The AmaXesibe nation came together in Mount Ayliff on Saturday to unveil a monument to Chief Fikeni, one of the nation’s brave traditional leaders.
The monument erected at Ndzongiseni village is not only a memorial for the chief, who lived in the 1800s, but also for his five wives, who played a pivotal role in the upliftment of the Fikeni chiefdom, introducing Christianity and education in the region at EmaXesibeni.
Fikeni, the son of Chief Mjoli and grandson of Sinama, the paramount chief of the Mganu Xesi tribe, was born in 1820 and died in 1870.
Xesibe is the imfusi (one who is born after) of twins Mpondo and Mpondomise.
His descendant is the renowned political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni, who spent more than 25 years researching the history of the less documented AmaXesibe nation.
Somadoda called upon other traditional leaders within the Xesibe dynasty to erect memorials for their ancestors and have the history of AmaXesibe rewritten and properly document by the AmaXesibe themselves.
Fikeni and his five wives – Manguse, MaGxumisa, Manyangule, MaMaqanda, and MaRhadebe – were instrumental in encouraging the Methodist Church missionaries to start a church in the Xesibeland.
Currently, there are no less than five Fikeni family members who are ministers in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
Fikeni’s monument, which was designed by Somadoda and IT specialist Afika Fikeni, has his grave flanked by a Bible and cross symbolising Christianity and on top is a shield, spear and knobkerrie, symbolising traditional leadership.
Fikeni said they were fortunate in that although their ancestors died centuries ago, they still knew where they were buried and it had not been difficult to erect the monument and build the tombstone.
The royal family also recognised the role played by his mother, Majali Fikeni, whose grave lies less than 100m from her son’s.
“We sometimes forget about the role played by the wives of traditional leaders or their aunts and daughters. Significant to this event, is recognition of the role played by women in the whole exercise, including the wives,’’ said Fikeni.
“The reason we suffer is because we are not clear about our history. We are not conscious about our culture. We need to be informed about our history so that we can make informed choices.
“Among the Xesibe people I think this is going to be a significant step – improving through preserving the Xesibe heritage,” said Fikeni.
He said the Xesibe had played a significant role and yet there was no history book on the community. “You find that our history has been downplayed. For example the defeat of Shaka Zulu, who was seen as unconquerable, by the joint forces of Bhaca and Xesibe, lead by Nogula on the side of Xesibe.”
Retired Independent Electoral Commission chairwoman Brigalia Bam urged other royal families to also recognise the wives and mothers of traditional leaders.
“Many women have played a big role in our traditional leadership, roles of bravery and unwavering support to their husbands and sons,” she said.
Bam also raised concern that African culture was diluted and erased by the youth who went to multiracial schools.
“Some forget about their roots. They cannot even speak their mother tongue or an indigenous language.
“They think if they can only speak proper English they are smart to forsake their own language and culture. They are just a disgrace to the nation and laughing stock to other races.
“It is good when they speak English but they should be speaking their own African languages and observing their own culture.”