Southern Ndebele language

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Transvaal Ndebele
Native to South Africa
Region Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, North West
Native speakers
1.1 million (2011 census)[1]
1.4 million L2 speakers (2002)[2]
Latin (Ndebele alphabet)
Ndebele Braille
Signed Ndebele
Official status
Official language in
South Africa
Language codes
ISO 639-1 nr
ISO 639-2 nbl
ISO 639-3 nbl
Glottolog sout2808[3]
Linguasphere 99-AUT-fi + 99-AUT-fj
File:South Africa Ndebele speakers proportion map.svg
Geographical distribution of isiNdebele in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks isiNdebele at home.
File:South Africa Ndebele speakers density map.svg
Geographical distribution of isiNdebele in South Africa: density of isiNdebele home-language speakers.
Bilingual sign in Afrikaans and Transvaal Ndebele at the Pretoria Art Museum

The Transvaal Ndebele language (Southern Ndebele, isiNdebele or Nrebele) is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, and spoken by the amaNdebele (the Ndebele people of South Africa).

There is also another, separate language called Zimbabwean Ndebele or Matabele spoken in Zimbabwe. The "Ndebele of Zimbabwe is closer to" Zulu than other Nguni dialects.[5]


The Ndebele people’s history has been traced back to King Ndebele, King Ndebele fathered King Mkhalangana, King Mkhalangana fathered King Mntungwa (not to be confused with the Khumalo Mntungwa, because he was fathered by Mbulazi), King Mntungwa fathered King Jonono, King Jonono fathered King Nanasi, King Nanasi fathered King Mafana, king Mafana fathered King Mhlanga and Chief Libhoko, King Mhlanga fathered King Musi and Chief Skhube.

Ndebele- Some of his sons were left behind with the Hlubi tribe Mkhalangana - Some of his sons branched and formed the Kalanga tribe Mntungwa - Founder of the amaNtungwa clan Njonono - He died in Jononoskop near Ladysmith – Surname Jonono is in the Hlubi tribe Nanasi - He died in Jononoskop near Ladysmith – Surname Nanasi is in the Hlubi tribe Mafana - He died in Randfontein (Emhlangeni) Mhlanga - He died in Randfontein (Emhlangeni) Musi - He died in kwaMnyamana (Pretoria)

King Musi’s kraal was based at eMhlangeni a place named after his father Mhlanga, the name of the place is currently known as Randfontein (Mohlakeng) and later moved to KwaMnyamana which is now called Emarula or Bon Accord in Pretoria. King Musi was a polygamist and fathered the following sons, Skhosana (Masombuka), Manala (Mbuduma), Ndzundza (Hlungwana), Thombeni (Kekana or Gegana), Sibasa, Mhwaduba (Lekhuleni) and Mphafuli and others.


Ndebele is one of the eleven official languages in the Republic of South Africa. The language is a Nguni or Zunda classification (UN) spoken mostly in the Mpumalanga Province, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Northwest.

The expression "isikhethu" can be loosely translated to mean 'the Ndebele way of doing or saying'. Isikhethu means Ndebele the same way that sikitsi will mean Swazi and se harona will mean Sotho. The language has been severely marginalized over the years. Until the formation of the apartheid Ndebele homeland (KwaNdebele), speaking the language publicly was discouraged. Most Ndebele speakers preferred Zulu especially because the latter was learned at school. Today the Ndebele speakers, mostly those who are educated still prefer to use Ndebele as home language for their children and will use Ndebele as a language to communicate with other Ndebele speakers.


Months in Ndebele

English Northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe) Southern Ndebele (South Africa)
January uZibandlela uTjhirhweni
February uNhlolanja uMhlolanja
March uMbimbitho uNtaka
April uMabasa uSihlabantakana
May uNkwekwezi uMrhayili
June uNhlangula uMgwengweni
July uNtulikazi uVelabahlinze
August uNcwabakazi uRhoboyi
September uMpandula uKhukhulamungu
October uMfumfu uSewula
November uLwezi uSinyikhaba
December uMpalakazi uNobayeni

AmaNdebele In Zimbabwe

The two Ndebele groups are both part of the Nguni language group and are therefore mutually intelligible to some extent. However, the Zimbabwean Ndebele is part of the Zunda sub-group of the Nguni languages (which includes Xhosa and Zulu) while the South African (or Transvaal Ndebele), while maintaining its Nguni roots, has been influenced by the Sotho languages.[6]


  1. Transvaal Ndebele at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Webb, Vic. 2002. "Language in South Africa: the role of language in national transformation, reconstruction and development." Impact: Studies in language and society, 14:78
  3. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "South Ndebele". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. Skhosana, Philemon. "The (ama)Ndebele of Africa and their name '(ama)Ndebele'". University of Pretoria - Department of Library Services. University of Pretoria. Retrieved 24 March 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Skhosana, P.B. (2010) The Linguistic Relationship between Southern and Northern Ndebele, University of Pretoria, DLitt Thesis

External links