Bhaca people

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Regions with significant populations
Eastern Cape ( South Africa)
Christianity, African Traditional Religion
Related ethnic groups
Xhosa, Swati, Zulu other Bantu peoples

The Bhaca people or amaBhaca are an ethnic group in South Africa, mainly found in the small towns of the former Transkei homeland, Mount Frere, Umzimkhulu and surrounding areas - a region that the amaBhaca call kwaBhaca, or "place of the Bhaca".


"AmaBhaca" allegedly originates from the Nguni word ukubhaca, meaning to flee. This claim is supported by the popular belief that the amaBhaca was adopted during their flight during the Mfecane. During the Mfecane the amaBhaca, led by King Madzikane, settled an area bordering the present day Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal regions. Among the amaBhaca, the word ukubhaca also refers to the ritual scarring of the face known as ukuchaza, a complex rite that is sometimes performed for healing purposes.

The amaBhaca speak isiBhaca, which is closely related to Swati. IsiBhaca is influenced by the Xhosa and Zulu languages.

While the amaBhaca are often considered to be part of the more populous Xhosa people, they maintain an independent kingdom and distinct culture.


King Ncapayi had many wives. First wife Makhohlisa (daughter of Dzanibe clan) gave birth to King Diko and Sogoni. Second wife Indlu yekunene bore him Makaula and Dabula, while third wife Iqadi lendlu enkulu produced Dabula and Mphongoma.

Ncapayi is said to have been a fearless freebooter, a diplomat of note who showed more intelligence than his father Madzikane.[1]

According to Rev. Soga, during the year that Madzikane was killed, Ncaphayi entered Thembuland to avenge the death. The Thembus under King Ngubengcuka made an ineffectual stand and the Bhacas swept away a large number of cattle.[2]

Before Madzikane died and because of his relationship with King Faku, he advised his son to temporarily be a tributary King in Pondoland. Ncapayi took the advice and Faku welcomed the Bhacas, which coincided with the arrival of Nqetho, a Chief of the Qwabes who had moved from Natal to escape King Tshaka's army because he would not serve under King Dingane. When he entered Pondoland and tried to secure land by violence, Faku was anxious to evict him with Ncaphayi's assistance. AmaBhaca drove them back into Natal and Dingane issued an instruction to kill Nqetho.[2]

The Thembus' defeat by the Bhacas Faku to make an arrangement with Ncapayi when the Pondos wanted to attack the Thembus. They entered Thembuland on three occasions and each time succeeded.[1]

Soga asserted that cupidity was the force that brought Faku and Ncapayi together and later to have destroyed their relationship. In 1845 Ncapayi attacked Nyanda, the Right Hand section of the Pondos under Ndamase, the son of Faku. He raided Nyanda successfully. King Faku assembled an army and moved against the Bhacas, attacking them on all sides. He drove the Bhacas before him on the ridge kuNowalala. Ncaphayi was wounded and forced off the ridge, landing on a ledge. He was in a helpless condition with both arms broken and a severe assegai wound. He lay there for days, asking those who came to look at him to end his misery. After King Faku gave the order, he was killed.

Conflict with the Afrikaners and the British[edit]

In about 1837 Boers arrived in Natal with herds of cattle. Between 1837/39/40, the Boers fought the Bhacas who teamed up with the Bushmen to raid the herds.

In about February 1838 the Boers settled in the upland of Natal and began to create the Republic of Natalia. After their victories over Dingane, they extended northward to uMfolozi and St. Lucia Bay.[3] The Boers created arrangements with other kings and therefore did not consider them as enemies. For example, they considered King Faku to be a friendly king and rated Ncapayi as having a powerful military and as a threat.

When the Boers came back, they attacked the Bhacas[4] and raided 700 and 50 horses.[5] This is said to have provided the spark for the British intervention in the Bhaca land (which had become part of Natal). An area near Maclear is called Ncapayi land (Kapayi land – because they could not pronounce “Nca”).


By 1845 the Bhacas had already been stripped of their kingdom through the Maitland Treaty. Ncapayi, the First Enemy in the Maitland Treaty, was survived by his first son, Diko.

Inkosi Diko was considered a hero and a stubborn and a courageous leader. He led the amaBhaca nation from 1845 to 1880.

Diko was a fierce leader who fought the annexation of the land by the British Colonial Government and resisted becoming a British subject. As a result, he never became the favorite of colonial government. That government overthrew him in 1880.

Iyelenqe, the conspiracy against Diko[edit]

By virtue of birth and tradition, Diko was the heir to iKumkani Ncaphayi. Some councillors of amaBhaca liked Mamjucu, the mother of Makaula. They plotted against Makhohlisa (the mother of Diko and Sogoni) who was Ncaphayi's wife of the great house (uNdlunkulu). The counselors fraudulently made Mamjucu a great wife, making her son the chief.

It happened that Ncaphayi had killed a man in one of the Mfecane battles and according to amaBhaca tradition, he was not supposed to have any contact with his wives until he had undergone medical treatment. Ncaphayi was then placed in isolation for a stipulated period. It was further conspired by the councillors under Qulu Siwela that the wife who went to cook for Ncaphayi in isolation and conceived during that period would be the one who would give birth to the chief who would succeed him.

The councillors first went to uNdlunkulu Makhohlisa, (Diko and Sogoni's mother) and deceived her that she must not dare put her foot in the isolation place where Ncaphayi was sleeping, because this would weaken her sons and thus cause death by assegai among her children. This sounded reasonable to Makhohlisa. The same councillors advised Mamjucu, (the second wife) to go to the isolation place. She acted as instructed and her son, Makaula was then made iNkosi (King) of amaBhaca.

Ever-since then, the House of Ncaphayi suffered disrespect, degradation and injustice throughout generations that followed.

After iNkosi Ncaphayi's death Diko led amaBhaca from 1845. Diko was always in conflict with the British Government and refused to be annexed. The British annexed the Transkei during the 1860s. The amaKhosi were to become subjects of the British Colonial government. Magistrates were to take over power from amaKhosi, especially those who refused to subjugate their nations to British rule. Diko was one of the traditional leaders who resisted and was made headman by the colonial government in 1880.

Battles were fought throughout this period. For example, a friend to iNkosi Diko was iNkosi Mhlontlo of amaMpondomise who allegedly killed a magistrate at Qumbu. AmaKhosi who accepted annexation were rewarded for their loyalty.

The plan to destroy any trace of iNkosi Diko and his descendants continued over generations. Birth certificates for Diko and his descendants Qoza ka-Diko, Mthakathi ka-Qoza, Mabhijela ka-Mthakathi, Dingumhlaba ka-Mabhijela and Mzawugugi ka-Dingumhlaba were removed from the archives in Mthatha.

Diko’s homeland of the Bhaca was forcibly annexed by the colonial government. The town of Mount Frere was built on the land that was once iKomkhulu (the Great Place) of iNkosi Diko (then called eMbondzeni). Documents in possession of the Land Claims Commission confirm this. The grave of iNkosi Diko is said to have been in this area, possibly where the Standard Bank is sited or where Malinge Wholesalers is.

Inkosi Umadzikane Wesibini[edit]

AmaBhaca are mainly found in the small towns such as Mount Frere, uMzimkhulu, Harding, Ixopo and some surrounding areas. Bhacas who went back to KwaZulu are in Mzimkhulu, Harding and Ixopo under the Zulu Kingdom.

Inkosi Madzikane ll Diko is the Crown Prince of iNkosi Dilizintaba, ka Dingumhlaba, ka Mabhijela, ka Mthakathi, ka Qoza, ka Diko, ka Ncaphayi, ka Madzikane, ka Khalimeshe, ka Vebi, ka Wabane, ka Didi, ka Zulu, ka Ntombela, ka Malandela, ka Dlungwana, ka Ndaba.

INkosi Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko is currently the Head of the kwaBhaca/LuBhacweni Traditional Council at ELundzini Royal Kraal, Ncunteni Great Place, LuBhacweni A/A in Mount Frere, KwaBhaca.

See also[edit]

Athi-Patra Ruga - South African visual artist


  1. ^ a b Soga 1878, p. 444.
  2. ^ a b Soga 1878, p. 443.
  3. ^ Blue Book on Native Affairs, 1885
  4. ^ Bryant, p. 400.
  5. ^ Nchanga 119.


  • Soga, Tiyo (1878). A page of South African Mission Work.

External links[edit]