The Bhaca people or amaBhaca are an ethnic group in South Africa, mainly found in the small towns of the former Transkei homeland, Mount Frere and Umzimkhulu, and surrounding areas (a region that the Bhaca people call kwaBhaca, or “place of the Bhaca”). Their language, isiBhaca, is Xhosa with strong Zulu and some Swati influences. The origin of their name is unclear.
The word ukubhaca in Nguni languages means to flee, and it is argued that their names stems from their flight during the Mfecane to present day KwaZulu-Natal. However, the word ukubhaca among the Bhaca people also refers to the ritual scarring of the face known as ukuchaza, a complex rite that is sometimes done for healing. Thus the Bhaca people could possibly have been named after this practice.
The Bhaca were led by king Madzikane into what is now Eastern Cape. Currently the Bhaca are mistakenly considered to be part of the Xhosa people who dominate the province, but their culture is still very distinct and their kingdom is independent. Madzikane was the founder and a King of the Bhaca people. His successor as king was Ncapayi.
The Kingdom of Bhacas is currently being revived by the great house of King Ncapayi, Inkosi Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko.
The Reign of King Ncapayi
King Ncapayi had many wives. The great and senior house gave birth to Diko and Sogoni, from the second wife (Indlu yekunene) was Makaula, the third wife (Iqadi lendlu enkulu) was Dabula and Mphongoma.
Ncapayi is said to have been a fearless freebooter, a diplomat of note who showed even more intelligence than his father.
According to Rev. Soga, during the same year in which Ncapayi’s father –Madzikane – was killed, Ncaphayi entered Tembuland to avenge his father’s death. The Thembus under King Ngubengcuka made an ineffectual stand and the Bhacas swept away a large number of cattle (Soga, p. 443)
Before King Madzikane died and because of the relationship he had with King Faku, he advised his son to temporarily be a tributary King in Pondoland. He indeed did that and Faku at this time welcomed the Bhacas as this also coincided with the arrival of Nqetho, a Chief of the Qwabes who had moved from Natal running away from King Tshaka’s army because he could not serve under King Dingane. When he entered Pondoland and tried to secure land by violence, Faku was anxious to rid him out and therefore secure assistance from Ncaphayi to eject Nqetho. AmaBhaca drove them away back into Natal and Dingane issued an instruction to kill Nqetho
The Thembus defeat by the Bhacas discussed above, also led to Faku making an arrangement with Ncapayi when Pondos wanted to attack the Thembus. They entered Thembuland on three successive occasions and each time their raid was a success. Ncapayi is said to have been a fearless freebooter that was respected by many nations
Soga asserts that cupidity is said to have been the force that brought Faku and Ncapayi to work together. It is also cupidity that is said to have destroyed their good working relationship. Because they were both strong, it became difficult to know which one more powerful that the other. The freebooter attacked Nyanda, the Right Hand section of the Phondos under Ndamase, the son of Faku. He raided Nyanda successfully. Meanwhile the alarm had been raised with Faku and therefore Faku assembled a powerful army and this came up with the Bhacas and attacked them on all sides.
Faku drove the Bhacas before him on the ridge kuNowalala. Ncaphayi was wounded and forced over the rock, falling on to a ledge some distance from the Bottom. He was in helpless condition with both arms broken, besides a severe assegai wound. He laid there for days, persuading those who came to look at him to put an end to his misery and kill him. No one could do this until Faku gave orders that he must be killed. Thus the death of Madzikane’s son, king Ncapayi in 1845.
Conflict with the Afrikaners and the British
In about 1837 Boers arrived in Natal with herds of cattle and the Bhacas saw an opportunity to attack and raid. Between 1837/39/40, the Boers are said to have been fighting in Natal when the Bhacas teamed up with the Bushmen and raided.
In about February 1838 the Boers settled in the upland of Natal and had successfully set the foundation upon which they could erect the Republic of Natalia, which after their victories over Dingane, they extended northward to uMfolozi and St. Lucia Bay (Blue Book on Native Affairs, 1885). The Boers had managed to get into arrangements with other kings and therefore did not consider them as potential enemies anymore. For an example they considered King Faku to be a friendly king and rated Ncapayi as having a powerful military and as being a threat.
When the Boers came back, they decided to attack the Bhacas (Bryant, p. 400) and raided 700 and 50 horses (Nchanga, 119). This is said to have provided the spark for the British intervention in the Bhaca land (At this time this land had become part of Natal). There is still an area near the town of Maclear which is still called Ncapayi land (Kapayi land – because they could not pronounce “Nca”).
The Reigns of Diko and Makaula
By 1845 the Bhacas had already been stripped of their Kingdom through Maitland Treaty. Ncapayi, the First Enemy in the Maitland Treaty died and was survived by his first son, Diko.
Inkosi Diko was considered a hero, a stubborn and a fearless leader of courage. He led the amaBhaca nation for 35 years from 1845 to 1880 after the death of his father iKumkani Ncapayi ka Madzikane. Inkosi Diko was the grand-son of King Madzikane ka Zulu.
iNkosi Diko was a fierce leader who fought against the annexation of the land by the British Colonial Government and he even resisted handing over amaBhaca nation to become British subjects. As a result of his resistance to the oppressive rule of the colonisers he never became the favourite of colonial government of his time. That government could not stand him and they decided to overthrow in 1880. The oppression of Diko’s house has been felt by all eight (8) generations, for a period of 130 years.
IYELENQE (A CONSPIRACY) THAT CAUSED DIKO (THE GREAT SON OF NCAPHAYI) TO LOOSE
According to the writings of Anderson Mhlawuli Makaula (1988), by virtue of birth and according to tradition, Diko was the heir to iKumkani Ncaphayi, but, because of some councillors of amaBhaca who liked Mamjucu, the mother of Makaula, she was fraudulently made a great wife, hence her son attained chieftainship. Makhohlisa (the mother of Diko and Sogoni) who was Ncaphayi’s wife of the great house (uNdlunkulu), was not loved by these councillors, hence they plotted against her.
It happened that Ncaphayi had killed a man in one of the Mfecane battles and according to amaBhaca tradition, iNkosi was not supposed to have any contact with his wives until he had undergone some medical treatment. A separate accommodation was to be provided for him. Ncaphayi was then placed in isolation for a stipulated period. It was further conspired by the councillors under Qulu Siwela that the wife who goes to cook for iNkosi Ncaphayi in isolation and conceives during that period would be the one who would give birth to the chief that would succeed Ncaphayi after his death.
The councillors first went to uNdlunkulu Makhohlisa, (Diko and Sogoni’s mother) and deceived her that she must not dare put her foot in the isolation place where Ncaphayi was sleeping, because this would weaken her sons and thus cause death by assegai among her children. This sounded reasonable to Makhohlisa. Thereafter the same councillors went to advised Mamjucu, (the second wife) to go and cook for iNkosi Ncaphayi in the isolation place. She acted as instructed and her son, Makaula was then made iNkosi of amaBhaca.
Ever-since then, because of this conspiracy, this trick and treachery, the Great House of Ncaphayi has suffered a great deal of disrespect, degradation and injustice throughout generations that followed.
After iNkosi Ncaphayi’s death Diko (his first and eldest son) led amaBhaca from 1845. iNkosi Diko was always in conflict with the British Government and he blatantly refused the annexation of the land of amaBhaca nation. When the British supremacy pervaded the Transkei territory during the 1860s, the government pioneered the annexation of the Transkeian territories. Amakhosi were to give up their power and paramouncy and become subjects of the British Colonial government. Magistrates were to take over the power from amaKhosi, especially those who refused submitting their nations to be under the British rule. iNkosi Diko was one of those traditional leaders who resisted and he was then overthrown as iNkosi, deposed and made headman by the colonial government in 1880.
Battles were fought throughout this period, for an example, a friend to iNkosi Diko was iNkosi Mhlontlo of amaMpondomise who is said to have killed a magistrate at Qumbu in resistance against such annexation. Other amaKhosi who accepted annexation were rewarded for their loyalty to the oppressive colonial government and eventually they were looked after and treated well by the colonial government.
The plan to destroy any trace of iNkosi Diko and his descendants has prevailed over generations after this great hero had died. Even today, Diko’s files, from iNkosi Diko himself, Qoza ka-Diko, Mthakathi ka-Qoza, Mabhijela ka-Mthakathi, Dingumhlaba ka-Mabhijela and Mzawugugi ka-Dingumhlaba (all the descendants of Diko) have been removed from the archives in Mthatha. The big question is: What happened to these files and where are they?
It is a known fact that iNkosi Diko’s Great Place of amaBhaca was forcibly removed by the oppressive government of that time. The town Mount Frere is built on the land that was once iKomkhulu (the Great Place) of iNkosi Diko (it was called eMbondzeni). The land claims process and the documents in possession of the Land Claims Commission confirm this. Even the grave of iNkosi Diko is said to have been in this area, some say it is where the current Standard Bank is and others say it is where Malinge Wholesalers is. What this means is that the descendants of iNkosi Ncaphayi’s Great House never had access to iNkosi Diko’s grave and his remains. Who was responsible for this? Will this chapter ever be closed? Was it because he refused giving the land to the oppressive government of that time?
INKOSI UMADZIKANE WESIBINI (ll) THANDISIZWE DIKO (Bayede Tholelengwe)
AmaBhaca are mainly found in the small towns such as Mount Frere, uMzimkhulu, Xopo and some surrounding areas. The isiBhaca language is a mixture of isiXhosa, isiZulu and isiSwati. The language of isiSwati was influenced by the fact that King Madzikane’s mother was from one of the Royal Houses of the Swatis of aMalambo. He grew up within the Swatis from his mother’s side and therefore spoke the language. Although he accepts that he is not an authority on this, Jordan, A.C. (1953) argues also assets that in the traditional history of the Bhacas, “uDlamini and kwaDlamini” figure a great deal (P.5). He further states that the Bhaca language was stifled to death chiefly by isiXhasa through, amongst others, schools and churches and that a large number of enlightened Bhacas were taught to look down upon their mother tongue.
Madzikane is still a much respected King in Mount Frere and anywhere else among the Bhaca people.
Diko is the first son of Ncapayi, (Makhohlisa a daughter of Dzanibe clan was the first wife of Ncapayi) with his younger brother Sogoni from the first wife of Ncaphayi. The younger brother from the second wife was Inkosi Makaula followed by Inkosi Dabula and others from other younger wives. Inkosi Madzikane ll Diko is the Crown Prince of iNkosi Dilizintaba, ka Dingumhlaba, ka Mabhijela i, ka kaMthakathi, kaQoza ka Diko ka Ncaphayi, ka Madzikane, ka Khalimeshe, ka Vebi, ka Wabane, ka Didi, ka Zulu, ka Ntombela, ka Malandela, ka Dlungwana, ka Ndaba.
INkosi Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko is currently the Head of the kwaBhaca/LuBhacweni Traditional Council at ELundzini Royal Kraal, Ncunteni Great Place, LuBhacweni A/A in Mount Frere, KwaBhaca.
AmaBhaca were therefore stripped off their dignity and their Kingdomship by the Colonial Powers, the Boers, the Griquas and later on, the apartheid systems did not make it any better. The home of the Bhacas is in Mount Frere, while other Bhacas who went back to KwaZulu are in Mzimkhulu and Ixopo under the Zulu Kingdom.