Thembu Kingdom

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The Thembu (Xhosa: AbaThembu) are Xhosa people who were living in the Thembu Kingdom.

Thembu people
Siyaɓalala, chief of the Ndungwana clan of the Thembu, c. 1930s
Total population
3.3 million
Regions with significant populations
 South Africa
Sesotho, English
Christianity, uThixo
Related ethnic groups
Xhosa, Mpondo, Swati, Zulu, Khoisan
The Thembu/Tamboekie people
CountryThembuland region in the Xhosa Kingdom
Nelson Mandela from AbaThembu tribe
Brenda Fassie famous singer from Thembu tribe

According to Xhosa oral tradition, the Thembu migrated along the east coast of southern Africa before settling in KwaZulu-Natal. The earliest known Thembu ancestor is Mbulali, whose grandson (named Thembu), led his people from what became the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal to Dedesi in the present-day Transkei region of South Africa. The Thembu emerged as a unified people during the reign of Ngxeko/Nxekwa, who united clans living in Thembuland into a single political entity, owing allegiance to the Thembu royal family, or "Hala Mvelase." Famous Thembus include Nelson Mandela, whose father was a reigning nobleman from a junior branch of the Madiba clan of kings, and Walter Sisulu.[1]

Abathembu is originally from Thembuland and throughout Eastern Cape, Western Cape and South Africa, they are also located in Lesotho Quthing and Qacha's Nek and the Northern parts of Eastern Cape, Aliwal North, Sterkspruit, and up to Matatiele, Thembu's that are located in the North of Eastern Cape near Lesotho speak fluent Sesotho.



In Xhosa, the name is abaThembu, (aba- is a common prefix implying "people").[2] The territory of the Thembu state was historically known as Thembuland.

In the 19th century, Thembu were frequently known as the "Tamboekie" or "Tambookie" people. This name was originally the Khoisan language term specifically for the followers of Chief Maphasa who moved into the area west of the Great Kei River in the 1820s. However, Europeans used these terms as a synonym for "Thembu" for much of the 19th century.





Thembu was known as /Xam bu !e, /Xam and Embo people which makes /Xam bu !e in Xhosa it's Thembu, the O became U for bu.[3]

AbaThembu derives from /Xam ka !ue the meaning of /Xam is an Oryx or Antelope. The original name of AbaThembu was /Xam ka !eten (Antelope water people) in khoemana the word exists as /ehem it's the same.[4]

Thembu's by a large portion spoke /Xam or /Xam ke an extinct language, The Basotho's used to call Eastern Cape (Bathebu ke ing ke ma /Xam), it was known as a /Xam area. AbaThembu never originated from Central Africa the Thembu history never descended they ascended.[5]



Mtikrakra is a bitter bush it's not a Xhosa word it was corrupted by the Xhosa language, it's written in Xhosa as Mtikrakra, in /Xam it's (/um ti na) or (/um ra ra) and even in !Orakobab, and /Xam ke the Ra Ra means something that is bitter (!kung ra ra) bitter bush or tree people in Afrikaans (bitter bos mense).[6]

/Xam and Thembu history


The name ǂKhomani is what we know now as Queenstown it was a /Xam land which is now known as Thembuland, ǂkhomani people still exist in the Kalahari, (!kung ra ma ba) which is Upington, Eastern Cape used to be a Cape Colony Queenstown (now called komani) is named after AmaQoma, Qoma means (A tree were a lion would rest). The Ntsundu people are Nǀuu people they exist in Northern Cape, Free State and Kalahari.[7]

The definition of Thembu is /Xam bu !e. /Xam intermarried with Abambo a minority, not the majority of Abambo they build a relationship with them, that's why today the /Xam bu !e , !e is a suffix when people say AbaThembu it is a Xhosa language it's not a Indigenous language in Transkei they speak a different type of dialect which is not their own original dialect it's a diversified dialect that kept connection with Abambo people. The original Thembu's spoke five to six-click dialect.[8]

Thembu's always praises a phrase called Sopitso or Yem-Yem which means (/Xam - /Xam) it connects all the Madiba, Dlomo, Nxongo, and Qwithi people.[9]



Prior to the British conquest in the 19th century, the Thembu had an independent kingdom. The Xhosa clan name of the Thembu kings is Ntlazi aNkosiyane.[10][better source needed] Recent kings,Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo including Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, took the surname Dalindyebo, after a 19th-century king.

After the conquest, the Thembu came under the government of the Cape Colony as part of Transkei. Except for a few missionaries and traders, Transkei was a Bantustan. The Transkei remained a Bantustan under apartheid and was along with Ciskei regarded as the homeland of the Xhosa people.

AbaThembu are a nation independent of AmaXhosa, and they originate from the eMbo Empire. Zwide (Not of Ndwandwe) was the first man to leave eMbo, and he begot Mbulali in 1260, who begot Njanye, who begot Mthembu in the 1300s.

Mthembu settled with his people in a place known as Mbabane in Swaziland and then went to kwaMsinga in Natal where he got two sons, Ndilo and Mvelase also known as Qudeni. He founded the tribe known as Abathembu BakwaMvelase. Ndilo left and died in a place known as Msana in Eastern Cape Ndilo's sons were Ntongakazi (dumakazi), Bhomoyi, Mncotshe, Mdlane, Qoma, and Jali. The houses of Mdlane and Jali, Qoma, Mncotshe were unimportant because their mothers were commoners. The only houses that were respected were the houses of Bhomoyi and Ntongakazi also known as Dumakazi both their mothers came from Royal houses.

Bhomoyi left Msana to Lesotho to a place known as Qacha's Nek he got into a battle with the Basotho's and won his newfound land when Bhomoyi confiscated land Basotho came to ask him to leave so that they could continue to farm on their land Bhomoyi replied (Andizuhamba de ndizobe ndibhentselwa zintombi zabesotho) meaning I won't leave until I'm awarded with young Basotho women, The messenger went back to the Basotho King and returned with fifteen Basotho women this is where Isiduko Zabathembu got the phrase (VelaBembhentsele). Bhomoyi begot Ceduma who begot Mguti who begot Mngxongo and a daughter named Khazeka whose mother came from Mpondo royal family and who begot Ntoyi in the right-hand house whose mother was a commoner.

Khazeka is one of the two woman names that are mentioned in the history of AbaThembu because of their fearlessness and victories in unifying and stabilizing the Kingdom. Amagorhakazi esizwe saBathembu.

One day, Mtshutshumbe's section of AmaXesibe had to pass by the land of AbaThembu to reach AmaGcaleka. But because AbaThembu namaXesibe had some history, Mtshutshumbe decided to hide his Xesibe identity by calling his people AmaQwathi, named after a cow that was used at his graduation from initiation school.

After they had arrived, they presented a tribute of cattle to Mguti in exchange for land which they got eNgcobo. Mguti then told his son Mngxongo to go confiscate their land, and when he had done soo, amaQwathi gave him cattle that were all black and this is preserved in iziduko zamaNgxongo Ntsundu(these were the color of the cattle).

It then happened that Mngxongo didn't return and his father Mguti got lost searching for him to crown him as the next King and he drowned with his dogs in the Qethume River.

Mngxongo's heir was Mphosesebeni, who was refused his place on the throne by the royal family. And to this day when Mguti and Mngxongo names are mentioned, it gets awkward ebaThenjini because the rightful king was overlooked.

Mphosesebeni's uncle Ntoyi, who had usurped the royal throne begot Ntande and Zima. When Ntoyi passed on, Zima succeeded him as regent for the young Ntande. This is when amaTola arrived led by Mkhume and his brother. They are the ones who introduced the use of spears to abaThembu.

Ntande took over the reins after Zima's death, and he begot Nxeko, Maya, and the twins Qithi and Cube. During the 16th century, Nxeko led the migration from Dedesi to Msana in the Mthatha district.

Nxeko was the first legitimate king of abaThembu because he was the one who assimilated various fragments from tribes such as amaBomvana, amaVundle, amaMpondomise, and amaMfengu to build his kingdom. Nxekwa begot Hlanga by a Mpondo woman of the Mqiha clan, and Dlomo who is the eldest from another wife, as well as twins Balisa and Ndungwana, from a third wife.

All these women had not been classified into different ranks from major to minor. But it was clear that Hlanga, whose mother was a princess, was most likely to be the royal successor.

Just at that time, amaMfene came asking to be incorporated into the Thembu nation. They were duly received and Ndungwana was instructed to allocate sites to them.

Ndungwana never returned from his mission, instead, he remained with the strangers, enjoying all the respect that was accorded him, and he installed himself as their Nkosi.

Whenever Dlomo slaughtered a cow, he would send inxaxheba (the right hindquarter) to Ndungwana, his junior, and then Hlanga would also send his nxaxheba to his junior Balisa which was a popular costume that displayed royal authority.

One day cows were slaughtered in the homes of both Dlomo and Hlanga. Dlomo decided to share meat with Welangaye, a maiden from the Mpemvu clan, and she burst out in praise of how Dlomo had basically installed himself as King and left shedding tears of joy.



Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, son of Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, became the Thembu king in May 1989; his praise name is Zwelibanzi. Sabata deposed Kaiser Matanzima, whom the government had installed and who advocated against South African liberation movements. In December 2009, King Buyelekhaya was convicted of offenses including culpable homicide, kidnapping, arson and assault. In response, he proposed secession from South Africa,[11][12] and later demanded that the government pay Dalindyebo R900  million and the tribe a further R80  billion in compensation for the humiliation caused by his criminal trial.[13]

Dalindyebo was imprisoned in December 2015. He was customarily dethroned and was expected to be administratively dethroned.[14]

Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo, Buyelekhaya's heir, has served as the acting king of the tribe since 2016.

On 23 December 2019, following president Cyril Ramaphosa's Day of reconciliation speech, the abaThembu king was released from prison after serving one-third of his sentence.



Thembu Kingship line

Born in 1300s
Qoma (AmaQoma) Qomukuyitya
Mvand'inyama Nyoyela
Mdlane (AmaMdlane) Tutuse
Nomdimba Qandashe
Jali (AmaJali)Mncotshe (AmaMncotshe)Ndala Momamana Msunu Ngxunga Thole
Ndungwane (AmaNdungwane)NxekoHlanga (AmaQhayi)
Zondwa (he never became a King because he died before his father)
1800 -10 August 1830 Vusani Ngubengcuka Aa! Ndaba!
MthikrakraMandela (chief)
Ngangelizwe (Qheya)Henry Gadla Mphakanyiswa Mandela
Aa! Gadla!
Dalindyebo (Alava)MatanzimaNelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Aa! Dalibhunga!
Sampu Dalindyebo Aa! Jongilizwe!Kaiser Matanzima
Aa! Daliwonga!
George Matanzima Aa! Mzimvubu!Madiba "Thembi" Thembekile Mandela [1945–1969]Makgatho Mandela [1950–2005]
Sabata Dalindyebo Aa! Jonguhlanga!Mthethuvumile Matanzima (he never became a King because he died before his father)Mandla Mandela
Aa! Zwelivelile!
May 1989 - Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo Aa! Zwelibanzi!Lwandile Zwelenkosi Matanzima Aa! Zwelenkosi!Siyambonga Dalimvula Matanzima
Aa! Dalimvula!

See also



  1. ^ Walter Sisulu Archived 2012-06-16 at the Wayback Machine Ancestry24
  2. ^ Oosthuysen, JC (14 Sep 2016). The grammar of isiXhosa (First ed.). Matieland, South Africa: African Sun Media. p. 25. ISBN 9781928357070.
  3. ^ Malotsi, Yoyanda. "Indigenous Orgin". Thembu Analysis.
  4. ^ Sithule, Daluxolo (2024). "AbaThembu". Analysis.
  5. ^ Swarts, Pieter. "Origin of Thembu people". Documenty of AbaThembu.
  6. ^ Nxongo, Micheal. "Thembu History". Document Analysis System.
  7. ^ Van Zyl, Anitta. "Origin of People known as abaThembu". Documenty of AbaThembu.
  8. ^ Ntlai, Eunice. "AbaThembu and Khoikhoi". Analysis.
  9. ^ Williams, Thando. "/Xam bu !e or AbaThembu". Documenty of AbaThembu.
  10. ^ mxhosa (26 April 2013). "AbaThembu". Iziduko. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  11. ^ "Troubled monarch sentenced to 15 years". Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  12. ^ "Convicted king plans independent state". Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  13. ^ Tribe suspends secession plans News24
  14. ^ Compare: "Intrigue in the royal household as King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo sits in jail". Times Live. 1 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-01. In terms of laws governing traditional authorities, he also had to be administratively dethroned. This involved President Jacob Zuma withdrawing the certificate that recognized him as a king and cutting off the benefits that went with his status. [...] Mtirara said Zuma gave Dalindyebo a chance to say something when the certificate was about to be withdrawn, but he chose to go to court instead. This meant the matter of withdrawing the king's certificate still had to be dealt with.