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#1 Oct 25th 2017, 6:02 pm

From: Stellenbosch
Registered: May 7th 2007,

Geneology of the Xhosa chiefs

This is a special topic (topic containing a google chart diagram) of the genealogy of the Xhosa chiefs I am trying to put together. It is based on the Dutch genealogist Anthony Stokvis's (1855-1924) genealogical diagram compiled in 1889:

I corrected some of the spellings of the Xhosa chief names. It is still a work in progress, so expect updates to follow. Please let me know if you can see anything that needs to be corrected.


The genealogical tree can be viewed here: http://www.wiseman.co.za/xhosachiefs.html [last updated: 25 October 2017]



#2 Nov 1st 2017, 6:48 pm

From: Stellenbosch
Registered: May 7th 2007,

Re: Geneology of the Xhosa chiefs

Here is a post I retrieved from the internet archive by Miss Milli B on the Genealogy of the Xhosa people and the first encounters with Europeans. For some reason her website is not online anymore, so therefore I am saving a copy here from the archive for save keeping, since I think she wrote a very informative piece.

Miss Milli B wrote:

A Genealogy of the Xhosa and the first encounters with the Europeans


Click on image to enlarge.

I’m feeling totally intimidated by the task that I have created for myself in trying to find a place to start talking about Southern African history.  Doing it properly would require four semesters or a whole book but as promised, let me tell you what I know.  I feel like it’s best to start with my own people who are not Xhosa but fall under the larger group called Xhosa. The so called Xhosa are part of the greater Bantu group of people who over 2000 years migrated from Central and West Africa (modern day Nigeria and Cameroon) Eastwards towards the Great Lakes region around Kenya and further down south along the west, central region and east coast all the way down to the bottom.  The Bantu groups in all of Sub Saharan Africa are connected by language and culture.  For instance, the word for meat in Xhosa, Swati, Zulu, Shona and Swahili, which is spoken all the way in Kenya and its surrounds, is nyama. The same applies to the word for ”fat” mafuta and ”white person” mlungu or mzungu and a host of similar root words. The dialects are different but there’s clearly a link.  Anyway the Bantu made this migration over 3000 years ago and were to settle in various parts of Southern Africa – Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

There’s a common mistake and misconception that has been perpetuated as truth since the early 20th Century and that is that there is one large group of Xhosa.  This mistake can be attributed to South Africa’s mining culture.  When Southern Nguni men (the people who occupy the modern day Eastern Cape of South Africa) moved to Johannesburg in the first two decades of the 20th Century to work as miners, they would be classified Xhosa even though they belonged to one of the following groups:


So essentially, not everyone who is classified as Xhosa is actually Xhosa.  These groups were small, separated into chiefdoms and not really organised as one single nation like the Zulu eventually came to be one nation.  There isn’t a single ancestor named Xhosa but it is thought that the word is derived from the San meaning for ”angry men”, after conflict broke out between the San and the Mnguni, a group of people that had moved from the northern eastern parts of the country down towards the Drakensberg or Ukhahlamba.  These were the people of Umnguni, who had settled in the area and integrated with the Khoi through marriage and trade.  Once they were settled, conflict broke out between them and the San, who used to hunt the cattle of the Mnguni because they thought that all the land and livestock was their god given right. When the Mnguni resisted in anger, the San were defeated and began referring to the inhabitants as the Xhosa or angry men, the angriest of whom was Mnguni’s son, who became known as umXhosa. The furthest back some Historians and oral history has been able to go is to Tshawe who the custodian of the Paramount line of Xhosa rule, meaning that this is the line where the legitimate absolute rulers were born into.  Xhosa society wasn’t run like a Kingdom where there was one absolute ruler who ruled over everyone.  There were small chiefs and chieftains who ruled in their ”districts” but there was a rightful heir to the position of Highest Political Leader and that’s what the Paramount line was about.  That guy, whoever he was had a council of advisors who he ruled with and if the smaller chiefs could not solve the problems of their district, they would take it to the court of the Paramount chief but that was pretty rare before the Brits came to the Cape.

The Tshawe (whose father was Nkosiyamntu) line is the original paramount line for Xhosa Royalty. Before the Xhosa nation’s great split, anybody who held the right to rule the paramount line, had to be a Tshawe.  The Xhosa are polygamists and the tradition, especially among royalty, was the the Chief would marry his first wife as soon as he became a man after being circumcised.  This first wife was called The Right House and has status and respect but the child that she has with the chief is not first in line to be the heir to the throne.  The chief usually has 2 – 4 middle wives who were highborn daughters of his councillors or dynasty from other clans.  The last wife, was usually the youngest and would marry the chief when he was already and old man and she is called The Great Wife.  The first born son of the chief and the The Great Wife would be the heir to the throne.  The logic behind this was the the child would probably be too young to rule by the time his old man died and that would allow for the chief’s councillors to rule for a couple of years, making the process more democratic. Unfortunately, this had negative effects sometimes because the siblings from the middle houses and sometimes the Right House, would want to usurp power and usually did, causing divisions and sometimes outright wars.

After Tshawe came to power circa 1610 (he beat his older brother Cira to the throne by force), there were 3 or four generations after him but the story of the drama that would unfold starts with his great great grandson Tshiwo who was born after 1680.  Tshiwo was married.  He had a Right Hand House wife and a Great Wife.  Unfortunately he was killed during a hunting trip in 1715. At the time when he was killed, his intended Great Wife had not yet given birth but was pregnant.  Tshiwo’s eldest son, Gwali, saw this as an opportunity to take power from the councillors and did for a little bit. Tshiwo’s Great Wife ran away with Mdange but returned when she had given birth to Tshiwo’s child, who turned out to be a boy.  They named him Phalo and upon his birth, Mdange spoke to the councillors to instate Phalo’s position as heir to the chief.  Gwali didn’t like this and a battle broke out between Gwali and his supporters and Mdange and his supporters. Mdange won the battle and the defeated Gwali supporters left and moved westwards towards Algoa Bay.  Mdange ruled until Phalo came of age.  Here’s where it becomes interesting.

Phalo broke tradition by not marrying his Great Wife at an old age.  He married his Right Hand House and The Great Wife around the same time and they were similar in age. They had beef with one another from the get go. The Great House gave birth to a son named Gcaleka and the Right Hand House gave birth to a son named Rarabe and they were very close in age but Gcaleka was older.  Gcaleka offered unusual prospect as a chief.  He was a sickly youth who was very influenced by a mother who had a reputation for being cruel.  He even, and this I didn’t know, went through the process of ukuthwasa and qualified to be a witchdoctor – a strange and untrustworthy notion for a chief.  The idea of a chief who had access to the shades (ancestors) was very unusual and people didn’t like this.  He used to ”smell out” people who he thought were making him sick and punish and sometimes kill them, making him pretty unpopular.  The younger brother, Rarabe, saw an opportunity and decided he would try to take power from his unpopular brother.  Unfortunately for him, he lost the war, which was a pretty big deal and the defeated forces ended up separating from the Tshawe clan and moved far away across the Kei River to the Amatola Mountains (near modern day Queenstown).  On their way there, they were involved in brutal battles with the Khoi Khoi, who were living between the Kei River and Algoa Bay. Rarabe took the Amatola Mountain region from the Khoi and amaRarabe have settled there ever since.  The Royal House of the Xhosa then became amaGcaleka and the Xhosa nation was divided into two independent sovereign regions with Chief Gcaleka on one side and Chief Rarabe on the other.  The Rarabe maintained respect for amaGcaleka’s role as the Paramount Line of the Xhosa.

Everybody settled in their designated Kingdoms in peace throughout the 18th Century.  The so called Xhosa are a pastoral people, meaning they settled on land, farmed on it, kept livestock on it and subsisted off the land and what nature provided. Everybody had enough, nobody was employed by anyone, there was no money and life was pretty pleasant for everyone. On the far East coast of the Eastern Cape, Portuguese sailors would often stop on their way to India (they had come all the way from Europe around the west coast of Africa, past the Cape and were going to India via the East Coast of Africa) for fresh water, fresh meat and supplies.  They had no problems with the native Africans they encountered.   Some even got shipwrecked off the coast of Pondoland from a ship called The Grosvenor and when the Brits and Portuguese came to rescue them, some of the men flat out refused because they had met an fallen in love with Pondo women.  To them, it didn’t make sense to suffer the voyage of 18th Century ship life when there was land, peace and multiple wives in Pondoland. So they stayed, took wives and were integrated into various kingdoms. That was around 1782.  Gcaleka had bore a son named Khawuta who bore a son called Hintsa who was the Paramount Chief of the Xhosa.  Rarabe bore a son named Mlawu and another son called Ndlambe.  Mlawu had Ngqika and when young Ngqika was still a boy, his father died but he was too young to become a chief so his uncle Ndlambe became the stand in Chief of the Rarabe.  Ndlambe was very popular as a leader.  His kingdom adored him and he was to become one of the most instrumental figures in the frontier wars that would be fought on the Frontier, the border of Rarabeland and The Colony or iKoloni as it became known.  How did the Colony come about?

The Rarabe had been doing their thing blissfully unaware that the poor Khoi Khoi who lived around modern day Cape Town and the greater Western Cape had for a whole 200 years before 1782 been fighting an enemy that emerged from the water wearing clothing, bearing guns, trying to claim the land and seducing their women with cigarettes and alcohol in exchange for supplies, sex and eventually their livelihood, the land.

European sailors had been sailing from Europe around the coast of Africa, past the cape, around Natal and would head north on their way to India.  Shame, they hadn’t discovered a quicker route to the East from Europe so for years, first the Portuguese then the Dutch, English and French would come around the Cape on their way to India. The voyage took about 9 months and it was phenomenally shit.  The conditions on the ship were merciless.  During that 9 month voyage, there would be sea sickness so vomit would literally be everywhere, it stank stupid, diseases would spread from infested water or food, regular rapes and sexual abuse so more diseases and unwanted babies, food would rot, water would run out so people would drink dirty water, hello cholera; they would stop off the very hot coasts of West Africa and be bitten by fleas and get malaria then carry it on board, laundry needed to be done and medicines and fresh food were required. During the late 1400s – the 1500s, the Portuguese would be the first to encounter the Khoi Khoi.  They would stop off the coast of Cape Town, get off their ships and trade with the Khoi Khoi who had been living there for time immemorial.  The Khoi were excellent doctors, providing cures for the ships people, giving them their cattle to slaughter for meat, giving them fresh water and generally being very hospitable.  In exchange the Portuguese would also give them gifts like beads, precious metals and they were all down with each other until the sailors started developing a habit of placing their flags in the Cape and wanting to overstay their welcome, threatening the Khoi for their land and livestock.

The first recorded encounters between Europeans and the native Khoi Khoi which can be translated to ”Men of Men” was in 1487 when a Portuguese ship captained by a young sailor by the name of Bartolomeu Diaz.  Diaz had never rounded the tip of Africa and actually accidentally landed at the Cape after the stormy winds of the Cape of Storms blew the ship into modern day Table Bay.  Diaz and his crew didn’t get off the ship but when they arrived on the shore, they saw hundreds of cows and ”wooly haired, yellow skinned natives” who after a short stare off, ran towards the interior with all their livestock and literally disappeared during the course of that long day.  Diaz and his crew didn’t get off the ship and after their break, steered the ship outwards and left the cape sailing towards the eastern part of Cape. They really needed to stop for supplies and fresh water so they decided to stop their ship in a bay they called (Europeans and their habit of naming things and places) Sao Bras known today as Mossel Bay. Again, they were encountered by terrified natives who were almost naked with ”wooly hair” but this time, these ones didn’t run.  Diaz and crew got off the ship and tried to offer the people gifts. The group of Khoi Khoi refused the gifts and started throwing stones at Diaz’ crew.  Diaz retaliated with gunfire and was to become the first European to kill an indigenous Southern African. (In Standard 2 History we studied him as a Hero).  The Khoi Khoi were distinct from their descendants the San who were further in the interior.

The Portuguese had left Lisbon with four so called negresses whom they had enslaved years prior from West Africa, taught them Portuguese and converted them to Christianity.  The women were used as messengers to go into the interior to find out more about life inside whatever particular coast they landed on.  Along the way they had dropped of 2 women off the West Coast of Africa , one of whom died. The third was dropped off in Algoa Bay or modern day Port Elizabeth and with her she carried samples of gold, beads and spices.  Her mission was to put in a good word for Portuguese Kings to the natives, so that they would trade with them and of course checking the coast for more potential slaves to steal.  The promise was that the Portuguese sailors would be back to fetch the women months later once they had acclimatized to life in the new world.  The fate of the West African woman who was dropped off in Algoa Bay is unknown but the Portuguese over the next 150 years would be back and they would bring competition in the form of Dutch, French and British Sailors as they realised that the country was bursting with things they treasured.  Thousands of elephant, antelope, lion, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe roamed the thick lush land.  After traversing the coast of Africa for all those years, the most powerful trading company, The Dutch East India Company would eventually get tired of their sailors experiencing hostility from the Khoi Khoi and in the summer of 1652, would eventually establish a station at the Cape that would consist of a farm, a lighthouse and a small military post that would protect and trade with other European sailors who were so desperate for fresh supplies after long journeys from the North. That’s when we meet old Jan van Riebeck who came to the Cape kicking and screaming, not wanting to.  He would stay for 10 horrible years and eventually left hating it even more than he had before.

I’m going to end it here for today and on Friday, will go into life in the interior and paint a picture of how the Khoi Khoi lived, their relationship with the population of Europeans who were in the Cape, the establishment of the first Free Burger farms in the modern day Western Cape and how those Free Burgers would then go further eastwards, taking Khoi and San wives and slave and eventually meeting and befriending the Rarabe and intermarrying with them because they were closer to the western cape than the Gcaleka.  So you have the Gcaleka chilling on the far east coast, the Khoi trying to fight off the European interlopers as they advance eastwards and the Rarabe integrating with them against the wishes of the Khoi, whom they had previously lived in peace with and even married with them over time. The reason the Xhosa are the only Nguni group to speak with the click sounds is precisely because of their relation to the Khoi Khoi whose language is probably the coolest oral orchestra in the world.

The diagram of the Genealogy is obviously representative of a very small but very significant group of people, purely because they were instrumental in the progression of Europeans in the interior of Southern Africa.  It was their relations with the Xhosa and the Khoi Khoi that led to the European presence in Southern Africa.  This is by no means where our history starts.  There is is still the great Kingdom of Mapungubwe which was established around 1052 and only discovered by modern humans in 1932.  That’s a story for another day.  If you would like to trace the history of your family, if you’re Xhosa, comes from, zithuthe (state all your clan names) and you might find some clues. For instance my clan name is Mkhwane so I probably have something to do with the line of Khwane who is a descended of amaGqunukhwebe who were around the modern day Peddie area.  My great great great great Grandfather Bongela, was from that very area. So it’s a start.

The diagram and a large part of my source is from Frontiers: The Epic Creation of the Xhosa and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People by Noel Mostert and other books.  A lot of information about the various chiefs and kingdoms is scantily available on the Internet. So if you’re interested in finding out more about a particular subject, there’s a lot of information out there. This blog is also a pretty reliable source for this history. It gives a much more detailed account of the royal lineage from the book The House of Phalo.

Date posted: 14 May 2014

Some more info about the source she used (as mentioned previously on her blog):

Miss Milli B wrote:

My golden source, one of many, is a book called Frontiers: The Epic Creation of South Africa and the Tragedy of the Xhosa people written by Noel Mostert, who writes a brilliant story as if he was there as a native Africa who saw it all unfolding.  If you can find it, buy it now.  I didn’t buy it. It’s on a 2 year loan from my friend Michael because it’s almost 1500 pages of WHAT? HOW? WHO DID WHAT? It’s extremely rare and not something you can just walk into Exclusives and buy.

Also see these other interesting links:

1. amaXhosa People of South Africa
2. Xhosa Royalty of Southern Africa



#3 Mar 25th 2019, 4:07 pm

From: Idutywa-Eastern Cape
Registered: May 8th 2007,

Re: Geneology of the Xhosa chiefs

I am interested to Nqeno the son of Langa especially the children of the fifth wife where Ngcweleshe believe as the hier to; can anyone had a book that is containing the history of Nqeno as a chief

"I will do what is Best for myself and my Family".



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