List of Xhosa Kings in South Africa

Xhosa people are the Nguni ethnic group in Southern Africa. They are majorly found in South Africa. However, they can also be found in Zimbabwe and Bostwana. Xhosa used to be one united kingdom and was ruled by one king until the time of king Phalo, one of the most popular kings to rule the Xhosa kingdom. After king Phalo, the kingdom was divided into two. This post examines Xhosa kings in South Africa who ruled Xhosa kingdom(s) before and after it was divided.

Xhosa Kings Before King Phalo

Before Phalo took over the throne, 11 kings and 7 regents had ruled the Xhosa kingdom. In those days, Xhosa had only one king at a time. Unfortunately, there is not enough information about the length of time each of these kings reigned. However, here is a list of all of the Xhosa Kings that rules before Phalo:

  • Ntu
  • Mnguni KaNtu
  • Malangana KaMguni
  • Nkosiyamntu KaMalangana
  • Tshawe KaNkosiyamntu
  • Ngcwangu KaTshawe
  • Sikhomo KaNgcwangu
  • Togu KaSikhmo
  • Ngconde KaTogu
  • Tshiwo KaNgcode

The first Xhosa king is called Ntu. Details about what his reign was like are not known. As at the time he ruled, the media was not as accessible as it is today.

After King Phalo, The Xhosa Kingdom Was Divided Into Two

Phalo is the son of king Tshiwo, and he reigned from 1736 to 1775. He was Tshiwo’s second son, but his elder brother named Gwali was born by a junior wife. Phalo was born the same year his father, king Tshiwo, died, and his uncle Mdange was appointed to serve as regent until he came of age to ascend the throne.

When Phalo was supposed to get married, two royal brides came to the kingdom on the same day. One of the brides came from the Amampondo people, while the other came from the AbaThembu people.

This threw the king into confusion as he was well aware that rejecting any of the brides was going to offend the tribe she came from. It would cause a strain in the relationship between the Amampondo people and the AbaThembu people, and he did not want that.

To solve this problem, all the chiefs and wise men in the kingdom were summoned to Komkhulu (the great place), what is known today as the town of Butterworth. History has it that one of the older men who attended the meeting brought up the suggestion that saved the day. To settle the matter, he said, “What is greater than the king’s head and what is stronger than the king’s right hand.”

He went on to add that one of the brides be made the king’s ‘head wife’ while the other be made the king’s right-hand wife. His suggestion was appreciated and accepted by the king, who acted accordingly.

The Kingdom Was Divided To The Two Heirs

Phalo had five sons, of which two – Gcaleka and Rharhabe – were heirs to the throne as they were the first sons of the two wives. Upon Phalo’s death, the same idea used to settle the dilemma he faced when choosing a wife was used to avert a battle for the throne by his sons.

The kingdom was divided into two groups/kingdoms, and each son was crowned as the leader of a group. The first subgroup is called “The Great House” or “AmaGcaleka,” with Gcaleka becoming the leader of this group. Before the arrival of the Europeans and colonization, the territory of the Xhosa kingdom was spread across the Mbhashe River to Gamtoos River.

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From Mbhashe river to Kei river was under the authority of AmaGcaleka Xhosa. The other subgroup is called “Right-hand House” or “AmaRharhabe,” and Rharhabe was the leader of this group. From the Kei River and beyond, the Fish River was under the jurisdiction of AmaRharhabe. The separation of the kingdom into two houses made Phalo the last king of the united Xhosa kingdom.

List Of Xhosa Kings After Phalo

After king Phalo, the different houses of the Xhosa kingdom had great kings rule over them. One of the most prominent kings is Hintsa KaKhawuta from the Great House.

Xhosa Kings From The Great House

Xhosa Kings South Africa
King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu

Here is a list of all the kings that have ruled over the Great House of Xhosa kingdom:

  • Gcaleka KaPhalo
  • Khawuta KaGcaleka,
  • Hintsa KaKhawuta – 1780 to 12 May 1835
  • Sarhili KaHintsa
  • Sigcawu KaSarhili
  • Gwebinkumbi KaSigcawu
  • Ngangomhlaba KaGwebinkumbi
  • Zwelidumile KaGwebinkumbi
  • Xolilizwe KaGwebinkumbi
  • Zwelonke KaXolilizwe
  • Ahlangene KaXolilizwe Aa! Vulikhaya

As aforementioned, one of the most prominent and respected kings in this linage is Hintsa KaKhawuta. He ruled from 1780 to 1835 and is regarded as great Hintsa. During his reign, he made his kingdom one of the greatest around.

He was brave enough to war with the British colonial masters, who eventually took him as a prisoner. After ruling for more than five decades, he was ambushed by British soldiers who outnumbered him. Despite his best efforts to overpower them, he was eventually murdered.

Who Is The Current King Of Xhosa Great House?

Ahlangene Cyprian Vulikhaya Sigcawu

The current king of the Xhosa kingdom from the Great House is Ahlangene Cyprian Vulikhaya Sigcawu. He took over the throne in 2020. He was born in 1970, and his mother’s name is Nogaweni Sigcawu.

List of Xhosa Kings From The Right Hand House

Xhosa Kings South Africa
High Chief Mgolombane Sandile of the Rharhabe

The Right-hand House has also produced notable kings. Here is a list of all the kings that have led the house:

  • Rharhabe KaPhalo
  • Mlawu KaRharhabe
  • Ngqika KaMlawu
  • Maqoma KaNgqika
  • Sandile KaNgqika
  • Gonya KaSandile
  • Faku KaGonya – Not the same as Amampondo King
  • Velile KaFaku
  • Mxolisi KaVelile
  • Maxhob’ayakhawuleza KaMxolisi – 1991 to July 11, 2011
  • Jonguxolo KaMaxhob’ayakhawuleza

One of the most celebrated kings on this list is Chief Maqoma. He was known for his bravery and commitment in the Sixth and Eighth Xhosa Wars. He is often regarded as one of the greatest South African warriors.

During the war with British troops, he brought some level of victories to his people and was known for using traditional weapons like shields and assegai.

Who Is The Current King Of Xhosa Right-Hand House?

Xhosa Kings South Africa
King Jonguxolo Sandile

The current Xhosa king from the right-hand house is King Jonguxolo Sandile “Aa! Vul’ulwandle!”. He was born in 1992 and took over the throne in 2020. The name of his mother is Noloyiso Sandile.

Since the Kingship was divided, Xhosa has continued to be ruled by different kings, unlike other tribes in South Africa. Despite the separation, they still have a rich cultural heritage and some level of unity. Today, Xhosa makes up to 7,834,203 of South Africa’s population, and aside from the Xhosa language, they also speak Zulu, Afrikaans, and English.

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Romeo Ndlovu
Romeo Ndlovu
Romeo's secret talent is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary content. At work, he is thinking about how best to provide the most unique, original content that provides utmost satisfaction to the user. Away from work, he is a football addict who loves to catch up on his favorite pastimes


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