Tsonga people

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The Tsonga people () inhabit the southern coastal plain of Mozambique, parts of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, and the Transvaal of South Africa. They numbered some 4.6 million in the late 20th century.


The Tsonga people speak the Tsonga language (Xitsonga) Although many Tsongas are Christian, many also adhere to their own traditional religion, which entails constant attention to the propitiation of ancestral spirits. Illness and other misfortunes are usually attributed to the breaking of a taboo, to the anger of an ancestor, or to sorcery.

The Tsongas are a diverse population, generally including the Shangaan (VaChangana), Thonga, Tonga (unrelated to another nearby Tonga population to the north), and several smaller ethnic groups.

Sometimes, the definition of Tsonga is extended to include the closely related Ronga and Tswa peoples of Mozambique.


It is believed that ancestors of the Tsonga, who now primarily inhabit an area in southern Mozambique, originated farther north in central Africa.

During the mfecane and ensuing upheaval of the nineteenth century, most Tsongas moved inland. Some successfully...
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