History of the amaNdebele

An introduction to the History of the amaNdebele

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series History of the amaNdebele

Download article as PDF This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series History of the amaNdebeleOf the many great events of pre-colonial history in Southern Africa, perhaps the most dramatic has been the rise and dispersal of the Nguni line of the Bantu family. Several branches of this family exist, but of those that broke away from the main rootstock, and established satellite communities beyond the borders of South Africa, there are three. These are the Gaza people, or the Shangaan, who at one time ruled, and still currently occupy, a large swathe of what is at present Moçambique, the Angoni, or Ngoni, who at present reside in the modern nation state of Malawi.



This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series History of the amaNdebele

Download article as PDF This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series History of the amaNdebeleIt has often been proved by history that the formula for greatness lies in being born in the right place and at the right time, and such was certainly the case with Mzilikazi kaMashobane. Mzilikazi was a man whose particular symmetry of violence, statesmanship and ambition might easily have been consigned to irrelevance had his birth occurred either a century earlier or a century later. Such also had been the case with Shaka Zulu, whose rise to power and infamy was catalysed primarily by the nature of his times, times for which he has often been cited as the cause.


Ndebele Exodus from Zululand

History of the amaNdebeleIt was an apprehensive Mzilikazi who slowly emerged from the Ngome forests and cautiously led his people northwards out of Zululand. Incrementally the vulnerable body of women, children and fighting men probed forward, frequently pausing to take stock, fearing at the same time an attack from behind and a hostile reception from the fore. Slowly Mzilikazi found himself drifting beyond the known world and into the territories of groups and peoples that he knew nothing about. Remaining east of the northern Drakensberg Escarpment he initially maintained a north-westerly direction until he arrived somewhere in the vicinity of present day Piet Retief.



Robert Moffat

History of the amaNdebeleIn the year 1816 the rather anonymous arrival in Cape Town of a 21 year old missionary echoed similar daily arrivals and departures in a town that had by then been established as an international sea port for more than 160 years. Robert Moffat, a Scotsman and recent inductee into the service of the London Missionary society, arrived as many had before him, with a vague understanding of Africa, a rather generally directed vocation and a profound faith in the guiding hand of providence. He was one of an army of men and women of mixed denominations who followed the tenets of enlightenment.

Robert Moffat and Mzilikazi Meet

History of the amaNdebeleCoinciding more or less with Mzilikazi’s Bakwena Campaign approval was given by the government of the Cape Colony to a scheme aimed at extending the trade of the colony outwards to the scattered peoples of the interior. Licences were issued and help offered to those who wished to embark on trading expeditions north of the Cape, and one of the first to avail himself of this facility was a mercurial local character by the name of Andrew Geddes Bain. Bain was a man of many interests, amongst which his biographers list geology, palaeontology, engineering and exploration.

Mzilikazi, the Zulu, the Griquas and the Boer

History of the amaNdebele As Robert Moffat’s wagons slipped over the southern horizon and disappeared Mzilikazi turned back towards enKungwini to face arguably the greatest series of challenges to the long term survival of the amaNdebele that he had confronted thus far. The first of these was the long awaited settling of scores with the Zulu that came soon afterwards as Mzilikazi had always feared that it would. Two years earlier the short but shockingly violent reign of Shaka Zulu had been brought to a predictably bloody end by his assassination at the hands of his younger half brother Dingaan