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
Died12 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 4th 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:

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.In his reign as king he had 11 sub-chieftaincies.[original research?]

Hintsa was the son of Khawuta ka Gcaleka. His father was the eldest son of Gcaleka ka Phalo. His mother Nobutho is said to be a daughter of Tshatshu whose father was Xhoba and grandfather was Thukwa of Thembulan. Hintsa had four 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.[1]

Sixth Frontier war (1834–1836)[edit]

The Sixth Frontier War (1834–1836) between the Xhosa and the British is sometimes known as the Hintsa War. The war broke out when a Cape government commando party patrolled land near the Kat River which was occupied by Rharhabe chiefs Maqoma, Tyali and Botumane in December 1834. These patrols increased the bitterness that Maqoma and Tyali had after they had been forcibly removed by the Cape government from the Tyume Valley in 1833. On 21 December 1834, large force of some 10 000 RharhabeXhosas led by Maqoma, and Tyali swept into the Cape Colony, devastated the country between the Winterberg and the sea. Hintsa offered moral support to the chiefs but never sent an army to assist them.[2]

After fighting for several months,the British troops led by Sir Harry Smith and Sir Benjamin d'Urban realised that their campaign had gone on for too long and would make them unpopular with authorities in Britain. To bolster their attack, they requested Hintsa to attack the Rharhabe chiefs. In early February 1835, Hintsa offered 1000 men but as weeks went on it became clear that Hintsa was not willing to betray the Rharhabe chiefs. d'Urban used this as an excuse to declare war on Hintsa. However, Hintsa opted to talk things through with the British.[2]

On 14 April 1835 British governor Sir Benjamin d'Urban confronted King Hintsa with a large army. d'Urban insisted that Hintsa was the leader of the entire Xhosa nation and held him responsible for initial attacks on the Cape Colony, and for the looted cattle. d'Urban dictated the following terms to Hintsa: That all the country from the Cape's prior frontier, the Keiskamma River, as far as the Great Kei River will fall annexed as the British "Queen Adelaide Province", and its inhabitants declared British subjects, and all the cattle stolen from the British to be returned.[2]


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.[3][4]

On May 12, 1835 Hintsa, who was about 45, was riding as a prisoner[5] in the company of British soldiers led by Harry Smith. Mostert tells the story[6]


Hintsa is considered a hero by many Xhosa people. Knowledge of his legacy is transmitted through oral history by poems and stories and he is often compared to Shaka kaSenzangakhona, king of the Zulus.

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, 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.

The King Hintsa Bravery Award for leaders that live and act in the spirit of Hintsa kaKhawuta was established in 1999. It was awarded to Jacob Zuma in 2012. Earlier earners of the award include Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe. The award is conferred by the ruling Xhosa king.

In 2014, Centane Technical College, Teko Technical College, H.B. Tsengwa Technical College and Idutywa Satellite formerly known as Idutywa Community College merged to form the King Hintsa Tvet College in honour of King Hintsa in 2013. The college's headquarters are in Butterworth, Eastern Cape. Every May, since 2013 the college has been hosting the King Hintsa Memorial Lecture.[7][8]


  1. ^ "King Hintsa's Grave". Artefacts.co.za. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Etherington, Norman (2014). The Great Treks: The Transformation of Southern Africa 1815-1854. Routledge. pp. 232–. ISBN 978-1-317-88313-5.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "CAPE OF GOOD HOPE. - CAFFER IRRUPTION". The Sydney Herald. 16 July 1835. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  5. ^ Cory 1989, p. 102.
  6. ^ Mostert 1992.
  7. ^ "King Hintsa TVET College". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  8. ^ "King Hintsa Memorial Lecture 2017". Retrieved 11 October 2017.