Hintsa kaKhawuta

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Hintsa ka Khawuta
Chief Hintsa of the Gcaleka Xhosa.jpg
Sketch of King Hintsa ka Khawuta from the 1800s
Born c.1780
Died 12 February 1835(1835-02-12) (aged 54–55)

Hintsa ka Khawuta (1789 – 12 February 1835), also known as Hintsa the Great or King Hintsa, was the 13th king of the amaXhosa nation from his great ancestor, King Xhosa. He ruled from 1820 until his death in 1835. His territory stretched from Mbhashe River, south of Mthatha to the Gamtoos River in the Southern Cape.[citation needed] Hintsa led the most powerful kingdom (AmaXhosa) in the Eastern Cape, which fought against white colonists for a period of 100 years over the generations.

The Xhosa kingdom is made up of two houses, the Gcaleka House (Great House or the Senior House) which is the ruling house, and the Rharhabe House (Right hand house) which is the second senior house.

Neighbouring kingdoms during Hintsa's time were:

  • AbaThembu under King Ngubengcuka,
  • AmaMpondo under King Faku and
  • AmaBhaca under King Madzikane.

It is very important to note that the AmaMpondo, AbaThembu, AmaBhaca kingdoms are not Xhosa people, they are neighbours to the Xhosa Kingdom. Their kingdoms are autonomous in their own right and should not be confused with being amaXhosa or part of amaXhosa kingdom.

Hintsa was the son of Khawuta ka Gcaleka. His father was in turn the eldest son of Gcaleka ka Phalo. Hintsa had 4 known sons, Sarili ka Hintsa (1810) from his first wife Nomsa kaGambushe Tshezi and Ncaphayi ka Hintsa, Manxiwa ka Hintsa and Lindinyura ka Hintsa from an unknown second wife.

Hintsa's Death[edit]

George Southey. The Lieutenant chiefly known for shooting Xhosa King Hintsa and mutilating his body.

Invited to peace talks by the governor of the Cape, Harry Smith, the British demanded 50 000 cattle in compensation for the 1834 war, and that Hintsa tell all Xhosa chiefs to stop fighting the British. Hintsa was then held captive until the terms were met. Hintsa sent word to Maqoma, his military commander, telling him to hide the cattle.[1][2]

On May 12, 1835 Hintsa, who was about 45, was riding as a prisoner[3] in the company of British soldiers led by Harry Smith. Mostert tells the story[4]

His Legacy[edit]

He is considered a hero by many Xhosa. These days the Xhosa people know about him through poems and bedtime stories and he is often compared to "Shaka ka Senzangakhona", commonly known as "Shaka Zulu".

In 1996 Nicholas Tilana Gcaleka, a descendant of Hintsa, claimed to have returned the 161-year-old skull of Hintsa from Scotland. He also claimed that he was the great-great nephew of Hintsa and was called on by the spirits of his ancestors to go to Scotland to find Hintsa's head. The Gcaleka Xhosa monarch, King Xolilizwe Sigcau, and his court refused to sanction the planned burial of the skull because they said it was not the disembodied head of Hintsa.

South Africa has institutionalized in 1999 the King Hintsa Bravery Award for leaders that live and act in the spirit of Hintsa kaKhawuta. It was awarded to Jacob Zuma in 2012. Earlier notorious earners of the award include Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe. The award is being conferred by the ruling Xhosa king.


  1. ^ MANCOTYWA, SONWABILE (15 May 2010). "Coronation of Xhosa king a time for unity". Times LIVE. Archived from the original on 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2016-03-23. 
  2. ^ "CAPE OF GOOD HOPE. - CAFFER IRRUPTION.". The Sydney Herald. 16 July 1835. Retrieved 2016-03-23. 
  3. ^ Cory 1989, p. 102.
  4. ^ Mostert 1992.