Lobengula Khumalo

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes:The causes of the Anglo-Ndebele War/ First Matebele/War of Dispossession


  • The need to control the Shona people led to the Anglo-Ndebele war as the settlers needed them as labourers in their mines and industries whilst the Ndebele considered Mashonaland as a raiding ground
  • Raiding formed the backbone of the Ndebele economy and they were angered when new settlers took over their raiding territory
  • As the Ndebele continued raiding the Shona who would run away to secluded places leaving the British mines and factories unattended
  • The settlers also resented the Ndebele as they saw them as a big powerhouse who was going to cause problems for them sooner or later
  • The settlers and the Ndebele also did not agree on the boundary and this led to the War of Dispossession
  • Leander Starr Jameson had declared the border to be at Umnyathi and Shashi river but Lobengula did not respect the boarders
  • The Ndebele were settled enroute to South Africa so the settlers could not communicate with others in South Africa and this led to the war
  • The war was also a result of the fact that the Ndebele were settled in the area which the settlers wanted to build a railway line to Mafikeng on low costs
  • The war between Britain and the Ndebele occurred because the settlers did not find the second Eldorado in Mashonaland so they assumed it was in Matebeleland
  • The Ndebele had many cattle so the settlers thought they would boost their economy as it was falling due to failed investment in Mashonaland
  • Rhodes also wanted to gain glory back home hence the need to control Matebeleland
  • The Fort Victoria incident was however the chief cause of the War of Dispossession
  • 500 yards of telegraph wire was cut by the Shona under headman Gomara
  • The settlers wanted to trial and punish the culprits but they requested to pay in the form of cattle
  • The cattle they used to pay were alleged to have belonged to Lobengula given to chiefs under the Kuronzera system
  • Lobengula protested and the cattle were returned
  • In another case, chief Bere stole Lobengula‚Äôs cattle and he sent an impi (army) to punish them but not interfere with the white settlers
  • However the attack brought the settlers activities, that is, agriculture to a standstill
  • Starr told the commanders to withdraw but they did not react fast enough
  • Starr then sent his Captain Lendy to drive out the invaders but the fired shots at the Ndebele army killing Mgandani, a commander.
  • This then led to the breaking out of the war as the Ndebele retaliated and began fighting the British

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