Hlubi people

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The Hlubi (or amaHlubi) are a South African ethnic group. The AmaHlubi people's historical names are amaMpembe, amaNgelengele and imiHuhu and are the largest tribe in the Southern-East Africa.[1] They are believed to have originated from what is now known as the Congo, as part of the migration towards the South by the eMbo people from Central Africa. There is no record of their King when they first settled in the south.[2] They are found in the Republic of South Africa in the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West provinces, with an original settlement on the Buffalo River.

Hlubi kings[edit]

Below is a traditional estimation of the Hlubi Kings that ruled from 1300 until now.[2] Note that Hlubi history comes mainly from oral sources and the dates below should not be taken as historically accurate.

King Reign
Chibi 1300–1325
Lubelo 1325–1350
Busobengwe (Bhungane I) 1350–1370
Fulathel’ilangjuhja 1370–1390
Bhele 1390–1410
Lufelelwenja 1410–1430
Sidwabasenkomo 1430–1450
Mhuhu 1450–1475
Mpembe 1475–1500
Mhlanga 1500–1525
Musi 1525–1550
Masoka 1550–1575
Ndlovu 1575–1600
Dlamini 1600–1625
Mthimkhulu I 1625–1650
Ncobo and later, Hadebe 1650–1675
Dlomo I 1675–1710
Mashiya 1710–1720
Ntsele 1735–1760
Bhungane II 1760–1800
Mthimkhulu II (Ngwadlazibomvu) 1800–1818
Dlomo II and later, Mthethwa (commonly known as Langalibalele I) 1839–1889
Siyephu (Mandiza) 1897–1910
Tatazela (Mthunzi) 1926–1956
Muziwenkosi (Langalibalelle ll) 1974 –


Theophilus Shepstone, who was responsible for the expropriation of South African land, was credited with establishing some of the key features of colonial administration and the model for Apartheid rule.[3] The British government aimed to administer a census of African-owned cattle, demand African soldiers for military operations, enforce hut tax collection and impose annual forced labour obligations. This was met with resistance and led to violent clashes between the military forces of an African chiefdom and the colonial state.[4]

Chief Langalibalele as a political prisoner - Cape Archives M1061

Chief Langalibalele and Chief Phakade of the Chunu refused to compel their communities to comply with British forced labour or hut tax requirements. This resulted in government halting forced labour between 1854 to 1858 out of fear that this would aggravate more armed rebellion from local communities. The forced labour was later reintroduced when British officials sensed that the threat of violent resistance had passed.[4]

In 1873, Chief Langalibalele was summoned to Pietermaritzburg to account for the failed registration of firearms among his subjects. They had received these guns as payment from diamond mine owners. [5] The chief fled to Lesotho via the Bushman's Nek Pass where he was confronted by British troops. Five men died in the clash, three of which were British, and Chief Langalibalele was arrested.[3] He was not allowed counsel and was found guilty under a trial that was conducted under laws which were largely made up on the spot by Shepstone.[5]


The amaHlubi speak a dialect of or closely related to Swazi, one of the Tekela languages in the Nguni branch of the Niger–Congo language family.

The Hlubi dialect is endangered, and most Hlubi speakers are elderly and illiterate. There are attempts by Hlubi intellectuals to revive the language and make it one of the eleven recognised languages in South Africa.[2]

Leaders of the amaHlubi people are said to have had special knowledge of royal medicines and potions for rainmaking. They are said to have been a race of bold warriors, before being displaced by colonialism.[1]

Benjamin Pine punished the Hlubi people by displacing them, confiscating their cattle and imprisoning Chief Langalibalele on Robben Island in 1873. The chief became one of the first black activists banished to Robben Island.[5] He later died under house arrest in 1889 and his heirs were never returned to the throne. Since then, the amaHlubi people has been ruled by chiefs who are the subjects of another King and have had their status as a nation, such as amaZulu and baTswana, revoked.[1] In a 2004 proposal to the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims, the amaHlubi people stated their claim as "appealing for the recognition of the historical and rightful place for the King of amaHlubi."[1]


Further reading[edit]