The Thembu (abaThembu ababhu-bhuzu, abanisi bemvula ilanga libalele) are part of the Xhosa-speaking people. According to tradition, the Thembu migrated from central Africa along the east coast before settling in
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. The earliest known Thembu ancestor is Mbulali, whose grandson (named Thembu), led his people from what became the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal to Dedesi in the present-day Transkei region of South Africa. The Thembu emerged as a unified people during the reign of Ngubengcuka, who united clans living in Thembuland into a single political entity, owing allegiance to the Thembu royal family, or "Hala Mvelase." Famous Thembus include
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Nelson Mandela
, whose father was a reigning
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from a junior branch of the Madiba clan of kings, and
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In Xhosa, the name is ''abaThembu'', (''aba-'' is a common
prefix A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix ''un-'' is added to the word ''happy'', it creates the word ''unhappy''. Particular ...
implying "people"). The land they lived in was historically known as Thembuland. In the 19th century, Thembu were frequently known as the "Tamboekie" or "Tambookie" people. This name was originally the Khoisan language term specifically for the followers of Chief Maphasa who moved into the area west of the Great Kei River in the 1820s. However, Europeans used these terms as a synonym for "Thembu" for much of the 19th century.


Prior to the British conquest in the 19th century, the Thembu had an independent kingdom. The Xhosa clan name of the Thembu kings is Ntlazi aNkosiyane. Recent kings, including Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, took the surname Dalindyebo, after a 19th-century king. After conquest, the Thembu came under the government of the
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as part of
Transkei Transkei (, meaning ''the area beyond he riverKei''), officially the Republic of Transkei ( xh, iRiphabliki yeTranskei), was an unrecognised state in the southeastern region of South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of Sout ...
. With the exception of a few missionaries and traders, Transkei was a
Bantustan A Bantustan (also known as Bantu peoples, Bantu homeland, Black people, black homeland, Khoisan, black state or simply homeland; ) was a territory that the National Party (South Africa), National Party administration of South Africa set aside ...
. Other peoples in the territories who formerly had independent kingdoms included the Gcaleka branch of the Xhosa, the Mpondo, the Bhaca people, Bhaca and the Xesibe. The
Transkei Transkei (, meaning ''the area beyond he riverKei''), officially the Republic of Transkei ( xh, iRiphabliki yeTranskei), was an unrecognised state in the southeastern region of South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of Sout ...
remained a bantustan under apartheid, and was regarded as the homeland of the Xhosa people.


Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, son of Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, became the Thembu king in May 1989; his Isibongo, praise name is ''Zwelibanzi''. Sabata deposed Kaiser Matanzima, whom the government had installed and who advocated against South African liberation movements. In December 2009, King Buyelekhaya was convicted of offenses including culpable homicide, kidnapping, arson and assault. In response, he proposed secession from South Africa, and later demanded that the government pay Dalindyebo South African rand, R900 million and the tribe a further R80 billion in compensation for the humiliation caused by his criminal trial. Dalindyebo was imprisoned in December 2015. He was customarily dethroned and was expected to be administratively dethroned. Compare: Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo, Buyelekhaya's heir, has served as the Prince regent, acting king of the tribe since 2016. On 23 December 2019, following president Cyril Ramaphosa's Day of reconciliation speech, the Abathembu King was released from prison after serving one-third of his sentence.


* Ndala * 1800 - 10 Aug 1830 Vusani Ngubengcuka Aa! Ndaba! * Mthokrakra * Ngangelizwe * Dalindyebo * Sampu Dalindyebo Aa! Jongilizwe! * Sabata Dalindyebo Aa! Jonguhlanga! * May 1989 - 2014 Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo Aa! Zwelibanzi! * Azenathi Dalindyebo Aa! Zanelizwe!

Thembu Kingship line

See also

*Xhosa clan names


External links

Royal lineage
at worldstatesmen.org
{{authority control Nguni languages Ethnic groups in South Africa