Southern Ndebele people

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The women of Loopspruit Cultural Village, near Bronkhorstspruit, in front of a traditionally-painted Ndebele dwelling.
Total population
709,327 (2011 Census)
Regions with significant populations
Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces
in  South Africa
Southern Ndebele language
Christian, Animist
Related ethnic groups
Nguni, Northern Ndebele

Although the origins of the South African Ndebele are shrouded in mystery, they have been identified as one of the Nguni tribes. The Nguni tribes represent nearly two thirds of South Africa's Black population and can be divided into four distinct groups; the Central Nguni (the Zulu-speaking peoples), the Southern Nguni (the Xhosa-speaking peoples), the Swazi people from Swaziland and adjacent areas and the Ndebele people of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.

The two Ndebele groups were not only separated geographically but also by differences in their languages and cultures. The Ndebele of the Northern Province consisted mainly of the BagaLanga and the BagaSeleka tribes who, by and large, adopted the language and culture of their Sotho neighbours. The North Ndebele people resided an area stretching from the town of Warmbaths in the south, to the Limpopo River in the north and from the Botswana border in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. However, they were mainly concentrated in the districts of Pietersburg, Bakenberg and Potgietersrus. Mpumalanga, much of which consists of the area known as the Lowveld, stretches from the town of Piet Retief in the south to Lydenburg / Pilgrim's Rest in the north and from the towns of Witbank and Groblersdal in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. The Springbok Flats separated the North Ndebele and those in the east from one another.


The Ndebele people are based in Southern Africa; there are different clans within the Ndebele people. The clans comprise of the following, Manala, Ndzundza, Matebele a Moletlane and the Ndebele from Zimbabwe. There is a long history of why the Ndebele people were separated from each other, history shows that the Ndebele people were once a united group of indigenous Africans ruled by one King and separated as years went by. The separations of the Ndebele people were caused by Royal family feuds, wars and colonisation. This book shows the history of the Ndzundza clan but does not exclude the other Ndebele clans because all the clans were once united. 2. United Ndebele History The Ndebele people’s history has been traced back to King Ndebele, King Ndebele fathered King Mkhalangana, King Mkhalangana fathered King Mntungwa (not to be confused with the Khumalo Mntungwa, because he was fathered by Mbulazi), King Mntungwa fathered King Njonono, King Njonono fathered King Nanasi, King Nanasi fathered King Mafana, king Mafana fathered King Mhlanga and Chief Libhoko, King Mhlanga fathered King Musi and Chief Skhuba.

King Musi’s kraal was based at eMhlangeni a place named after his father Mhlanga, the name of the place is currently known as Randfontein (Mohlakeng) and later moved to KwaMnyamana which is now called Emarula or Bon Accord in Pretoria. King Musi was a polygamist and fathered the following sons, Skhosana (Masombuka), Manala, Ndzundza (Hlungwana), Thombeni (Kekana or Gegana), Sibasa, Mhwaduba and Mphafuli. The first born son of king Musi was Skhosana from the third wife, he also was called Masombuka. The name "sombuka" means to begin; hence the first son was called Masombuka. Manala was the first son from the great wife and Ndzundza was the son of the second wife. According to Ndebele custom, the heir to the throne of the king is the first born son from the great wife; hence Manala was the heir to the Ndebele throne. When the great wife of King Musi died, King Musi was blind through old age and was sickly. He was nursed by his surviving second wife and mother of Ndzundza. One day the second wife overheard Musi instructing Manala to come and see him in the morning. She believed that the appointment had to do with the handing over of the accessories of the kingship "ubungwenyama" to Manala. She then instructed Manala to go and hunt for the imbuduma (Buffalo) and this was a ploy to keep Manala away from the household in order to orchestrate her plan that Ndzundza impersonate Manala and receive the accessories for the throne. After Manala had left to hunt for the Buffalo she then called her son Ndzundza to go to King Musi and impersonate Manala by wearing a sheepskin in order to appear hairy like Manala. King Musi believing Ndzundza to be Manala gave him the accessory to the throne, customarily passed on from the incumbent to the successor. This accessory called namrali was a mysterious object that cries like a child, used to fortify the king. Upon learning that Ndzundza had received the namrali the mother advised him to flee from the wrath of Manala. He took the namrali and fled with a number of followers. On his return from the hunting trip Manala then went to see his father. His father informed him that he had already given away the namrali to Ndzundza. It was then that Musi realised that he had been deceived by Ndzundza. Manala called a Royal meeting (imbizo) and announced that Ndzundza had stolen the namrali. Musi then instructed Manala to pursue Ndzundza and bring him back to the royal household and if Ndzundza refuses to come back Manala should kill him. Manala caught up with Ndzundza who was with Thombeni (Kekana) and Skhosana (Masombuka), his half brothers, at Mashongololo around Cullinan. The two factions fought at Cullinan. Manala and his supporters returned home to replenish their provisions. Upon their return, they caught up with Ndzundza at Bhalule River (Oliphants River). Manala did not kill Ndzundza (as per the instruction of his father) but an old woman called NoQoli from a Mnguni family mediated between the two brothers. An agreement was reached whereby Manala surrendered the kingship to Ndzundza. It was further agreed that henceforth their daughters would inter-marry, a practice which later died out. The agreement was called "isivumelwano sakoNoQoli" and hence the Mnguni family was later called Msiza because they helped Ndzundza and Manala not to kill each other. Ndzundza never returned to the royal household but settled across the Bhalule River with his followers. Ndzundza settled across the Bhalule River whilst Manala returned to KwaMnyamana and each ruled separately. Dlomo went to Zululand, and became the father of the amaNdebele clan in Zululand which were later conquered by King Shaka. Mhwaduba formed a Batswana traditional community and became the originator of the Bahwaduba clan. Thombeni left and joined Ndzundza but later hived along the Olifants River and established the Gegana (Kekana) traditional community in Zebediela known as Matebele a Moletlane and later the Mthombeni traditional community among VaTsonga. Sibasa left and joined the VhaVenda community and was later known as Tshivhase amongst the Venda nation. Mphaphuli joined Sibasa and usurped the leadership of the Vhavenda traditional community, but later joined Ndzundza at Mananga. 3. Ndzundza Family – kwaSimkhulu When Ndzundza settled across the Bhalule River then moved with his followers to a place called kwaSimkhulu near the Ndubazi (Steelpoort River) which cover Dullstroom, Stoffberg and Belfast. Ndzundza fathered five sons which are as follows Mrhetjha, Petha, Ndimande, Kotheni, Qongo and a daughter called Mthisa, the only recorded name of early female offspring. She was offered to the Manala clan as a token of lasting peace agreement between aManala and the amaNzunza. Mrhetjha was the heir to the Ndzundza throne since he was the first born son from the great wife. Mrhetjha fathered four sons as follows Ntobela, Magobholi, Snideni and Bhorholo. Ntobela was the first born son from the second wife and Magobholi was the first born son from the great wife and hence Magobholi succeeded his father. Magobholi fathered Bongwe and Bongwe fathered Mahlangu.

4. Ndzundza Family – kwaMaza The Ndzundza family was mostly known as Mkhalangana until Mahlangu usurped kingship and then the family was then called kwaMahlangu or Mntungwa. Even all the children from the extended families (i.e. Petha, Ndimande, kotheni, Qongo, Ntobela, Bhorholo) ended up calling themselves as Mahlangu even though they were not fathered by Mahlangu. When Bongwe passed away, Mahlangu was still a minor and had not gone to the initiation school to succeed his father, so his father’s uncle (uSongwani) became regent for Mahlangu until he was at the right age, the regent was Snideni. Mahlangu then bypassed the Ndzundza laws of going to the initiation school and went to the Pedi initiation school so that he can come back and tacke over his rightful place as king of the Ndzundza nation, hence he is called "Singhalela".

Ndzundza and Mrhetjha ruled at kwaSimkhulu and then Magobholi moved the Ndzundza people to kwaMaza now called Stoffberg. Snideni, Bongwe and Mahlangu also ruled in kwaMaza. Mahlangu Mahlangu was also a polygamist and fathered Mgwezana, Dzela, Mrhabuli (Srudla), Mdalanyana (Kawule), Phaswana, Maridili, Busehla and Dima. Mgwezana was very young compared to the other sons of Mahlangu but he was from the great wife. So Mgwezana was the heir to the throne. Since Mgwezana was young, when Mahlangu passed away his brothers became regents for him. Phaswana became regent then passed away, then Maridili became regent and passed away, then Mdalanyana (Kawule) became regent the passed away and Dzela became regent then stepped aside when Mgwezana was old enough to be a king. The offsprings of the regents are as follows: • Chief Phaswana fathered Prince Mrube, Prince Somgwazi and Prince Somafololo • Chief Maridili fathered Prince Zondwako and Prince Somalila • Chief Mdalanyana (Kawule) fathered Prince Nunu Mgwezana took over the kingship and fathered Gembe, Magodongo, Mrabheli (SoTshoro) and Bayeleni. Mgwezana still ruled in kwaMaza, and Gembe was the heir to the throne of the Ndzundza people. Gembe and Magodongo were both from the great wife and one day there was a war between the Swazis and the Ndzundzas, Gembe was on the forefront of the war since he was the General of his Regiment. As the Ndzundza moved towards the Swazis, Gembe had a tummy bug and had to go to the bushes to relieve himself. Magodongo then led the Gembe regiment and they won the war while Gembe was left behind. After winning the war, Gembe and Magodongo went back to their father to give feedback about the war, after their father heard what happened he was enraged and declared that Magodongo must succeed him as king of the Ndzundza because Gembe is not capable of leading his regiment, so how can he lead the nation. Mgwezana ruled until old age and he passed away, the royal council then made Mrhabuli a regent because Gembe and Magodongo were still contesting the kingship despite their fathers wish. Gembe died of natural causes and Magodongo wanted to be king but his uncle did not want to hand over the throne. Magodongo then murdered his uncle and took over the kingship. The offsprings of Mrhabuli are as follows: • Khunwana liDuba (1795) • Sotjelwani liDlowu (1799) • Sogada liDlhari (1803) • Sokhanukani liRudla (1811) • S’batjelwa liGawu (1815) • Sogwena liDdzibha (1819) • Langabejani liDlaza (1827) King Magodongo fathered the following, • Bharhuza liGawu (1815) • Mloyi liDzibha (1819) • Hlanganisa • Mtshabi • Siboko liRhasa (1831) • Somdeyi liRhasa (1831) • Mabhoko liSinya (1839) • Mgwayana • Ndaweni Lirhorha (1847) • Bengwako liDlaza (1827) • Gwalimba Bharhuza and Mloyi were born from the great wife but Bharhuza died earlier, and this meant Mloyi was the heir to the Ndzundza people. In the year 1825, Mzilikazi ka Mashobana attacked the Ndzundza people and kidnapped the king and the heir. Mzilikazi killed the king and the heir to the throne believing that he will take over the Ndzundza kingdom. His plans did not materialise because one of Magodongo’s son called Mabhoko fought against Mzilikazi and Mzilikazi fled. Siboko became king of the Ndzundza since the heir Mloyi died with his father, Siboko died then Somdeyi became the king and he also died. The royal council then decided to nominate Mabhoko to be the king since he was young and energetic. Since Mabhoko was not in-line for the throne, he became a diplomatic king by allowing Tjambowe the son of Mloyi to reside in the royal palace with him. Tjambowe was overlooked in the succession due to a visual disability. Mabhoko also allowed Mrhabuli’s grandson, the son of Prince S’batjelwa to also build a chiefdom under his kingship. Prince S’batjelwa son was Chief Srudla and he fathered Chief Litho Pungutjha. Prince Tjambowe’s fathered Chief Dlambisa who was also allowed to build a chiefdom under the kingship of Mabhoko. 5. Ndzundza Family – koNomtjharhelo Mabhoko ruled the entire Ndzundza people at koNomtjharhelo now called Roossenekal. Mabhoko was also a polygamist and he revoked the Ndzundza-Manala agreement because he was not first in-line to be king, but the Manala people did send a woman to be married by Mabhoko and he fathered Rhululu (Sosbozi). Mabhoko fathered the following: Ngendlunkulu (uNaMasilela) - Great Wife 1. UMkhephuli (uNyengelele) liDlowu (1859) NgusoQaleni 2. URhobongo (uNgangazi) yiNyathi (1867) NgusoMunyukazi 3. UNyabela (uGijamphezeni) liRudla (1871) NgusoMtjongweni 4. UMagelembe (uMkhabela) liGawu (1875) NgusoRhubukile 5. UMatsitsi (uTjitjimezani) liDzibha (1879) NgusoMtjhatjhana

Ngehlanzini (uNaMasilela) – Second Wife 6. UManiki liDzibha (1879) nguSoMalakazi NgeKhohlo (ngakoNaMgidi) – Third Wife 7. UMavula yiNyathi (1867) nguSoMagindi 8. UMhlangula liThula (1882) nguSoTipi

BakoNaNdala – Fourth Wife 9. UMgwazi yiNyathi (1867) nguSoHlanzi 10. UPhangweni liDzibha (1879) nguSoMsukelwa

BakoNaMabhena – Fifth Wife (Was supposed to be Great Wife according to Custom) 11. URhululu yiNyathi (1867) nguSoSbozi 12. UPongo liRudla (1871) nguSoMhlekwa 13. USigidi liGawu (1875) nguSoTjhawula

BakoNaSibanyoni – Sixth Wife 14. UQhegwana liDlhari (1863) nguSoBukhosibutjha 15. UMoniwa yiNyathi (1867) 16. UNoMaqwayi liDlaza (1887) nguSoTjhwabana

BakoNaNhlapho wokuthoma – Seventh Wife 17. UMbila liRudla (1871) nguSoMakomana 18. UGama liGawu (1875) nguSoMbumbulu

BakoNaNhlapho wesibili – Eighth Wife 19. UMswazi yiNyathi (1867) nguSoKabapheli

BakoNaNhlapho wesithathu – Ninth Wife 20. UNdumana yiNyathi (1867) nguSoNcungu 21. UMagadangana liDlaza (1887) nguSoMzenzi

BakoNaSiluma – Tenth Wife 22. UBogo liDlhari (1863) nguSoBalayele 23. UMadlodlobongo liGawu (1875) nguSoMarharu 24. UNdungula liDzibha (1879) nguSoFarigana

BakoNaNdala – Eleventh Wife 25. UGubhuzela yiNyathi (1867) nguSoThukani 26. UMsizi liThula (1882)

BakoNaHlahla – Twelfth Wife 27. UNyawana yiNyathi (1867) nguSoCitha 28. UMaqengezi yiNyathi (1867) 29. USijkejike liDzibha (1879) nguSoMjikeni

WakoNaMsiza – Thirteenth Wife 30. UQwamanzi liDzibha (1879) nguSoMaketlu

6. Ndzundza Family – King Nyabela In the 1830s and 1840s the Ndzundza re-emerged as a significant kingdom under the leadership of Mabhoko and under the political umbrella of the Pedi paramount king Sekwati. The Ndzundza, like other societies in the region, developed fortified mountain strongholds. By the 1860s the Ndzundza capital Erholweni was the most impregnable single fastness in the eastern Transvaal. The security and the resources which the kingdom offered attracted a steady stream of refugee communities to settle within its boundaries. In the 1840s the arrival of parties of Trekkers presented a new challenge to the society. After an initial uneasy coexistence conflicts flared over land and labour. The Ndzundza refused Boer demands for labour and denied their claims to ownership of the land. Boer exactions ensured that the flow of refugees to the kingdoms maintained its momentum and the Ndzundza also secured large numbers of guns through migrant labour, trade and raiding. A number of Boer attempts to subdue the chiefdom failed and by, the late 1860s the tables had been turned on the settlers. Many who had settled in the environs of the Ndzundza trekked away in despair. Those that remained recognized the authority of the Ndzundza rulers and paid tribute to them. A breach also developed between Mabhoko and the new Pedi paramount king Sekhukhune who succeeded in 1861. After Mabhoko died, his son Mkhephuli succeded his father and reigned from the year 1865 to 1873. Mkhephuli fathered Fene SoMayitjha and SoMphalali, when Mkhephuli died, his son Fene was still young then the Royal council declared that Rhobongo becomes regent for Fene. Rhobongo became regent from the year 1873 to 1879. When Rhobongo died in the year 1879, Nyabela became regent for Fene.

King Nyabela In 1882 Mampuru sought refuge amongst the Ndzundza after having murdered his brother Sekhukhune. Nyabela's refusal to hand him over to the Zuid Afrikaanse Republik (Z.A.R) brought conflicts to a head. The war that followed was one of attrition. The Boer force and their African auxiliaries mainly Pedi baulked at direct attacks on the Ndzundza strongholds and adopted a policy of siege. Ndzundza crops were destroyed, their cattle were seized and a number of their smaller refuges were dynamited. King Nyabela, who valiantly fought for five years and finally held out in the famous Caverns of Mapoch for over eight months before starvation and lack of fresh water brought them out of their enclave. The Z.A.R. now confronted the question of what to do with their defeated opponents. Mampuru, Nyabela and twenty two Ndzundza royals and subordinate chiefs were taken captive to Pretoria. Mampuru and Nyabela were tried convicted and sentenced to life. The twenty two remaining prisoners were sentenced to seven years with hard labour. The Ndzundza people had no king or leader, so the Nyabela and council who were in prison decided that one of them must try to escape, so that he could, return to look after the people. They chose Matsitsi (Nyabela's brother) to be this man.

King Nyabela in Prison This was the plan of escape, every Wednesday they were given some snuff, of which they would only take a little and store the rest. One morning they went off to work, with all the snuff they' had collected in Matsitsi's pocket. Matsitsi was the coffee boy; he made coffee and gave it to the warder, who then told Matsitsi to clean his shoes. Matsitsi threw the snuff in the warder’s eyes then ran away. Matsitsi hid for a period in a number of different places. After this, he went to the white settlers at Kafferskraal where his family was living, and told them that he had been sent by Nyabela to rule his people in Nyabela's place. The whites agreed, then Matsitsi called a big meeting of all the Ndzundza people, who came from all the far away farms to hear what message Nyabela had sent them from prison. Matsitsi told them that Nyabela had sent him to be their ruler. They were all satisfied with this arrangement. After 1891 Nyabela was the last Ndzundza royal in prison. He had petitioned in 1888 for his release promising never again to disturb the peace but this and subsequent pleas were rejected. Finally in 1898 the Z.A.R., partly prompted by the Government Surgeon's evidence that he was in failing health, released him. His freedom was conditional on him remaining under close surveillance and not leaving the Pretoria district and refrain from assembling his followers. In the year 1902 Nyabela died and was succeeded by Fene.

Statue of King Nyabela

7. Ndzundza Family – KwaHlanga and KwaSimuyembiwa (eMthambothini) After Fene succeeded Nyabela at kwaMkhina, a few years later the Govemment asked Fene to move to the white-owned farm Welgelegen in the modem Delmas district at the upper reaches of the Wilgeriver, and there he constructed KwaHlanga.In 1922, Fene died at KwaHlanga, and his son Mayitjha I succeeded him, buying his own ground at Weltevreden near Dennilton in the South Central Transvaal, where he constructed KwaSimuyembiwa (eMthambothini). This settlement later formed the nucleus of the KwaNdebele homeland with the capital at Siyabuswa. Mayitjha I passed away in December 1961 and was succeeded by Mabusabesala David Mabhoko II. Mabusabesala died in 1992. Mabusabesala was succeeded by Nyumbabo Mayitjha II. Mayitjha II died in 2005 and was suceeded by his son Mbusi Mabhoko III who is the current king of the Ndzundza nation. Fene was also a polygamist and fathered the following: Right Hand House – Ngebunene Left Hand House – Ngekhohlo NaLikere (indlukulu) – Great Wife 1.Mayitjha 2.Sikhwindi 3.Bakhuliselwa (Kosazana) 4.Banengi (Kosazana) 5.Qaleni (Kosazana)

NaLikere (ihlanzi) – Second Wife 6.Mandlelize

NaThubana – Third Wife 7.Mapholisa 8.Bandezeni 9.Dambile (Kosazana)

NaMkoneni – Fourth Wife 10.Mfungelwa 11.Vimba 12.Kaziwa(Nwana)

NaMsiza – Fifth Wife 13.Mandwani 14.Mahlenga 15.Nomrhubo (Kosazana)

NaMkoneni – Sixth Wife

16.Thurhuthani (Kosazana) Namasango – First Wife 17.Dwabani 18.Mjanyelwa 20.Besabakhe 21.Khuziwe 22.Hlophani (Kosazana)

NaMasango (ihlanzi) – Second Wife 23.Madlayedwa

NaNtuli – Third Wife 24.Magadangana 25.Namduli (Kosazana) 26.Namseli (Kosazana)

NaSiluma – Fourth Wife 27.Kaloboli (Somvalelwa) 28.Leleti 29.Nabhobho (Kosazana)

NaMasilela (uTjensiwe) – Fifth Wife No Children

NaJiyana – Sixth Wife 30.Nokonjani (mntazama) 31.Mhlamunye

King Mayitjha I

Mayitjha I was also a polygamist and fathered the following: Right Hand House – Ngebunene Left Hand House – Ngekhohlo NaMasilela (indlukulu) – Great Wife 1.David/Mabusabesala 2.Ngwenya 3.Hloli 4.Khuphekile (Kosazana) 5.Tupezana (Kosazana)

NaMasilela (ihlanzi) – Second Wife 6.Sophalani 7.Mhlahlwa

NaTjhabangu – Third Wife 8.Godrich 9.Msuthu (Kosazana) 10.Balwaphi (Kosazana) 11.Nadzubha (Kosazana)

NaThubana (uThelametsi) – Fourth Wife 12.Pepe 13.Mcenyanana

NaSibanyoni (uRobhani) – Fifth Wife 14.Ntazana (Kosazana) 15.NaNdala (Kosazana) 16.Lisani (Kosazana) Natjhili (uNdlala) – First Wife 17.Nukani 18.Benzeni(Kosazana) 19.Ngonengani 20.Mbiritjani (Kosazana) 21.Sulele (Kosazana) 22.Nangwana (Kosazana)

NaMasango (uLwandle) – Second Wife 23.Zwelabo 24.Makwakhe(Kosazana)

NaNdala (uNamduli) – Third Wife 25.Momotho(Kosazana)

NaNtuli – Fourth Wife 26.Rogo

King Mabusabesala David Mabhoko II

King Mabusabesala was not a polygamist and fathered the following: • Nyumbabo Cornelius Mayitjha II • James Senzangakhona • Daughter( Adelaide)

King Nyumbabo Mayitjha II

King Nyumbabo Mayitjha II reigned from the year 1992 to 2005, he was born 2 June 1947 and married in the year 1975 Kosikazi Siphila Mahlangu (nee Princess Siphila Dlamini of Swaziland) a daughter of King Sobhuza and sister to King Mswati III. He died on 30 June 2005. King Nyumbabo Mayitjha II was also a polygamist and fathered the following: Indlovukazi Siphila Dlamini, 1. Mabhoko III Mbusi Mahlangu 2. Sive Mahlangu 3. Sakhe Mahlangu (Kosazana) 4. Lomcebo Mahlangu (Kosazana) 5. Simangaliso Mahlangu (Kosazana) Kosikazi Lena Masilela 6. Busisiwe Rosta Mahlangu (Kosazana) Kosikazi Nomsa Sanny-flora Mtshweni, 7. Ntombizodwa Nomasonto Mahlangu (Kosazana) Kosikazi Gabisile Elizabeth Mabona 8. Victor Mbuso Mahlangu 9. Dumisani Gift Mahlangu 10. Fikile Nobantozile Mahlangu (Kosazana) 11. Mbali Thlobisile Mahlangu (Kosazana) Kosikazi Nomsa Daphane Mdaka, 12. Vusimuzi Sipho Mahlangu 13. Nokwazi Mpumelelo Mahlangu (Kosazana) 14. Nakekelo David Mahlangu Kosikazi Lizzy Pumzile Mabona 15. Lindokuhle Banengi Mahlangu (Kosazana) Informal liaison children 16. Oupa David Mahlangu 17. Reshoketso Zanele Memory Mahlangu 18. Pinky Mbi Mahlangu 19. Lebogang Mahlangu 20. Simphiwe Mahlangu

Prince James Senzangakhona Mahlangu was born 3 February 1953 at Weltevrede, Groblersdal. He was the Chief of the Ndzundza-Mabusa Tribal Authority at Waterval, named by his brother King Nyumbabo Mayitjha II on 17 March 2001. He was the Chief Minister of KwaNdebele Homeland from 30 April 1990 to 26 April 1994. He was the Founder Member of a political party Intando Yesizwe Party. He died August 2005 in Pretoria.

• Chief Sipho Etwell Mahlangu (Bengwako II) succeeded his father as Chief of the Ndzundza-Mabusa Tribal Authority at Waterval.

Mbusi Mabhoko III is the current king of the Ndzundza nation.

King Mbusi Mabhoko III

8. Ndzundza Family – Under Chief SoMtjhatjhana The Ndzundza group under Matsitsi made an effort of gathering the Ndzundza people to a place that was then called Kafferskraal in the Groblersdal district, where the Ndzundza lived before moving to Roosenekal in the 1840s. In 1938 this group was forced by the Boer farmers to move to the Nebo district. In 1956 this group was formally acknowledged by the South African government and was given land under the designated Nebo Farms Trust in Morotse.

The Nationalist Party bundled this group of Ndzundza, and some Sotho speaking people into the then Lebowa homeland. This group of the Ndzundza was led by SoMtjhatjhana, the son of Matsitsi. Somtjhatjhana was followed by Maphepha Poni who in turn was succeeded by Jack Mphezulu.

9. Ndzundza Family – Sokhulumi Clan After King Magodongo (Mphekgu) died in 1825 with his son Prince Mloyi, the designated Heir to the Ndzundza throne, Prince Tjambowe son of Mloyi was, overlooked in the succession due to a visual disability. King Mabhoko then allowed Prince Ndlambisa son of Tjambowe to be a Chief of his own people under King Mabhoko. Prince Ndlambisa fathered Chief Qhutjiwe, who fathered Chief Josiah who then fathered the current Chief Mkhambi Mahlangu of the Ndzundza Sokhulumi Tribal Authority.

Chief Mkhambi Mahlangu

10. Ndzundza Family – Srudla Chieftaincy Mabhoko I also allowed Mrhabuli’s grandson, the son of Prince S’batjelwa to also create a chiefdom under his kingship. Prince S’batjelwa son was Chief Srudla and he fathered Chief Litho Pungutjha.The Srudla Chiefdon is currently divided in to two chiefdoms, namely the Ndzundza Litho Tribal Authority (in Kalkfontein) and the Ndzundza Pungutjha Tribal Authority (in Witlaagte).

11. Mahlangu Clan Names The Mahlangu (Ndzundza) family is a massive family with thirty one different clan names, and all of the different clans call themselves Mahlangu. The following list shows the clan names, where Mgwezana is the number one on the list because the Mgwezana people are in the Royal family. 1) Mgwezana 2) Gembe 3) Sirudla 4) Kawule 5) Busehla 6) Hlanguza 7) Maridili 8) Bungela 9) Mbili 10) Khoza 11) Mzwezi 12) Lamula 13) Dima 14) Malila 15) Somakhawula 16) Bongwe 17) Magobholi 18) Ntobela 19) Mrhetjha 20) Kotheni 21) Qongo 22) Mabhuma 23) Phetha 24) Bhorholo 25) Goda 26) Rhulwana 27) Ndimande 28) Mgabhana 29) Dlhomo 30) Litjhaba 31) Mthakomo The Mgwezana clan also has different sub-clans (families) where a Traditional leader (Ikosi) under the King (Ingwenyama) leads a community in a located area. The following list is some of the different families in the Mgwezana clan. 1) Mgwezana Mabhoko 2) Mgwezana SoKhulumi 3) Mgwezana SoTshoro 4) Mgwezana Mabusa 5) Mgwezana Fene 6) Mgwezana SoMtjongweni 7) Mgwezana SoMtjhatjhana 8) Mgwezana SoMagindri 9) Mgwezana SoMphalali 10) Mgwezana SoRhubukile 11) Mgwezana SoSbozi

Social and Cultural Life[edit]

Internal political and social structures Ndebele authority structures were similar to those of their Zulu cousins. The authority over a tribe was vested in the tribal head (ikozi), assisted by an inner or family council(amaphakathi). Wards (izilindi) were administered by ward heads and the family groups within the wards were governed by the heads of the families. The residential unit of each family was called an umuzi The umuzi usually consisted of a family head (umnumzana) with his wife and unmarried children. If he had more than one wife, the umuzi was divided into two halves, a right and a left half, to accommodate the different wives. An umuzi sometimes grew into a more complex dwelling unit when the head's married sons and younger brothers joined the household. Every tribe consisted of a number of patrilineal clans or izibongo. This meant that every clan consisted of a group of individuals who shared the same ancestor in the paternal line.

Personal adornment[edit]

Ndebele women traditionally adorned themselves with a variety of ornaments, each symbolising her status in society. After marriage, dresses became increasingly elaborate and spectacular. In earlier times, the Ndebele wife would wear copper and brass rings around her arms, legs and neck, symbolising her bond and faithfulness to her husband, once her home was built. She would only remove the rings after his death. The rings (called idzila) were believed to have strong ritual powers. Husbands used to provide their wives with rings; the richer the husband, the more rings the wife would wear. Today, it is no longer common practice to wear these rings permanently. In addition to the rings, married women also wore neck hoops made of grass (called isigolwani) twisted into a coil and covered in beads, particularly for ceremonial occasions. Isigolwani are sometimes worn as neckpieces and as leg and arm bands by newly wed women whose husbands have not yet provided them with a home, or by girls of marriageable age after the completion of their initiation ceremony. Married women also wore a five-fingered apron (called an ijogolo) to mark the culmination of the marriage, which only takes place after the birth of the first child. The marriage blanket (nguba) worn by married women was decorated with beadwork to record significant events throughout the woman's lifetime. For example, long beaded strips signified that the woman's son was undergoing the initiation ceremony and indicated that the woman had now attained a higher status in Ndebele society. It symbolised joy because her son had achieved manhood as well as the sorrow at losing him to the adult world. A married woman always wore some form of head covering as a sign of respect for her husband. These ranged from a simple beaded headband or a knitted cap to elaborate beaded headdresses (amacubi). Boys usually ran around naked or wore a small front apron of goatskin. However, girls wore beaded aprons or beaded wraparound skirts from an early age. For rituals and ceremonies, Ndebele men adorned themselves with ornaments made for them by their wives.

Arts and Craft[edit]

Ndebele art has always been an important identifying characteristic of the Ndebele. Apart from its aesthetic appeal it has a cultural significance that serves to reinforce the distinctive Ndebele identity. The Ndebele's essential artistic skill has always been understood to be the ability to combine exterior sources of stimulation with traditional design concepts borrowed from their ancestors. Ndebele artists also demonstrated a fascination with the linear quality of elements in their environment and this is depicted in their artwork. Painting was done freehand, without prior layouts, although the designs were planned beforehand. The characteristic symmetry, proportion and straight edges of Ndebele decorations were done by hand without the help of rulers and squares. Ndebele women were responsible for painting the colourful and intricate patterns on the walls of their houses. This presented the traditionally subordinate wife with an opportunity to express her individuality and sense of self-worth. Her innovativeness in the choice of colours and designs set her apart from her peer group. In some instances, the women also created sculptures to express themselves.

The back and side walls of the house were often painted in earth colours and decorated with simple geometric shapes that were shaped with the fingers and outlined in black. The most innovative and complex designs were painted, in the brightest colours, on the front walls of the house. The front wall that enclosed the courtyard in front of the house formed the gateway (izimpunjwana) and was given special care. Windows provided a focal point for mural designs and their designs were not always symmetrical. Sometimes, makebelieve windows are painted on the walls to create a focal point and also as a mechanism to relieve the geometric rigidity of the wall design. Simple borders painted in a dark colour,lined with white, accentuated less important windows in the inner courtyard and in outside walls. Contemporary Ndebele artists make use of a wider variety of colours (blues, reds, greens and yellows) than traditional artists were able to, mainly because of their commercial availability. Traditionally, muted earth colours, made from ground ochre, and different natural-coloured clays, in white, browns, pinks and yellows, were used. Black was derived from charcoal. Today, bright colours are the order of the day. As Ndebele society became more westernised, the artists started reflecting this change of their society in their paintings. Another change is the addition of stylised representational forms to the typical tradtional abstract geometric designs. Many Ndebele artists have now also extended their artwork to the interior of houses. Ndebele artists also produce other crafts such as sleeping mats and isingolwani. Isingolwani (colourful neck hoops) are made by winding grass into a hoop, binding it tightly with cotton and decorating it with beads. In order to preserve the grass and to enable the hoop to retain its shape and hardness, the hoop is boiled in sugar water and left in the hot sun for a few days. A further outstanding characteristic of the Ndebele is their beadwork. Beadwork is intricate and time consuming and requires a deft hand and good eyesight. This pastime has long been a social practice in which the women engaged after their chores were finished but today, many projects involve the production of these items for sale to the public.

Special Occasions[edit]

Initiation In Ndebele culture, the initiation rite, symbolising the transition from childhood to adulthood, plays an important role. Initiation schools for both boys and girls are held every four years. During the period of initiation, relatives and friends come from far and wide to join in the ceremonies and activities associated with initiation. Boys are initiated as a group when they are about 18 years of age when a special regiment (indanga) is set up and led by a boy of high social rank. Each regiment has a distinguishing name. Among the Ndzundza tribe there is a cycle of 15 such regimental names, allocated successively, and among the Manala there is a cycle of 13 such names. During initiation girls wear an array of colourful beaded hoops (called izigolwan) around their legs, arms, waist and neck. The girls are kept in isolation and are prepared and trained to become homemakers and matriarchs. The coming-out ceremony marks the conclusion of the initiation school and the girls then wear stiff rectangular aprons (called amaphephetu),beaded in geometric and often three-dimensional patterns, to celebrate the event. After initiation, these aprons are replaced by stiff, square ones, made from hardened leather and adorned with beadwork.

Courtship and marriage[edit]

Marriages were only concluded between members of different clans, that is between individuals who did not have the same clan name. However, a man could marry a woman from the same family as his paternal grandmother. The prospective bride was kept secluded for two weeks before the wedding in a specially made structure in her parents' house, to shield her from men's eyes. When the bride emerged from her seclusion, she was wrapped in a blanket and covered by an umbrella that was held for her by a younger girl who also attended to her other needs. On her marriage, the bride was given a marriage blanket, which she would, in time, adorn with beadwork, either added to the blanket's outer surface or woven into the fabric. After the wedding, the couple lived in the area belonging to the husband's clan. Women retained the clan name of their fathers but children born of the marriage took their father's clan name.

Belief System[edit]

In traditional Ndebele society it was believed that illnesses were caused by an external force such as a spell or curse that was put on an individual. The power of a traditional healer was measured by his or her ability to defeat this force. Cures were either effected by medicines or by throwing bones. All traditional medicine men and women (izangoma) were mediums, able to contact ancestral spirits. Some present-day Ndebele still adhere to ancestral worship but many have subsequently become Christians and belong to the mainstream Christian churches or to one of the many local Africanised churches.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ndebele: The art of an African tribe, 1986. Margaret Courtney-Clarke, London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28387-7

External links[edit]



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