The "Peace Chief" Mhlabunzima Maphumulo: Conflict over Land and Authority in Mbambangalo during the Udlame

Presented by
Seminar Date
May 25, 2011
“Could they then have foreseen what a full, interesting, but troubled life their infant son would live?” asked Patrick Stillwell in his obituary of Inkosi Mhlabunzima Joseph Maphumulo in 1991.1 Stillwell was referring to the name bestowed upon the murdered inkosi by his parents, which means the “earth that is heavy” in isiZulu. Indeed Inkosi Maphumulo had once told Advocate Ann Skelton that his name foretold how he would live in troubled times and have many responsibilities.2 From his installation as leader of the Maphumulo ubukhosi in 1973 until his assassination in 1991, Inkosi Maphumulo led his people in Mbambangalo in an era of unprecedented political violence, known as the udlame. His court in Maqongqo, in the shadow of Pietermaritzburg‟s Table Mountain, was known until early 1990 as a haven of peace in a region in turmoil. Maphumulo earned a reputation of almost mythological proportions as a “peacemaker,” “maverick,” and “rebel chief” for his resistance against Inkatha domination3 and for his struggle to quell the violence in Natal. While the rise of warlords accompanied the violence in many communities, this “peace chief” shaped the course of events in the Table Mountain area. Maphumulo‟s progressively hardening anti-Inkatha stance and his accommodation of the refugees on contested land sparked a series of violent political conflicts tied to land and his leadership. His actions divided his people and ignited conflict with the neighboring amaNyavu, who were under an Inkatha-affiliated inkosi, Bangubukosi Mdluli.
PDF icon Kelly2011.pdf447.23 KB