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Matimu, VVX

1961 – The year Tsonga became Shangaan Part 1


In 1961, a conference was held in Ben Store, which was later named Giyani. This conference was organized by the tribal chiefs of what was later called Gazankulu Bantustan. In this conference Kheto Nxumalo (of the Amashangaan Tribal Authority), Adolf Mhinga (Maluleke Tribal Authority) and Fofoza N’wamitwa (Valoyi Tribal Authority) respectively, led a group to consolidate a new territory which was to be known as Gazankulu, the name Gaza being a Portuguese variation of Gasa, the patriarch of Amashangaan.

We must note that Hosi Njhakanjaka, who in fact ruled a large part of Vatsonga (in large land mass) was absent at the conference. Also, Hosi Makhuva and other Tsonga Traditional leaders from the house of Mahumani, Muhlava, Ngove, Madonsi, Homu, Thomo, Mnisi, Njojela, Rikhotso etc. disagreed with the whole motive of the conference.

In this conference a new identity was created and Vatsonga-Machangana was born and co-ordinated by Apartheid’s chosen Bantustan Chief Minister, HWE Ntswan’wisi (who was neither a King nor Chief before the appointment). And a new slogan was coined; “Vatsonga-Machangana, vatukulu va Gwambe na Dzavana, swihluke swa Nghungunyana”. The slogan was later adopted by then Gazankulu government as its slogan for our people.

Suggesting that:

Vatsonga are descendants of Gwambe and Dzavana, and the remnants/offspring/decedents of Nghunghunyani. This is a very incorrect analogy; it is a political slogan and not a Tsonga or Shangaan slogan. The slogan was created by three families to label an entire ethnic group composed of more than 6 major groups such as the Hlengwe va Xinyori, the Khoseni va Ripanga, the Nhlave, and Hlanganu to name a few.

  • Gwambe is the patriarch of the Valoyi tribe of Fofoza N’wamitwa.
  • Dzavani is the patriarch of the N’wanati tribe of Adolf Mhinga.
  • Nghunghunyani is the patriarch of the Amashangaan of Kheto Nxumalo.

The decisions of this conference left many Vatsonga confused and historically EXCLUDED in the scheme of the Gwambe-Dzavani-Nghunghunyani Triumvirate. Through Apartheid processes, a new History was written and Tsonga discourse was changed and Vatsonga were inducted into Amashangaan.


We should note that many Vatsonga of the Speloken Empire (present day Limpopo), which predates many Tsonga political entities of the Transvaal, had not known about Soshangani other than the words coming from the mines of the Rand and Kimberly. Shangaan was new identity of Vatsonga from the mines; it was a mine classification of Vatsonga.

The Amashangaan arrived in Bushbuckridge as runaway group from the Mouzinho led Portuguese war, but they collaborated with the Transvaal colonial government and were made chiefs. Erasmus gave Amashangaan land that belonged to the Khosa and Mnisi sections in the Eastern Transvaal, present area of Bushbuckridge. The Apartheid machinery had bought into the Shangaan discourse because they were direct beneficiary of Tsonga slavery trade. Vatsonga were sold by Amashangaan (Ndwandwe) in Transvaal and Natal as slaves. Portugal, Natal, Transvaal and Gaza signed a Pact where Portugal would use Gaza to capture slaves and Portugal would sell them to Natal and Transvaal.

Through the Shangaan identity, whites could easily link Tsonga migrant workers with Vatsonga from Speloken Empire (known as Xipilongo), and as such it spread through Radio Bantu. Tsonga services as Mikwamula Nyika and other presenters were instructed to use Shangaan and Tsonga interchangeable.

To contribute to the discourse, submit your content to admin@vivmag.co.za

Image: tomathon

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