Find Content

Ndebele Migration(Journey from Nguniland to Western Zimbabwe)

Ndebele migration

Groups which fought with the Ndebele during their journey

  • Zulu
  • Kololo
  • Pedi
  • Griqua
  • Tswana
  • Sotho
  • Kora
  • Korana
  • Khoisan
  • Boers
  • Tlokwa
  • Hurutshe
  • Hapin
  • San
  • Taung
  • Kabokwene

Ndebele settlements during the journey

  • Ekepumuleni- the place of rest.
  • Mhlahlandela
  • Endinaneni
  • Enkuqini
  • Egabeni
  • Gibixhegu.
  • Inyati.

Problems faced by the Ndebele during the journey

  • Attacks by other groups
  • Attacks by wild animals
  • Hunger and stavation
  • Death caused by diseases eg malaria.
  • Tsetse caused sleeping sickness
  • Nagana killed livestock
  • Shortage of pastures for livestock
  • Loss of women and livestock to other groups.
  • They crossed mountaneous areas eg drakensburg.
  • DIfferent groups joined and there was language barrier.
  • The Ndebele fought whites who had better weapons eg guns.
  • Trade was disturbed.
  • Agric was disturbed
  • Succsession disputes as Mzilikazi’s son Nkulumane was installed to be King.
  • Mzilikazi killed Nkulumane and the Indunas who were responsible.
  • They crossed flooded rivers.

Q: Describe the Ndebele migration from Nguniland to western Zimbabwe

  • Mzilikazi was a chief of the Khumalo. The Khumalo were under the rule of Tshaka.
  • In 1821, Mzilikazi raided the Sotho and kept the booty.
  • He cut the plumes of the messengers sent by Tshaka to collect the booty.It was a sign of disobedience.
  • Tshaka sent a small army to defeat the Khumalo and the army was defeated.
  • Mzilikazi decided to leave before Tshaka sent a bigger army.
  • He left with about 300 followers.
  • They crossed the drakernsburg and reached Sotho.
  • Mzilikazi, estabilished a settlement called Ekepumuleni.
  • The Sotho gave the Ndebele a nickname Matebele meaning men of long shields.
  • The Ndebele raided the Sotho for livestock grain and women.
  • Mzilikazi was forced to leave Ekupumuleni because of three problems-Zulu attacks,-Drought,-Lack of pastures.
  • He moved into the Transvaal and estabilished settlements like Mhlahlandela,Egabeni.
  • The Ndebele were attacked by the Zulu,Griquas,Boers,Kora,Khoisan Mzilikazi met Robert Moffat and the two became friends.
  • The Ndebele estabilished a settlement called Mosega in the Transvaal.
  • They were defeated by the combined force in 1837- Boers,Griquas,Kra,Zulu etc.
  • Mzilikazi decide to leave Mosega.
  • He divided his people into two.
    • The main group was led by Induna Gondwane Ndiweni.It included old people, Children , wives livestock and Mzilikazi’s sons Nkulumane and Lobengula.
      The group followed a shorter route.
      It crossed Makloutse river and the Shashe.
      The group settled at Gibixhegu near the Matopo hills.
    • The small group was led by Mzilikazi himself. It moved from Mosega in a westward direction through the territory of the Ngwato.
  • Mzilikazi moved Northwards following the Kololo.
  • He then moved Southward to meet the main group.
  • Mzilikazi heard about the installation of Nkulumane .He rushed to Gibixhegu.
  • Ndiweni and other Indunas were responsible for the installation of Nkulumane.
  • What happened to Nkulumane was not clear, Some historians say that he was Killed while others say that he fled Southwards.
  • Mzilikazi estabilished his capital at Inyati near Morden Bulawayo.
  • Mzilikazi married Nyamazana, a Ngoni leader who had broken away fromZwangendaba.
  • The local Shona people offered less resistance and easily fell under Mzlikazi’s control.

Q: To what extent did settlements in the western Zimbabwe bring security to them

  • The Ndebele settled in the Rozvi country where there was little resistance.
  • Mzilikazi married Nyamazana who had killed the Rozvi King Chirisamhuru 2.
  • The neighbouring tswana were weak.
  • They were far away from enermies like Boers ,Griqua, Pedi and Zulu.
  • Favourable climate-Sunshine.
  • Fertile soils.
  • Availability of resourcws eg game.
  • Free from flies.
  • Good pastures.
  • Mineral wealth eg Gold.
  • Trade with the portuguese and Arabs.
  • The area was sparsely populated.
  • The Rozvi resisted Ndebele rule- some moved away.
  • Shona chiefdoms in the east resisted.
  • Boers of the Transvaal raided the Ndebele.
  • The area was affected by drought.
  • The Ndebele were attacked by Ngwato of Khama.
  • Finally the Ndebele were defeated by the BSAC.

Q: To what extent did war with other groups united the Ndebele

1. Unity was a result of war

  • The Ndebele created a strong army for defense.
  • The army protected their property.
  • Army raided other groups for property.
  • Army raided other groups for livestock.
  • The fear of Zulu attacks united the Ndebele.
  • The Ndebele realised the importance of guns.
  • The Ndebele estabilished a strong Nation.

2. Unity was a result of other factors

  • Intermarriage united people.
  • The inxala ceremony brought the whole nation together.
  • Mafisa system(loan cattle.)
  • The groups faced hardships together eg the cold weather , drought etc.
  • Religion united people.
  • The worshiped one God.,br> There was fear of Mzilikazi.. he was a strict and no non- sense ruler.
  • He was also loved by his people because he was generous.
  • The regiments of the Ndebele brought unity.
  • MZilikazi used zule tactics and weapons.
  • Defeated groups were absorbed and forced to speak Isindebele.
  • Mzilikazi appointed his relatives to be chiefs.
  • He died in 1868.

Ndebele Military system

  • Army was divide into regiments.
  • The Ndebele army was led by commanders called Indunas.
  • The army was divided into regiment towns.
  • Each regiment was given a name eg Ingubu,Zwangendaba,Empande,Insukamini,Sijeba,Amaweni etc.
  • Soldiers were allowed to marry.
  • The King had his regiment.
  • The amabhuto had many responsibilities….protected the state and the king.
  • Raiding-it brought young men, women, livestock.
  • Protecting foreign trade.
  • Hunting Elephants-ivory.
  • Collected tribute and agric works.
  • They were about 200 000.
  • Weapons- Assegais, bows and arrows,shields,knobkerries, battle axe..
  • Women were used in the army as prostitutes.
  • Method of wars–cow horn formation, smoke signals,use of spies.
  • The king was the commander in chief of the army.
  • The king consulted Umphakati and the Izinkulu before war.
  • Chants and war cries were used to create fear among the enemies.
  • The King distributed the booty to loyal and brave men.
  • Defeated groups near the Ndebele center were absorbed into regiment.

Ndebele-Shona relations

    The general view was that the relationship was that of master and servant.(Ndebele -Shona respectively). This is inaccurate or a myth.Colonial historians wrote that the Ndebele always raided the Shona, were warlike and blood thirsty.


Why was the myth accepted

      • Missionaries who failed to spread christianity in Matebeleland wrote negative reports about the Ndebele.
      • They wanted their mother countries to destroy the Ndebele religion and political system first.
      • These missionaries include John Moffat,Cd Helm and Carnagie.
      • Rhodes wanted to justify the colonisation , The colonisers wanted to be seen as the saviours of the Shona.
      • Lobengula wanted to be seen as a great King . He claimed total control over all shona in the east.He exagerated his power and influence.
      • The Shona exegerated the effects of the Ndebele raids.


The truth about Ndebele-Shona relations

      • The Ndebele had total control of the Shona who lived with a radius of about 8 kms from the center.
      • The Shonas who were absorbed into the Ndebele became the hole-changed names,married enhla and Zansi,Customs like piercing ears,recieved loan cattle,they spoke sindebele.
      • The Shona religius beliefs were accepted.
      • The Ndebele used Shona middle men.
      • Shona traded with Ndebele.
      • Shona people away from Ndebele center were actually free.
      • Some Shona fought on the side of the Ndebele against BSAC in the anglo-Ndebele war.

Internal problems of the Ndebele

      • Senior Indunas were bribed by Rhodes – Losthe and Sikombo.
      • There was succession disputes after death of Mzilikazi in 1868.
      • Some Indunas wanted Lobengula to succsess Mzilikazi.
      • Others claimed Nkulumane was alive.
      • A man came from S A claiming to be Nkulumane. His name was Kanda.
      • Civil war broke out inthe Ndebele state.
      • Finally, Lobengula was installed as king in 1870 after the death of Mzilikazi in 1868.
      • Droughts affect the area caused by low rainfall.
      • Outbreak of diseases eg rinderpest killed cattle.
      • Resistance from the Shona.

External problems of the Ndebele

      • Attacks by the Boers of the Transvaal.
      • Shona chiefs attacked the Ndebele.
      • Attacks by the Ngwato led by Khama.
      • Attacks by the Lozi of Zambia.
      • The coming in and out of concession seekers disturbed the Ndebele state.
      • Missionaries said people were equals .
      • They used tricks to obtain agreements eg bribes.
      • Lobengula had sleepless nights because of whites who wanted treaties.
      • Christians were against raiding.

By: T.Titus Nyakudyara
Twitter: @NyakudyaraTitus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *