Mpondo people

The AmaMpondo or simply the Mpondo Kingdom, is one of the Xhosa sub-kingdoms in what is now the Eastern Cape. Having been established around 500AD, the Xhosa clans who were under the rule of King Mpondo kaNjanya and later the 'amaNyawuza' clan (royal clan of the amaMpondo), by nationality referred to themselves as 'AmaMpondo'. Since the founding of the Xhosa Paramouncy around the 13th-century, the Mpondo state has been tributary to the amaTshawe.


The story of the origins of emaMpondweni was told to personify and symbolise the fact that it was a nation with lands shaped like a horn, when it includes the lands emaMpondomiseni, and to make it easier for telling Iintsomi, meaning educative stories. Taking Mpondo as the son since it was used for defending and Mpondomise as the daughter since it was used for attacking and negotiation. Thus according to the Mpondo oral tradition, they are the legendary descendants of Mpondo, the grandson of Sibiside who was the leader of the once-powerful Mbo nation (AbaMbo or MaMbo). Mpondo people are part of AbaMbo group who are thought to have migrated from the Great Lakes into modern-day South Africa or the race of people coming from Ethiopia and along Zambia down past Eswatini, believed to be under the Great Kingdom of Kush. This is evident from the ruling plant in the coast south-east of Africa and north-west of Madagascar, the marijuana plant. It grows in abundance from emaMpondweni up the coast and the coast of Madagascar. It is through king Sibiside that Mpondo the forefather of the nation emerges together with other well-known nations. Mpondo people share a common lineage with AmaMpondomise, AmaXesibe, AbakwaMkhize, AmaBomvu and AmaBomvana.

Sibiside's offspring:

  1. Mavovo (Sibiside's heir and father of the Mkhize clan)
  2. Gubhela (his descendants also call themselves abakwaMkhize)
  3. Nomafu (AmaBomvu and AmaBomvana)
  4. Njanya (AmaMpondo, AmaMpondomise, AmaXesibe)

Mpondo and Mpondomise were twins. There is an ongoing argument about the twin who was the eldest, the most commonly held view is that Mpondo is the senior twin. It is said that while out hunting, Mpondo killed a lion and refused to hand over the skin to Mpondomise as was the custom (the senior was entitled to skins of certain animals). The tension between the two started from that day and Mpondo and his followers were the first ones to leave and settle elsewhere away from their father's land.


The great house of Mpondo is called Qawukeni and is situated in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape. The right-hand house is called Nyandeni and is situated in Libode, Eastern Cape. The Nyandeni house enjoyed autonomy for decades and was often referred to as Western Mpondoland, while the Qawukeni house was referred to as Eastern Mpondoland. The towns in the Mpondo kingdom include Lusikisiki, Siphaqeni (known as Flagstaff), Mbizana (erroneously called Bizana), Ntabankulu, Port St. Johns, Libode and Ngqeleni. Mzintlava (now known as Kokstad) was allotted to Adam Kok of the Griquas

Genealogy of kings

The most prominent of all kings of the Mpondo nation is Faku (1780–1867); he resided in Qawukeni as it's still the tradition today. The Nyandeni house was established by Ndamase, Faku's right-hand son and a prominent general of the Mpondo army during the Mfecane wars.

The genealogy of Mpondo kings in order:

  • Zalankomo kaNkosi
  • Langa kaZalankomo
  • Sidweba kaLanga
  • Sibiside kaSidweba
  • Njanya kaSibiside
  • Mpondo kaNjanya
  • Sihula kaMpondo
  • Mthwa kaSihula
  • Santsabe kaMthwa
  • Mkhondwane kaSantsabe
  • Sukude kaMkhondwane
  • Hlambangobubende kaSukude
  • Ziqelekazi kaHlambangobubende
  • Hlamandana kaZiqelekazi
  • Thobe kaHlamandana
  • Msiza kaThobe
  • Ncindesi kaMsiza
  • Cabe kaNcindesi
  • Chiya kaCabe
  • Gangatha kaCabe
  • Bhala kaGangatha
  • Chithwayo kaBhala
  • Ndayeni kaChithwayo
  • Thahla kaNdayeni
  • Nyawuza kaThahle
  • Ngqungqushe kaNyawuza
  • Faku kaNgqungqushe
  • Mqikela kaFaku
  • Sigcau kaMqikela
  • Marelane kaSigcau
  • Mandlonke kaMarelane
  • Botha Manzolwandle Jongilizwe Sigcau kaMarelane
  • Mpondombinini Thandizulu Sigcau kaBotha Manzolwandle Jongilizwe Sigcau
  • Zanozuko Tyelovuyo Sigcau

King Cabe was the first king of the Mpondo nation to cross the Mtamvuna River and settled in Siphaqeni. King Ngqungqushe's mother was the first woman whose "ikhazi" (dowry) was paid for by the kingdom, which makes King Ngqungqushe the first "kumkani" in the modern sense.

King Sigcau is known for his militancy in his fight against colonial rule and imposition of colonial policies, notably the hut taxes in the Mpondo Kingdom. He was later arrested for these actions and incarcerated in Robben Island. He remains a hero to the Mpondo people and admired for his bravery. King Sigcau Bravery Award was launched in his honour. His son King Marelane would become one of the founding Kings of the oldest political party in Africa the African National Congress in 1912 in support of the fight against colonial rule in South Africa. His grandson Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau would follow in the footsteps of his forefathers and become an ANC liberation activist, contributing in the struggle for liberation in South Africa. This also saw him arrested and harassed for his political activities.

Mpondo clans and tributary clans

There are three types of clans you find in Mpondoland (kwa-Mpondo/emaMpondweni) today. First, there clans that arise out of the many houses of the Kings listed in the section above (Mpondo's descendants). Secondly, there are clans of the older AbaMbo/MaMbo tribe from which Mpondo himself was born out, therefore these are people of his ancestors. Thirdly, there are clans/tribes who have immigrated to Mpondoland and now pay tribute to the Mpondo kingdom.

In more detail:

    From Sihula we have ImiQwane, AmaNtusi (The elder son called Mbangweni and the young brother called Gavu kaMbangweni)
    From Mthwa we have ImiThwa, AmaWoshe, AmaNgcwangule, AmaGingqi, AmaKhwalo
    From Mkhondwane we have AmaNtlane, AmaValela, AmaGcuda
    From Sukude we have AmaSame, AmaNcenjane
    From Cabe we have AmaCabe, AmaTshomane, AmaDwera, AmaQhiya, AmaNjilo, AmaGqwaru, AmaNqanda
    From Gangatha we have AmaGangatha, ImiCapathi
    From Bhala we have AmaBhala, AmaChithwayo, AmaKhonjwayo, AmaHeleni, AmaNgcoya, AmaNyathi, AmaJola
    From Ndayini we have AmaNdayini
    From Thahle we have AmaThahle
    From Nyawuza we have AmaNyawuza, amaFaku , oNgqungqushe.

Some of the following clans were followers of Mpondo kings from the beginning, some only came later during the reign of Faku:

    Izilangwe (lineage of the silangwe clan according to the oral history) SILANGWE is /was the head and the founder of abakwaSilangwe clan, here are his descendants /offsprings that took over from him,

CHUSHELA kaSILANGWE, SOTHONGOTHI kaCHUSHELA, MBHABHAMA kaSOTHONGOTHI, NTOBELA kaMBHABHAMA, NDUKUDE kaNTOBELA, NTAMONDE kaNDUKUDE, MSUTHU ka NTAMONDE, SIWISA ka MSUTHU, Silangwe was also known by isikhahlelo/salute or praise name VALANGOMKHONTW'MNYANGO which translate (Block the entry by a spear). He was one of the great warriors of abambo/abasembo tribe where one had to lead and guide his clan against imminent intruders.

  • AmaXolo
  • AmaDiba
  • AmaNci
  • AmaCwera
  • AmaXhate
  • AmaMpinge
  • Omaduna
  • AmaXhosa
  • AmaZulu
  • AmaSwati
  • AbeSotho

Tributary clans

These tribes/ clans are not unique to Mpondoland, they usually are small groups in Mpondoland who left their tribes/kingdoms having been given land by Mpondo Kings and thus recognised as forming part of AmaMpondo Kingdom and paying tribute to Mpondo Kings.

    Bakwena (Sotho)
    Other small groups from other kingdoms


There were varying reasons that led to the revolts notably the land rehabilitation programme, the Bantu Authorities System and the increase in taxes.

The land rehabilitation programme

The land rehabilitation programme was a system that entailed the colonisers keeping the fertile soils to themselves and allocating the less fertile lands to the local people. The Mpondo people revolted against this.

The Bantu Authorities System

This system brought about tension between the people of Pondoland and their chiefs. The Bantu Authorities System created a pseudo sense of power as colonial authorities gave chiefs limited power, ensuring that administrative duties were still being assigned to the colonial government. This disrupted the system as people were used to being consulted at the Inkundla before decisions were made. Inkundla was when members of a community met together to discuss issues affecting the district/area and made decisions.

Series of events leading to the 1960 revolts

The first signs of revolt were apparent through local vigilante groups such as the Makhuluspani. The Makhuluspani was a group that was created in a bid to combat stock theft in the districts of Tsolo and Qumbu in the 1950s. It is reported that these groups targeted headmen and chiefs who were cooperating or suspected to be cooperating with the colonial government. There were also conflicts around the Bizana area during that same year as the government intended to fence off a certain area on the coastal area to reserve the forests and coastal zones without having consulted the people of Pondoland. People were evicted out of their land, and at one stage during evictions police were attacked.

In 1959, in the Bizana district, Saul Mabude who was the chairman of the district authority and advocate for the Bantu Authorities system was asked to meet with the people of that community. He was tasked with explaining the Bantu Authorities system to them, however he did not show up as he feared for his life. The consequence to his actions resulted in him having his house burnt and the police terrorizing the people in that area. This did not deter the Pondo people from mobilising against the government, who made it clear to Chief Sigcau, who was the King at the time that the Bantu system was not going to be enforced on their watch.

In June 1960 a meeting was called at Ngquza Hill. These meetings had become the norm during the apartheid era around that area as people used them to educate each other on the events that were taking place, thus the meetings on the hill were not held secretly. The police were tipped about the meeting, who in turn upon their arrival fired on the people at the hill. This resulted in the arrest of 23 people and the death of 11 people. In retaliation, there was an ambush on a police patrol in Flagstaff. These people were shot at by the police, resulting in the injury of two policemen and the arrest of one headman.

In November 1960 in Flagstaff, a mass meeting was called at Ngqanduli. Chief Vukayibambe called the police and helped disperse the meeting. One of the protesters was killed, this resulting in Vukayibambe's kraal being set on fire and his death. All those who had an affiliation with the chief and supported him were killed, injured and their kraals set alight. The police were sent to defuse the situation.

Stabilisation of the revolts

A commission of inquiry was held right after the massacre. The demands from the people of Pondoland entailed the Bantu Authorities, Bantu Education Acts being withdrawn, the relief from taxes. Their demands were not met, and in retaliation the Pondo boycotted all white owned stores in Pondoland.

By the end of November 1960, a state of emergency was declared in Pondoland, in Flagstaff, Bizana, Tabankulu, Lusikisiki and Mount Ayliff. No one could access those areas without a permit, and the west of Umtata was closed off. The revolts were shut down through heavy policing and raiding tax evaders. The Bantu Home Guard was also established by the chiefs in a bid to shut down the revolts, with the aid of the military force that was sent by the state in a bid to subjugate the areas in Pondoland where the revolts had occurred till 1963.

In 1960, a total of 4,769 had been imprisoned during this period of the revolts from 1950 and 1960, and 2,067 brought to trial and it is reported that 30 people were sentenced to death during August and October in 1961.

Arts and entertainment

The Mpondo people are one of the major tribes that produce and consumes the genre of music called Maskandi but the Mpondo people are unique in a performance of ukusina(Nguni dance) and their own traditional dance called "imfene" (baboon dance). This dance(imfene) is performed by young ones and adults of both sexes to the sounds of Maskandi music

Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival

Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival is celebrated annually by Mpondo to celebrate their culture and heritage. It is the biggest cultural event celebrated in the Kingdom attended by approximately over 20,000 people preceded by the Annual Mpondo Reed Dance. It is held in September of every year at Lwandlolubomvu Great Place, Ntabankulu; palace of the customary head Jongilanga Sigcau. Ntabankulu is the mountainous part of the Mpondo Kingdom surrounded by the great Mzimvubu River. Ntabankulu in Mpondo language means 'Big Mountains'. September is important in Mpondo history as it was originally the Mpondo new year in the ancient Mpondo calendars and also two of the Mpondo Kings King Mqikela and King Sigcau were born on this month.

The Mpondo culture and Heritage Festival also celebrates the roles played by these icons, including the legendary kings Faku, Mqikela, Sigcau, Marhelane amongst others. This events also seeks to promote cultural diversity through sharing of Mpondo culture and heritage with other cultures from South Africa, broader African continent and beyond the oceans. It attracts a lot of tourists, both local and international, and is one of the biggest events in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

Lunar Calendar

According to the ancient AbaMbo people, including Mpondo September is the first month of the year. There are some Mpondo people who recognise the appearance of the Pleiades ("isilimela") to signal the beginning of the year, but it is most likely that this interpretation was adopted from the Xhosa people. Mpondo calendar is as follows commencing with uMphanda the first month of the year according to the ancient Mpondo Calendar.

  • uMphanda (September)
  • uZibandlela (October)
  • uLwezi (November)
  • uNtsinga (December)
  • uNtlolanja (January)
  • uNdazosela (February)
  • um'Basa (March)
  • uMgudlula (April)
  • uNtlangula (May)
  • uNtulikazi (June)
  • uNcwabakazi (July)
  • uMfumfu (August)

Notable Mpondo Public Figures

  • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – South African politician
  • Gquma, alias Bessie, a white woman who served as queen of the Tshomane Mpondo after her marriage to King Sango.
  • Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau – son of Botha Sigcau and ANC liberation activist.
  • Stella Sigcau – former ANC MP
  • Oliver Tambo – former and longest-serving president of the ANC
  • Dali Tambo – the son of Oliver Tambo
  • Nomatemba Tambo – the daughter of Oliver Tambo
  • Rev. Makhenkesi Stofile – the second Premier of the Eastern Cape
  • Lulu Dikana – Musician
  • Zonke Dikana – Musician
  • Simphiwe Dana – Musician
  • Miriam Makeba – Musician
  • Mtutuzeli Madlebe – Musician

Faku kaNgqungqushe

Faku kaNgqungqushe, son of Ngqungqushe kaNyawuza was the last ruling monarch of the Mpondo Kingdom in Southern Africa from 1815-1867. During his reign, King Faku consolidated and unified several groups and expanded the territory he had inherited from his father. In 1844, he forged an alliance with the Cape Colony and encouraged British colonization of Natal, thus ensuring his own kingdom would have boundaries that were defined according to Western standards at the time. The kingdom was eventually annexed by the British Empire, became part of the Cape Colony and is today a section of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Botha Sigcau

Paramount Chief Botha Sigcau (died 1 December 1978) was a chief in Eastern Pondoland, Transkei, South Africa (1939–1976) and later the figurehead President of Transkei from 1976 to 1978. A graduate of University of Fort Hare, Sigcau was an early supporter of the Bantu Authorities in Transkei and was rewarded by the South African government when he was appointed chairman of the Transkei Territorial Authority, the parliament before independence.

Political career

Botha Sigcau was a graduate of University of Fort Hare. In 1939, the government gave Botha Sigcau the chieftaincy over his half-brother, Nelson Sigcau, who the Mpondo felt was their rightful heir. Botha Sigcau was favoured by the apartheid government because they could pay him a large salary in exchange for control of the Transkei. When the Transkei was formed in 1976, Botha Sigcau was appointed the first President of Transkei in Eastern Pondoland, South Africa. Kaiser Matanzima was his elected deputy. The area was granted self-governance under the apartheid regime. The area was known as the Republic of Transkei and it was a Bantustan, an area set aside for members of a specific ethnicity. Botha Sigcau was instrumental in writing the constitution of the Transkei.

There was popular opposition to Botha Sigcau's chieftaincy because he lacked legitimacy according to Pondo custom. Opposition also arose because Sigcau openly supported the Bantu Authorities and the National Party. There was also widespread corruption in the government appointed tribal courts of Eastern Pondoland, which Botha Sigcau ruled over. In 1958, all the Pondoland districts were invited to send representatives to a large gathering called by the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development Michel Daniel Christiaan de Wet Nel, and Botha Sigcau. In this meeting, both Nel and Sigcau promised to grant Pondo chiefs seats in local government as councillors but, in practice, Sigcau selected councillors from his own friends and supporters.

Dissent over Botha Sigcau’s leadership as president and chief came to its height during the 1960s Mpondo Revolt. A popular movement of resistance arose among the people, and although meetings were illegal, they were held just the same and attended by thousands of people, who came on foot and on horseback to chosen spots on the mountains and ridges. The demands of the people were: the withdrawal of the Bantu Authorities and Bantu Education Acts; representation in the Republic’s parliament; relief from the increased taxes and passes which hampered free movement; and the removal of Paramount Chief Botha Sigcau. The Pondos discovered that news of their meetings was reaching the magistrate. Drastic action was taken against these informers; huts were burnt down, and many of them were forced to flee from the area.

On June 6, a massacre occurred when people met to discuss their complaints. Two aircraft and a helicopter dropped tear-gas and smoke bombs on the crowd, and police vehicles approached from two directions. Although it was a peaceful gathering, 11 people died and 23 were arrested after the meeting on a charge of ‘fighting’, and of these 19 were convicted and sentenced. It is reported that Sigcau fired the first shot from the helicopter.

On 1 December 1978, Botha Sigcau died of a heart attack in Umtata.


King Botha Manzolwandle Sigcau's daughter, Princess Stella Sigcau, was the senior member of amaMpondo Royal family, was the leader of the Transkei National Independence Party, the first female Prime Minister of Transkei in 1987, appointed in different portfolos after 1994 national elections as a Minister of Public Enterprise from 1994 to 1999, Minister of Public Works from 1999 to 2006 . King Mpondombini Thandizulu Sigcau was the eldest son of King Botha Manzolwandle Jongilizwe Sigcau who succeeded him as a King of amaMpondo in 1978. King Botha Manzolwandle's youngest son was Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau.

Mpondo clan names (Iziduko)
    OoNyawuza – Nyawuza – Faku ofakayo, ungathi uyifakile kanti uyikade eboyeni, Yindlana, Dakhile, Thahla, Ndayeni, Mpondo, Hlamba ngobubend’amanz’ekhona
    AmaNtlane – Mfusana, Ndendela, Gxididi
    AmaZangwa – Khwalo, Mlanjana, Ncuthu, Sohobese, ooNkuma
    Khwalo – Mzangwa, Ncuthu, Mlanjana, Mpondozephela, Ungqoqwana, Sohebese
    Khiwa – Qwebeda, Khonjwayo,Ngcekula, Ndzondela, Hlaka, Ngetu, Phoswa, Silwanyana, Makalanyana, Sikhehlana
    Khonjwayo – uChithwayo uzala uKhonjwayo, uKhonjwayo azale uKhiwa, uKhiwa uzele uNgcekula(Inkosi eyayiphethe ngexesha lakudala ihlonitshiwe)uNgcekula uzele uNdzondela kwindlu yake enkulu(Great House) ,noNtsikinyani ekunene(Right House).UNdzondela wazala uHlaka, uHlaka wazala uNgetu, uNgetu wazala uPhoswa, uPhoswa wazala uSilwanyana, uSilwanyana wazala uMakalanyana, uMakalanyana wazala uSikhehlana, uSikhehlana yena uzala uTatana. Ngoku singena kwinzala yendlu yasekunene kaNgcekula, uNtsikinyana uzele uMakhanda, uMakhanda wazala uNogemane kwiGreat House, kwiRight house wazala uThungana. Masiqale kwindlu enkulu, uNogemane uzele uGwadiso(Dumile), uGwadiso wazala uGodloza, uGodloza yena wazala uNtenteni, uNtenteni wazala uGobizithwana(uZwelidumile) waza ke yena uGobizithwana wazala uDumisani inkosi enkulu ephethe isizwe samaKhonjwayo ngoku. Kanti ke uThungana yena wobunene buka Makhanda uzele uSithelo, uSithelo wazala uPhonyela, uPhonyela wazala uMakhizinyani, uMakhizinyani yena wazala uHlathikhulu, uHlathikhulu yena uzala uThulani.

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