Our Story

A series collects and retells the story of the ancestors of all South Africans.

Ancestral Voices

A recently discovered collection of writing of South African culture and history.



Shoshangana was one of two vassal chiefs under Zwide Ka Langa who fled in the aftermath of the Battle of Mhlatuze River. This book tells his story and the emergence of the AmaShangaan/Vatsonga nation.



In this book, one of Zwide’s generals, Shoshangana refused to pledge allegiance to Shaka after the defeat of the Ndwandwe at the Battle of Mhlatuze River . Forced to flee, Shoshangana encountered both allies and enemies as a new AmaShangaan/Tsonga nation emerged under him.

As time passed, Shoshangana and his followers became less afraid of being attacked by the Zulu. In 1833, Shoshangana returned to the south. He built his capital in the Limpopo valley, and named it Chaimithi. He left his son, Muzila , in charge of the area north of the Zambezi River. As usual, he forced the conquered people to pay tribute to him. He also invaded many Portuguese settlements at Nyembani or Inhambane, Delagoa Bay and Sena. During that period, Shoshangana and his Gaza-Nguni caused the Portuguese to experience great losses.

Shoshangana attacked the Portuguese many times.

The Portuguese were very unhappy about Shoshangana’s attacks. On 10 October 1834, the Portuguese attacked Shoshangana at Nyembani. The Portuguese had the support of the local Xitsonga-speaking communities. The Portuguese captain, Diompio Reberio, and all except ten of his men were killed in the battle. In October 1836, Shoshangana attacked again. This time he wiped out almost the entire garrison of Sofala. Because of this vicious attack, the Portuguese were forced to abandon their trading posts, which had been there for about fifty years. The Portuguese settlers of Sena and Tete also suffered from repeated attacks. They were eventually forced to buy peace by presenting Shoshangana with presents every year.

In southern Mozambique, the Portuguese were not successful at resisting Shoshangana. Eventually, they submitted to his control. The Portuguese settlers did not make any serious attempt to stop Shoshangana from extending his control over the whole territory south of the Zambezi River. Instead, they paid tribute to him. In spite of these attacks on the Portuguese settlers, Shoshangana had not planned to drive them into the sea. He only tried to bring them under his control and get tribute from them. What he wanted from them was a supply of valuable commodities that the Portuguese possessed.

Let’s go back a bit in our story to Shoshangana’s return from Musapa to Bileni. On his way back, Shoshangana brought along with him a number of different groups and communities. These groups included the Ndau, Makonde, Makua, Vatonondo and Shona. Nguni invaders usually brought captured communities back with them after a war. Some of these communities eventually became part of the different Vatsonga or Machangana communities. Most of them lost their spoken language and began to speak Xitsonga. Remember that this is what also happened to the Gaza-Nguni. This explains why there are Sitholes amongst the Vatsonga and Machangana communities in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The Sitholes originally come from the Ndau people. Can you see, my family, how your name is a part of your story? It can tell people where your ancestors come from.

When Shoshangana came back to Bileni, he once again attacked the Khosa in the Nkomati valley. He showed them no mercy.

Do you remember, children, how afraid Shoshangana was of Shaka’s Zulu army when he left for the north? Very good! I see that you are paying attention. Do you also remember that he wanted the Khosa and the Vankuna people to help him travel safely, but they refused? Well, Shoshangana also remembered this. It had made him very angry. When he came back to Bileni, he once again attacked the Khosa in the Nkomati valley, where they had settled. He showed them no mercy. He gave this territory that he took from the Khosa to the Ndimande people. He did this to thank the Ndimande for going with him and supporting him on his flight to Musapa.

As I told you, the Vankuna had also refused to help Shoshangana on his flight to the north. When they heard that he was returning, they left the area in a hurry. Under their leader, Hosi Shiluvane, they went to the Transvaal. Tomorrow, I will show you young ones on a map where the Transvaal is. It is the name of one of the provinces in the old South Africa. In the new South Africa, the Transvaal was divided up into many different provinces, such as Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. But, let’s get back to the Vancuna. They were one of the first communities to flee from Shoshangana in defiance of his rule. They settled at Bokgaga during the reign of Queen Maale of a branch of the Basotho. Today, they occupy their own area near Tzaneen. The area is known as eka Nkuna. Their present traditional leader is Muhlava II.

The Valoyi celebrated as Shoshangana fled further north with his followers.

Let me also remind you about the Valoyi who refused to go with Shoshangana to the north, and fought the Gaza-Nguni king’s army bravely. Remember that the fight was interrupted by the news that the mighty Zulu army was coming. After the attack on the Khosa, Shoshangana did not forget the disrespectful way in which the Valoyi had treated him. Can you remember what the Valoyi were telling everyone when Shoshangana did not defeat them at the battle of Xihaheni? That’s right! They told everyone that they were the only people who had chased Shoshangana away.

Additional information

Dimensions215 × 234 mm