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Causes[ edit ] Theories vary as to the causes of the catastrophic warfare and migration of many ethnic groups in the area. The agricultural surpluses and increased population enabled Shaka to raise a standing army of Zulus. By the end of the 18th century, the Zulus occupied much of their arable land. Declining rainfall and a ten-year drought in the early 19th century set off a competition for land and water resources among the peoples of the area. Instead of using throwing spears, the Zulus used broad-bladed, stabbing spears known as iklwa , which were deadly in close combat.
The Zulus also instituted a form of conscription, in which every man had to serve the king as soldier in special age regiments, known in English as impis. Many of the Nguni peoples adopted the same practice, putting most of their men under arms.
This greatly expanded the scale of regional warfare. It is worth noting that there were three major ethnic groups which occupied the areas now known as Nquthu , Babanango , Empangeni , Mtubatuba , Hlabisa , Nongoma , Pongola , Vryheid , Melmoth and Mahlabathini — those ethnic groups were the Ngwane , the Ndwandwe and the Mthethwa.
They were respectively led by kings Sobhuza of Ngwane , Zwide , and Dingiswayo and were the most powerful ethnic groups. The language now known as Zulu was spoken by the Ndwandwes. At that time the Zulus were a very weak ethnic group under the leadership of Senzangakhona. These three ethnic groups are to this day found in the same areas. The Zulus were a weak minority occupying a small piece of land in the area now known as Makhosini near Babanango.
The Ikhoshlo side of Buthelezi led by Mvulane became instrumental in the defeat of Phungashe by Shaka. Most of the members of the Buthelezi ethnic group had left with Khoboyela and Ngqengelele. In addition, the profitable slave trade through Delagoa Bay modern day Maputo Bay is another cause. Rise of the Zulu[ edit ] In about 1817, Chief Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa group in the south near the Tugela River , entered into an alliance with the Tsongas , who controlled the trade routes to Delagoa Bay now Maputo.
This alliance encroached on the routes used by the Ndwandwe alliance, who occupied the region in the north, near the Pongola River. Battles between the allied forces of Chief Dingiswayo and of Chief Zwide , and the Ndwandwe probably mark the start of what became the Mfecane.
Zwide defeated the Mthethwa and executed Chief Dingiswayo. Dingiswayo was a mentor to King Shaka. He took him in together with his mother Queen Nandi and gave them refuge. Many of the Mthethwa leaders formed a confederation with the Zulu clan, under the leadership of Shaka. The Zulus conquered and assimilated smaller clans in the area. The Zulu practice was to absorb only the women and young men of a clan or village.
They killed the elderly and men of fighting age; the lucky ones escaped. Having learned Zulu tactics, the escapees in turn descended upon more distant clans unfamiliar with the new order. Around 1821, the Zulu general Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan defied Zulu king Shaka, and set up his own kingdom. He quickly made many enemies, not only with the Zulu king, but also with the Boers , Griqua and Tswana. Defeats in several clashes convinced Mzilikazi to move north towards Swaziland.
Going north and then inland westward along the watershed between the Vaal and the Limpopo rivers, Mzilikazi and his followers, the AmaNdebele, called Matabele in English established an Ndebele state northwest of the city of Pretoria. During this period, the Matebele left a trail of destruction in their wake.
They settled in the area now known as Matabeleland , in present-day southern Zimbabwe. Mzilikazi set up his new capital in Bulawayo. This caused resentment that has continued in modern Zimbabwe. There they established the Gaza kingdom.
They oppressed the Tsonga people living there, some of whom fled over the Lebombo Mountains into the Northern Transvaal. In 1833, Soshangane invaded various Portuguese settlements, and was initially successful.
But a combination of internal disputes and war against the Swazi caused the downfall of the Gaza kingdom. They warred periodically with the Ndwandwe. Ngwane chief Sobhuza I led his people to higher elevations around 1820 to escape Zulu attacks. Continuing north of the Zambezi River , they formed a state in the region between lakes Malawi and Tanganyika. Subjected to successive waves of attack by other ethnic groups, they were also pressed from the West by the British colonists.
Consequences for the Sotho-Tswana peoples[ edit ] Moshoeshoe I gathered the mountain clans together in an alliance against the Zulus. Fortifying the easily defended hills and expanding his reach with cavalry raids, he fought against his enemies with some success, despite not adopting the Zulu tactics, as many other clans had done.
The territory of Moshoeshoe I became the kingdom of Lesotho. Sebitwane gathered the Kololo ethnic groups near modern Lesotho and wandered north across what is now Botswana , plundering and killing many of the Tswana people in the way. They also took large numbers of captives north with them,  finally settling north of the Zambezi River in Barotseland , where they conquered the Lozi people. Both of these invasionary forces continued to travel north across Tswana territory without establishing any sort of state.
According to Cobbing, apartheid historians had mischaracterised the Mfecane as a period of internally induced black-on-black destruction. Instead, Cobbing argued that the roots of the conflicts could be found exclusively in the labour needs of the Portuguese slave traders operating out of Delagoa Bay , in modern-day Mozambique , and of the British colonists in the Cape. The resulting pressures led to massive displacement, famine, and war in the interior, allowing later Afrikaner settlers to seize control of most land.
Moreover, Eldredge argues that Griqua and other groups, rather than the British colonists, were primarily responsible for the slave raids coming from the Cape.
Eldredge also asserts that Cobbing downplays the importance of the ivory trade in Delagoa Bay, and the extent to which African groups and leaders sought to establish more centralised and complex state formations to control ivory routes and the wealth associated with the trade. She suggests these pressures created internal movements, as well as reactions against European activity, that drove the state formations and concomitant violence and displacement.