We left off at GuBulawayo in December 1857 with Nkosi Mzilakazi finally accepting Kgosi Sechele’s request that he free Matsheng (Macheng) aKgama II, who had been held in captivity since 1842.
The Amandebele ruler gave the Mongwato royal claimant a gun and European style clothing before turning him over to the LMS missionary Robert Moffat and accompanying Bakwena emissaries.
Though Matsheng and his minders moved through Gammangwato en-route to Kweneng, they made only a brief evening visit at the Bangwato capital Shoshong; departing quickly despite, or because of the excitement their presence had generated.
Matsheng’s travelling entourage was, however, reinforced by the presence of some 60 Bangwato, who were led by Tshukudu aRamabua aKgama I.
Setswana custom, as well as Mzilakazi’s diplomatic desire, dictated that Matsheng be first returned to his guardian, Sechele, who could then formally arrange for his safe return to his own people.
Sechele was, amongst others, accompanied by Dikgosi Gaseitsiwe of the Bangwaketse and Montshiwa of the Barolong booRatshidi, when he greeted the arrival of Matsheng’s party as it approached his capital, Dithubaruba.
In his journal, Moffat subsequently reported that on January 18, 1858 “the largest native parliament ever witnessed by any one of the six or seven thousand who attended” gathered under Sechele’s direction to officially welcome Matsheng “from the land of bondage”. For his part, the Phuti prince reportedly looked regal for the occasion, wearing a blue European style military officer’s uniform and brass helmet donated by Sechele.
Leading members of the various south-eastern merafe also attended the Pitso, including Mosielele’s Bakgatla baga Mmanaana, Mokgosi’s Balete, Matlhapeng’s Batlokwa, Mosinyi’s Bakaa and Mangope’s Bahurutshe, in addition to large numbers of Bakwena, Bangwaketse and Barolong.
In accordance with the Setswana practice of atswa the assembled dikgosi welcomed Matsheng into their ranks by blessing him with cattle. During the Pitso, they also took the opportunity to address other matters of common concern, such as ensuring that Senthufe, who had fled to Sechele, was finally reconciled with Gaseitsiwe.
For his part, the Rev. Moffat was pleased to further note that: “On the Sabbath all the services devolved on me to overflowing congregations, which afforded me an excellent opportunity of advising all the chief men of the different towns on the great truths of the Bible.”
Following the great Pitso, Matsheng set out for Gammangwato accompanied by a group of Bakwena under the command of Sechele’s brother, Kgosidintsi, as well as Tshukudu’s Bangwato.
Upon his arrival at Shoshong Matsheng was immediately proclaimed Kgosi. The effectively deposed Sekgoma I and his family, notably including his sons Kgama III and Kgamane, thereafter went into exile at Dithubaruba; their arrival being reported in the May 1858 edition of the Mokaeri oa Bechuana newspaper.
There, the Amandebele ruler welcomed the Mokwena with 40 oxen, 40 sheep, 40 goats and some ivory.
During this, and a follow-up visit the following year, Sechele is said to have impressed his Amandebele host and others with his Christian evangelism. Although Mzilakazi resisted conversion, he appears to have been reassured by Sechele’s capacity to accommodate Christianity with African norms, hierarchy and matters of State.
Thus, it was that when the LMS missionaries John Moffat, William Sykes and Thomas Morgan Thomas arrived to establish the first Christian mission at Inyathi in what is today Zimbabwe, they were surprised to find some amongst the Amandebele already holding prayers based on Sechele’s preaching.
Back in Gammangwato, however, Matsheng’s installation proved to be but an opening act in an extended drama. Indigenous as well as missionary sources are in general agreement that the young Kgosi soon alienated his subjects, including Tshukudu and other close supporters, with his penchant for autocracy, allegedly aggravated by excessive alcohol consumption.
The Bangwato were especially disturbed when he declared all property to be his and shocked them when he had a kgosana executed for defying him.
Having been raised by Mzilakazi, with little mentoring in the norms of his own people, it is hardly surprising that during his brief first reign, Matsheng behaved in a manner more in keeping with a Ndebele rather than Setswana ruler.
At the early months of 1859, with Matsheng having been barely a year on the throne, leading Bangwato once more led by Tshukudu requested that Sechele remove Matsheng and restore his guest, Sekgoma I to the Bangwato throne.
Sechele agreed, dispatching several regiments under the command of Kgosidintsi to escort Sekgoma. Unlike Sechele’s previous intervention, the return of Sekgoma was not without bloodshed. According to Mokaeri oa Bechuana, between 20 and 30 of Matsheng’s supporters and 10 Bakwena were killed in battle.
Matsheng initially fled to the Baseleka at Ngwapa, where Kgosi Kobe had maintained himself as an independent ruler in defiance of Sekgoma’s past attempts to impose his authority over the entire territory west of the Limpopo River.
From Ngwapa, Matsheng appealed for Amadebele support in retaking his throne. But, Mzilakazi instead reached an understanding with Sechele’s special envoy, Pule to accept the status quo. Thus abandoned, Matsheng accepted the Mokwena’s offer of refuge at Dithubaruba.