Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monarch Profile: King Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana of Gaza

In the late Nineteenth Century, in the southern tip of what is now Mozambique, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, existed the grandly named “Gaza Empire”. It was, like other African powers which later claimed the title, actually a collection of tribes ruled by whoever was able to seize control for as long as he could hold it. The Gaza empire consisted of tribes which migrated north out of what is now South Africa earlier in the century due to a combination of famine and the defeat of other African tribes following the “Great Trek” of the Boers after the British abolished slavery. The chieftains of Gaza continued to rely heavily on slavery with the Islamic slave merchants on the coast continuing to do business with them for a very long time. The other power in the neighborhood was, of course, the Kingdom of Portugal which had long claimed the whole area as Portuguese East Africa but whose actual control had, for centuries, been limited to the coastal area from which they did business with Africans who inhabited the interior.

Rough location of the "Empire of Gaza"
The man known by the Portuguese as Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana was born around the year 1850 with the name Mdungazwe (or Mundagaz). His grandfather, Gaza, had been a local tribal chief who, during the migration, was able to accumulate several other chiefs subordinate to him and thus when they settled in what is now southern Mozambique and established themselves named their new country Gaza centered around the village of Chaimite. The Portuguese, long established in the region, though mostly farther north, sent a small delegation led by a junior army officer to establish relations with this new entity and negotiate a treaty with them on behalf of the King of Portugal. Though the envoys were received, Gaza refused to make any agreement with Portugal and small scale hostilities continued, mostly with other African tribes in the region and occasionally clashing with the Portuguese as well.

Gungunhana was thus born into a tribal society constantly in conflict and was raised with the sole purpose of being a great tribal warrior in the image of his grandfather. When his grandfather died, his father, Mzila, his uncle Mawewe and another chief all fought for dominance over Gaza. Mawewe was victorious and Mzila, with his son presumably, was forced to flee to the Transvaal in what is now South Africa as Mawewe, to prevent any threat to his hold on power, did his best to massacre his brother’s family which was fairly typical for the time and place. This upsurge in violence caused the Portuguese to peg Mawewe as a troublemaker and they arranged an alliance with the President of the Orange Free State (one of the Boer republics) to eliminate this mutual threat. Chief Mawewe did his best to prove the Portuguese correct, sending them a demand for tribute from every Portuguese colonist at Lourenco Marques under threat of their total annihilation. The Portuguese governor, not being the sort to tolerate such threats and having a flair for the dramatic, sent Mawewe a single rifle cartridge with the notice that this would be the only tribute he would receive from the subjects of the King of Portugal. The fact that their earlier offer of friendship had been rejected, naturally, did not make the belligerent attitude of Mawewe go down any better with the Portuguese.

This, however, gave Gungunhana’s father, Mzila, an opportunity to advance his own cause. Learning of recent evens in the autumn of 1861, Mzila went to the Portuguese and offered them his allegiance as a vassal of the King of Portugal if the Portuguese would help him to overthrow his brother and take control of Gaza. Portugal agreed, Mzila declared himself the rightful king of the Gaza and launched a war. He was able to rally some supporters with the help of having Portuguese backing him up and an November 30, 1861 won the decisive battle which secured his control of the area. The following month he signed a formal treaty in which the Portuguese recognized him as the chieftain of Gaza and which made him a subject of the King of Portugal. The war dragged on for several more years though the outcome was never really in doubt as Mzila, despite having initially a much smaller army, had 2,000 antiquated flintlock muskets provided by the Portuguese authorities which allowed him to dominate his enemy.

Gungunhana began to rise in prominence among the other children of his father during these years but as the decades went by, tensions began to rise too as warriors from Gaza attacked Portuguese colonists. New agreements were made and Mzila would offer apologies and expressions of friendship, but such attacks continued sporadically and bad feelings continued to fester. Around this time, as his reign was nearing its end, the “Scramble for Africa” was also starting to get underway. British rule in Africa was expanding rapidly and the Germans and Belgians were also arriving on the scene, eager to make agreements with native rulers for control of local resources. The Portuguese colonial authorities had to move to actually occupy the areas long claimed and to make sure none of the chieftains in these territories were wooed away by other powers.

After attacks on two Portuguese settlements, Mzila went to Lourenco Marques to make his apologies and again pledge his allegiance to the King in Lisbon. Although irritated by the attacks, the Portuguese gave Mzila a welcome full of pomp and ceremony as well as more tangible gifts such as rice, livestock and liquor. At his request, they also gave him a Portuguese flag to fly over his village. The Portuguese also sent an ambassador to his village shortly thereafter. However, not long after, in 1884, Mzila died. Gungunhana was not the heir to the throne but, again, in typical fashion, made war on his brothers and was successful in forcing the heir and other rivals for power to flee the country. By the end of the year he was firmly ensconced on the throne and took the name Gungunhana or “son of the lion”. With his authority covering 90,000 square kilometers of territory and over a million Africans, Gungunhana, at 34, undoubtedly felt at the top of his game. However, the encroachment of the British and the Germans in the area meant that Portugal had to have, not just treaties but an actual presence in every area under her flag, otherwise it would be seen as “fair game” to the more recently arrived European powers.

With the British in the midst of a flurry of expansion, the Portuguese colonial government dispatched Casaleiro Alegria as the Portuguese resident at the court of Gungunhana in 1885. The following year, representatives in Lisbon agreed to a new treaty which would allow Portugal a presence in Gaza, freedom of movement for the Portuguese in Gaza and granting Gungunhana the rank of Colonel of the Second Line in the royal Portuguese army. Unfortunately, that agreement fell apart and a new delegation had to be sent to Lisbon in 1887 to negotiate a new treaty. The Africans were much more cooperative after the recent suppression of the fearsome Zulu kingdom by the British. This was done but events began to unravel very quickly.

Gungunhana decided to move his capital farther to the south, to an area held by tribes that were less than friendly to his own (the Nguni) and this set off a series of conflicts and, again, some sporadic attacks on Portuguese colonists. One reason for this was the presence of some mines in this region which the Africans learned were highly prized by the Europeans and Gungunhana believed that if he could take undisputed control of this region, he could buy the support of the British in helping him divorce himself from the Portuguese. It did not help that at the same time the oldest alliance in the world was being tested with the British expansion into the interior of Africa between the Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique. There were even threats of a naval blockade and relations between the British and Portuguese had scarcely ever been worse. The time for niceties was over and the Kingdom of Portugal had to get very serious or risk losing their territory. To oversee the occupation of Mozambique, Portugal dispatched the respected soldier Lt. Colonel (with brevet promotion to general) Joaquim Mouzinho de Albuquerque as governor.

Battle of Marracuene
Gungunhana, alarmed at the sudden ‘no-nonsense’ attitude of the Portuguese in Africa, went ahead with his scheme to enlist the British on his side. However, the governments in London and Lisbon, unknown to him, had already agreed on where the border between their colonial holdings would be. The spread of Portuguese authority also caused a backlash in areas far removed from Gaza and in 1894 in particular there were large native uprisings against the colonial government. At first, Gungunhana tried to assure both sides of his support but eventually he did have to mobilize his warriors, though he tried to reassure the Portuguese that he simply wished to review them. Portugal responded with a formal military campaign for the pacification of Mozambique. On February 2, 1895 a small Portuguese force led by Major Caldas Xavier defeated a much larger African army at the Battle of Marracuene thanks to the discipline and superior weaponry of the colonial army. That episode got the attention of some of the African leaders but a last effort at a diplomatic reconciliation with Gungunhana fails later the same year. Gungunhana continuously put off the Portuguese, still thinking that he would receive word from the British any day of their support for his cause.

Finally, that summer, Gungunhana refuses a last Portuguese ultimatum and threatens openly to ally himself with the British. This was effectively an outright declaration of war against Portugal. It does not go well for the Africans. At the Battle of Magul on September 7, 1895 a Portuguese column, having formed square, bloodily repulses a massive native attack with their superior firepower. Nearby villages were burned as the Portuguese army moved in. The Africans fighting at Magul, however, were not from Gaza as Gungunhana was still holding back, expecting the British to come fight on his behalf. He is even forced, eventually, to demobilize his army of 40,000 men as he simply could no longer feed them and the men needed to return home to see to their crops. He sends still more messages to the British in South Africa but, as usual, receives no reply. With no other native forces between his own and the Portuguese, Gungunhana became the focus of a direct attack by a heavily armed column of 600 Portuguese soldiers and 500 African colonial troops led by Colonel Eduardo Galhardo.

Battle of Coolela
Amazingly, Gungunhana seemed to think that, as he and his father had done in the past, the Portuguese might be mollified with apologies and renewed promises of friendship. This time, however, that will not be enough and Gungunhana is only able to mobilize a fraction of his previous strength, roughly 13,000 native warriors, to meet the Portuguese. The result was the famous Battle of Coolela on November 7, 1895 in which, again, the Portuguese forces decimate the native army, the African warriors of Gaza losing hundreds of men compared to only five Portuguese being killed. In the aftermath of this disaster, Gungunhana accuses his family of betraying him and announces that he will surrender to the Portuguese, again, still thinking that new promises of friendship will be enough. About four days later the Portuguese take the capital of Gaza, Manjacaze, but find the chieftain not at home. The kraal is burned and the troops march on. Gungunhana had fled to the old capital, the village of Chaimite, where his witchdoctors perform human sacrifice to arouse the spirit of his famous grandfather for protection.

The capture of Gungunhana
With other African chiefs eager to make themselves vassals of the King of Portugal in wake of the recent battles, including members of Gungunhana’s own family, Mouzinho de Albuquerque decided to go himself, with only a handful of men, to capture Gungunhana. The African chieftain tries to stop Albuquerque with gifts, sending ivory and over 500 pounds of gold, later more gold, livestock and even his firstborn son but all to no avail. On the morning of December 28, 1895 Mouzinho de Albuquerque enters Chaimite with its remaining 300 warriors fleeing at the approach of the tiny party. Gungunhana is taken prisoner and the village is destroyed. That was not the end of all resistance but it was the end for Gungunhana who was packed up, along with his seven wives and a few servants, and marched to the coast and put aboard ship for Lisbon. When journalists are allowed in to see him, they are confronted by the pitiful site of a bewildered man, crying hysterically, desperately trying to bargain for his life, convinced that he is to face a firing squad.

This, of course, does not happen and in the midst of a media frenzy the group is moved to a prison fortress where they are such a popular attraction that viewing stands are erected. Not long after they are moved to better accommodations and given their favorite foods, wine and medical care. Gungunhana repeatedly asked to meet with King Carlos, wishing to pledge his allegiance again but, though it is talked about, the King refuses to meet with him. The African chieftain was quickly becoming problematic for the government. Caring for them and the horde of spectators that gathered around them was expensive and while some in Portugal wished for nothing better than for Gungunhana to be shot as a faithless traitor, leftist agitators and enemies of the monarchy were also starting to champion his cause and condemn the pacification campaign as wanton cruelty. Finally, on June 22, 1896, the group was quietly shipped off to exile in the Azores.

The exiled king and his seven wives
The former ruler of Gaza was, on orders from the Portuguese government, treated with all due respect, spending his time hunting rabbits and weaving baskets for sale at the local market. To his dismay, the Catholic nature of the Portuguese monarchy would not allow him to retain his seven wives and so, to assuage him and his sons, weekly trips to the local brothel satisfied them. Eventually they all learned to read, write and speak Portuguese and in 1899 were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. They adopted western clothes and customs and eventually became accepted, if unusual, members of the local community. Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana, former king of Gaza, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on December 23, 1906. Some of his descendants still live in South Africa today.

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