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Swaziland: Ngwane and KaNgwane

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by bruce berry
Keywords: swaziland | ngwane | kangwane |
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[Swaziland] [Variant] 2:3~ Flag adopted: 6 October 1968 See also:

Ngwane and KaNgwane

Swaziland was for some time also known as Ngwane, but an official name change was never carried through.
It was assumed that the three British protectorates of Bechuanaland, Basutoland, and Swaziland would change their names when independence was granted but the Swazi, apparently, were happy with their name.
By the way, there was a South African "homeland" called KaNgwane (where Swazi's also live).
Harald Müller, 20 Mar 1997

I think that 'Ngwane' is the SiSwati for Swaziland - wasn't the Swazi Bantustan under apartheid called 'KaNgwane'?
Antonio Martins, 20 Mar 1997

Correct - the KaNgwane homeland was for the "Swazis" living in South Africa.
This was the only homeland NOT to have adopted its own flag during the apartheid era and only flew the South African flag.
KaNgwane has been re-incorporated into South Africa and is part of the new Mpumalanga province and is an area which is adjacent to the Swaziland border.
Bruce Berry, 20 March 1997

Your commentary on Swaziland talks about the history of the name Ngwana, and the possible name change after independence.  The name Swazi is a corruption of the name of the first king, Mswati I, who brought a number of tribes together under his rule.  The current monarch is Mswati III. The name is used as a description of 'people of Mswati'.
Pekka Pihlajasaari, 24 Mar 1999

In the time of the Zulu wars Sobhuza, chief of the Ndwandwe tribe, led his people in the mountains around 1818, where he resisted the attacks of Dingan. Sobhuza died in 1839 and left his son Mswazi a state. He was also a great leader (and cattle-thief) and after his death the English recognized his state and gave it the name Swaziland.
(Source: Fischer Weltgeschichte, Afrika, p. 173)
There are different spellings of Mswazi - Mswathi - Mswati. But AFAIK the 'corruption of the name' is of English origin.
Jarig Bakker, 24 Mar 1999

From the 1840s onwards, foreign settlers secured many valuable commercial and agricultural concessions while the British, and the then Transvaal, governments demarcated Swaziland territory between them. Swaziland became a protectorate when British colonial rule was established in 1903.
The Swazi Nation took it's name EmaSwati from Mswati II who was proclaimed king in 1840. A proud, courteous and peace-loving people, they are descendants of the Nguni-Dlamini group which migrated from central Africa several years ago (and which branched off from nomadic bushmen of the Sotho and Ntungwa-Nguni clans).
Dov Gutterman, 24 Mar 1999

On your Swaziland page I note some agitated discussion about the name Swazi/Mswazi/Mswati.
Aside from "corruption" there is another reason for the variations in the name:
When the Swazi kingdom was first established it involved the emigration of a number of Nguni from the region which was later formally annexed by Britain as Zululand. At their head was the chief of the Dlamini clan, and most of his followers in this emigration were also amaDlamini. However, when they arrived in the hill country the kingdom was established by means of conquering the inhabitants, many of whom were Basotho.
The chief linguistic difference between the abeNguni and the Basotho (both Bantu-speaking groups which actually have a lot in common) is that the Nguni have click sounds in their language (derived from the Bushmen and Khoikhoi ["Hottentots"]) and they use the sound Z (as in amaZulu), while the Sotho of this region and of most of the former Transvaal completely lack the ability to make click sounds or the sound Z, a characteristic they have in common with the Tswana (or West Sotho).
(The Basotho of the Free State and Lesotho [South Sotho, or Basotho ba Borwa] do incorporate click sounds into their language; this results from intermarriage with Bushmen and Khoikhoi. They do not use the sound Z, however.)
The Sotho of the Dlamini kingdom were forced to speak isiNguni, but did so in a characteristically Sotho manner, dropping the clicks and the Z. The result is that while the Dlamini aristocracy of Swaziland speak a relatively pure isiNguni, called isiSwazi, the common folk in the Sotho clans speak a variety that they know as Seswati.
In the North Sotho language (Sesotho ba Leboa, or Sepedi), the amaZulu are called Batulu, and the amaXhosa are known as Bathosa (the TH combination in both Sotho and Nguni is a T with aspiration, not TH as in thing).
Getting back to the name Mswazi: the letter M is a prefix. The name of the language (isiSwazi or Seswati) involves the use of a different prefix, so the M is dropped.
The Nguni prefix isi- and the Sotho prefix se- have a very similar pronunciation. The Sotho languages use the letter E for a short EE sound, and I for an Í sound, whereas in isiNguni the E represents an Ê sound.
Incidentally, other Dlamini groups exist in South Africa. A large part of the original clan settled in the Xhosa country of Transkei and Ciskei as amaMfengu, or Fingo.
Mike Oettle, 8 Dec 2001

Ngwane was the name of the first Dlamini to make himself king in what we now call Swaziland. For this reason his realm was known informally as ka-Ngwane (the land of Ngwane). Although the name of Mswazi was more firmly identified with the state, especially after the creation of the Anglo-Transvaal protectorate (spelled as Swazieland on the overprinted ZAR stamps used there), Ngwane was still revered as the founding king. For this reason there was a movement, following independence, to call the state KaNgwane. However, the use of that name for the South African Bantustan state meant that the name became politically suspect, and the colonial name was retained instead.
Mike Oettle, 14 Dec 2001