Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

For the past two decades AmaNdebele WakwaManala have been descending in droves on the Komjekejeke Heritage Site in Wahlmansthal, outside Pretoria, for their yearly commemoration of the "unifying spirit" of late King Silamba.

This year was no different.

The 28th celebrations were again hosted by the Silamba's direct descendant, Makhosoke II.

Silamba reigned until 1892 and was succeeded by his eldest son Mbhedlengani, whose rule was short-lived. He died in 1896.

A descendant of King Musi, Silamba ascended the throne after his return from exile in GaMangoato or KonoNgwadu in Botswana following the tragic assassination of his brother Khuleka.

His royal seat was situated at KwaPhulwana, Zwavelspoort, next to KwaNanduna between the present Bronkhorstspruit and Bapsfontein, near Pretoria.

After a bitter conflict over land with Afrikaner farmers, led by JG Bronkhorst, Silamba and some of his followers moved to KoMjekejeke in the 1850s.

Silamba is said to have fiercely resisted the infiltration of his tribe by Berlin missionaries and to have fought for the preservation of his tribe's cultural identity.

Silamba and four other kings are buried in the vicinity of KoMmjekejeke.

The area was declared a National Heritage Site in 1999.

The site was bought by Makhosoke II and is administered under the Silamba Trust.

The commemoration takes place either during February or March.

This year's commemoration was attended by King Mampuru of Bapedi, Prince Lambert Kandaza of the Tshokwe tribe in the DRC and King Wiseman Mabena of the Ndebele tribe in Zimbabwe. Mpumalanga MEC for education Siphosezwe Masango and Motsweding district municipality mayor Agnes Mlondobozi also attended.

Masango has proposed that a life-size statue of King Silamba be erected.

"I'm glad to see so many young people attending this cultural event because it shows the youth are reclaiming their identity," ," Masango said.

"We have to develop this area into a tourist attraction."