Where do Xhosa people come from?

The Xhosa people are divided into several tribes with related yet distinct heritages. The main tribes are the AmaGcaleka, AmaRharhabe, ImiDange, ImiDushane, and AmaNdlambe.

In addition, there are other tribes found near or amongst the Xhosa people such as AbaThembu, AmaBhaca, AbakoBhosha and AmaQwathi that are distinct and separate tribes which have adopted the Xhosa language and the Xhosa way of life.

The name “Xhosa” comes from that of a legendary leader and King called uXhosa. There is also a fringe theory that, in fact the King’s name which has since been lost amongst the people was not Xhosa, but that “xhosa” was a name given to him by the San and which means “fierce” or “angry” in Khoisan languages. The Xhosa people refer to themselves as the AmaXhosa, and to their language as isiXhosa.

Presently approximately 8 million Xhosa are distributed across the country, and the Xhosa language is South Africa’s second-most-populous home language, after the Zulu language, to which Xhosa is closely related.

The pre-1994 apartheid system of Bantustans denied Xhosas South African citizenship, but enabled them to have self-governing “homelands” namely; Transkei and Ciskei, now both a part of the Eastern Cape Province where most Xhosa remain. Many Xhosa live in Cape Town (eKapa in Xhosa), East London (eMonti), and Port Elizabeth (eBhayi).

As of 2003 the majority of Xhosa speakers, approximately 5.3 million, lived in the Eastern Cape, followed by the Western Cape (approximately 1 million), Gauteng (671,045), the Free State (246,192), KwaZulu-Natal (219,826), North West (214,461), Mpumalanga (46,553), the Northern Cape (51,228), and Limpopo

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