The Okavango River. Image by

The Okavango River. Image from Flcker

The Kololo under Sebetwane (ZIMSEC O Level Notes)

Origins and migration of the Kololo people

  • The Kololo were Sotho speaking people from the Transorangia area composed of two Fokeng groups which migrated under Sebetwane during the period of Mfecane (a.k.a Defecane).
  • The Patsa Fokeng under Sebetwane left as a result of attacks from the Tlokwa of Mma Ntatisi.
  • Sebetwane fled across the Vaal river to move as far away as possible from the threats and disturbances of the Mfecane
  • They arrived in Tlapini capital Dithakong in 1823 facing resistance from the Tlapini and Griqua who had guns and fought on horseback.
  • Sebetwane continued through Botswana reaching Molopo River where he defeated the northern Rolong around Kunwana.
  • The Kololo proceeded further into Hurutshe and defeated them but they were in turn defeated by the Ndebele.
  • In Botswana they managed to defeat Kgabo-Kwena and Tshwane-Tlokoa but they were forced to leave Kwena by the Ngwakwetsi.
  • Sebetwane attacked the Ngwato who sought refugee in the Kutswe Mountains.
  • The Kololo marched through the Kalahari Desert travelling mostly at night in small groups.
  • They rested at Lake Ngami where they carried out raiding expeditions to replenish the cattle they had lost in the desert heat.
  • From Lake Ngami they travelled across the Okavango River reaching Chobe where they established their capital at Dinyati.
  • They defeated and ruled the Sibya fisherman and some Tswana.
  • The Kololo left the Chobe Valley as it proved to be unhealthy as they journeyed towards the Zambezi where they raided the Tonga for cattle.
  • They established a settlement on the Toka Plateau south of Kafue an area excellent for cattle.

Settlement in Zambia

  • After having subdued most of the chiefdoms on the Toka Plateau they crossed the flood plain of the Kafue River.
  • They were assisted to cross into Illa by local fishermen who resisted the intruders by force.
  • The Kololo reached the Sala area near Lusaka capturing the Sala religious leader, Priestess Chief Longo.
  • Sebetwane was warned against trekking further because of the danger of the Portuguese and their Chikunda allies and Swahili traders.
  • he was advised to turn west to a land of red cattle called Luyi country or Bulozi
  • On their way the Kololo defeated the Ndebele in the Tlokoa Plateau in Kolomo.
  • The hill at which the fighting took place was named Thaba yabasadi (the women’s mountain) in honor of the brave Kololo women who took part in the battle.
  • The Kololo finally arrived in Bulozi which was under the rule of the Litunga and Mubhukwanu.
  • Sebetwane took advantage of a weak state divided by succession disputes.
  • The kingdom had been divided into south and north and there was also division into Lozi proper and the conquered subject peoples.

Settlement in Bulozi

  • Sebetwane found support of the local people as well as the Ngambe who did not like the Litunga.
  • Sebetwane defeated the Litunga and forced him into exile.
  • He took the heir to the throne and all the young men of the royal family and educated them as members of the Kololo aristocracy.
  • The Kololo control of Bulozi was hampered by invasions from the Msene-Ngoni under Nxaba in 1843 that were driven away at great cost.
  • The Ndebele also invaded in 1845 and 1850 but were cleverly defeated as they were lured to an island where they were later flooded.
  • The final defeat of the Msene-Ngoni and the Ndebele brought unity in Sebetwane’s new kingdom.
  • Trusted local chiefs were left in charge of their areas while some of them were given positions in local government councils.
  • Sebetwane mixed freely with is subjects, both the Kololo and the Lozi.
  • Sebetwane took wives from among the conquered groups to ensure unity and trust.
  • He encouraged the use of the Kololo language in his kingdom.
  • Raids were carried out into the surrounding Tonga, Livingstone, Illa, Mazabukwa and north western Zimbabwe.
  • Even in areas where Kololo rule was permanent Sebetwane did not force the conquered people into the age regiment system.
  • He allowed the Lozi to continue with their political and administrative institutions but did his best to persuade them to adopt his methods.
  • He placed one or two Kololo families in every village as Lords of the Land.
  • Villages were grouped into provinces under Kololo provincial governors.
  • Subject peoples were encouraged to cultivate the land but aid tribute in grain ,nuts, spears, hoes, ivory, skins and canoes.
  • he took some of the tribute and distributed it among his people.
  • In 1850 the capital was moved Naliele at the southern end of the upper Zambezi flood plain to Dinyati for strategic and economic reasons.
  • At Dinyati Sebetwane was able to defend his kingdom against any threat from the south.
  • Dinyati was also good for cattle as it was situated where the wagon road from Ngamiland and the Cape ended.
  • Dinyati was also free from mosquitoes.

The end of Kololo rule

  • Upon his death, Sebetwane was succeeded by his daughter who in turn abdicated her throne in favour of her brother Sekeletu.
  • Sekeletu, however lacked his father’s courage, intelligence and ability as a leader.
  • He did not trust his official advisers especially the Lozi.
  • He became suscipisous of his councillors and got them killed.
  • After he became a leper Sekeletu accused most people especially the Lozi of bewitching him.
  • During Sekeletu’s rule the Kololo became arrogant and treated the Lozi as inferior or even slaves.
  • The Lozi did all the farm work while the Kololo did the harvesting.
  • The Kololo became involved in the slave trade with the Portoguese in 1853
  • The Kololo from the South were decimated by malaria as they had less resistance to the disease.
  • Sekeletu’s death was followed by succession disputes and civil war whcih destroyed the stat.
  • Tired of the Kololo rule the Lozi organised themselves and rose up in arms against their rulers.
  • They were supported by the Tonga and the Kololo were defeated. Old men were killed and young men and women were incorporated into the Lozi kingdom.
  • The desire by the Lozi to be independent proved to be the major drive behind the collapse of the Kololo state.