IsiNdebele in South Africa


IsiNdebele is also known as Ndebele, South Ndebele or IsiKhethu

History of IsiNdebele

The Ndebele people were originally an offshoot of the Nguni people of KwaZulu-Natal. The language amaNala and amaNzunza are related to that of the amaNdebele people of Zimbabwe. The Ndebele people are well known for their artistic talent - especially with regard to their painted houses and colourful beadwork.

In the early stages of the history of the Ndebele people they went through tumultuous times. After having settled in the Pretoria area in the 1600's, they grew in numbers. Their king Musi died and a feud broke out between his two sons Manala and Ndzundza. This led to bloodshed and the killing of many. Finally they decided to live apart, the Manala in the Pretoria area and the Ndzundza further east. In the 1820's Mzilikazi, a Zulu general, fled from Shaka with his army. They over-powered the Manala and decided to settle down with them. After some time, Mzilikazi became afraid that Shaka would send an army after him. With a clever plan he lured the Ndebele men away, got the others together and killed them. He then took the women and livestock and moved northwards until he finally settled in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. That is the origin of the Ndebele of Zimbabwe. This caused a huge decrease in the number of Ndebele speakers. During 1880 to 1890 there were several battles with the white rulers of the then Transvaal Republic which culminated in what can be called a diaspora. After they were defeated, the Ndebeles were forced to work and live on farms over a large area which destroyed their pride as a nation. It was only in 1984 when the KwaNdebele Homeland was established that this pride was restored and the people moved back there. (This paragraph was written by P.C. Taljaard in the "Unesco World Languages Report" - 2000)

A number Ndebele communities are located in an area formerly known as KwaNdebele but are also concentrated in areas like: Pretoria, Bronkhorstspruit, Middelburg, Witbank, Delmas, Standerdton, Marble Hall, Groblersdal, Hendrina, Belfast and Bethal.


Family: Bantu (or rather Ntu) Language Family Group: South Eastern Bantu (or rather Ntu) Subgroup: Nguni (Zunda Subgroup)

VARIETIES of IsiNdebele:

Manala and Ndzundza (or Nzunza).

Speakers of IsiNdebele

Around 586 961 people use isiNdebele as their home language in South Africa.