Southern Ndebele language

Southern Ndebele (English: /ɛndəˈbiːliː/), also known as Transvaal Ndebele[1] or South Ndebele,[5][6] is an African language belonging to the eMbo group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Ndebele people of South Africa.

There is also a different language called Northern Ndebele, or isiNdebele, Matabele, or simply Ndebele, spoken in Zimbabwe, which is closer to Zulu than other eMbo dialects.[7]

Southern Ndebele
Transvaal Ndebele
isiNdebele seSewula
Native toSouth Africa
RegionMpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, North West
Native speakers
1.1 million (2011 census)[1]
1.4 million L2 speakers (2002)[2]
Latin (Ndebele alphabet)
Ndebele Braille
Signed Ndebele
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
Language codes
ISO 639-1nr – South Ndebele
ISO 639-2nbl – South Ndebele
ISO 639-3nbl – South Ndebele
Linguasphere99-AUT-fi + 99-AUT-fj
South Africa 2011 Ndebele speakers proportion map
Geographical distribution of isiNdebele in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks isiNdebele at home.
South Africa 2011 Ndebele speakers density map
Geographical distribution of isiNdebele in South Africa: density of isiNdebele home-language speakers.
Pretoriase kunsmuseum 1
Bilingual sign in Afrikaans and Transvaal Ndebele at the Pretoria Art Museum


The Southern Transvaal Ndebele people's history has been traced back to King Ndebele, King Ndebele fathered King Mkhalangana, King Mkhalangana fathered King Mntungwa (not to be confused with the Khumalo Mntungwa, because he was fathered by Mbulazi), King Mntungwa fathered King Jonono, King Jonono fathered King Nanasi, King Nanasi fathered King Mafana, king Mafana fathered King Mhlanga and Chief Libhoko, King Mhlanga fathered King Musi and Chief Skhube .

Ndebele – Some of his sons were left behind with the Hlubi tribe
Mkhalangana – Some of his sons branched north and formed the Kalanga tribe
Mntungwa – Founder of the amaNtungwa clan
Njonono – He died in Jononoskop near Ladysmith – Surname Jonono is in the Hlubi tribe
Nanasi – He died in Jononoskop near Ladysmith – Surname Nanasi is in the Hlubi tribe
Mafana – He died in Randfontein (Emhlangeni)
Mhlanga – He died in Randfontein (Emhlangeni)
Musi – He died in kwaMnyamana (Pretoria)

King Musi's kraal was based at eMhlangeni a place named after his father Mhlanga, the name of the place is currently known as Randfontein (Mohlakeng) and later moved to KwaMnyamana which is now called Emarula or Bon Accord in Pretoria. King Musi was a polygamist and fathered the following sons, Skhosana (Masombuka), Manala (Mbuduma), Ndzundza (Hlungwana), Thombeni (Kekana or Gegana), Sibasa, Mhwaduba (Lekhuleni) and Mphafuli and others.

Southern Transvaal Ndebele is one of the eleven official languages in the Republic of South Africa. The language is an eMbo or Zunda classification (UN) spoken mostly in the Mpumalanga Province, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Northwest.

The expression "isikhethu" can be loosely translated to mean 'the Southern Ndebele way of doing or saying'. Isikhethu means Southern Ndebele the same way that sikitsi will mean Swazi and se harona will mean Sotho. The language has been severely marginalised over the years. Until the formation of the apartheid Southern Ndebele homeland (KwaNdebele), speaking the language publicly was discouraged. Most Southern Transvaal Ndebele speakers preferred Zulu especially because the latter was learned at school. Today the Southern Ndebele speakers, mostly those who are educated still prefer to use Southern Ndebele as home language for their children and will use Southern Ndebele as a language to communicate with other Southern Ndebele speakers.



Southern Ndebele vowels
Front Back
Close i [i] u [u]
Mid e [e~ɛ] o [o~ɔ]
Open a [a]


Southern Ndebele consonants
Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive ejective p [pʼ] t [tʼ] k [kʼ]
aspirated ph [pʰ] th [tʰ] kh [kʰ]
devoiced bh [b̥] d [d̥] ɡ [ɡ̊]
prenasal mp [ᵐp] nt [ⁿt] nk [ᵑkʼ]
prenasal (vd.) mb [ᵐb] nd [ⁿd] ng [ᵑɡ]
implosive b [ɓ]
Fricative plain f [f] s [s] rh [x]
voiced v [v] z [z] h [ɦ]
prenasal mf [ᶬf]
prenasal (vd.) mv [ᶬv]
Nasal m [m] n [n] ny [ɲ] ngh [ŋ]
Lateral Fricative plain hl [ɬ]
voiced dl [ɮ]
aspirated dlh [ɮʰ]
Rhotic r [r]
Lateral Approximant l [l]
Approximant w [w] y [j]
Alveolar Post-
Affricate voiceless ejective ts [tsʼ] tj [tʃʼ] kg [kxʼ]
aspirated tsh [tsʰ] tjh [tʃʰ] kgh [kxʰ]
lateral tl [tɬʼ]
lateral (asp.) tlh [tɬʰ]
voiced plain dz [dz]
devoiced j [d̥ʒ]
prenasal nj [ᶮdʒ]

Consonant sounds nt, nd, k, mf, and mv often result in allophones of [d̥r dr k̬ ɱp̪fʼ ɱb̪v].[8]

Click consonants

Southern Ndebele clicks
Dental Post-
Plosive voiceless plain c [ǀ] q [!]
aspirated ch [ǀʰ] qh [!ʰ]
nasalized nc [ᵑǀ] nx [ᵑǁ]
voiced plain gc [ǀᶢ] gq [!ᶢ]
nasalized ngq [ᵑ!ᶢ]



The Southern Ndebele noun consists of two essential parts, the prefix and the stem. Using the prefixes, nouns can be grouped into noun classes, which are numbered consecutively, to ease comparison with other Bantu languages.

The following table gives an overview of Southern Ndebele noun classes, arranged according to singular-plural pairs.

Class Singular Plural
1/2 um(u)-1 aba-, abe-
1a/2a u- abo-
3/4 um(u)-1 imi-
5/6 i-, ili-, ilu- ama-
7/8 is(i)- iz(i)-, iiN-
9/10 iN- iiN-
14 ubu-, ub-, utj-
15 uku-
17 uku-

1 umu- replaces um- before monosyllabic stems, e. g. umuntu (person).


Verbs use the following affixes for the subject and the object:

Prefix Infix
1st sing. ngi- -ngi-
2nd sing. u- -wu-
1st plur. si- -si-
2nd plur. ni- -ni-
1 u- -m(u)-
2 ba- -ba-
3 u- -m(u)-
4 i- -yi-
5 li- -li-
6 a- -wa-
7 si- -si-
8 zi- -zi-
9 i- -yi-
10 zi- -zi-
14 bu- -bu-
15 ku- -ku-
17 ku- -ku-
reflexive -zi-


Months in Southern Ndebele

English Northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe) Southern Ndebele (South Africa)
January uZibandlela uTjhirhweni
February uNhlolanja uMhlolanja
March uMbimbitho uNtaka
April uMabasa uSihlabantangana
May uNkwekwezi uMrhayili
June uNhlangula uMgwengweni
July uNtulikazi uVelabahlinze
August uNcwabakazi uRhoboyi
September uMpandula uKhukhulamungu
October uMfumfu uSewula
November uLwezi uSinyikhaba
December uMpalakazi uNobayeni

AmaNdebele in Zimbabwe

Ndebele/ Zimbabwean Ndebele (Northern Ndebele) is part of the Zunda sub-group of the eMbo languages and is similar to Xhosa and Zulu, while the South African (or Southern Transvaal Ndebele), while maintaining its eMbo roots, has been more influenced by the Sotho languages.[8]


  1. ^ a b Ndebele at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Webb, Vic. 2002. "Language in South Africa: the role of language in national transformation, reconstruction and development." Impact: Studies in language and society, 14:78
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sumayela Ndebele". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: nbl". ISO 639-2 Registration Authority - Library of Congress. Retrieved 4 July 2017. Name: South Ndebele
  6. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: nbl". ISO 639-3 Registration Authority - SIL International. Retrieved 4 July 2017. Name: South Ndebele
  7. ^ Skhosana, Philemon. "The (ama)Ndebele of Africa and their name '(ama)Ndebele'". University of Pretoria – Department of Library Services. University of Pretoria. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b Skhosana, P.B. (2010) The Linguistic Relationship between Southern and Northern Ndebele, University of Pretoria, DLitt Thesis

External links


Department of Arts and Culture (South Africa)

The Department of Arts and Culture is one of the departments of the South African government. It promotes, supports, develops and protects the arts, culture and heritage of South Africa. The heritage sites, museums and monuments of the country also reside under this ministry. The political head of the department is the Minister of Arts and Culture; as of 2014 this is Nathi Mthethwa.

Department of Defence (South Africa)

The Department of Defence is a department of the South African government. It oversees the South African National Defence Force, the armed forces responsible for defending South Africa.

As of June 2012 the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Department of Education (South Africa)

The Department of Education

was one of the departments of the South African government until 2009, when it was divided into the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training. It oversaw the education and training system of South Africa, including schools and universities. The political head of the department was the Minister of Education, the last of which was Naledi Pandor.

Department of Environmental Affairs

The Department of Environmental Affairs is one of the departments of the South African government. It is responsible for protecting, conserving and improving the South African environment and natural resources. Formerly the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism from 1994 to 2009.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is the foreign ministry of the South African government. It is responsible for South Africa's relationships with foreign countries and international organizations, and runs South Africa's diplomatic missions. The department is headed by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, currently Naledi Pandor.

Formerly known as the Department of Foreign Affairs, it was renamed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation by President Jacob Zuma in May 2009. In the 2010 national budget, it received an appropriation of 4,824.4 million rand, and had 4,533 employees.

Department of Justice and Correctional Services

The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is the justice ministry of the South African government. The department provides administrative and financial support to the court system and the judiciary (which are constitutionally independent of the executive), oversees the National Prosecuting Authority, provides legal advice and representation to organs of state, facilitates law reform and is responsible for the country's Correctional Services.

Department of Labour (South Africa)

The Department of Employment and Labour is the department of the South African government responsible for matters related to employment, including industrial relations, job creation, unemployment insurance and occupational health and safety.

As of 29 May 2019 the Minister of Employment and Labour is Thembelani Thulas Nxesi. In the 2011/12 budget the department had a budget of R1,981 million and a staff complement of 3,490 civil servants.

Department of Police (South Africa)

The Department of Police (formerly known as the Department of Safety and Security) is one of the departments of the South African government. It oversees the South African Police Service and the Independent Complaints Directorate. The current Minister of Police is Bheki Cele who replaced Fikile Mbalula in February 2018.

Department of Public Enterprises

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) is one of the ministries of the South African government. It is the governments shareholder representative with oversight responsibility for a number of state-owned enterprises (SoEs).

Department of Public Works (South Africa)

The Department of Public Works is one of the ministries of the South African government. It is responsible for providing accommodation and property management services to all the other ministries of the South African government. It is also responsible for promoting the national Expanded Public Works Programme and for encouraging the transformation of the construction and property industries in South Africa.

Department of Trade and Industry (South Africa)

The Department of Trade and Industry (also known as the dti) is the department of the South African government with responsibility for commercial policy and industrial policy. the dti and its subsidiary agencies are involved in promoting economic development, Black Economic Empowerment, implementing commercial law (including companies law and intellectual property law), promoting and regulating international trade, and consumer protection.

The political head of the department is the Minister of Trade and Industry, who is assisted by a Deputy Minister. As of 2009, the minister is Rob Davies and the deputy minister is Mzwandile Masina. The executive head of the department is the Director-General of Trade and Industry; as of 21 April 2011 this is Lionel October.

In the 2010 national budget, the department received an appropriation of 6,150.1 million rand, and had 1,140 employees.

Department of Water and Sanitation

The Department of Water and Sanitation is one of the departments of the South African government. In May 2009, following the election of Jacob Zuma, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was divided, with the forestry responsibility being transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Department of Water and Sanitation was established in May 2014 by President Jacob Zuma with former Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane becoming the first Minister (26 May 2014 – 28 January 2018). She was replaced by Gugile Nkwinti.

Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa

The Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa is a judge in the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the second-highest judicial post in the Republic of South Africa, after the Chief Justice. The post, originally called "Deputy President of the Constitutional Court", was created in September 1995 by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Second Amendment Act, 1995, which was an amendment to the Interim Constitution. The position was retained by the final Constitution which came into force in February 1997. In November 2001 the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of South Africa restructured the judiciary, and the post was renamed to "Deputy Chief Justice".The first Deputy President of the Constitutional Court was Ismail Mahomed. In 1997 he became Chief Justice, and was replaced by Pius Langa, who continued as Deputy Chief Justice after 2001. Justice Langa was elevated to Chief Justice in 2005, and succeeded by Dikgang Moseneke. Moseneke retired on 20 May 2016.

Local municipality (South Africa)

In South Africa, a local municipality (Tswana: mmasepalaselegae; Sotho: masepala wa lehae; Northern Sotho: mmasepala wa selegae; Afrikaans: plaaslike munisipaliteit; Zulu: umasipala wendawo; Southern Ndebele: umasipaladi wendawo; Xhosa: umasipala wengingqi; Swazi: masipaladi wasekhaya; Venda: masipalawapo; Tsonga: masipala wa muganga) or Category B municipality is a type of municipality that serves as the third, and most local, tier of local government. Each district municipality is divided into a number of local municipalities, and responsibility for municipal affairs is divided between the district and local municipalities. There are 226 local municipalities in South Africa.

A local municipality may include rural areas as well as one or more towns or small cities. In larger urban areas there are no district or local municipalities, and a metropolitan municipality is responsible for all municipal affairs.


Mpumalanga ( (listen); Swazi, Zulu: iMpumalanga; Tsonga: Mpumalanga; Southern Ndebele: IMpumalanga; Northern Sotho, Afrikaans, Southern Sotho: Mpumalanga) is a province of South Africa. The name means "east", or literally "the place where the sun rises" in the Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu languages. Mpumalanga lies in eastern South Africa, bordering Eswatini and Mozambique. It constitutes 6.5% of South Africa's land area. It shares borders with the South African provinces of Limpopo to the north, Gauteng to the west, the Free State to the southwest, and KwaZulu-Natal to the south. The capital is Mbombela.

South African National Department of Health

The Department of Health is the executive department of the South African government that is assigned to health matters.

The Office for Health Standards and Compliance was established in 2014.

South African Reserve Bank

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) (Afrikaans: Suid-Afrikaanse Reserwebank) is the central bank of South Africa. It was established in 1921 after Parliament passed an act, the "Currency and Bank Act of 10 August 1920", as a direct result of the abnormal monetary and financial conditions which World War I had brought. The SARB was only the fourth central bank established outside the United Kingdom and Europe, the others being the United States, Japan and Java. The earliest suggestions for the establishment of the Central Bank in South Africa date back to 1879. A select committee, consisting of ten members of Parliament was established on 31 March 1920 to examine the benefits to the national interest of the establishing of the central bank.Following on the recommendations of the committee, the South African Reserve Bank opened for business on 30 June 1921, making it the oldest central bank in Africa. The first banknotes were issued to the public by the Bank on 19 April 1922.

Unlike the Bank of England, which provided the model for establishing the SARB, the SARB is privately owned.

Sport and Recreation South Africa

Sport and Recreation South Africa (also known as the Department of Sport and Recreation) is the department of the Government of South Africa responsible for sport in South Africa.

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), formerly known as the Appellate Division, is an appellate court in South Africa. It is located in Bloemfontein.

unofficial languages
mentioned in the
1996 constitution


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.