Ngungunyane, a king against the Portuguese occupation | African history | -

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Ngungunyane, whose birth name Mudungazi, was born around 1850 on the territory of the Gaza Empire in south-east Africa.

His grandfather, Manukuse, occupied a vast territory. It stretched from the highest point of the Incomati River to the south, from the Indian Ocean to the east, to the Zambezi and Save Rivers in the north, occupying much of what is now Mozambique's territory and part of neighboring countries.

Ngungunyane becomes the last king of Gaza before the empire is defeated by the Portuguese. He died on December 23, 1906, after his deportation to Terceira Island.

How did Ngungunyan come to power?
After the death of Ngungunyan's grandfather in 1858, a war between the two heirs was won by Muzila, with the support of the Portuguese authorities. But the succession is problematic.

It was then that Muzila's son Mudungazi, assisted by his favorite wife Yosio, ordered the assassination of one of his brothers and took power in 1884. He changed his name to Ngungunyan, "the terrible" or "invincible".

For 11 years, he reigns with absolute power, making excessive use of violence in the management of vassal peoples.

How has Ngungunyane been in contact with Europeans?
Ngungunyane came to power a few months before the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), when European nations literally divided Africa, marking the culmination of European control of the continent.

Faced with the growing interest of Britain and Germany for the Mozambican territories, Portugal increases its pressure to impose its power definitively on this place and to repress the Empire of Gaza.

Realizing the rivalries between European countries, Ngungunyane tries to take advantage of the situation. He uses diplomacy with both Great Britain and Portugal.

Ngungunyane (Comic Republic)

How was Ngungunyane defeated?
In early 1895, António Eanes, High Commissioner in Mozambique, ordered a military offensive against Ngungunyane.

At that time Ngungunyan has already lost the loyalty of many of his subjects. His empire is jostled by bloody clashes.

After battles in Coolela and Mandlakasi, Ngungunyane fled to Chaimite, the holy place where his grandfather was buried.

On December 28, 1895, he was imprisoned by Mouzinho de Albuquerque, the Portuguese governor of Gaza's military district. Deported to the Portuguese capital, Ngungunyane and his entourage are exposed to the eyes of all. They are transported through Lisbon in a cage before being exposed to the Botanical Garden of Belem.

Ngungunyane spends the rest of his life in deportation. He learns to read and write and forcibly converts to Christianity, baptized with the name of Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana. The "Lion of Gaza"died of cerebral haemorrhage on December 23, 1906.

How did Ngungunyan become a hero of the anti-colonial struggle?
Following the request of Samora Machel, the first independent Mozambican president, a handful of land from the Azores cemetery, a symbol of Ngungunyan remains, was brought to Maputo in 1985, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Mozambique's independence. .

For FRELIMO (Liberation Front of Mozambique, movement fighting for independence and party in power since 1975), Ngungunyane has always been considered a hero, a source of inspiration during the war of liberation and during the civil war.

Important personalities of Mozambican politics come from the Ngungunyan province of Gaza: Eduardo Mondlane, co-founder and first president of FRELIMO, Samora Machel and Joaquim Chissano, first and second presidents of Mozambique.

Is Ngungunyane a controversial figure?
Ngungunyane's memory was intended to educate the new generations in the love of Mozambique and to promote national unity.

But the plan did not succeed: a century after its defeat, Ngungunyan's resistance against colonialism was still marked by the violent oppression of many of his subjects.

In 1995, celebrating 100 years of resistance by the Gaza Empire, former President Joaquim Chissano inaugurated a bust of Ngungunyan in Mandlakazi, Gaza Province. But, a few days later, it is vandalized by the inhabitants.

The episode shows the controversy of Ngungunyan's legacy. He remains to this day a figure who is loved by some and hated by others.


This story of Sousa Glória is part of the series "Roots of Africa". A series launched in early 2018 by Deutsche Welle, in cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

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