Coming of the Shangane

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Information provided by Hans Bornman from his unpublished book, Lowveld Tour Guide:

In 1819 Shaka, in the course of his subjugation and amalgama­tion of the Zulu clans, came into conflict with Zwide. Notwithstanding Zwide’s numeri­cal superiority, Shaka’s military genius defeated him. Zwide and such remnants of his tribe who managed to escape, fled and did not stop until they had crossed the upper waters of the Inkomati River, where they settled. (Ritter 1962:152). His fighting general Manukosi (Soshangane) Nxumalo led the remnants of the Ndwandwe army north through Swaziland to seek and ultimate­ly established a new kingdom in Gazaland, which extended from just north of Delagoa Bay, up the East Coast, as far as the Zambezi.

Nomboya, the rightful heir, had died and with the death of Soshangane in 1856 an argument arose between his two sons Mawewe and Mzila as to who should succeed him. Mzila had been banished by his father and had taken refuge near Groot Spelonken in the Northern Province. So Mawewe was installed as chief, but was so cruel that his people soon grew tired of him and no longer wanted him as their leader. This was a good time for Mzila to return at the head of a strong faction. The result was a fight between the two brothers in which Mawewe was defeated.

Mawewe fled to Mswati II, who was his brother-in-law, to seek refuge and aid. Mswati gave both and Mawewe returned to Gazaland with a section of the Nyatsi regiment. With the help of the Ba-Ronga, who obtained 3000 guns from the Portuguese, Mzila defeated Mawewe, forcing him to flee to Swaziland (Matsebula 1976:39). Mswati accepted them as his subjects and settled them on both sides of what is now the northern boundary of Swaziland.

In about 1876 a subordinate chief of the BakaNgomane, one Ndlabu, whose homestead was near the Sabie River, revolted against the Ngomane Paramount Chief, Ntuyi, and fled to Gazaland, where he obtained auxili­aries from the Shangane chief, Mzila. Led by Mzila’s subordinate chief Magudu, they returned and attacked and defeated Ntuyi in a battle near Bunwaneni (Tenbosch), in the Komatipoort area. Ntuyi narrowly escaped, but his son Hhoyi was taken prisoner and kept as such by Mzila for many years. On Mzila’s death he was succeeded by Ngungun­yana, who sent Hhoyi back to the remnants of his people.

Ngungunyana rebelled against the Portuguese and was defeated. Chief Mpisane Mkhatshwa sent two emissaries to the Transvaal with gifts to find a place to settle. The area between the Lebombo and the Drakensberg escarpment was uninhabited, possibly owing to Tsetse fly, and the maPulana tribe, living nearby at the Blyde River, had no objec­tions to the Shangane settling there. The Shangane settled on Mukhweyantaba (the present farm Orinoco), 9 km north of Bushbuckridge and 15 km south of Acornhoek. The rest of the Shangane settled on the farms Dingleydale and Edinburgh, next to the farm Orinoco. More Shangane arrived and by 1896 some 2000 refugees settled between Bushbuckridge and Acornhoek, where they are still living today, leaving enough space between them and the Portuguese to avoid any further confrontation. Mpisane acted as their chief.

Eventually the area between the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers was occupied by the Mbayi. With them were the maPulana and a few Shangane. The areas south of the Crocodile (SiSwati: Ngwenyama) and Kaap (SiSwati: Umlambongwane) Rivers were predominantly occupied by Swazi and, therefore, are mostly siSwati names.

Upon the termination of the Anglo-Boer War the establishment of the Sabi Game Reserve (forerunner of the present Kruger National Park) was confirmed. The reserve carried a small population consisting of BakaNgomane, their Shangane protégés and Swazis. Col. James Stevenson-Hamilton (1867-1959) was put in charge of the reserve, and one of his first operations was to evict all people other than those required for service in the maintenance of the reserve. For this reason he earned the name ‘Skukuz­a’, which means: ‘he who sweeps clean’. Many of the Shangane went westward into the Klaserie and Bushbuckridge areas. Some accompanied the BakaNgomane and went south of the Crocodile River, and established themselves in the Tenbosch and Coal Mine (Strijdom Block) areas, west and south of Komatipoort