The History of the Mncwabe Chieftainship 1600 -1931

Mncwabe, Dzana is the clan name (isiduko, isithakazelo). Mncwabe is the first known clan head/chief of the clan. Mncwabe lived around the end of 16th century[1]. The clan originates in KwaZulu Natal. Presently the Mncwabes are to be found in KZN in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Richmond, Ixopo, Umzimkhulu, Harding and Port Shepstone[2], and the Eastern Cape in Mount Frere, Flagstaff and Kingwilliamstown. Mncwabe was succeeded as chief by his son Khathini (sometimes pronounced Khatsini in th areas of UMzimkhulu and Mount Frere). Khathini lived in the 17th century. Khathini gave birth to twins Mnguni and Dana (Dana mean we are sorry for you). Dana was the younger twin and was not going to be the chief after the father.Dana is pronounced Dzana among the Bhacas (UMzimkhulu and Mount Frere)[3]. Mnguni was succeeded by Ncwane as chief of amancwabe. Ncwane's first born Thabo died young. His brother Mlumbi took over as chief[4]. Mlumbi was succeeded by Mbuzikazi. Mbuzikazi was succeeded by Deyi[5]. Deyi was a soldier in Dingaan's time. Deyi died in 1873. He had two wives. From the main wife he got two boys: Gebhuza and Bhayiya. From the second wife he got Bhavulana. Gebhuza was married to Maphangandawo. He died in 1869 after Marriage but before he had children. His half brother Bavulana entered into an Ukungena relationship with Maphangandawo[6]. They got two children Mcopheli and Ndodo[7]. When Deyi died in 1872 Gebhuza was no more. Bhayiya was sickly. Bhavulana was asked. He was very reluctant. He tried to encourage his half-brother Bhayiya to take over but Bhayiya died. Bavulana had to succeed Deyi. Mcopheli married to Ndlekazi. They had two children Ginqika and Magwija. According to Hlomafuti, the first born son Ginqika "was born shortly after Mt H.C Shepstone vacated his office as secretary for Native Affairs(1893). Both sons, according to Hlomafuthi "are at the kraal of Ludaka, their maternal uncle. He lives near Thornville. The elder boy Ginqika, is now able to herd cattle and milk."[8]

In 1905 after 34 years as chief Bavulana was charged with stock theft. He was tried on 12 April 1906 and found guilty and imprisoned[9].Bavulana had been the chief of two main groups of the Mncwabes namely Camperdown and Mgeni. Once he was convicted, Mathew Nathan, the Supreme Chief of the Natives in the province issued an order deposing Bavulana as chief. His order dated 13 th September 1907 read:"In the matter of the chieftainship of the Mncwabe Tribe located in the magisterial Division of Camperdown and Umgeni; WHEREAS by order dated the 20th. day of JULY 1907, BAVULANA, Chief of the Ncwabe TRIBE aforesaid was removed from his position of chief; and whereas it is the wish of the headmen of the Mncwabe Tribe that Sikunata be appointed to act as chief over the tribe; Now therefore I, Mathew Nathan, Supreme Chief over the Native population, by virtue of the powers vested in me in this behalf, do hereby appoint the said SIKUNATA to act as chief over the Mncwabe Tribe located in the magisterial divisions of CAMPERDOWN AND UMGENI, subject to the following conditions: 1) That all fines and fees received by the said SIKUNATA in his official capacity, shall be applied and administered for the heir to the Chief House of DEYI, referred to by BAVULANA and the headmen of the Ncwabe Tribe in statements dated 27.8.1907, 4.9.1907 and 10.9.1907 in papers S>N>A 414, 1907; 2) That the said SIKUNATA shall be entitled to receive and use for his own benefit the salary payable to him while acting as the aforesaid....."

It is clear from some internal memos[10] of the office of the Supreme Chief that as far back as 27 June 1907 enquiries were made on "whether"you see any objection to the 73 huts at present under Bavulana being merged into the tribe of TIYATIYA in the event Bavulana being removed from his Chieftainship". On 1 July 1907, the papers recommending the deposition of Bavulana were laid before the Minister of Native affairs. On 12 July 1907 the Minister noted that the papers were laid before him and that he had approved the deposition of Bavulana. On 20 August 1907 the The Minister of Native Affairs directed that the principal headmen in the Camperdown and Umgeni divisions be summoned and asked their views with regard to the appointment of a successor to the ex chief Bavulana. Following this the magistrate in a Minute[11] introduced the headmen of the Ncwabe tribe lately under Bavulana in his Division, as requested in papers SNA 414 107 Viz: Hlomafuti, Hlwatika, KHambi, Mvutshana, Makhwaba and Mafihla. Discussions then took place as to the successor. The government tried to get who of the contenders had support. There was a group within the amNcwabe that was campaigning for one Marwaqa to succeed. However in a note dated February 1907 the Magistrate Camperdown had noted that he was unable to recommend this man because "he and his brothers were convicted before the Native Affairs Court in January 1900 for cattle theft and each sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour and whipping of 28 lashes.". In a meeting of the representatives of the tribe on 27 August several speakers spoke but they ultimately requested that they be given more time to consult with the communities. The meeting was postponed to 3 September 1907.

This meeting could not be held on 3 September because the officials had pressure of work. It then resumed on 4 September 1907. Present at this meeting were (Camperdown) Makwaba, Hlwatika, Mafihla, Mvutshana, Kambi and Hlomafuti (Umngeni Division) Sikunata, Maxoza, Daleni, Ndlovu,Ludaka, Sovovo, Mabele and Ngazana. SiKUNATA recommended that Ginqika the son of Mcophela be appointed as successor.All the headmen except the two supporters of Marwaqa voted for Ginqika's succession and that Sikunata be appointed as regent until Ginqika is a major[12]. It was following such meetings that Sikunata was appointed. At a meeting attended by a number of headmen Ginqika was appointed chief on 12 April 1918. Present were Ginqika, Kambi, Mvutshana, Maxoza Ngwaleni, Ndlovu Bhengu, Nombatshini, Ngqabula, Philemon, Mwenya Mntungwa and Lamusi Gubese. Ginqika rules until 06-02-1931 when he died. It is not clear what happened with his brother Magwija. After his death the government apparently ordered that the chieftainship of amaNcwabe be terminated and that the various divisions be merged with the adjacent chieftainships. This then marked the end of a chieftainship that had been in existence for over two hundred years.


  1. Oral interview Dr Mncwabe of Umlazi Durban. Interview undertaken in 2012.
  2. Interview of Aron Mncwabe in 2012 inDurban. Aron was born on 24 Dec 1912 and died in November 2012. Interview taken in August before he died.
  3. Interview of Citibhunga Nkushubane of Mount Frere and Josias Ngwaqa of Njijini Mount Frere
  4. see Mtshaulana website. Tree is accessible and has had contributions from many relatives from both KZN and Eastern Cape.
  5. There is a great deal of confusion over Deyi and Mbuzikazi. In the archives of Pietermaritzburg, there was a Mbuzikazi also from the Mncwabe clan who lived under chief Madulini along the Nkomazi river. His first born was Deyi. From the records and interviews it would seem he was born around 1810. Around 1897 his son Deyi brought an application in terms of the Natal Code for emancipation from his father. The grounds for the application was that the father had incurred so much debt that he was sent to goal for civil imprisonment. The son who wanted to separate his property from that of the father so as to avoid loosing it to the fathers creditors brought the application. The application was dismissed.
  6. see statement taken from Bavulana on 10 September 1907 by the magistrate Camperdown.
  7. statement by Headman Hlomafuti taken by magistrate Camperdown on 5 September 1907
  8. Hlomafuti statement taken on 4 September 1907
  9. statement made by Bavulana before the magistrate in 1905
  10. letter from under Secretary Native Affairs dated 27 June 1907 addressed to the Magistarte Camperdown.
  11. C514 dated 24 August 1907
  12. Maxoza who was supporting Marwaqa reported that in a meeting of their faction they decided that they support Marwaqa but they also knew that the government had already said that because of his previous conviction for stock theft he was diswualified. They therefore conditionally supported Ginqika and SIKUNATA as regent respectively.
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