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Social sciences: history

Grade 7

The mfecane moves boundaries

Module 3

The basotho empire

Activity 1:

To be aware of the different opinions on moshweshwe and thaba bosiu

[lo 3.1]

What similarities and differences can you identify in the sketches and descriptions of Thaba Bosiu?

Why do narratives about the past often differ so much?


During the Mfecane, different Nguni chiefs cooperated with Shaka, and thereafter quarrelled with him for different reasons. They then had to flee from him to avoid his revenge. Mzilikazi was such a chief.

Little is known about Mzilikazi’s early history (his name means “elephant bull”). The information which we have was obtained from oral sources. He was a Zulu and was born in approximately 1795. After Zwide’s defeat by Shaka, Mzilikazi became a regimental commander in Shaka’s army. In 1822, however, he had to flee across the Drakensberg with approximately 300 soldiers, women and children after he had kept back some of Shaka’s captured livestock after a battle. After a long trek, during which he attacked other groups in order to obtain food, he settled in Mpumalanga (near the present Groblersdal) and built a kraal, called Mosega. He further strengthened his tribe by conquering and assimilating smaller tribes west of the Drakensberg.

Between 1823 and 1827, Mzilikazi’s people carried out many attacks. By 1829, Mzilikazi’s empire consisted of approximately 80 000 people. The Rolong and Taung lived in constant fear. After Dingane had unsuccessfully attacked Mosega in 1832, Mzilikasi moved his capital northwards to Kapain. From there, he attacked and conquered surrounding communities.

Activity 2:

To distinguish between facts and opinions on mzilikazi and the ndbele empire

[lo 3.2]

Organise a discussion on the TV programme Agenda with five friends. Invite John Barow, Reverend Pellisier, Robert Moffat, the French Missionary, Lemue, Captain Smith, as well as Bain, to the studio. Obtain as much information as possible about the Ndebele empire!

The reading matter below and on the next page should supply the necessary information.

Activity 3:

To understand chronology and time in the empire

[lo 2.1]

Arrange the following events in the correct chronological order:

The Ndebele settled at the Marico River (Mosega).
Mzilikazi became one of Shaka’s best commanders.
Mzilikazi refused to hand over all of Shaka’s livestock.
After the big battle, Mzilikazi took back much livestock.
Mzilikazi and his followers fled across the Drakensberg.

Activity 4:

To distinguish between different periods

[lo 2.3]

meaning of the MFECANE

We shall probably never know all the reasons for, full extent and results of the Mfecane – especially due to a lack of satisfactory, reliable evidence. It is, however, clear that our country has enough space for its entire people with all their diverse lifestyles!

(a) Imagine you are going to have a class party and that you are going to invite people from the time of the Mfecane and today. Whom would you like to meet?

Prepare your introduction and welcome of these persons. Your class friends are welcome to ask you questions.


LEARNING OUTCOME 2: HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING – The learner will be able to demonstrate historical knowledge and understanding
2.1 Understand chronology and time
2.2 Supply reasons why an historical event took place (causes, effects)
2.3 Differentiate between different periods (similarities, differences)
LEARNING OUTCOME 3: INTERPRETING HISTORY – The learner will be able to interpret aspects of history
3.1 Be aware of more than one view of the past
3.2 Distinguish between fact and opinion
3.3 Reconstruct the past



(b) Flat mountain or a flat hill in the mountain?

The sources depict only the different sides of Thaba Bosiu.

People can overlook something if they do not have the necessary facts, or see things that do not exist. Each party involved in an event, has an own view of what happened.



  • Mzilikazi is Shaka’s best commander
  • Mzilikazi steals Shaka’s cattle
  • Mzilikazi refuses to return the cattle
  • Mzilikazi flees
  • Mzilikazi establishes his followers at Mosega

(b) Zulu, Ndebele, San

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Source:  OpenStax, History grade 7. OpenStax CNX. Sep 09, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11023/1.1
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