Mntambo Clan Names History and Origin

Mntambo is a name widely used among Xhosa people and many studies have focused on their culture, identity and origins – however comparatively little research has been undertaken into their toponymy.

This article seeks to examine selected Xhosa toponyms from Mbembesi area of Matabeleland. These toponyms often derive from clans who established communities there.

Mntambo Clan Names

  1. Mntambo
  2. Gama
  3. Phungashe
  4. Shodo
  5. Mbili
  6. Mtimande
  7. Mgabhi
  8. Ntshangase
  9. Xaba
  10. Mabona


Named by its traditional leader and brought with them when migrating to Mbembesi, this village received its current name due to being given it by Chief; therefore this may have been used discriminatorily and segregatorily by his clan in terms of settlement priority in this area.

KoMkhulu Village takes its name from the fact that newcomers to the village built homes that differed significantly from those built by existing KoMkhulu residents and thus earned them the moniker “new houses”. Furthermore, this name may represent Xhosa social structures where communities consist of disparate but related groups; toponyms thus become symbols of culture and heritage for Xhosa society.

The Mntambo clans were the largest nation of amaHlubi and wielded significant influence, evidenced by how they treated their neighbors, particularly amaZulu at this time. AmaHlubi kings frequently donned amaZulu cloaks for ceremonial occasions and by their cordial relationship with amaZulu during this period. Additionally, they were known for their skill at medicine and rainmaking that was passed down from their Inyanga Bhungane II who taught them these abilities that helped combat Zulu kings during their reign of dominance over their realm.


Emandluntsha is a village located near Mbembesi in Mbembesi district. The Hlubi clan from Xhosa people is thought to be among the first groups to settle here; other clans may have also since moved in since then.

There is no clear timeline as to when or why a village was given its current name; however, several theories exist as to why its inhabitants chose such an obscure name as Ndzimende Village. One possibility suggests that its name translates into English as ‘hilly area”, giving an explanation for why so many hills exist nearby. Another theory suggests it might have been named in honour of Chief Ndzimende at that time who led their tribe.

The village may have taken its name from either its proximity to Mbembesi river, or it could have been given by an individual of its community. Whatever its source was, today this lovely community makes up part of South African heritage and deserves a visit.

Historical records can provide invaluable insight into your family tree. They can give details about where and what people from your past lived and did for a living – as well as where and when birth certificates, death records, immigration data etc can be found in libraries and archives worldwide.


Toponyms are names used to denote specific places and often feature prefixes and suffixes that specify its meaning, such as clan or place names. Toponyms provide Africans with vital insight into a community’s history and culture – particularly within Xhosa culture. Recognizing their value is essential.

Research conducted on these village names has unearthed considerable debate regarding their meaning and source. While some respondents claimed the names were chosen by their forefathers, others asserted they came from the environment surrounding each place.


Research revealed that this village is home to people of the Ndondo and Msoka clans from Hlubi and Ndanga sub-clans respectively, who settled here after leaving another area nearby known as Emandluntsha – moving here instead.

The village’s name, in Xhosa, translates to “at Msoka’s place.” According to one respondent, its origin lies in its dense tree cover which made walking through difficult. Additionally, one respondent mentioned they brought this name with them when migrating from Eastern Cape.


EmaZizini, which translates to ‘the place of the Zizi clan’, derives its name from this clan’s totem and was given as an epithet when they settled there in significant numbers. Other clans that resided here included Nkwali Maduna and Ndlangisa totems.

Mbembesi toponyms can be classified as commemorative, reflecting historical cultural facts to which communities subscribed and their political organization, which consisted of a pyramid with disparate groups related through male kinship forming its base and an authority figure presiding at its peak.

Interviewees generally agreed that village names were chosen by village heads with potential input from local leaders; others claimed these choices were made because of familiarity among clan members living nearby.

One interviewee expressed their view that King Zwelithini has taken up the bad habits of former Zulu leaders like Dingane and Mpande in regard to amaHlubi, and this poses a threat to unity of Zulu kingdom. This view, however, does not accord with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who acknowledges and values amaHlubi ties as part of Zulu nationhood.

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