n July 1893, the king of the Matabele (Ndebele*), Lobengula (1870-94), began of war of conquest against the Mashona, another Bantu people. The British intervened. While the main body of Matabele warriors were in the north fighting to conquer the Mashonas, armed columns of the British South Africa Company invaded Matabeleland in present-day western Zimbabwe in the fall of 1893. Lobengula was furious at this encroachment and made plans for war against the invaders. In late October, on the plains of the Shangani River, the Matabeles attacked the British, whose Maxim guns overpowered and killed many of the enemy. En route toward the Matabele capital of Bulawayo, the British withstood a surprise attack; again the warriors' spears were no match for the Maxim guns. The British occupied the capital on November 4, 1893, and took control of Matabeleland afterward. Lobengula fled north and died on the march on January 23, 1894. His people, whose livelihood was based on farming and livestock, were deprived of much land and frequently were conscripted to work in the British gold mines.
Casualties are uncertain. One source suggests British forces suffered 2000 casualties, the Mashonas 7000 and the Matabele 3000.
*Ndebele, also called NDEBELE OF ZIMBABWE, OR NDEBELE PROPER, formerly MATABELE, are a Bantu-speaking people of southwestern Zimbabwe who live primarily around the city of Bulawayo. They originated early in the 19th century as an offshoot of the Nguni of Natal.