Ndebele - Sociopolitical Organization
Social Organization. In precolonial times, Ndebele clan organization seemed to have been hierarchical in terms of duration of alliance to the ruling clans, Mahlangu for Ndzundza and Mabhena for the Manala. This pattern pervaded the entire political system.
Political Organization. Tribal political power is in the hands of the ruling clan and royal lineage, Mgwezane Mahlangu (among the Ndzundza) and Somlokothwa Mabhena (among the Manala). In the case of the Ndzundza, the paramount (called Ingewenyama), the royal family, and the tribal council ( ibandla ) together make political decisions to be implemented by regional headmen ( amaduna or amakosana ) over a wide area, including the former KwaNdebele, rural areas outside KwaNdebele, and urban (township) areas. The headmen system includes more than one hundred such men of whom the greater portion are amakosana, or men of royal (clan) origin. Certain of these headmen were elevated to the status of subchiefs ( amakosi ).
There is currently a national political debate as to whether headmen, chiefs, paramounts, and kings like these will in future be stipended by local or central government.
Social Control. Traditionally, criminal and civil jurisdiction were vested in the tribal court. The latter still presides over regional disputes (i.e., those relating to land, cattle and grazing, and bride-wealth). All other disputes are forwarded to local magistrates in three districts in the former KwaNdebele.
Conflict. Except for the 1800s, the Ndebele as a political entity were not involved in any major regional conflicts, especially after 1883, when they lost their independence and had their land expropriated. Almost a century later, in 1986, they experienced violent internal (regional) conflict when a minority vigilante movement called Imbokodo (Grinding Stone) took over the local police and security system and terrorized the entire former homeland. In a surprising move, the whole population called on the royal house of Paramount Mabhoko for moral support, and, within weeks, the youth rid the area of that infamous organization. Royal leaders emerged as local heroes of the struggle.