When the Apartheid government started with the Bantustans project, the aim was twofold:
- To emphasize the separation between European colonial settlers and African natives.
- And to divide African natives along blurred ethnical lines.
The project was riddled with historical contradictions and dilemmas from the onset. The usage of the term “Tribe” was sometimes confused with “Ethnic group” and “Linguistic group”.
The initial Apartheid Project was to split Vatsonga into various Bantustans, depending on one’s geographical location;
- The Vatsonga people of Natal Province, of the Tembe Kingdom, were forced into the Zululand Homeland.
- A very large number of Vatsonga in Eastern Transvaal were forced into Kangwane and Kwandebele Homelands.
- A very large number in the Central Transvaal, were forced into the Bophutatswana Homeland.
- And Vatsonga in the Northern Transvaal were projected to be split to Venda and Lebowa Homelands.
However, in the face of an undeniable ethnic identity, coupled with resistance from some Vatsonga, a project for a Vatsonga homeland was put into place.
There was a dilemma as to who were Vatsonga? For, not long ago, missionaries had referred to Vatsonga as “Magwamba”. Also, there had been a then new trend to refer to Vatsonga as “Amashangaan / Machangani”.
In that time, there was an Amashangaan Tribal Authority, which was established in the then Eastern Transvaal, by remnants of a fallen Gaza Kingdom in Mozambique. This Amashangaan Tribal Authority was set up on a land taken away from the Khosa and the Munisi, by the Native Commissioner of the area. Up to 1913, in that very same area, it was a well-known fact that the Khosa and the Munisi were the de facto and de jure rulers of the whole Sabie region, as far as Vatsonga were concerned.
The Amashangaan Tribal Authority, had requested a separate homeland from Vatsonga, but they had no land validation for such request. Interestingly, in the desired Amashangaan Homeland, the language proposed was Isizulu. Unlike the Ndebele grouping which could not move to the Kwandebele Homeland, and was part of the Leboa Homeland, it never tried to label Sepedi, as Isindebele.
Up to 1972, the Amashangaan Tribal Authority had never made a mention of a language called “Shangaan” or “Xichangani”, in fact, they hated it when some missionaries labeled Xitsonga as “Shangaan”, because they said that the name of their great ancestor was now used to name the language of slaves. It is public knowledge that, within the Amashangaan Tribal Authority, Xitsonga was a forbidden language, and Vatsonga who lived within the jurisdiction, were forced to learn Isizulu at school, even Christian evangelists were forbidden to use Xitsonga.
These are 5 reasons the Amashangaan Tribal Authority failed to get a separate homeland from Vatsonga;
- Amashangaan made it clear that they are NOT Vatsonga, and as such wanted a separate homeland, but, they had no land.
- The Zululand Homeland had incorporated the remnants of the fallen Zwide Kingdom, which is home of Amashangaan, therefore, the Apartheid Government saw Amashangaan as a minor demographic group outside the Zululand Homeland.
- The Amashangaan Tribal Authority had chosen Isizulu as the preferred language for their Homeland, but within their jurisdiction, very few spoke Isizulu and majority of people were neither Zulu nor runaways from Zululand. Therefore, since the Zululand homeland was set up, either Amashangaan had to move to Zululand or be part of Vatsonga homeland.
- After the fall Gaza in Mozambique, those who had to run away, fearing that Vatsonga may avenge the atrocities committed by Amashangaan over 3 generations, they had to be divided into two main groups; one group, led by Mpisani, settled in Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga), and the other group, led by Gija, settled in Northern Transvaal (Limpopo).
The two groups differed in nature of their settlements –
- The Gija led group were welcomed by the Maluleke clan and given refuge. While the Mpisani led group had to pay the Native Affairs Commissioner so that he takes away land from Khosa and Munisi clans. Another dilema was, If Amashangaan were to be granted one homeland, the two groups had to be in one area, then question arose, which group will move?
There was a question of legitimacy of their Chieftaincy; The Gija led group, does not recognize the Mpisani led group as seniors. Mpisani recognized the Nghunghunyani status, while Gija recognized the Hanyani status. Hanyani was a son of Mawewe who had settled in Swaziland in the 1860s. In the absence of a Hanyani lineage heir, the Gija group saw itself as senior.
Amashangaan ended consolidating with Vatsonga leaders in the 1960s in order to avoid being subjects of King Zwelithini and remain an independent “Chiefdom”.