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Ndebele (ĕndəbēˈlē) or Matabele (mătəbēˈlē), 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 across the Drakensberg Range into present-day NE South Africa. Reinforced by other Zulu deserters, the Ndebele raided as far south as the Orange River, destroying or absorbing the surrounding tribes except for the Ngwato of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who paid tribute. Driven north (1837) by the Boers and by the Zulus, Mzilikazi crossed the Limpopo River and established his people in Matabeleland, their present homeland. From his successor, Lobengula (1870–94), the British South Africa Company secured (1888) the mineral concession for all of Matabeleland. Restive under the restrictions placed on them by European settlers, the Ndebele attacked the settlers. Lobengula was soon defeated by the British and died in hiding. With the suppression of a revolt in 1896 the Ndebele abandoned war and became herders and farmers.


See D. Carnegie, Among the Matabele (1894, repr. 1970); J. M. Selby, Shaka's Heirs (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a people living in Transvaal Province in the Republic of South Africa. Population, about 300,000 (1970, estimate). The Ndebele language, Isindebele, belongs to the southeastern group of the Bantu language family. Most of the Ndebele adhere to ancient traditional religious beliefs, such as the cults of the powers of nature and of ancestral leaders; some of them are Christians. Their main occupations are livestock raising and farming. Many Ndebele work on farms owned by Europeans, in mines, or in the cities of the Republic of South Africa.


Potekhin, I. I. Formirovanie natsional’noi obshchnosti iuzhno-afrikanskikh bantu. Moscow, 1955.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Financially, Mr Ndebele said the group's performance had remained satisfactory with a two per cent increase in profit.
Interestingly enough, NoViolet Bulawayo was born Elisabeth Tshele and changed her name to NoViolet Bulawayo when she relocated to the United States; NoViolet means "with Violet" in her native Ndebele, recalling her deceased mother, and Bulawayo refers to the second largest city in Zimbabwe, where the writer spent part of her childhood.
Soon after independence Zimbabwe adopted a policy which in the views of politicians fostered unity among citizens, by choosing languages such as Shona, Ndebele and English as national and official languages at the expense of other indigenous languages which includes Xitsonga, Cindau, Venda, Tonga, Kalanga, Nambya, Sotho, Tswana, Tshwao, Sena, and Sign language.
The absence and demise of the Ndebele father is particularly telling of the manner in which Gukurahundi sought to remove Ndebeles from authority.
"The soldiers came to our village," Cowell reported that one elderly Ndebele woman said.
Perhaps Ndebele's most astute interpreter has been Pumla Gqola (in particular in her writings on spectacular masculinity and gendered violence; for some examples, see Gqola 2009; 2016), who has interpreted the comments about the ordinary and the spectacular in scorching feminist analyses that confirm Ndebele's insights as, in fact, an injunction to greater, not lesser, forms of activism.
Well, I have a word for them: In 1904, one of Lobengula's indunas encountered Francis Thompson, six years after the Perfidious Albion had taken over the Ndebele kingdom: "Ou Tomoson," the induna said, "how have you treated us, after all your promises, which we believed." South Africa, you have a history!
The Fifth Brigade was a special task force (mainly comprised of Shona people and the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army [ZANLA] ex-combatants) which had been trained by North Korean forces to settle the rivalry between the government (ZANU-PF) and ZIPRA ex-combatants (the armed wing of ZAPU) who were largely comprised of the Ndebele ethnic group (CCJPZ 1997).
There are three official languages widely spoken in the country: English, Shona, and Ndebele.
The Ndebele like other African cultures were hunter gatherers when colonialism came.
Ihlosi is the Ndebele name for the cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, which is a truly remarkable animal in many ways.