Zulu soldiers at a village kraal. Image credit MediaWiki

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: Crisis in Nguniland: The Mfecane

  • Rapid population growth resulted on competition for land which was needed for agricultural, grazing and residential purposes
  • This led to over-cultivation of soils and later soil erosion
  • Bigger and powerful states like the Ndwandwe, Mthethwa, Zulu and Ngwane began competing to control economic and political activities of Nguniland
  • Advanced military techniques developed by these state incited aggressive behavior thereby leading to wars, for example the broad bladed spear called iklwa adopted by the Zulu under Shaka
  • Also huge standing armies encouraged raiding of other states
  • The need to control profitable trade with the Portuguese at Delagoa bay
  • The need to control hunting grounds so as to charge of ivory led to Mfecane
  • The need to control grazing grounds led to interstate wars
  • The emergence of ambitious leader like Shaka Zulu who wanted to conquer and subdue other states
  • Food shortages due to a ten year long drought
  • This led to massive raids on smaller states
  • The white man’s influence theory whereby whites like Dr Cowan who is believed to have met with Dingiswayo and influenced them to be aggressive
  • The introduction of maize by the Portuguese in the 18th century led to people scrambling for it
  • Ambitious men like Shaka, Dingiswayo and Zwide can also be blamed for contributing to the start and intensification of Mfecane
  • Dingiswayo and Shaka introduced many military reforms which strengthened their armies and increased their aggression on other states.

Intensification of Mfecane

  • After a series of attacks by Shaka, many states began to adopt his military tactics so that they are able to defend themselves, for example, the Ngwane and Hlubi
  • The states began attacking each other and this intensified the Mfecane
  • Boers settling in Africa (Cape Colony) around the 19th century also contributed in the intensification of the Mfecane
  • The Boers raided the Nguni states for cheap labour
  • Peace was only known in stronger states which could resist the Boer raids
  • After the abolition of slave trade in 1807 by Britain, the Cape Colony labour needs were satisfied by capturing of the Griqua(coloured fugitives from the Cape) and the Korana (Southern Tswana)
  • When all slavery was abolished, the Boers began to raid locals for cattle

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