amaNdebele History


  1. The Origin of amaNdebele

AmaNdebele originate from the group of bantu speaking people known as Ngunis. The name Ndebele is often confused with the Matebele of Mzilikazi in Zimbabwe. The name itself is often denied by others as the adopted name from the Sotho speaking people. However, this name came from the first notable ruler of amaNdebele, King Ndebele, the son of Nguni.

This Nguni are set to have come from the great lakes of Africa in countries such as Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville. It is recorded by historians that many nations were living in this part of the continent before the great movement by different nations or tribes to various destinations.

The Ngunis who assumed the name Nguni from their founding father uNguni left the area too. However, it is not known when this great movement occurred or why, it is estimated that it was during the late 1000 to the beginning of 1100. The Nguni went down to the south of the continent moving along the eastern part of the coast of the Indian ocean to the areas around the Drakensberg [Khahlamba] mountains in the present KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho.

Nguni had four sons that form the current Nguni nation or speaking tribes. These sons are; (1) AmaZulu, (2) AmaNdebele, (3) AmaSwazi and (4) AmaXhosa. However, there are many smaller NguniĀ groups that arrived in this part of South Africa before the main group arrived.

After a long time this group split and took different routes in pursuit of independence from one another but maintaining their similarities of being Ngunis.

The first group to breakaway was the group of AmaSwazi who went north in the direction they came from but settling in their current land of Swaziland. The second group to leave was AmaXhosa who went further down to the south of the current KwaZulu-Natal before settling along the coastal and interior of the Eastern and Western Cape. AmaNdebele followed their brothers, AmaSwazi, but went into the interior before settling north of the Vaal [Legwa] river [in the then Transvaal].

AmaNdebele when migrating from the Drakensburg mountains were being led by their first notable leader, uNdebele the son of uNguni. It is however not known during which year they left or when they arrived to the north of Vaal river except the estimation that it was during the beginning of the 1400. As to whether they were still under the leadership of uNdebele or not is not clear.

The oral history indicates to the effect that amaNdebele were under the leadership of uMhlanga the son of uNdebele. To be more exact amaNdebele were living in an area called Emhlangeni also known as Randfontein in Johannesburg. The only known son of King Mhlanga is King Musi.

Nothing much is known about King Mhlanga besides the praise songs of Musi that he is his son. Upon his passing on, King Musi assumed the position of Kingship of amaNdebele and soon moved to KwaMnyamana, the land of dark clay fertile soil in the current Pretoria/ Tshwane. The period of arrival is estimated to be during the mid 1500 to the beginning of 1600 long before the Dutch colonizers arrived in the Cape.



To read more, can also download our documents in PDF regarding our history on the following links:

Concise History of AmaNdebele June 201011