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see NdebeleNdebele
or Matabele
, Bantu-speaking people inhabiting Matabeleland North and South, W Zimbabwe. The Ndebele, now numbering close to 2 million, originated as a tribal following in 1823, when Mzilikazi, a general under the Zulu king Shaka, fled with a number of warriors
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(Matebele; self-designation, Amandebele), a people inhabiting southwestern Southern Rhodesia. They are related in language (Isindebele) and culture to the South African Bantu and are closest to the Zulu. The population is approximately 500,000 (1967, estimate). Most Matabele preserve their local traditional beliefs; some are Christians.

In the late 19th century the Matabele put up a heroic resistance in the face of colonial conquest. Their chief occupations are farming and livestock raising. Many Matabele work on ranches and plantations and in mines and factories owned by Europeans; some work in the mines of the Republic of South Africa. The Matabele are taking an active part in the general struggle of the peoples of Southern Rhodesia against the racist colonial regime.


Potekhin, I. I. “Voennaia demokratiia matabele.” In the collection Rodovoe obshchestvo: Etnograficheskie materialy i issledovaniia. Moscow, 1951.
Iablochkov, L. D. “Korennoe naselenie Britanskoi Tsentral’noi Afriki.” Afrikanskii etnograficheskii sbornik, vol. 2. Moscow, 1958.
Davidson, A. B. Matabele i mashona v bor’beprotiv angliiskoi kolonizatsii 1888-1897. Moscow, 1958.
Bullock, C. The Mashona and the Matabele. Cape Town, 1950.




a highland in Southern Rhodesia between the Zambezi, Limpopo, and Sabi rivers. Average elevation, 1,000-1,500 m. Matabele is composed of ancient crystalline rocks. Numerous inselbergs and mountain ridges rise from the slightly undulating surface. The eastern margin of Matabele is uplifted (Inyanga Mountains; elevation, to 2,596 m). The climate is tropical, with humid summers; precipitation is 400-800 mm per year. Soils are brown-red, laterized, and extremely eroded. Sparse forests with Brachystegia and Julbernardia have decreased because of plowing. Gold and chromite, iron and nickel ores, and complex and rare-metal ores are mined.