Culture Humanity Future


Short History of amaBhaca: The people of Madzikane

By Sfiso Themba   Tuesday,2nd April 2013

The aMabhaca people are an ethnic group in South Africa found in the Eastern Cape province. They are of Nguni origin. They fled Zululand during the wars of turmoil, Mfecane, and crossed Umkhomazi river to settle in the Mt Frere and Umzimkhulu regions. At that time, they were led by Inkosi Ncapayi, son of Khalimeshe.

The Bhaca people speak isiBhaca. This is a mixture of isiZulu, isiXhosa and isiSwati. The isiSwati influence originated from the Great wife of Ncaphayi, Madzikane's mother who came from one of the Swazi royal houses, abakwaMlambo. Madzikane grew up with Mlambo people and spoke isiSwati fluently. The amaBhaca grew to become a great, developed and well respected traditional community during the rule of Madzikane.

The term "bhaca" has multiple meanings, it means to flee. Some historians argue that they are called amaBhaca because they fled from Ilembe, Inkosi Shaka and settled in the borders of what is now called Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces. Social Anthropologists, on the other hand argue that they were referred to as amaBhaca because of their cultural ritual that they practiced which is called "isiBhaca or ukuchaza".

IsiBhaca besides the language can also refer to a ritual where the face is scared horizontally by a sharp object such as razor blade. This complex ritual is done for healing purposes when a child has eye or headache complications. It is also done as a rite of passage called imbeleko.
This ritual is done when a young child is being introduced to ancestors through slaughtering of a goat. In the last century, amaBhaca were identified with this unique facial feature. However, ukuchaza is no longer practiced but imbeleko ritual still continues to be practiced to this day.

Types of Marriages

Most marriages in ruling traditional leadership families are Polygamous. The main reason is in twofold: Firstly, this is to protect, safeguard, shield traditional leadership (ubukhosi) from outside people who are not members of that royal family. It was also to safeguard the leadership from moving to another royal house. Therefore all descendants of ubukhosi (especially the ruling house) are always protected and watched over their ubukhosi.

Secondly it was aimed at expanding the "nation" during times of wars. Thirdly it was to make certain that there were enough heirs. If an inkosi had many sons, his rule and his name continued over centuries as is the case with amakhosi such as Madzikane, Ncaphayi and Mngcisane. An inkosi would therefore have many wives sometimes up to "30" as was the case with Mngcisane. All children would then be called princes and princesses as long as they traced their origins from one of the traditional leaders. This was their birth right and no one could take it away from them without their consent. They all formed what is called a royal family members (abantwana be nkosi).

Main houses amongst amaBhaca

The amaBhaca has four main houses as well as other houses that support the houses.

- Great house (indlu enkulu);

- Iqadi to the great house;

- Right hand house (indlu yasekunene);

- Iqadi to the right hand house;