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Soshangane kaZikode (ca 1780–1858), born Soshangane Nxumalo, was the founder and first king of the Gazankulu Empire, which at the height of its power stretched over modern-day southern Mozambique and parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces in South Africa. Soshangane ruled over the Gaza state from 1825 until his death in 1858. Soshangane was also known by the name of Manukosi,[1] and his troops where responsible for the massacre of the Janse van Rensburg trek.[2]

Early life[edit]

Soshangane was born in ca 1780 in modern-day KwaNongoma, KwaZulu to Zikode kaGasa, a chief the junior branch (iKohlo) of the Ndwandwe. His younger brother was Mhlaba. The Gasa occupied the Mkuze region around the eTshaneni mountain (Ghost Mountain) whilst the senior house under Zwide lived in Magudu near the Pongola Valley. Around the same time that the Ndwandwe were growing in military power, Zwide ascended to the Ndwandwe-Nxumalo throne following the death of his father Langa KaXaba.

Ndwande-Zulu Wars[edit]

It was at this time that Zwide sought to expand his borders, and in 1818 he destroyed the power of the Mthethwa Kingdom, after he had their paramount chief Dingiswayo KaJobe killed. Zwide and his Ndwandwe forces then destroyed and overran the neighbouring Khumalo Kingdom and executed their chief Mashobana KaMangete with the help of Queen Ntombazi, a witch doctor and Langa kaXaba's wife. Mashobana's son and heir Mzilikazi escaped from the Ndwandwe-Nxumalo and sought refuge with Shaka, who had reformed the remnant Mthethwa clan under his rule. The Ndwandwe and Zulu would clash for the first time at the Battle of Gqokli Hill in which Zwide and his heir Nomahlanjana were commanders of the Ndwandwe forces, whilst neither side emerged victorious, these two military powers would soon clash again. In 1820, with Soshangane kaGasa as the commanding general of the Ndwandwe army under King Zwide, the Ndwandwe forces were attacked by the Zulu forces whilst crossing the Mhlatuze River, scattered and confused the Zulu inflicted a resounding defeat on the Ndwandwe, however losses were heavy on both sides. Following this defeat, Soshangane led a remnant of the army and of the Ndwandwe people northwards and away from Shaka's Zulu hegemony.

The Founding of the Gasa/Gaza Kingdom[edit]

Warriors of the Angoni (or Abanguni), descendants of Zwangendaba's clan,[3][4] photographed towards the end of the 19th century

Soshangane left with his followers and his younger brother Mhlaba for the eastern Lebombo foothills, till they reached the vicinity of upper Tembe river. Around 1825 Soshangane entered the country between Matsolo and Nkomati river where he found Zwangendaba Hlatswayo of the Jele clan, a former Ndwandwe subsidiary chief. They briefly formed an alliance, but due to Soshangane's ambition to establish his own kingdom this was short-lived. After trouble arose between Soshangane and his younger brother Mhlaba, Zwangendaba and his followers left for Vendaland, between Limpopo (Vembe) and Levubu (Ribvubye) rivers being joined by Mhlaba. They lived there for a while, before migrating to the North (Rozviland), near present-day Bulawayo. He defeated the Changamire Dombo of the Rozvi. He later left for Manyikaland in the North east where he met Soshangane again in the early 1830s. They fled from Soshangane and Zwangendaba crossed the Zambezi river in 1835, after they split with Soshangane's young brother Mhlaba in 1934. Mhlaba remained in the Zambezi area and commonly known as Mhlabawadabuka (Lubimbi). Mhlabawadabuka means the one who split the land, which led to the totem (Kwamulanyika). By 1825 Nxaba Msane, another former Ndwandwe general and subsidiary chief had entered central Mozambique, in the Sofala province. He ruled Sofala undisturbed for about 10 years, between 1825 and 1835. It was only in 1835 when he was removed by Soshangane. Nxaba left Sofala for Zambia. After defeating Nxaba, Soshangane lived for a while in Musapa in Zimbabwe, where he conquered the Ndau (Vandau) and Manyika (Vamanyika). Some Gazan Nguni lived in various Manyika regions in Zimbabwe, like the Zindi, Samanga, Nyamhuka, Karombe and Murahwa.

Soshangane then began to carve out a Nguni empire of conquest known as the Gaza Empire (or Gasa), named after his grandfather Gasa KaLanga, which would later significantly expand to cover areas over present day southern Mozambique, parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in South Africa. The rise of the Gaza Kingdom was based primarily on military conquests, particularly of the Ronga and Ndau peoples, who would be absorbed into the Nguni Gaza Kingdom. Soshangane then began a campaign to create a new language and culture named after himself. This began primarily with the formation of a regimented system in which different classes of the Gasa/Gaza kingdom were separated. The conquered Ndau and Ronga peoples were regimented under the Mavulandlela regiment and taught Nguni/Ndwandwe battle tactics. In 1828 Shaka sent a punitive expedition to liquidate his rival to the North, however suffering from malaria and food shortages they were easily defeated and Soshangane consolidated his empire.[1] Soshangane's army overran the Portuguese settlements at Delagoa Bay, Inhambane and Sena,[1] and he extracted tribute from the Europeans, primarily the Portuguese. After the death of Soshangane around 1856, Soshangane's empire was embroiled in succession disputes between his sons Mzila and Mawewe. The final ruler of independent Gazankulu state was Soshangane's grandson Mdungazwe kaMzila who in 1895 was defeated by the once tributary Portuguese leading the Nguni Gazan empire entered into decline. Soshangane is one of a number of outstanding figures that rose to prominence during the Mfecane.[5][6][7]

List of Soshangane's ancestors (Ndwandwe/Nxumalo lineage)[edit]

Chief Mdungazwe, grandson of Soshangane
  • Nxumalo
  • Ndwandwe kaNxumalo
  • Mkhatshwa kaNdwandwe
  • Manukuse KaMkhatshwa
  • Makweya kaManukuse
  • Gasa kaMakweya
  • Zikode KaGasa
  • Soshangane KaZikode (founder of the amaShangane tribe)
  • Mzila
  • Mdungazwe
  • Buyisonto
  • Mafemani
  • Mpisane (current incumbent)


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Fleming, C. J. W. "The Zwangendaba Succession". The Ngoni People of Africa. Blog at Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Werner, Alice (1906). The natives of British Central Africa. London: A. Constable and Company, ltd. pp. 278–287. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  6. ^ 1820 in South Africa:Port Elizabeth, 1820 Settlers, Battle of Mhlatuze
  7. ^ The Washing of the Spears

4.Constitutional court case CCT162/13 Decided on 2 October 2014