Ndau people

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This page is about the Ndau ethnic group and language of Africa (S 15a according to Guthrie's classification). Ndau is also an alternate name for Pendau, an Indonesian language.

The Ndau are an ethnic group which inhabits the Zambezi valley, in central Mozambique all the way to the coast, in central Malawi, and eastern Zimbabwe, south of Chipinge and Chimanimani. The Ndau people identify with a lion as their totem. The name "Ndau" itself means "lion" in the Ndau and Shona languages. The three largest Ndau groups are the Magova; the Mashanga; the Vatomboti, and the Madanda.

The Ndau people are related to the nearby Shona and Kalanga tribes, and were already in Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe by the 1500s.[1]

Because of the large-scale conquests of the Ngunis in the 1820s a lot of the Ndawu history is clouded and overshadowed by the Nguni perspective. In the 1820s, during a period of severe drought, after the abolition of slavery caused the Great Trek, Nguni armies, Southern (Xhosa) and especially Northern Nguni (Zulu, Swazi, Shangani, Gaza, Matabele or Ndebele, and Ngoni) people who speak related Bantu languages and inhabit southeast Africa from Cape Province to southern Mozambique, began to migrate to Mozambique from what is now South Africa. One Nguni chief, Nxaba, established a short-lived kingdom inland from Sofala, but in 1837 he was defeated by Soshangane, a powerful Nguni rival. Eventually Soshangane established his capital in the highlands of the middle Sabie River in what is present day Zimbabwe. The Nguni-Shangaans established their Gaza-kingdom in southern Mozambique and subjugated many of the Ndau people who were already living in that area.[2] This history shows that the Nguni invaders had slain a lot of the Ndau men and taken their wives. Due to this, a lot of the Ndau men today have their ancestry from Ngunis through intermarriage.

According to Earthy, when the Ndau people were taken as prisoners by the Ndwandwe-Ngonis, the Ndau people took refuge among the Chopi (Copi) people, who had amassed rifles from the Portuguese in order to protect themselves.[3] The Chopi people always remained independent because of their fierce resistance against the Ngunis.

With the prolonged drought, the rise of Gaza, the dominance of the slave trade, and the expansion of Portuguese control in the Zambezi Valley, the once-mighty African chieftaincies of the Zambezi region declined. In their place, valley warlords established fortified strongholds at the confluence of the major rivers, where they raised private armies and raided for slaves in the interior. The most powerful of these warlords was Manuel António de Sousa, also known as Gouveia, a settler from Portuguese India, who by the middle of the 19th century controlled most of the southern Zambezi Valley and a huge swath of land to its south. North of the Zambezi, Islamic slave traders rose to power from their base in Angoche, and the Yao chiefs of the north migrated south to the highlands along the Shire River, where they established their military power.[1] As a result of this settlement in Chipinge, some Ndau settled in what is now modern day Mozambique for it has to be borne in mind that prior to the arrival of the Portuguese and English in the colonization of what is now Zimbabwe and Mozambique respectively. The Ndau in all fairness are not, ethnolinguistically speaking of Shona stock but relation exists through intermixing. In fact, Ndau is one of the most ancient form of all modern day Nguni languages. It is possible that the Ndau are one of the first ancestral tribes of the Ngunis, similarly to the Mthethwas, Lala, and Debe who are descended from the Thonga-Tekelas.[4]

Only in a large sense of the term is Ndau considered as part of the Shona language family. In a strict sense of the term the Ndau language is mainly spoken in the following southern districts of the Sofala province: Machanga, Chibabava, Machaze (Danda), Buzi and in Nhamatanda, Dondo and Beira (Bangwe). It is also partly spoken in Mambone (Inhambane province) and Mossurize. They also speak Portuguese in Mozambique and English in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, Ndau is mainly spoken in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts.- Along the railway line between Beira and Zimbabwe the Sena language, originally only spoken in the Zambezi valley, has become a kind of lingua franca.


As of 1997, it was estimated that there were 581,000 speakers of Ndau in Mozambique. There are many Ndau clans residing in South Africa. The village called Mbozi, currently known as Govhu at Malamulele, is composed entirely of Ndau clans such as Sithole ,Miyambo, Simango, Moyana, and Mashaba.

Ndau is also one of the languages used in churches in Beira. . Today they are largely identified by these surnames, Sakwinje, Semwayo, Simango, Sibiya, Dliwayo, Dube, Makuyana, Mlambo, Mthethwa, Mhlanga,Nxumalo Hlatshwayo, Sithole, Kwidini, Sidhile and Zharikiya


Renamo, the Mozambican National Resistance Movement, draws support from the Ndau in the Sofala province of Mozambique (to where its leader Dhlakama belong, as well as the Catholic archbishop of Beira), in part due to their poor socio-economic conditions and their so far too weak inclusion in foreign financial investments and socio-economic developmental programs of the governing party.

The first president of ZANU in Zimbabwe prior to independence was Ndabaningi Sithole, from near Mt. Selinda. Once Robert Mugabe came to power, Sithole formed his own party, ZANU-Ndonga that continues to garner widespread support among the Ndau community. Because of Sithole's contentious relationship with Mugabe, the Ndau population of Zimbabwe has never fully supported President Mugabe's government.

See also[edit]

The Ndau people are also known to be very good herbalists,they are openly expressed by Mozambicans to be the most feared black magicians. This is due to a number of instances where a Ndau would be killed and their spirit would fight back fiercely.there are also widespread claims of witch craft and sorcery practices by the inhabitants of the above-mentioned areas especially those who come from chipinge. the majority of Zimbabwean dwellers as a whole are known to fear anyone who threatens them with Ndau approach sorcery and witch doctor consultations of the same area. Corner Zambezi River and Indian Ocean is the Nature sport of All Ndau ethnic group. Ndau people are the inhabitants of land between Zambezi and Vaal Rivers 400BC.They planted Baobab trees as they used powder from Baobab fruits as special stable food. It is a taboo to eat the heart of a cow as they regard the caw as source of life.

Ndau People met with the Khoi/San during the first trade with the Arabs at Shiriyandenga currently known as Mapungumbye. They Traded with Arabs with “Mpalu” “Njeti” and “Vukotlo’’ these are the red,white and blue coloured cloths together with golden beads . Ndau people traded traditional herbs, spiritual powers, Animal skins and bones.

Limila, Gonjo, Shipandagwala, Shingomungomu and Shiriyadengha are the Ndau people from Sithole Clan who moved from Zambezi Valley along Limpopo River and traded with both Arabs and Portuguese people. There are many clans from the Ndau ethnic group such as Mlambo; acknowledged as father of Ndau peoples,Simango, Khumbula, Mhlanga, Ndlakama, Mashaba and Moyana (Gumbi, phahla).

  • NB: It has to be noted that the Ndau identify themselves as one for they regard Musikavanthu/Mlambo as their common ancestor. Even though they identify themselves by different names and surnames such as Moyana which means sheep, they at the end of the day consider themselves to be Dziva for they are Musikavanthu's children. To this day, Musikavanthu has great respect and renown as a rainmaker and is considered the Earthly embodiment of the CREATOR of the Universe Mwari Musikavanthu or Musikavanhu as the CREATOR is commonly known amongst the Shona. There has been great effort to diminish the importance of the Musikavanthu/Mlambo chieftaincy in modern day Zimbabwe as Robert Mugabe sought to downplay the importance of this unique chieftaincy by putting forward fallacies and falsehoods that portrayed Mugabe's ancestry as having descended from the Munhumutapas. It has to be borne in mind that the Munhumutapa Empire was founded by Nyatsimba Mutota who was of the Dziva totem as he was a son of Dziva Musikavanhu who had left Great Zimbabwe after its abandonment by Musikavanhu due to transgressions that had been committed by all peoples against Musikavanthu's commands/Mhiko.


  1. ^ Junod, Henri (1977), Matimu Ya Vatsonga: 1498-1650, Braamfontein: Sasavona Publishers.
  2. ^ Broch-Due, Vigdis (2005). Violence And Belonging:The Quest For Identity In Post-Colonial Africa. Psychology Press. p. 97. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  3. ^ Earthy, E.D. (2009), Annals of the Transvaal Museum: III. On Some Ritual Objects of the Vandau in South Chopiland Gaza, Portuguese East Africa, pp. 125‒128.
  4. ^ Muzi Mthethwa (1995), "The History of abakwaMthethwa, Research Project", Department of History, University of Zululand.