Ndebele Caste system

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

  • The Ndebele state was organized in a caste system. A caste system is a system of class determined by birth meaning if you are born in a poor family you will also be poor
  • The Ndebele social structure was highly stratified and rigid
  • The Ndebele society was divided into three groups:
  1. The Abezanzi (Zansi) who were the original Khumalo from Zululand. This group formed the royal family. They also constituted the aristocracy and administrative positions. These were the smallest group constituting 15% of the population. They had many priviledges
  2. The Abenhla (Enhla) who were those absorbed by the Ndebele when they moved to present day Zimbabwe. They included people from the Orange Free State, Transvaal borders of Botswana. These occupied the middle class some indunas and advisors were selected from this group and were 25% of the total population
  3. The Amahole (Hole) who were the indigenous groups conquered by the Ndebele when they settled in Zimbabwe. The group consisted of groups such as Shona, Kalanga, Nyubi, Tonga, Venda, Virwa and Nanzwa. They were the largest group and were about 60% of the total population. They provided labour in the kingdom. They were constantly raided by the Ndebele
  • The social stratification encouraged the lower groups to emulate and imitate the Ndebele language and culture so as to fit in and rise through social ranks once one became fluent in SiNdebele
  • The Ndebele on the other hand adopted some cultural practice from conquered peoples, for example, they adopted the Shona Mwari
  • The age regimental system in the army cut across all the social groups and encouraged unity
  • Marriage between social classes was discouraged but when done it was unifying
  • The Ndebele people were polygamous

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