The Northern Ndebele people (Northern Ndebele: amaNdebele) are a Bantu nation and ethnic group in Southern Africa, who share a common Ndebele culture and Ndebele language. The Northern Ndebele were historically referred to as the Matabele which was a European corruption of ‘Ndebele’. Their history began when a Zulu chiefdom split from King Shaka in the early 19th century under the leadership of Mzilikazi, a former chief in his kingdom and ally. Under his command the disgruntled Zulus went on to conquer and rule the chiefdoms of the Southern Ndebele. This was where the name and identity of the eventual kingdom was adopted.
During a turbulent period in Nguni and Sesotho-Tswana history known as the Mfecane or “the crushing”, the Mzilikazi regiment, initially numbering 500 soldiers, moved west towards the present-day city of Pretoria, where they founded a settlement called Mhlahlandlela. The Great trek in 1838 saw Mzilikazi defeated by the Voortrekkers at Vegtkop after which he was exiled into present-day Zimbabwe where the Ndebele overwhelmed the local Rozvi, eventually carving out a home now called Matabeleland and encompassing the west and southwest region of the country. In the course of the migration, large numbers of conquered local clans and individuals were absorbed into the Ndebele nation, adopting the Ndebele language and culture. Historically the assimilated people came from the Southern Ndebele, Swazi, Sotho-Tswana, and amaLozwi/Rozvi ethnic groups.