Many including myself call the City of Bulawayo “the city of kings” never bothering to find out why we call it such.
However, the local narratives of the Bulawayo City Hall tell a different story than that of a city with a connection to a couple of kings!
Gogo Thwakuzo who was a grown up girl when her father worked on digging Cecil John Rhodes’s grave at the hill of Malindidzimu at the Matobo Hills with several other so called African natives where her family responsibility was to bring her father daily meals from her village has this to say about the City Hall:
“They built that hall on the fields of our Queen Lozikeyi, the great iNkosikazi. She and the other wives of the King farmed on that land and stayed not far from there to the west towards the hill of Intabazabathakathi.
It is the first piece of land that Rhodes’s people occupied on arriving in this place and used it for parking their big wagons. You people should name that place after the Queen.”
Never, old woman. This is the city of kings not women.
Bulawayo the City Of Queens?
“What kings?” the old lady asks: “I know only one king who cited his capital here at Emahlabathini, Inkosi uLobengula. Before him there was no such a place called Bulawayo in this country. He did not even stay koBulawayo. He stayed at his Umvutsha Palace across the Umguza River coming to Bulawayo only for conducting state business. It’s the Queens that stayed in the centre of this city where you young people do your shopping today. So what kings are you talking about?” quips Thwakuzo with a cynical smile. “Who is teaching you all that rubbish?”
From Queen Lozikeyi’s fields, the land became a parking square for wagons; then an ugly building for a hall was erected; during the uprising of 1896 it became a Laager that housed all the settlers during the war for months.
“Our brave young amajaha wanted to wipe all settlers out during that war, umvukela-impi yamahloka. It is at that place, in that war Laager at the Queen’s fields that the Rhodesian identity was created, embraced and cemented to this day,” explained the old granny.
After that the Laager was transformed to a vibrant farm produce market before being transformed to a local government headquarters that it is today. “I saw it all unfold before my own eyes young man.”
How then do we end up with the City of Kings for Bulawayo?
It was a hired white tourism consultant as a response to an effort to market the city who came up with that phrase of course to mean and suite what he and those that hired him wanted it to mean; but it is for sure not what the local narratives of the City Hall inform us about the birth of this city.