Precolonial Ndebele homesteads ( imizi ) were organized along three-generational patrilinear agnatic lines. It seems that these might have extended into large localized lineages ( iikoro ) under the social and ritual leadership of the senior male member. During and after the indentured period, the three-generational homestead remained popular despite restrictions in size and number imposed by White landlords. The homestead consists of a number of houses ( izindlu ) representing various households and centered around a cattle enclosure ( isibaya ). Other structures in the homestead include the boys' hut ( ilawu ), various smaller huts for girls behind each house ( indlu ), and granaries. Each house complex was separated from the other by an enclosure called the isirhodlo. This enclosure was subdivided along gender lines into a men's section in the front and a domestic (cooking) area ( isibuya ) at the back.
Precolonial Ndebele structures were of the thatched beehive-dome type. Since the late 1800s, Ndebele have adopted a cone-on-cylinder type, consisting of mud walls and a thatched roof, while simultaneously reverting to a linear outlay, replacing the circular-center cattle pattern. In the current rural settlement pattern, the nuclear-family single house built on a square stand predominates, occasionally with provision for two or more extra buildings. A wide range of modern building material and designs have been introduced, including modern services and infrastructure.