The Mfecane from the 1810s to the 1830s in Southern Africa was one of disturbances and upheavals. From the 1810s to the 1830s southern Africa went through a period of violent turmoil and political upheaval in which much different chiefdom and other states came into conflict with each other, spurring wars and large-scale migrations. This period, referred to as the Mfecane (from an Nguni word meaning “the crushing”), has long been the subject of debate among historians. For years, historians generally believed that the violence was singularly the result of the emergence of an expanding Zulu kingdom under military leader Shaka. However, many historians now contend that this emphasis on Zulu expansion obscures the fact that, as we have seen, the rise and fall of similar states and conflict over the control of cattle were already very common in the region. It also ignores two important factors: Firstly, the rise in the demand for slaves along the southern Mozambique coast from the 1820s likely played a role in the emergence of some of these new states, particularly the Gaza Empire. Secondly, assaults by armed and mounted raiders from the Cape Colony region—searching for cattle and captives for sale in the colony—were also a major source of disruption among the peoples of the area.
Apart from the Zulu kingdom under Shaka and the Gaza Empire under Soshangane, other new states in the region included the Sotho kingdom under Moshoeshoe, the Swazi kingdom under Sobhuza, and numerous Tswana kingdoms of the western grasslands. The Ndebele, led by Mzilikazi, left the Zulu region in the early 1820s and settled briefly north of the Vaal River, absorbing local Sotho and Tswana into their ranks. Constantly harassed by Boer, Griqua, and Kora raiders, the Ndebele moved north and established a new kingdom in southern Zimbabwe in about 1840. By this time, groups of other migrants, who came to be known as the Ngoni, had already moved north through Zimbabwe to settle in the region of eastern Zambia, Malawi, and southern Tanzania. In the far south of the region the Xhosa held out against the increasingly violent challenge of the British-occupied Cape Colony, only finally going down to defeat and colonization in the 1870s. The Mfecane from the 1810s to the 1830s in Southern Africa was one of struggles and wars according to its definition “the crushing”.