Northern Ndebele people

The Northern Ndebele people (Northern Ndebele: amaNdebele; an offshoot of the Zulu of South Africa) are a Bantu ethnic group in Southern Africa. They speak a language called isiNdebele.[1] The Northern Ndebele were historically referred to as the Matabele which derives from the Sesotho expression thebetelele derived from two words “thebe” meaning shield and “telele” meaning tall. This was in reference to the tall shields the Matebele used in combat as compared to the smaller Sotho-Tswana shields. The term Bathebele was applied to at least two Nguni-speaking groups who settled in the region later called the Transvaal, long before the Mfecane. Both the Ndebele tribe and language have existed for 185 years, 180 years in Zimbabwe. The Ndebele culture and language is highly similar to their Zulu origin and ancestry in KZN province of South Africa. Although the amaNdebele of Mzilikazi used the much smaller cowhide shields and short stabbing assegai of King Shaka's army, they also were called Bathebele, which in isiNguni was rendered as amaNdebele.

Total population
c. 3 million people[year needed][citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
 Zimbabwe2.5 million[citation needed]
Northern Ndebele language (isiNdebele)
Predominantly: Christianity
Minority: Traditional African religion
Related ethnic groups
Other Nguni peoples
(especially Zulu) Kalanga/BaKalanga people
Northern Ndebele

The history of the Northern Ndebele began when a Nguni group split from King Shaka in the early 19th century under the leadership of Mzilikazi, a former chief in his kingdom and ally. He was sent to raid cattle up in the North and however hijacked the plan and continued on to raid and rule the chiefdoms of the Southern Ndebele. This was where the name and identity of the eventual kingdom was adopted.

During a turbulent period in Nguni and Sotho-Tswana history known as the Mfecane or "the crushing", Mzilikazi's regiment, initially numbering 500 soldiers, moved west towards the present-day city of Pretoria, where they founded a settlement called Mhlahlandlela. The Great Trek in 1836–1838 saw Mzilikazi defeated by the Voortrekkers at Vegkop after which he moved to present-day Zimbabwe where the Ndebele overwhelmed the indigenous Rozvi which was already crumbling on leadership squabbles after the death of Changamire Dombo, eventually carving out a home now called Matabeleland and encompassing the west and southwest region of the country. In the course of the migration, large numbers of raided indigenous clans and individuals were absorbed into the Ndebele tribe, adopting the Ndebele language and culture. Historically the assimilated people came from the Southern Ndebele, Swazi, Sotho-Tswana, and Rozvi ethnic groups.

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