The Mfecane

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PRE COLONIAL AFRICAN STATES
SOUTHERN (1800-1900)
THE MFECANE

This is a Nguni term which for forced migrations of various Nguni speaking communities. This took place in the South Eastern part of South Africa in the period between 1810-1860. The Nguni speaking communities include the following: Xhosa, Swazi, Zulu, and Ndebele etc. Many historians have found it difficult to explain the causes of these migrants however population and land pressure amongst these groups living between Drakensbura and Living Ocean was the single most important factors. However, this theory is baseless as it lacks statistical information. Reasons for the Mfecane:

-Over population
-Evolution of age-grade system.
This systems evolved from being a single age grade system to age regiments from one area to another. This was dedicated to professional warfare as the reason for their existence. Shaka, for example was one of the many great Nguni leaders who exploited the age grade systems and turned them into powerful military forces used to conquer neighbouring states to form his own state. Other leaders who used the age grade systems were: Zwide, Dingishwayo and Mosheshwe.

Results of the Mfecane
-Spread of zulu type military systems
1. The short stabbing spear (the assegai) was used instead of the long throwing spear. It was more effective. 2. New fighting tactics were also used such as the bullhorn formation. This was when the enemy was encircled before attack. 3. They also used nighttime surprise attacks.

-There was an increase of strong central governments. The coming up of deposits (dictator) was proving to be a big problem. The use of age regiments, which cut across local loyalties, enhanced the growth of loyalty to the central government. The new kings appointed commoners to do important work and they also held positions such as would be incorrect to always equate this increased centralization with the growth of despotism. A few examples of deposits were: 1. Shaka Zulu

2. Mzilikazi

However not all leaders were despots. For example Mosheshwe and Sobhuza who tended to govern by the rules of the traditional political systems of the Nguni and the Sotho Tswana. -A new social unity developed. People were absorbed into various new societies. The new groups came to regard themselves as full members of the conquering people and therefore a unrited social as well as political government was created. There was also the use of a common language which helped to increase the feeling of unity e.g the Ndebele clan adopted the Khumalo dialect intermarriage was also an unifying factor.

There were so many wars of aggression. There was a drastic increase in destruction of proper deaths and instability. There was an increase in slave-trading ativities. This was because the Nguni took prisoners as slaves. Later on the Swahili and the Yao practiced slave trade.

PERSONALITIES: Moshweshwe (Defensive Nation Builder).
His career: The founder of Lesotho is in sharp contrast to those of the aggressive nation builders. Moshweshwe built a new state for defensive reasons. He also used the traditional sotho builders. He used the traditional political techniques to gather communities of Lesotho into one nation. He paid very little attention to war and only resorted to it for self-defense or under severe provocation. To him “peace is like rain which makes the grass grow while war is like the wind which dries it up.” He was born in 1786 near a mountain called mount Buthe-Buthe. It’s believed that a minor Kwiena chief called Motlumi taught him the lessons of wisdom and love for peace. During the period 1822-1836 when the Mfecane was ravaging the Sotho-Tswana land, he gathered a group of refugees on the Mountain fortress of Thaba Bosiu therefore he created the Southern Sotho kingdom in Lesotho. As a general, he successfully defeated assaults on Thaba Bosiu by Matiwane Ngwane (1827), Tlokwa* (1829) and Ndebele (1831). He also carried out a military...
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