KwaMsiza - A Ndebele village

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KwaMsiza is a village of 49 families located some 50km north of Pretoria. Its residents are Ndzundza Ndebele, and belong to three major family groups: the Msiza, the Bhuda, and the Skosana. They originally lived on the farm Hartbeesfontein, at Wonderboompoort, but when this land was expropriated to make way for an airport in 1953, they were relocated to the District of Odi, where they reside to the present day. The village exhibits a number of interesting features, including a number of dwellings built in the historical verandah style, probably derived from the baPedi, as well as a great number of walls painted in a polychromatic manner. The village is also well-known for the excellent beadwork artifacts made by its women.

The history of KwaMsiza has its roots in the ZAR-Ndzundza War of 1882, when a commando of some 2000 Boers attacked the Ndebele capital of Namashaxelo. As a result of this war, the Ndzundza were dispossessed of their ancestral lands in the Middelburg-Grobblersdal district, and their king, Nyabele, was eventually banished to the farm Hartbeesfontein, just north of Pretoria. There he was joined by members of his family, as well as a retinue of followers, among whom were numbered the Msiza, a family who traditionally held the position of "shield-bearers to the king". After Nyabele's death in 1903, his family moved away, leaving behind one of their daughters, Nomatombeni Dina Mahlangu who had in the meantime married Kgalabi Msiza. The family remained at Hartbeesfontein until 1953, when they were forced to move to KwaMsiza. Although the origins of Ndebele wall decoration are still uncertain, there is good reason to believe that the practice may have been started by the Msiza when they were still living at Hartbeespoort. Today the practice has become widespread, and the use of Ndebele-style decoration has become a matter of national pride, influencing such diverse areas of design as women's fashions, stamps, advertising, and the livery of our national airlines.

Unfortunately the history of the Msiza at Odi has been one of conflict and hardship. Over the years its residents have had to deal not only with the oppression of the Apartheid government in Pretoria and that of its surrogate in Bophuhatswana, but also with constant economic hardship, and the breakdown of many of their traditional social values. Today the family is finally emerging from the hardships of the last 140 years, and through its own industry and creativity, is beginning to play an important role in the affairs of their region.

Last updated : 23-Jul-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Apr-2011