South Africa’s current president Cyril Ramaphosa is from the Venda ethnic group, underlying a shift, given their modest numbers as most political functionaries at the elite level have been supplied from the Xhosa and Zulu ethnic groups, who together make up a third of South Africa’s 55 million people.
The four major ethnic divisions among Black South Africans are the Nguni, Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga and Venda. The Nguni representing nearly two thirds of South Africa’s Black population divided into four distinct groups; the Northern and Central Nguni (the Zulu-speaking peoples), the Southern Nguni (the Xhosa-speaking peoples), the Swazi people from Swaziland and adjacent areas and the Ndebele people of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. Archaeological evidence shows that the Bantu-speaking groups that were the ancestors of the Nguni migrated down from East Africa as early as the eleventh century.
The Xhosa are the second largest cultural group in South Africa, after the Zulu-speaking nation. The Xhosa, also often called the “Red Blanket People”. The name Xhosa is a generalised term for a diversity of proud clans, the Pondo, Bomvana, Thembu and the Xhosa tribe itself.
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The Xhosa live mainly in the Eastern Cape Province (the former Ciskei and Transkei). The Kei (Great) River marks the boundary of what was once the southern border of the former Transkei. The Mtamvuna River, also called “the reaper of mouthfuls”, (when it overflowed its banks), marks the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. South of this river lie the beautiful, rolling grass-covered downlands of the Eastern Cape.
It is from this stock that notable figures emerged in the fight for liberation against the repressive Apartheid regime while others led the country birth and sustain its democracy.
Face2face Africa takes a look at four of such political figures.