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The Gcaleka people
Person umGcaleka
People amaGcaleka
Language isiXhosa
Country (historically Transkei/Gcalekaland)

The Gcaleka are a major subgroup of the Xhosa found in the Transkei area of the Eastern Cape. Their counterparts in Ciskei are the Rharhabe (of which the primary tribe is the Ngqika).

The Gcaleka kingdom was founded by Gcaleka kaPhalo, who became chief in 1775.

History of the Gcaleka[edit]

The Xhosa royal blood line stretches from Xhosa, whose successor was Tshiwo, the father of Phalo.

The whole problem stretches to the time King Phalo had both of his wives arriving on the same day, for whom he had already paid lobola, one from the Mpondomise royal family[1] and one from the Thembu royal family. Since in the Xhosa nation the first wife, as was declare in her arrival, was the one whose sons could be heir to the throne. This situation cause a great dilemma and a great out cry -some called this the ancestors' punishment- because a first wife could not be declared. So a secondary yet an equivalent position, at the time, was created the Right House. So there was a Right House and the Great House.

Phalo had two 'first born' sons, Rharhabe, the eldest but from his Right House and Gcaleka, the first born from the Great House.

Until the advent of European domination in the region, reign of the Xhosa (and other tribes of the Xhosa nation) was by patrimonial descent, with the first son of the major wife (known as the Great House) becoming automatic heir, and the first son of the second wife (the highest of the lesser wives, in this case this was not the case, also known as the Right Hand House) being relegated to creating a minor chiefdom. The sons of the third wife (known as the Left Hand House) were destined to become advisers to the chief.

When the boys' father died, they were both mature men, the issue of succession arose which caused a conflict among the Xhosa people and between the brothers.

However Rharhabe and his followers left for the Ciskei and Gcaleka and his supporters stayed in the Transkei.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nongenile Masithathu Zenani; Ndumiso Bhotomane (2006). South African voices: The way we travelled : oral history and poetry. UW-Madison Libraries Parallel Press. p. 22. 
  • Beck, Roger B. (2000). The history of South Africa. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-313-30730-0.