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The book is divided into seven chapters where Gramci’s theory and insights from the democracy and human rights perspective are employed at various points, where and as they seem appropriate to deepen analysis. In Chapter One the main concern is with theoretical issues that underpin the whole book. It summarises Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, it defines the materialist conception of democracy and human rights, and spells out the criteria of human rights adopted in this book. The chapter also discusses the contours of the post-colonial theory that helps in the analysis of the complex dynamics of the colonial encounter and Ndebele responses to it. The chapter also contains a detailed historiography of the Ndebele past, starting with early missionary and settler accounts and proceeding up to the present work of Terence Ranger and Phathisa Nyathi.

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British and Irish Political Geography

Chapter Seven grapples with the crucial ambiguities and contradictions of the colonial encounter, as well as with the resonances of Ndebele memories of their past nation. The conceptual framework of this chapter is constructed from post-colonial theory as articulated by Homi Bhabha, Mahmood Mamdani and others. Mamdani’s theory about citizens and subjects in colonial societies helps to explain not only the denial of human rights and democracy to the Ndebele by the early Rhodesian colonial state, but also the ambiguous responses of the Ndebele to their domination and exploitation by a colonial regime.

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Jeffrey Herbst has noted that African leaders across time and space have faced certain similar problems when trying to rule. The key problem was how to broadcast power and to build nation-states. Nation-building and governance remain major issues in post-colonial Africa and one wonders how pre-colonial leaders managed to build nations like that of the Ndebele, and what forms of governance kept the nation together. The choice of mode of rule is a central aspect of state-building and nation-building projects in Africa. The Ndebele state emerged and crystallised around a small Khumalo clan, and eventually matured into a heterogeneous nation incorporating different ethnic groups before its violent destruction by colonial forces in 1893 and 1896. This reality raises a number of relevant questions, which have been taken for granted for too long: How did one qualify to be a Ndebele? Was the Ndebele nation a civic nation or an ethnic nation? How was power configured in this nation? How accommodative was this state? How did the Ndebele elite deal with tensions of centralisation and decentralisation? How was power distributed? How did the ‘citizens’ access resources like land and cattle? How was coercion and consent balanced? These are indeed some of the key questions dealt with in this book.

The Ndebele Nation : Rozenberg Quarterly