Ndebele people (Zimbabwe)

Ndebele people (Zimbabwe)

ethnic group
group=Ndebele (Zimbabwe)

flag_caption=Flag of the Ndebele
poptime=4.5 million (2001 est. 1)
popplace=Zimbabwe: 1.5 million(2001 est. [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=Zimbabwe Ethnologue report: Zimbabwe] ] )
related=Nguni, Zulu

:"This article relates to the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe. For other uses of the term, please see Ndebele."

The Ndebele (Matabele) are a branch of the Zulus who split from King Shaka in the early 1820s under the leadership of Mzilikazi, a former general in Shaka's army. They were named Matabele by the British, a spelling that is still common in older texts, because they found it difficult to pronounce the word amaNdebele. Moreover, in the early 19th century, the Ndebele invaded and lived in territories populated by Sotho-Tswana peoples who used the plural prefix "Ma" for certain types of people rather than the Nguni prefix "Ama," so the British explorers would have been confronted with two variant prononciations of this group's name, the Sotho-Tswana pronunciation (Matabele) and the Ndebele pronunciation (Ndebele or AmaNdebele). They are now commonly known as the Ndebele or amaNdebele (and were officially known as the amaNdebele when under British rule ["Official Yearbook of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia", 1924] ).

During a turbulent period of African history known as the Mfecane, Mzilikazi and his followers, initially numbering about 500 people, moved West towards the area near the present-day city of Pretoria, where they founded a settlement called Mhlahlandlela (a name which lives on in the modern-day Bulawayo suburb, Malindela). Here they came into contact with the Tswana people, who are credited with giving this band of Zulus the name "Matabele". Tabele comes from "tebela" which means 'to chase away'.

They then moved northwards in 1838 into present-day Zimbabwe where they battled with the Shona, eventually carving out a home now called Matabeleland and encompassing the west and south-west region of the country. In the course of the migration, large numbers of conquered local clans and individuals were absorbed into the Ndebele nation, adopting the Ndebele language but enjoying a lower social status than that of members of the original clans from the Zulu kingdom.

Lobengula assumed power after the death of his father, Mzilikazi, in 1868. Cecil Rhodes negotiated a territorial treaty with Lobengula, known as the Rudd Concession of 1888, which permitted British mining and colonization of Matabele lands between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, and prohibited all Boer settlement in the region. As part of the agreement, British agreed to pay Lobengula 100 pounds a month, as well as 1,000 rifles, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and a riverboat. Rhodes then formed British South Africa Company in 1889 and led the Pioneer Column, an army of five hundred, north into Mashonaland, taking over Fort Victoria (present-day Masvingo) and establishing Fort Salisbury (present-day Harare). Lobengula had hoped that the Rudd Concession would cut down on other Europeans entering his land, but as these white settlers moved in, the British South Africa Company set up its own government, made its own laws, and set its sights for more mineral rights and more territorial concessions.

Early History

Until the rise of Zwide and the Ndwandwes, life was a simple affair and the Khumalos located at Mkhuze had the best that the land which would become Zululand had to offer: plenty of water, fertile soil and grazing ground. But the Khumalos in the early nineteenth century would have to lose their neutrality and choose a side, and this they postponed for as long as they could. To please the Ndwandwe, Matshobana – a Khumalo chief – married the daughter of the Ndwandwe chief Zwide and sired a son, Mzilikazi. The Ndwandwes are amaNguni aseMbo, though all spoke a very similar language (all Nguni languages are closely related and are best exemplified by the Zulu language).

When Matshobana did not tell Zwide about patrolling Mthethwa amabutho (soldiers), Zwide had Matshobana killed, and the leadership of the Khumalo fell to Mzilikazi. Mzilikazi immediately did not trust his grandfather, Zwide, and took fifty warriors to join Shaka. Shaka was overjoyed because the Khumalos would be useful spies on Zwide and the Ndwandwes. After a few battles, Shaka gave Mzilikazi the extraordinary honour of being chief of the Khumalos and to remain semi-independent from the Zulu, if Zwide could be defeated.

This caused immense jealousy amongst those who had been with Shaka for many years, but as warriors none realised their equal in Mzilikazi. All intelligence for the defeat of Zwide was collected by Mzilikazi. Hence, when Zwide was defeated Shaka rightly acknowledged he could not have done it without Mzilikazi and presented him with an ivory axe. There were only two such axes – one for Shaka and one for Mzlikazi. Shaka himself placed the plumes on Mzilikazi's head after Zwide was vanquished.

The Khumalos returned to peace in their ancestral homeland. This peace lasted until Shaka asked Mzilikazi to punish a tribe to the north of the Khumalo, belonging to one Raninsi a Sotho. After the defeat of Raninsi, Mzilikazi refused to hand over the cattle to Shaka. Shaka, loving Mzilikazi, did nothing about it. His generals however, long disliking Mzilikazi, pressed for action, and thus a first force was sent to teach Mzilikazi a lesson. The force was soundly beaten by Mzilikazi's 500 warriors, compared to the Zulus' 3,000 warriors (though Mzilikazi had the cover of the mountains). This made Mzilikazi the only warrior to have ever defeated Shaka in battle.

Shaka reluctantly sent his veteran division, the Ufasimbi, to put an end to Mzilikazi and the embarrassing situation. Mzilikazi, left with only three hundred warriors who were grossly out-numbered, and betrayed by his brother, Zeni, who had wanted Mzilikazi's position for himself, was defeated.

From there the Khumalos would be scattered across southern Africa, some becoming the Sotho, and some joining other groups such as the Tswana, but the vast majority remained Zulu and Mthwakazi. "Mthwakazi" is the name that the Ndebeles call themselves. "Matabele" is a name used by other peoples of Southern Africa, itself coming from "Tebele", a name given to all Zulus by the Sotho at that time, and the one adopted by the Boers and the colonial governments.

Matabele Kingdom

On settlement on the western edge of the central plateau of modern-day Zimbabwe, Mzilikazi set up a state that held sovereignty over the region between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers and to the north and south and between the desert of the Makgadikgadi salt pans to the west and the realm of Shoshangana to the east, the Save river. The social organisation of the Ndebele people was rigidly controlled by rules of service and hierarchy inherited from Shaka's reforms among the Zulu. Other subject peoples such as in Mashonaland, were treated harshly; their lives and property were subject to the King's control and could be disrupted at any time by raids or exactions of tribute. This was the scene presented to British Pioneer Column when they arrived in Mashonaland in 1890.

First Matebele War

In November, 1893, events came to a head. Lobengula sent warriors down to Fort Victoria to attack the Shona in the area. Lobengula's warriors were instructed not to kill any white people, but they did plunder and commit numerous murders of local Shona people. During this confrontation, a fight broke out between British and Matabele and thus began the First Matabele War. Hoping for a quick victory, Leander Starr Jameson sent his British forces to attack the capital Gubulawayo and capture Lobengula. But rather than fight, Lobengula burned down his capital and fled with a few of his elite warriors. The British moved into the remains of Gubulawayo, establishing a base, which they renamed Bulawayo and then sent out patrols to find Lobengula. The most famous of these the patrols, the Shangani Patrol, managed to find Lobengula, only to be trapped and wiped out in battle.

The British soldiers were vastly outnumbered throughout the war, but their superior armaments, most notably the Maxim gun, proved to be too much for the Ndebele. In an attempt to reach a peace accord with the British, a band of Lobengula's warriors brought a large sum of gold to two British soldiers to be delivered to their superiors. The two soldiers instead decided to keep the gold for themselves and the incident went undiscoved for many months. Lobengula died shortly afterwards and was buried secretly. This brought the war to an end.

Second Matabele War

In March 1896, the Matabele revolted against the authority of the British South Africa Company in what is now celebrated in Zimbabwe as the First War of Independence. Mlimo, the Matabele spiritual leader, is credited with fomenting much of the anger that led to this confrontation. An estimated 50,000 Matabele retreated into their stronghold of the Matobo Hills near Bulawayo which became the scene of the fiercest fighting against the white settler patrols, which were led by their legendary military figures such as Burnham, Baden-Powell, and Selous. Hundreds of white settlers and uncounted Matabele and Shona were killed over the next year and a half. The Matabele military defiance ended only when Burnham found and assassinated Mlimo. Upon learning of Mlimo's death, Cecil Rhodes boldly walked unarmed into the Matabele stronghold and persuaded the leaders to lay down their arms.cite book | last =Farwell | first =Byron | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Land Warfare: An Illustrated World View | publisher =W. W. Norton & Company | date =2001 | location = | pages = 539| url =http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0393047709&id=m-XpP_pdANcC&pg=PA539&lpg=PA539&ots=XHkbH7K9Em&dq=Cecil+Rhodes+boldly+walked+unarmed&sig=dVixJwT8o4WckD9Dvz2C_Vfz3X8 | doi = | id = ISBN 0393047709 ] This final uprising thus ended on October 1897 and Matabeleland and Mashonaland would later be renamed Rhodesia.

Twentieth Century

In recent years, the Matabele in Zimbabwe have been affected by the policies of the Mugabe government, notably the Gukurahundi, a brutal intimidation campaign of murder and forced resettlement carried out by the Zimbabwean government. Other issues are migration to other countries, especially South Africa in search of jobs, after-effects of the Gukurahundi, and the economic crisis that has gripped Zimbabwe since 2000.

Notable Ndebele

*Dalaza kaNdlovu
*Joshua Nkomo
*Albert Nyathi, poet
*Lookout Masuku, Leader of ZIPRA
*Njabulo Ndebele, writer
*Pius Ncube, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo
*Divine Mafa, Businessman, Politician, Activist, Writer, Inventor, Educator, (Mafa means inheritance)


* "Scouting on Two Continents," by Major Frederick Russell Burnham, D.S.O.. LC call number: DT775 .B8 1926. (1926)
* "Migrant Kingdom: Mzilikazi's Ndebele in South Africa," by R. Kent Rasmussen (1978)
* "Mzilikazi of the Ndebele," by R. Kent Rasmussen (1977)
* "The Zulus and Matabele, Warrior Nations" by Glen Lyndon Dodds, (1998)
* "Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe," by Steven C. Rubert and R. Kent Rasmussen (3rd ed., 2001)

External links

*cite web|url=http://www.bulawayo1872.com/history/ndebele.htm
title=The History of the Ndebele People

* http://www.inkundla.net

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