer while most of the party veered off in another direction. But one of his pursuers, seeing Godongwana concealed, pointed him out to a man close by who requested the other not to speak of it. This young huntsman immediately called out to those in the rear that further pursuit was useless as no trace could be seen of the fugitive. Godongwana recognised their voices: They were friends of his own age-group who had been accepted into the tribe by initiation at the same time as he had. These two men abandoned the search, trampled through the undergrowth, and advanced on Godongwana. They glanced quickly about, and seeing no other executioners nearby, promised their friend not to betray him. They undertook to send his sister, Muma, to tend to his wound and bring him food, saying her departure would be on the pretext that she had gone into the forest to gather firewood. Muma arrived later and told her brother that their father was furious because he believed Godongwana and Tana had plotted against his life. She advised him to flee to their mother’s people, the Mbokazi. Godongwana’s friends on returning to Jobe’s kraal convinced the chief that, due to his wounds, his first-born would not live long.

Although still in a critical condition, Godongwana managed to make his way to people who nursed him back to health. When his father learned he was still alive, he put a price on his head: a reward for his eldest son’s dead body. Godongwana felt the need to put some distance between himself and his vengeful father. He made his way to a distant tribe where his mother’s relatives resided. The Mbokazi healed his wound and took care of him. Jobe, on hearing of his son’s recovery, sent presents of cattle and quantities of brass to that chief, requesting him to put the boy to death. Godongwana heard of this from his relations and at once made off to the Qwabe tribe.

Jobe sent presents to this chief, entreating him to kill his son, which resulted in him again escaping, this time to the eLangeni in the Mtlatuze Valley. He, however, remained there only briefly, for the vengeance of his father still pursued him. Jobe, as on the previous occasion, presented the eLangeni chief with oxen, begging that he kill Godongwana. The chief refused, fearing that it might be made a pretext for a war at some future date. He, nevertheless, gave permission to the Mthethwa tribesmen living among the eLangeni to surround Godongwana’s hut and to dispatch him themselves. Having obtained information on where he usually slept, the Mthethwa executioners decided on a day for his murder.

On the evening preceding the appointed day of assassination, the chief hosted a dance which Godongwana attended. He dressed in a fine lightweight black cowhide kaross, while his attendant wore an inferior, heavier red one. At the dance, someone secretly informed him of the plot. Godongwana told his friends that he would run away no more as he was tired of being hunted like a wild animal. He returned to his hut at the usual sleeping time and requested his servant to sleep on his (Godongwana’s) mat as he wanted to get back to the dance with some girls he had befriended. As it was cold, he exchanged his thin kaross with his manservant’s thicker one. Godongwana sat at a distance and awaited the arrival of his executioners. They soon made their appearance and promptly killed his unfortunate servant. He was now satisfied that his death was seriously contemplated by his father, which he had been unsure of up to then.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]