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Mfecane (
isiZulu Zulu , or isiZulu as an endonym, is a Southern Bantu language of the Nguni branch spoken in Southern Africa. It is the language of the Zulu people, with about 12 million native speakers, who primarily inhabit the province of KwaZulu-Natal of So ...
, In another tradition transcribed . is the current IPA symbol for a
dental click Dental (or more precisely denti-alveolar) clicks are a family of click consonants found, as constituents of words, only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia. In English, the ''tut-tut!'' (British spelling, "tutting") or ''tsk ...
, not a lower-case .
), also known by the
Sesotho Sotho ( or Sesotho ()Historically also spelled ''Suto'', or ''Suthu'', ''Souto'', ''Sisutho'', ''Sutu'', or ''Sesutu''. is a Southern Bantu language of the Sotho-Tswana (S.30) group, spoken primarily by the Basotho in Lesotho, where it is the n ...
name Difaqane or Lifaqane (all meaning "crushing, scattering, forced dispersal, forced migration"), was a period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous ethnic communities in
:southern Africa Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics, and including several countries. The term ''southern Africa'' or ''Southern Africa'', generally includes Angola, Botswana, Eswati ...
during the period between 1815 and about 1840. As King
Shaka Shaka kaSenzangakhona ( – 22 September 1828), also known as Shaka Zulu () and Sigidi kaSenzangakhona, was the King of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. He was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom, responsible for re-org ...
created the
militaristic Militarism is the belief or the desire of a government or a people that a state should maintain a strong military capability and to use it aggressively to expand national interests and/or values. It may also imply the glorification of the milit ...
Zulu Kingdom The Zulu Kingdom (, ), sometimes referred to as the Zulu Empire or the Kingdom of Zululand, was a monarchy in Southern Africa that extended along the coast of the Indian Ocean from the Tugela River in the south to Pongola River in the north. T ...
in the territory between the
Tugela River The Tugela River ( zu, Thukela; af, Tugelarivier) is the largest river in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. It is one of the most important rivers of the country. The river originates in Mont-aux-Sources of the Drakensberg Mountains and plung ...
and
Pongola River The Pongola or Phongolo River is a river in South Africa. It is a tributary of the Maputo River. It rises near Utrecht in northern KwaZulu-Natal, flows east through Pongola, is dammed at Pongolapoort, and crosses the Ubombo Mountains; then it flows ...
, his forces caused a wave of warfare and disruption to sweep to other peoples. This was the prelude of the ''Mfecane'', which spread from there. The movement of people caused many tribes to try to dominate those in new territories, leading to widespread warfare; consolidation of other groups, such as the
Matebele Matebeleng, also known as Matebele(Ndebele) is a village in Kgatleng District of Botswana. It is located around 20 km north-east of Gaborone and the population was 1,180 in 2001 census. References Kgatleng District Vill ...
, the
Mfengu The Fengu people (in the Xhosa language ''Mfengu'' and plural ''amafengu'') refers to a variety of ethnic groups that fled from the Mfecane to enter into various Xhosa speaking areas, but now often considered to have assimilated by the Xhosa peo ...
and the
Makololo The Kololo or Makololo are a subgroup of the Sotho-Tswana people native to Southern Africa. In the early 19th century, they were displaced by the Zulu, migrating north to Barotseland, Zambia. They conquered the territory of the Luyana people and im ...
; and the creation of states such as the modern
Lesotho Lesotho (, ), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho ( st, Naha ea Lesotho), is an enclaved country within the border of South Africa. It is by far the largest of the world's three independent states completely surrounded by the territory of another ...
. Although the Mfecane caused a decrease in the population of the eastern part of
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 59 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities: e ...
, the resulting consolidation of larger settlements and political power is not, according to some sources, believed to have left the vast stretches of pastureland uncontested. How many people died as a result of all the conflict is unknown but the death toll estimates cited most frequently are 1 to 2 million. "In the seventy years or so after 1760, the political face of the region north of the Orange (River) and east of the Kalahari was profoundly changed," concluded Professor John Wright.John Wright, Turbulent Times: Political Transformations in the North and East, 1760 – 1830s, The Cambridge History of South Africa, Vol. I, Cambridge, 2010, p. 249, 212, 213, 215, 216, 217


Causes

Theories vary as to the causes of the catastrophic warfare and migration of many ethnic groups in the area. Populations had increased greatly in Zululand following the
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...
introduction of
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The leaf ...
from the Americas in the late 17th century, reaching the inland around 1750. While maize was more productive than the grains from native grasses, it required more water during cultivation. The agricultural surpluses and increased population enabled
Shaka Shaka kaSenzangakhona ( – 22 September 1828), also known as Shaka Zulu () and Sigidi kaSenzangakhona, was the King of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. He was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom, responsible for re-org ...
to field more
impi Impi is a Zulu word meaning war or combat, and by association any body of men gathered for war, for example ''impi ya masosha'' is a term denoting 'an army'. Impi were formed from multiple regiments(amabutho in Zulu) from amakhanda(large militar ...
s. By the end of the 18th century, the Zulus occupied much of their
arable land Arable land (from the la, arabilis, "able to be ploughed") is any land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops.''Oxford English Dictionary'', "arable, ''adj''. and ''n.''" Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2013. Alternatively, for the p ...
. Declining rainfall and a ten-year drought in the early 19th century set off a competition for land and water resources among the peoples of the area. Another possible cause is the increased trade of ivory with the Portuguese in the
Delagoa Bay Maputo Bay ( pt, Baía de Maputo), formerly also known as Delagoa Bay from ''Baía da Lagoa'' in Portuguese, is an inlet of the Indian Ocean on the coast of Mozambique, between 25° 40' and 26° 20' S, with a length from north to south of over 90&nbs ...
. This led to deepening inequality within African societies which led people being even more vulnerable in a region that was already being hit by multiple droughts. There were three major ethnic groups that occupied the areas now known as
Nquthu Nquthu is a town in Umzinyathi District Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Village 24 km west-south-west of Barklieside and 53 km east of Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal. Of Zulu origin, the name is derived from isquthu, ‘flat-topp ...
,
Babanango Babanango is a small town located about 58 kilometers north-west of Melmoth in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. Founded in 1904, the town is takes its name from the nearby stream and mountain. Etymology The exact origin of the name 'Bab ...
,
Empangeni Empangeni is a town in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is approximately 157 kilometres north of Durban, in hilly countryside, overlooking a flat coastal plain and the major harbour town of Richards Bay 16 kilometres away. The N2 freeway runs east f ...
,
Mtubatuba Mtubatuba is a town north of Richards Bay close to the entrance of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Town some 55 km south-south-west of Hluhluwe and 28 km west of St ...
,
Hlabisa Hlabisa is a settlement in Umkhanyakude District Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The village lies between the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi game reserves, some 40 km north-west of Mtubatuba. Named after the Hlabisa tribe of Zulu ...
,
Nongoma Nongoma is a town in Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is the seat of the Nongoma Local Municipality. It is situated 300 km north of Durban and 56 km from Ulundi; it is surrounded by the Ngome Forest. It is a busy market town tha ...
, Pongola,
Vryheid Vryheid is a coal mining and cattle ranching town in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Vryheid is the Afrikaans word for "freedom". Vryheid History After Boer farmers, who lived in the Vryheid area, had helped King Dinuzulu defeat his rival ...
, Melmoth and
Mahlabathini Mahlabathini is a town in Zululand District Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Notable people *Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, politician and Zulu tribal leader who founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975 and was Chief ...
– those ethnic groups were the Ngwane, the
Ndwandwe The Ndwandwe are a Bantu Nguni-speaking people who populate sections of southern Africa. The Ndwandwe, with the Mthethwa, were a significant power in present-day Zululand at the turn of the nineteenth century. Under the leadership of King Zwide, ...
and the Mthethwa. They were respectively led by kings
SobhuzaSobhuza may refer to: *Sobhuza I of Swaziland (ca. 1780 – 1839?), king (ngwenyama) of KaNgwane *Sobhuza II of Swaziland (1899 – 1982), Paramount Chief and later King of Swaziland {{hndis