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NewAge Afrikan History

The History of the Hlubi Nation

This article was written to assist in the efforts of bringing the history of amaHlubi to the populace. Another reason is that people wonder on this land, not knowing who they are. I, writing this article was under the illusion that I was Xhosa- I speak the language, was raised and even circumcised in the tradition. I am certain a great number of people exist who previously identified as Swati, Tswana, Ngwane, Zulu, Sotho and Ndebele and are actually Hlubi. It also never occurred to me as to why we mention the name of our nation in our clan praise songs (Ukuzithutha). My personal curiosity about amaHlubi was sparked by the book “Iziduko ZamaHlubi” (Clan Names of AmaHlubi) by H.M Nawo (1939). Since then I am learning till this very day. I hope this article may also ignite the desire to learn more of their origins.

The Hlubi, similar to other current Southern African nations, originate from Central Africa. They moved as part of the eMbo people’s southern migration. More specifically, they are said to originate from the people known as the Shubi. The Shubi can still be found today in Congo and some parts of Rwanda and Tanzania.

AmaHlubi arrived in 1300s South Africa and momentarily settled along the Lubombo Mountains, extending from Zululand North, northwards along the Swaziland-Mozambique border in the 1400s. They then traversed south and stabilised in what today is known as Natal in the 1650s. They also left behind a section of their group which later became the Swazi nation. There is great evidence which confirms amaHlubi are closely related to amaSwazi. Other evidence to this effect is in the linguistics (related under the Tekela languages). Further evidence lies in the preference of royal amaSwazi lasses by amaHlubi Kings. At this stage, they are said to be the largest formation of the eMbo nation. AmaHlubi are said to have occupied the territory, which was marked by the Pongola River on the north east border. It then extended east beyond the Ncome (Blood) River, south to where Umzinyathi and the Thukela rivers meet. The territory then goes further south to where the Bushman’s River meets the Drakensberg mountains, which also marked the Western border. In present expressions the Hlubi Land would include the following areas: Charlestown, Volkrust, Newcastle, Madadeni, Utrecht, Wakkestroom, Alckockspruit, Paulpietersburg, Vryheid, Dundee, Nquthu, etc, up to Estcourt. AmaHlubi were the first to colonialise the land mass later called Natal Colony. Hlubi oral historians maintain the amaHlubi territory included and extended beyond Pietermaritzburg. In this day, amaHlubi are spread all over parts of the country which include parts of KZN, the Eastern Cape with examples being specifically the old Ciskei, Transkei and small parts of the North West and Mpumalanga. These regions have their own Hlubi Chieftains which report to the Estcourt Royal House. It is important to note that the Hlubi nation has always been independent and never paid allegiance to neither Zulu kings nor any other authority.

The kings of amaHlubi since the arrival in South Africa are listed below:

  1. Chibi 1300 – 1325
  2. Lubelo 1325 – 1350
  3. Busobengwe (Bungane I) 1350 – 1370
  4. Fulathel’ilanga 1370 – 1390
  5. Bhele 1390 – 1410
  6. Lufelelwenja 1410 – 1430
  7. Sidwabasenkomo 1430 – 1450
  8. Mhuhu 1450 – 1475
  9. Mpembe 1475 – 1500
  10. Mhlanga 1500 – 1525
  11. Musi 1525 – 1550
  12. Masoka 1550 – 1575
  13. Ndlovu 1575 – 1600
  14. Dlamini 1600 – 1625
  15. Mthimkhulu I 1625 – 1650
  16. Ncobo and later, Hadebe 1650 – 1675
  17. Dlomo I 1675 – 1710
  18. Mashiya 1710 – 1720
  19. Ntsele 1735 – 1760
  20. Bhungane II 1760 -1800
  21. Mthimkhulu II (Ngwadlazibomvu) 1800 – 1818
  22. Dlomo II and later, Mthethwa (Langalibalele I) 1839 – 1889
  23. Siyephu (Mandiza) 1897 – 1910
  24. Tatazela (Mthunzi) 1926 – 1956
  25. Muziwenkosi (Langalibalelle ll) 1974 –

Prior to 1650, amaHlubi referred to themselves as (Ama)Mhuhu/AmaMpembe or AmaNgelengele after previous rulers. In 17th century South Africa, Mthimkhulu I gave birth to Ncobo, who begat Dlomo and he, Mashiya. Mashiya bore Ntsele who in turn, bore Bhungane II. Bhungane II was an Inyanga and famous for his craft. He was held in high regard even by his neighbours including the Zulu kings from his reign. Mthimkhulu II, his son was an inyanga. He also had the royal medicine and rainmaking knowledge inherent to amaHlubi. At this time (beginning of the 19th century), the Zulu was but a small collection of tribes (“a tiny insignificant clan” as Hadebe (1992) points out in his MA thesis, quoting historian, Herd). Another source insists the Zulu were still a small subordinate chiefdom prior to Shaka’s rule. AmaHlubi were the largest nation of the eMbo and struck fear in its neighbours. They were also known to be “a race of intrepid warriors” (because of their elite regiment, Iziyendane) as various literature records. Mthimkhulu II would later, too be consulted by Shaka Zulu. At an earlier time, the Mthethwa Chief, Dingiswayo fled his father Jobe’s spear and was sheltered his Inyanga, Bhungane II. He obtained umuthi wobukhosi (medicine of kingship) from Bhungane II and used it to reclaim the throne from his father. At the might of the Zulu under Shaka, amaHlubi were never attacked because of the cordial relationships that the two nations had built. As an important side note, the aforementioned thesis claims it was a young Shaka who came to Bhungane II looking for this medicine of kingship and not Dingiswayo as per one other source. To support the latter, yet another source recorded Dingiswayo personally visiting Bhungane II for Intelezi. This medicine he used to strengthen his army or weaken his enemies. Both supported claims would make sense as Shaka fought as a young warrior under Dingiswayo. This still links up with the chronology of Mthimkhulu I’s leadership.

Upon the weakening of amaHlubi in the 1820s, Mthimkhulu II was killed by Matiwane of the AmaNgwane on a surprise attack. King Shaka would later launch revenge on the AmaNgwane and kill Matiwane. AmaHlubi had failed to retaliate as a result of internal conflicts and recovering from the damage Matiwane had caused. These instigated the disintegration of this but larger nation, into jealously opposed offshoots. They were driven away from their land and deprived of their cattle by the victorious Matiwane. This event was then termed Izwekufa (the destruction of the nation). AmaHlubi became a dispersed nation, fleeing to various parts of the Eastern Cape, Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Oral history states that some of these groups resorted to cannibalism as a result of the lack of food.

Izwekufa resulted in Mpangazitha, brother to Mthimkhulu II and Mahwanqa, fleeing and getting involved in the Mfecane wars. Mpangazitha had at this time, moved his house to the Eastern Cape where he raised his line of amaHlubi. On his return to his father’s land from Lesotho, he was killed by the AmaNgwane.

After the Mfecane, amaHlubi were led by Mahwanqa back to their ancestral home. He was however not heir to the throne as his brother Mthimkhulu had already handed power to one of his sons, Dlomo. Dlomo also had brothers, Luzipho, Magadla, Ludidi, Duba, Mhlambiso, Langalibalele I (Mthethwa), etc. Mahwanqa eventually lost power under spear of Dlomo assisted by Dingane and Sobhuza I. The irony about this conspiracy to murder was that Dingane had already killed Shaka to rise to the throne. He now assisted in the killing of Mahwanqa for his own ends- weakening the Hlubi. Dingane exploited the relationship between the Zulu and Hlubi, after eons of the Zulu obtaining assistance of the formidable Iziyendane and medicine.

The death of Mahwanqa opened way for Langalibalele I to rule in 1839. Mini, Mahwanqa’s son attempted to usurp but failed to defeat Langalibalele and Dingane. Dingane, literally tried to stab Langalibalele in the back right after the battle but he survived. As Langalibalele was rebuilding his nation, Dingane senselessly felt this was a threat to his monarch. The presence of the British was another hurdle in Langalibalele’s way. The British had demarcated a new colony, designating a great part of the amaHlubi land to Zululand. The upshot was that the Hlubi found themselves in the colony and others (including the ruling house) in Zululand.

Langalibalele, as confined as he was, succeeded in the rejuvenation of his nation in the 1840s. He had gained prominence as rainmaker and Inyanga. Moshoeshoe, Cetywayo, Sobhuza I and other leaders in Southern Africa would consult with him. The nation had now regained prosperity and respect in the region as noted by some historians like Manson and Wright. Dingane’s nightmares were coming true, but at least he was not around to witness and his successor, Mpande was. As a result, he attacked amaHlubi in 1848, a battle which he lost. The British continued to be trouble for Langalibalele as confrontations with white farmers in the constituency were common. They would report him to the local magistrates- multiple summonses he refused. He would only contend with the governor of Natal. Later, he rebelled and faced off with colonial troops more than once. As a consequence was held on Robben Island in 1874 (some sources say 1873) and was released in 1885. The British concern was that he might hold a mass rebellion against them. He was exiled in Cape Town for a number of years and upon his return, his people had lost their land and some 7000 cattle. His possession of arms was the foremost reason he was arrested. He died in 1889 and was buried on the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains.

Langalibalele’s heir, Siyephu ruled until 1910 and his son, Tatazela until 1956. Muziwenkosi Johannes Radebe (Langalibalele II) then took reign and in 1974 till present. Obviously, one may note the gaps inbetween these kings, it is possible that non-heirs or other elders led the nation until the heirs could.

The name “amaHlubi” has roots from the times of Ncobo. According to oral history, Ncobo was a woman killer. He had among other wives, Mahlubi whom he also attempted to kill. Hadebe, brother to Ncobo, rescued Mahlubi and took her as his wife (ukungena) after killing his brother. Mahlubi’s children and those she bore with Hadebe, repudiated Ncobo upon the recognition of his atrocities. They took their mother’s name, hence the Hadebe’s became amaHlubi and the nation then espoused the name.

AmaHlubi have one of the greatest number of tribes and clans of any nation in Southern Africa. Some had joined the amaHlubi through marriage and others through seeking protection from attack by larger tribes or nations (asterisked* in the comprehensive list to follow). The following lists most but however not all of the tribes and clans of amaHlubi, as compiled by H.M Ndawo in his 1939 book “Iziduko ZamaHlubi”. It should be noted that this book may have omitted numerous clans and tribes and many more joined the nation after the release of the book in 1939:

*Dakana, Dinwa, Dladla, Dlamini, Dontsa, Hlangebi, *Hlatywayo/ Hlatshwayo, *Jali, *Khambule-Mncube, *Khasibe, *Khesa/Kheswa/Khweswa, *Khumalo, *Langa, Lubelo, Ludwala, *Mabaso, Maduna, Makhunga, Maphetha, Mashiyi, *Masingila, Masoka, Mayaba, *Mazibuko-Mlambo, *Mbambo, Mbongwe, Mkhwane, Mlandu, *Mnguni, Mntambo, Mpangela, *Mpila, Msi-Skhosana, *Msimanga, Mntungwa, Mvemve, Nala-Nzima-Mpembe, Ndaba, Ndana, *Ndlela, Ndlovu-Malunga, Ncobo/Ngcobo, Ndumo, Nkala, Nkomo, *Nkwali-Maphela, Ntethe, *Ntlaphu, Phakathi, (Ama)Radebe/Rhadebe/Hadebe (the main and largest tribe of amaHlubi, with its own clans: Hlanga, Khaba-Ludaka, Makhunga-Mdluli Maya, Ngemane, Ntanzi, Ntshali-Ntshali, Rawule, Reledwane, Sondezi, Swebelele-Ndlazi) *Sithole, *Tshabalala, *Tshabangu, Thuse, *Vundle, Xaba and Zengele-Thiyani.

Circa 2000, amaHlubi started discussions with the government so as to be returned their status as an independent nation, led by its own king. Former President Thabo Mbeki then set up the Nhlapo Commission in 2003 to deliberate on this matter. The commission ruled that amaHlubi could not be returned their status as they were dispersed prior to the colonisation of the region. One can find that decision quite a foolish one given the premise that Langalibalele I successfully united the nation in the middle of the 19th century. This materialised just years after this supposed dispersion occurred. As a result, King Langalibalele II launched an appeal in September after this announcement in July 2010. Prince Bhekithemba Langalibalele, expressed his disgust to this ruling and said, “It is a surprise and very sad that we should be oppressed by a black democratically elected government in this country. The report seems to sow doubt and is inconclusive around whether the amaHlubi kingdom ever existed despite overwhelming evidence”.

In 2007, King Zwelithini maintained the other 11 nations fighting to be recognised as kingdoms in KZN, are a threat to the unity of the Zulu kingdom. This only meant that should the 11 nations be granted regency, it would reveal that the Zulu nation is indeed not as huge as previously thought. He even passed threats of “…war against the people who wanted to be kings” from his advisors. Zwelithini has indeed inherited this foul attitude from previous leaders of the Zulu such as Dingane and Mpande in that he sees the rise of amaHlubi as a threat. He has indeed forgotten that leaders prior to Dingane had great respect for amaHlubi. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi is one of the Zulu leaders who understand and respect amaHlubi and the ties the two nations share.

Numerous Southern African nations recognise amaHlubi as an independent kingdom and nation, included in the long list are the Xhosa, Swati, Sotho, Ndebele and Mpondo. Attempts have been made to obtain retributions for land and cattle losses from the British but to no avail. Instead, excuses were given to amaHlubi that the matter would be handled by the two governments. Till this day, amaHlubi are still fighting for retributions and to be returned their royal status.

Indeed, I hope this article enlightened you about the past and the present of amaHlubi. Consolidating this piece was an illuminating experience as I came across even more information. I am very grateful to the late H.M. Ndawo for his book as it might have taken me longer to go on this road of personal discovery in its absence. If you discovered you are Hlubi through reading this article, I am hopeful this was a helpful introduction.



  1. Buthelezi, M., 2013. Commemoration in Honour of Inkosi Langalibalele kaMthimkhulu, http://www.ifp.org.za/Speeches/051013sp.htm/ (last accessed 10 January 2015).
  2. Bryant, A.T., 1965. Olden Times in Zululand and Natal: containing earlier political history of the Eastern-Nguni clans, Struik.
  3. Eldredge, E.A., 2014. The Creation of the Zulu Kingdom, 1815-1828. War, Shaka, and the Consolidation of Power. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Hadebe, S.B., 1992. History of the amaHlubi Tribe and Izibongo of its Kings, University of Natal, (last accessed 12 January 2015).
  5. IOL News, 2007. Twelve kings saga sparks KZN war talk. (last accessed 12 January 2015).
  6. Manson, A.H., 1979. The Hlubi and Ngwe in a Colonial Society (1848 – 1877), University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
  7. Mkhangelangoma Trading c.c., 2004. Amahlubi National Committee Meeting Held On 24 April 2004 At Pietermaritzburg, 2004 (last accessed 12 January 2015).
  8. Ndawo, H.M., Iziduko zamaHlubi, The Lovedale Press, 1939. http://www.ru.ac.za/corylibriary/online/primarysources/izidukozamhlubi/ (last accessed 16 October 2014).
  9. The Witness, 2010. AmaHlubi intend to appeal ruling against kingship status (last accessed 12 January 2015).

Supplementary reading:

  1. AmaHlubi (Tribe). http://iinet.net.au/~royalty/states/southafrica/hlubi.html (last accessed (12 January 2015).
  2. Soga, J.H., 1930. The Southern Eastern Bantu, Witwatersrand University Press.
  3. Von Fintel, W., 1932. Transformations. A Study of the Dynamics of Social Change. University of Natal Press. Pietermaritzburg. Traditions and History of the amaHlubi Tribe. Native Teachers’ Journal.
  4. Wright, J and Manson, P., 1983. The Hlubi Chiefdom in Zululand and Natal – A History. Ladysmith Historical Society.
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  1. Hi Sir indeed you have motivated me with this reservoir of knowledge about our great nation.may I please know where I can get the book.

  2. Hi I,m a young guy who which to know more about the History ofAmaHlubi , I,m staying in Utrecht code 2980

  3. I am intereted to consult physically the office of the Hlubi nation, i ask ur email address please!

  4. Hi there I am so impressed my name is Zamahlubi Radebe my aunt gave me this name and she passed away when I was very young. I don’t know what does my name mean because Mina I’ve known my self as intombi yomzulu. Reading the history yamahlubi sengivele ngacacelwa that ngiyintombi yamaHlubi kahle.

  5. Hi sir ,I want to express my greatest gratitude on behalf of myself and for all Hlubis for this history you have brought into our minds. Yes I knew from my young age that I am a Hlubi and very proud of this, hence I grew up in a village of Hlubi people alone in Sterkspruit kwa Magadla village. I do read about our history every day, my point is how will the other areas get involve in the claim of our kingship that was submitted to the DTA by Isilo samaHlubi Langalibalele2 ka Tatazela written Selby Radebe. We need to know about this report and be involved as the result are about to be published this year, because every time I visit my home and ask INkosi about this, they are not conversant.

  6. Hi I’m X. from Sterkspruit I’m just inspired by this exciting background of hlubis, its good to know that we have such rich history and we want to be recognized nationally so that people will know that we are an existing group and we have our own ways of doing things I really appreciate this and it needs to be preserved and embraced so that our kids can know more about their roots moving foward otherwise
    Thanks a lot

  7. Ake ngibuze umshado phakathi kwaHadebe noMthimkhulu niyawemukela?????

    Ukuthi mina njenge Hlubi angiwemukeli.

    Nithini boBhungane kulokho???

    1. Mthimkhulu is Hadebe, and Hadebe is Mthimkhulu. Such a marriage is indeed blasphemous as you have already put it… While Khumalo is Mntungwa, but Mntungwa is not Khumalo…. If you catch my drift.

  8. Thank you for this outstanding info about amaHlubi nation, however, I would have loved that the narrator could have said that amaHlubi nation must go back to their original name, which is amaMpembe.


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