Ngobese Clan Sites rediscovered

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A ZULU clan have discovered the caves in which their ancestors lived more than 200 years ago and plan to develop the locality into a tourist attraction. The Ngobese people have formed a committee – Sikhulisa Udela – which aims to raise funds to put in tourism infrastructure and make the site more easily accessible to visitors.


The caves are at Thaba Ntuzuma, a remote and rugged locality about 20 km from Ulundi, on the periphery of the eMakhosini/Ophate Heritage Park, which is being developed into a tourism node.


Several hundred Ngobese ancestors are believed to have lived in the caves, which are on both sides of a steep gorge, the settlement begun by a distant ancestor known as Ntinda eNtuzuma. They kept cattle and grew crops but lived in the caves because they were impregnable to attack. The Ngobeses were also renowned brewers of beer.


Legend has it that Senzakakhona, father of Shaka Zulu, lured the Ngobeses from their caves some time in the 18th century by roasting an ox outside. Unable to resist the smell of the roasting meat, the Ngobeses came out to feast and were seized by Senzakakhona’s men and told that in future they would have to live out in the open and share their brewing skills with the rest of the nation. They were resettled at Nquthu (near Isandlwana), where the traditional leadership is located to this day.


The legend was passed down over the generations and in 1999 a group of Ngobeses decided to investigate. They found some of the caves (which are on cliff faces and hidden in thick bush) and once a year members of the clan gather there to honour their ancestors. Sikhulisa Udela now plans to make the site more easily accessible and to put in infrastructure such as an information centre. Amafa/Heritage KZN is exploring fund-raising options to finance the scheme.


For their efforts the Ngobeses recently received a Heritage Award from Amafa/Heritage KZN.