meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"> Social Structure of the Ndebele Tribe ::::
- The Matebele Social Structure Under Mzilikazi and Lobengula  -
Overview of the Social structure of the Ndebele Tribe 
The way in which Mzilikazi built his Ndebele Kingdom as a result of the need for it to grow in numbers beyond the just the mere 300 people, that he left with when he was fleeing from Tshaka, through raids and assimilation of youths and women. In order to be able maintain the culture and beliefs of his people, Mzilikazi stratified his kingdom into three distinct groups or classes with separate societal privileges. 

The Ndebele state was divided into three groups, the Zansi, Enhla and Hole. The Zansi were the original followers of Mzilikazi from Zululand. They were fewer in number, but they formed a powerful portion of the society. They were the upper class of the Ndebele society, the aristocrats. The Zansi were divided amongst themselves into clans according to their totems and clan leaders formed the political elite of the Kingdom.

Below the Zansi were the Enhla. These were people who had been conquered and incorporated into the Ndebele state before it came into Zimbabwe. They comprised mainly people of Sotho, Venda and Tswana origin and they were more numerous than the Zansi.

The Hole formed the lowest but largest class in the kingdom. They were a fusion of Nguni, Sotho, Tswana and Shona. There were two types of Hole. The first group comprised chiefdoms that were moved or voluntarily migrated into Ndebele settlement. Examples of such people include the Nanzwa from Hwange, Nyai from Matobo, Venda from the Gwanda-Beit Bridge area, and the Shona from western Mashonaland. Most of these chiefdoms, unable to resist their enemies, chose to go and live under the security of the Mzilikazi. The youths of these chiefdoms were merged to form the Impande and Amabukuthwani military regiments, while the elders were given land to settle under one of their chiefs.

Lobengula Matshobana hoodie
I am big deal in Bulawayo
BULAWAYO City Hall T-shirt
Some of these elders were even privileged into positions of being the king’s intelligence agents, thereby forming important polities in Ndebele society. An example of this was the Venda chief Tibela who sought refuge from Mzilikazi after constant harassment from Swazi raiders. Tibela was made into one of the king’s intelligence agents. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this group of Hole is that they were bi-lingual, speaking both their mother tongue, and siNdebele.

The other group of Hole comprised of captives and young men supplied by the subject chiefs for the Ndebele army. It was acceptable for Ndebele soldiers to bring back captives from their raids and these captives were incorporated into Ndebele society either as wives of Ndebele soldiers or slaves. It is estimated that by the fall of the Ndebele state in 1893, there were three times as many Hole as were the Zansi and Enhla combined, showing the success of the Ndebele’s policy of assimilation.

Undoubtedly, this huge class of Ndebele came to have a big influence on the Ndebele culture, an influence that is evident even today. In the modern day Ndebele society these demarcations exist, but as strongly as they did by the fall of the Ndebele kingdom.

If you feel this is not an accurate account and you have a more accurate one, or you have a clarification , you can submit your version of the account here
Other documents related to this Profile
Changes in the Ndebele (Matabele) religion
Mzilikazi, the Ndebele and Christianity religion
Ndebele Religious beliefs
Ndebele Social structure