Culture, customs, tradition of Ndebele nation


THIS IS the beginning of a series of articles on culture specifically dealing with Ndebele customs, traditions and more.


Any culture is limitless and so these articles cannot pretend to cover everything on Ndebele culture.

Some readers will be disappointed when they do not meet articles of those aspects they are interested in.

Nevertheless the intention is to inform and guide, to correct and to direct and to advise those who may wish to know, to practice and to follow acceptable cultural procedures of those customs.

Above all, it is meant to guard Ndebele culture against unwanted intrusions from outside.

Any nation must guard and preserve its culture.

We must answer the question, who are the Ndebele? Who are these people whose customs we will be talking about? The answer is historical.

The following groups and their related sub groups who have resided permanently with a given geographic area are a nation of mixed peoples and spaces and have permanently shared given cultural norms in addition to their own sub-cultural ones.

In the case of Ndebele these include, the Nguni, Kalanga, Sotho, Venda, Tonga, Nambya, Rozvi (hardly distinct) and many other smaller groupings.

It is emphasised that there was never a time in history when the Nguni of Mzilikazi’s group were known as Ndebele before they intergrated with other non-Zulu ethnic groupings on the northern reef — intergrated nations who inhabit Ndebeleland in this country and who were originally knitted together under the guidianship of King Mzilikazi.

He incorporated the local groups and fused them into one people.

No one tribe is in fact, better in any way than others.

One major factor is the Ndebele language (itself an important cultural feature) which was developed in the Transvaal, based on the Zulu language.

It was transported into this country when Mzilikazi settled his nation.
This brief summary should now settle the question as to whose customs and traditions we are dealing with — those of the Ndebele.

At present there are no pure Nguni customs, no pure Kalanga customs or pure what ever customs.

There are simply Ndebele customs, an admixture of the traditional practices of the inhabitants of Ndebeleland, popularly refered to as KoMthwakazi.

The Ndebele groups have been living together for a long time now and they have been interacting with each other so much so that they have found common ground in many respects.

There are noticeable differences of detail within the larger canopy of Ndebele culture. Thus it is possible to talk about Tonga burial rites, Venda marriage and so on, but on a bigger picture these customs have merged significantly.
A good example is language, which is a major vehicle that unites people for purposes of communication.

This unifier is spoken throughout Ndebeleland. Remove that and you are left with the Tower of Babel.

Ndebele is spoken as the core language, but that does not diminish the ned to speak and learn other languages which are localised and are not common.

Overtime beneath this communication superstructure various tribal culture (customs, traditions, more and so on) have been coalescing and continue to do so to the extent that we can comfortably talk about Ndebele customs versus non-Ndebele customs followed largely outside Ndebeleland borders.

In saying this, one is not oblivious of some extra-territorial influences, some of which exert a stronger attraction to the Ndebele.

This brings us to a point where we can confidently speak about Ndebele culture, barring differences of detail. In some cases the traditions and practices of one or more sub-groups may predominate to become the Ndebele custom. This may happen even when a cultural practice comes from outside the Ndebele group, as may be exemplified by the practice of shaking hands and dancing at a funeral wake now gaining rapid adoption.

All that is open to different views and interpretations due to different perceptions.
A debate is welcome on these matters when differences are brought to the surface so that they can be argued out in an attempt to reach consensus.
We are now ready to start talking about Ndebele culture in all its various forms.


  1. this is good man it will help some of us who do not understand our origin because of being born and bred in town.

  2. it may be a good move but we must be vigilant. i hope this writer is not sponsored by zanu jongwe because in the long run we are going to be told silly history that lobengula sold the country for a teaspoon of sugar.

  3. ”In the case of Ndebele these include, the Nguni, Kalanga, Sotho, Venda, Tonga, Nambya, Rozvi (hardly distinct) and many other smaller groupings.”
    Man u seem not to understand or know the origns of Ndebele, BaKalanga, BaVenda,BaTonga and BaNambya are not Ndebele. U are more like Baba Jukwa from the Northeners.Don’t destort this rich History. Mzilikazi was not a King.

  4. Tnx Black Crow, Am so tired with that statement from pple who have believe this history? how far true is this? Pliz we need guidance…

  5. KolamliZulu

    that Lobengula thing is all blue lies. it was crafted by a group of greedy northerners who this day call themselves zanu jongwe.they wanted to give an impression that only them (as shona people) are the legitimate “owners” of this land and they fought for it by themselves. no wonder why even ZIPRA history is suppressed in the media to give an impression that only ZANLA are the true liberators of this country.

    but if you want to see who the real sell out is, try and answer these questions
    1. why was the Pioneer column not challenged militarily as it cut across mashonaland up to Fort Salisbury (now Harare) where they raised the union jack?
    2. why was it that a year or so after the whites came into this land, they raided Lobengula with the aid of black soldiers? who were those black soldiers?
    3. why would the whites raid Lobengula militarily if they had secured a deal with him through this stupid sugar story?

    also note that since the fall of ndebele kingdom the pink skinned (whites) have always taken sides with our northern cousins eg
    1. rigging of 1980 elections to avert a landslide win by nkomo
    2. the gukurahundi nonsense (british soldiers ran the camps where 5 brigade was trained)
    3 recently (2-3 years ago) Dell who was US Ambasador said welshman ncube was a dangerous schemer who needed to be pushed off the stage. check the election results, welshman got nothing and he has been pushed off the stage. the tactic that was used to push him off stage was simple. just brand him CIO and people from southern region will reject him. is that not what happened?

    so beware of this article, that is why in my first comment i said it is a good move but we must make sure it is not written by someone who is sponsored by zanu jongwe.

  6. Thank you for this series. It ll surely go a long way in documenting, regularising & teaching people about basic ndebele cultural practises. Ive always bemoaned the lack of such fora to hedge against cultural invasion by either shona or Zulu. I would like it insisted that Ndebele language is related historically to Zulu but is different. Words like umdeni (imuli), ixesha (isikhathi) must be differentiated as Non ndebele. The issue of whether Ndebele is a separate & distinct language from Zulu (as opposed to being a dialect) must be stated. As regards shonalisation of Ndebele a distinction must be made to teach people.

  7. That’s a good beginning. We will contribute to this program. We have some wealthy sources of information about the Ndebele nation.

  8. That’s a good beginning. We will contribute to this program. We have some wealthy sources of information about the Ndebele nation. Ndebele is an aggregate of all Matabeleland languages and cultures.

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