- Zimbabwe Ndebele people, history: the origins of the tribe  -
The Matebele Kingdom: Ndebele Tribe 
In the early 19th Century, at the height of power of Tshaka, king of the Zulu, many of his subjugated chiefs took flight in an attempt to form their own dominions. The result was a period of terror throughout central southern Africa known as Difaqane, or "Time of Calamity", and a scattering of various tribes from the highveld. The Ndebele tribe (also called Ndebele Of Zimbabwe, or Ndebele, formerly Matabele), was a result of a break away from the Zulu empire. These are  Bantu-speaking people of southwestern Zimbabwe who live primarily around the city of Bulawayo.

In 1821, Mzilikazi a Nguni military commander under Tshaka, king of the Zulu, came into conflict with Tshaka and then fled the Zulu domain, migrating with his followers first to  near Basutoland (now Lesotho). In 1831, the Ndebele of Mzilikazi who had fashioned a military state on the Zulu model north of the Vaal, invaded Lesotho. On their arrival at Thaba Bosiu, the Ndebele warriors began to scale the mountain at Rafutho’s Pass, but the Basotho hurled boulders, stones and javelins down on them from behind their walled fortifications. According to tradition, as the Ndebele withdrew King Moshoeshoe delivered some fat oxen with the message that he thought hunger had brought them to this country. As a consequence, Mzilikazi did not launch another attack in the Caledon Valley.

After his further defeat at the hands of the European settlers of the Transvaal (South African Republic), Mzilikazi moved northward, and invaded what is Southern Zimbabwe today and established the Matebele Kingdom,  ultimately settling in Matebeleland (Zimbabwe), they subjugated the surrounding Shona or Mashona. Mzilikazi's successor, Lobengula, extended the tribe's power, absorbing Sotho, Shona, and other extraneous tribal elements.

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Between 1870 and 1881, the KRAAL at BULAWAYO served as the kingdom's political center. The Matebele, an offspring of the Zulu, were a warrior nation. They fought on foot in IMPIs, highly disciplined units, armed with an ASSEGAI - a short spear with a large, iron blade - and a shield. Their economy depended on herds of livestock, predominantly cattle.
Resulting from the nature of the growth of the Ndebele Kingdom, the social structure of the Ndebele was such the Ndebele state was stratified into three groups/classes, the Zansi, Enhla and Hole. In modern Ndebele society these demarcations are not strongly emphasized, which may be due to the loss of the cultural heritage. Though there is a lot of westernization and Christianity some Ndebele people still hold on and practice the Ndebele religious beliefs and follow Ndebele culture
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Other documents related to this Profile
Changes in the Ndebele (Matabele) religion
Mzilikazi, the Ndebele and Christianity religion
Ndebele Religious beliefs
Ndebele Social structure