Cattle were important in the Ndebele State’s economy. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: The Ndebele State:The Economic Organization of the Ndebele State

  • The main economic activity of the Ndebele state was raiding
  • Raiding was done by the army and they raided for cattle, grain and women
  • The raids were conducted in Mashonaland, Zambezi and as far as Zambia
  • The Ndebele also practiced crop cultivation
  • They grew crops such as such as millet, sorghum and Rapoko
  • Land in the state was distributed by the Induna Enkulu and the chiefs
  • Ndebele subjects provided labour in the King’s field and communal work parties called Ilima were done.
  • Produce from agriculture was used for trade, ceremonies and payment of tribute.
  • The Ndebele practiced livestock production
  • They kept cattle, sheep, poultry
  • The king had the largest herd of cattle and he distributed cattle in the land through the Ukugalisa system
  • Cattle was used to pay lobola, trade, tribute and as rewards to subjects
  • The Ndebele lived  nomadic life in search of pastures
  • They did trade with the whites and internally with local people like Mashayamombe
  • The Ndebele got exotic item such as beads and clothes
  • Trade was done with done with the missionaries based at Inyathi and with hunters, for example, John Lee and Wilson Asher as well as the Portuguese.
  • Ndebele subjects paid tribute to the King as a sign of loyalty and allegiance to show respect to the King.
  • The Shona tribe of the Chirimuhanzu dynasty also paid tribute to the Ndebele king in the inform of spears, hides, clothes and beads
  • Those who refused to pay tribute were
  • Hunting was also practised by the Ndebele to get ivory to be used for external trade.
  • The Ndebele mined gold and iron for external trade
  • Iron was also used for making iron tools
  • Basketry, pottery making and weaving were also done by the Ndebele

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