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Unity in a diversity of cultures echoed during King Silamba commemoration

By Stella Sigcau


South Africa comes from a past where the racial, tribal and cultural differences were used as tools to create and maintain divisions. These led in certain instances to negative mind-sets due to cultural and racial stereotypes. Events like the King Silamba commemoration play an important role not only to remember a great King and educate the rest of the world about Ndebele culture, but also to promote unity in diversity.

They serve as platforms where culture and tradition can be used to break down stereotypes and thus changing the mind-sets to those of tolerance, compassion and respect for others, social cohesion, appreciation of diversity and values of humanity, sharing and exchanging of diverse cultures whilst promoting the beauty of African traditions. They are daises where Ubuntu is advocated and shared even with people from other parts of the global village.

Globalisation; movement of people, information and goods between countries as have never been seen before; broader usage of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and accessibility; social media, cross border business, emergence of economic/regional blocks, the 4th industrial revolution have made the world even smaller. Globalisation affords for an opportunity to promote a positive African identity and image as well as exposure of local cultures and products to broader global markets. It affords an opportunity to share and exchange as well as to educate about the cultures, histories and languages of the diverse nationalities. This exposure leads to broader understanding and appreciation of diversity whilst creating a more positive mind-set with regards to Africa’s cultures and traditions. Culture relates to language, beliefs, customs and traditions.


Events like the King Silamba commemoration help to rekindle interest and pride in the Ndebele culture through teaching about the history of amaNdebele, their language, beliefs, customs and traditions whilst bringing different nations and people together. Through this experience some of the guests become “cultural ambassadors” sharing the beautiful Ndebele story, its colourful art, the hospitality of its people and its rich heritage.

On 2 March 2019 in Komjekejeke Heritage Site, people from diverse walks of life including members of the diplomatic corps, cabinet ministers, tourists, gathered to experience the Ndebele culture and traditions as well as to join amaNdebele in commemorating their great and revered King Silamba who played a significant role in the preservation of Ndebele culture. His descendent King Makhosonke Mabhena also made it his mandate to ensure that not only is it preserved but it brings prosperity to his people.

Some of the guests came from across the oceans, others came from within the continent and from the various Kingdoms of South Africa including Pedi, Balobedu, Zulu, Mpondo to mention a few.

Various speakers echoed the importance of unity in diversity including the Kings from Ivory Coast and Zambia, Princess Stella Sigcau II of the Mpondo Kingdom and Prince Dlamini of the eSwatini Kingdom. Speaking on behalf of President Ramaphosa, Deputy President Mabuza spoke at great length about the importance of unity in particular amongst traditional leaders of South Africa and amongst the diverse cultures as well as a need to move Africa towards unity beyond the colonial borders that were imposed. He emphasised the importance of the partnership between traditional leaders and government.

His Majesty King Mabhena in his closing remarks spoke about the need for Ndebele language to be developed and taught at Universities as well as the importance of the communal land not to be expropriated, instead for Kings and Chiefs to be given the relevant support to manage the land for the benefit of the people. Central to the history of the struggle and decolonisation of which Kings and Chiefs were part of, the land question was at the centre. He accentuated the importance of African unity as a prerequisite of a prosperous Africa.



January/February 2020










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