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Nguni people are a group of closely related
Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Bantu knots, a type of African hairstyle *Black Association for Nationalis ...
ethnic groups that reside 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 ...
. They predominantly live in
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 ...
. Swazi people live in both South Africa and
Eswatini Eswatini ( ; ss, eSwatini ), officially the Kingdom of Eswatini ( ss, Umbuso weSwatini, links=no), sometimes written in English as eSwatini, and formerly and still commonly known in English as Swaziland ( ; officially renamed in 2018), is a land ...
, while
Ndebele Ndebele may refer to: *Southern Ndebele people, located in South Africa *Northern Ndebele people, located in Zimbabwe and Botswana About It is a language that stems from the South African Zulu language. With very similar clicking sounds between th ...
people live in both South Africa and
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambi ...

Zimbabwe
. In South Africa, the historic Nguni kingdoms of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi are in the present-day provinces of
KwaZulu-Natal KwaZulu-Natal (, also referred to as KZN and known as "the garden province"; zu, iKwaZulu-Natali; xh, KwaZulu-Natala; af, KwaZoeloe-Natal) is a province of South Africa that was created in 1994 when the Zulu bantustan of KwaZulu ("Place of the Z ...
,
Eastern Cape The Eastern Cape ( xh, iMpuma-Kapa; af, Oos-Kaap; st, Kapa Botjhabela) is one of the provinces of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho, but its two largest cities are East London and Gqeberha. The second largest province in the country (at 168,966&n ...
,
Gauteng Gauteng ( ; tn, Gauteng; Northern and Southern Sotho: ''Gauteng''; zu, eGoli; Tsonga: ''Gauteng/eXilungwini;'' Ndebele, xh, iRhawuti; nr, I-Gauteng; ve, Gauteng) is one of the nine provinces of South Africa. The name in Sotho-Tswana languages mea ...
,
Limpopo Limpopo is the northernmost province of South Africa. It is named after the Limpopo River, which forms the province's western and northern borders. The capital and largest city in the province is Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg). The province ...

Limpopo
and
Mpumalanga Mpumalanga () is a province of South Africa. The name means "east", or literally "the place where the sun rises" in the Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu languages. Mpumalanga lies in eastern South Africa, bordering Eswatini and Mozambique. It con ...

Mpumalanga
. The most notable of these kingdoms is the Zulu Kingdom, which was ruled by
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 ...
, a powerful warrior king whose conquest took place in the early nineteenth century. In Zimbabwe the Ndebele people live primarily in the provinces of
Matabeleland Matabeleland is a region located in southwestern Zimbabwe that is divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo,and Matabeleland South. These provinces are in the west and south-west of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi riv ...

Matabeleland
.


History

Most of what is believed about ancient Nguni history comes from oral history and legends. Traditionally, they are said to have migrated to Africa's
Great Lakes upright=1.3, Location in North America The Great Lakes, also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes, are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the upper mid-east region of North America that connec ...

Great Lakes
region from the North. According to linguistic evidence—alone—and historians (including John H. Robertson, Rebecca Bradley, T Russel, Fabio Silva and James Steele) the ancestors of the Nguni people migrated from west of the geographic
Centre of Africa
Centre of Africa
towards modern-day
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 ...
7000 years ago (5000 BC). Nguni people had migrated within South Africa to KwaZulu-Natal by the 1st century AD, and were also present in the
TransvaalTransvaal is a historical geographic term associated with land north of (''i.e.'', beyond) the Vaal River in South Africa. A number of states and administrative divisions have carried the name Transvaal. * South African Republic (1856–1902; af, Zu ...
region at the same time. Nguni people brought with them sheep, cattle, goats and horticultural crops, many of which had never been used in South Africa at that time. Other provinces in present-day South Africa, such as
Eastern Cape The Eastern Cape ( xh, iMpuma-Kapa; af, Oos-Kaap; st, Kapa Botjhabela) is one of the provinces of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho, but its two largest cities are East London and Gqeberha. The second largest province in the country (at 168,966&n ...
, saw the emergence of Nguni speakers at around the same time. Some groups split off and settled along the way, while others kept going. Thus, the following settlement pattern formed: the southern Ndebele in the north, the Swazi in the northeast, Zulu towards the east and the Xhosa in the south. Owing to the fact that these people had a common origin, their languages and cultures show marked similarities. The Nguni eventually met with San hunters, which accounts for their use of "click" in their languages. Although the Northern Ndebele are said to have come from the Nguni people, this is true only for some of them. The South African Ndebeles (
Southern Ndebele people The Southern African Ndebele are an Nguni ethnic group native to South Africa who speak Southern Ndebele, which is distinct from the Zimbabwean Ndebele language. Although sharing the same name, they should not be confused with (Mzilikazi's) Nort ...
) were the first group to separate from other Nguni clans, after entering present-day South Africa and settling in the Transvaal region from around the year 1500. The remaining Nguni clans moved further south. Those that moved south-west ended up calling themselves Xhosas, and most of the clans that moved south-east ended up being forcibly united under the Zulus when Shaka (whose Zulus had been a minor clan under the Mthethwa confederacy led by
Dingiswayo Dingiswayo () (c. 1780 – 1817) (born Godongwana) was a Mthethwa chief, well known for his mentorship over a young Zulu general, Shaka Zulu, who rose to become the greatest of the Zulu Kings. His father was the Mthethwa king, Jobe kaKayi. It w ...
, Shaka's overlord) defeated 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, ...
confederacy under
Zwide kaLanga Zwide kaLanga (1758–1825) was the King of the Ndwandwe (Nxumalo) nation from about 1805 to around 1820. He was the son of Langa KaXaba, a Nxumalo king. Legend has it that Zwide's mother, Queen Ntombazi, was a sangoma. And she infamously collected ...
. Before their defeat by
Shaka Zulu 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 ...
they lived in the area north of the Umhlathuze River and south of the Pongola. After their defeat, they moved to the headwaters of the Nkomati river, among other areas (with one of Zwide's generals,
ZwangendabaZwangendaba kaZiguda Jele Gumbi (c. 1785 – 1848) was the king of the Ngoni people for more than thirty years, from approximately 1815 to his death in 1848. He was the younger brother of Somkhanda kaZiguda Jele who remained with the Gumbi clan in Kw ...
kaJele going as far as Malawi/Tanzania). Mzilikazi, chief of the Khumalo clan, became one of Shaka's top generals after the unification of the clans. Returning from a raid with his impi, he kept some of the stolen cattle for himself rather than handing them over to his overlord, Shaka, as was the custom. Such conduct was punishable by death. A regiment was sent to punish this general, which resulted in him fleeing with hundreds of his followers, eventually ending up in the Transvaal region where they came into contact with the (unrelated) Manala Ndebeles. The Manala Ndebeles had been weakened by their separation from the Nzunza Ndebele after almost two to three centuries of their settlement in the Transvaal region. The separation led to the majority of the nation going with Nzunza and the minority with Manala. The Nzunza Ndebele moved north, and the Manala Ndebele, who were predominantly composed of women, remained in present-day Pretoria. When Mzilikazi arrived, he killed the Manala Ndebele king, King Silamba, and they settled there for a while before moving further north, ending up in present-day Zimbabwe around 1839. By the time they arrived in present-day Zimbabwe, Mzilikazi's Khumalo clan (which had been joined by other ethnic groups, such as the Sotho, Tswana and other displaced Ngunis in South Africa) was known as the Ndebele. Further conquests and assimilation of Zimbabwean groups (such as the Kalanga and Rozwi) meant that the original Khumalos from Zululand was eventually a minority in this large ethnic group, which was united by a common Nguni language, isiNdebele. Many tribes and clans are said to have been forcibly united under Shaka Zulu. Shaka Zulu's political organisation was efficient in integrating "conquered" tribes, partly by the age regiments, where men from different villages bonded with each other. Many versions in the historiography of Southern Africa state that during the southern African migrations known as Mfecane, the Nguni peoples spread across a large part of southern Africa, absorbing, conquering or displacing many other peoples. However, the notion of the mfecane/difaqane has been disputed by some scholars, notably, Julian Cobbing. The Mfecane was initiated by Zwide and his Ndwandwe's. They attacked the Hlubi and stole their cattle leaving them destitute. The remnants of the Hlubi under their chief Matiwane fled into what is now the Free State and attacked the Batlokwa in The Harrismith Vrede area. This displaced the Batlokwa under Mantatese and she and her people spread death and destruction further into the central interior. Moshoeshoe I, Moshoeshoe and his Bakwena sought the protection of Shaka and sent him tribute in return. When Matiwane settled at Mabolela, near present-day Clocolan, Moshoeshoe complained to Shaka that this prevented him from sending his tribute whereupon an impi was sent to drive Matiwane from this area. Matiwane fled south and was eventually defeated in a battle with British troops in what later became the Transkei. Mantatese and her Batlokwa settled near what is now Ficksburg and was followed by her son, Sekonyela, as chief of the Batlokwa. It was he who had stolen Zulu cattle that Piet Retief in his dealings with Dingane, Shaka's successor, had to retrieve. After the defeat of Zwide and his Ndwandwes by Shaka, two of his commanders, Soshangane and Zwengendaba, fled with their followers northwards creating havoc as they went. Soshangane eventually founded the Shangane nation in Mozambique and Zwengendaba moved all the way to what is now Tanzania. Mzilikazi in his flight from Shaka depopulated the eastern highveld and northern Free State, killing the men and capturing the women to form his Matabele nation. Initially, he settled near what is now Pretoria, then moved to Mosega, near present day Zeerust, but after his defeat by the Voortrekkers he moved to present-day
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambi ...

Zimbabwe
where he founded his capital Bulawayo.Bryant: Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. Ritter: Shaka Zulu


Social organisation

Within the Nguni nations, the clan, based on male ancestry, formed the highest social unit. Each clan was led by a chieftain. Influential men tried to achieve independence by creating their own clan. The power of a chieftain often depended on how well he could hold his clan together. From about 1800, the rise of the Zulu clan of the Nguni, and the consequent Mfecane that accompanied the expansion of the Zulus under Shaka, helped to drive a process of an alliance between and consolidation among many of the smaller clans. For example, the kingdom of
Eswatini Eswatini ( ; ss, eSwatini ), officially the Kingdom of Eswatini ( ss, Umbuso weSwatini, links=no), sometimes written in English as eSwatini, and formerly and still commonly known in English as Swaziland ( ; officially renamed in 2018), is a land ...
was formed in the early nineteenth century by different Nguni groups allying with the Dlamini clan against the threat of external attack. Today, the kingdom encompasses many different clans who speak a Nguni language called Swati language, Swati and are loyal to the king of Eswatini, who is also the head of the Dlamini clan. "Dlamini" is a very common clan name among all documented Nguni languages (including Swati and Phuthi), associated with ''AbaMbo'' cultural identity.


Religion

Ngunis may be Christianity, Christians (whether Roman Catholicism, Catholics or Protestantism, Protestants), practitioners of African Traditional Religion, African traditional religions or members of forms of Christianity modified with traditional African values (such as the Nazareth Baptist Church, Shembe Church of Nazarites).They also follow a mix of these two religions most of the time not separately.


Constituent peoples

The following peoples are Nguni:


Notes

Ngoni people by ethnicity are found in Malawi (under paramount Chief Mbelwa and Maseko Paramouncy), Zambia (under paramount chief Mpezeni), Mozambique and Tanzania. In Malawi and Zambia, they speak a mixture of languages of the people they conquered, such as Chewa language, Chewa, Nsenga language, Nsenga and Tumbuka language, Tumbuka.


References

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