In the Nguni languages, (plural prefix ama- +) mfengu ‘destitute wanderers seeking work and refuge’, from fenguza to seek service; see quotations 1850 and 1912.
A member of a Xhosa-speaking people descended from the remnants of several refugee groups displaced during the Mfecane, and who settled in the eastern Cape and southern Transkei during the 1830s; Fingo sense a; Mbo sense 3. Also attributive.See also Hlubi.
Many Mfengu escaped serfdom among other black peoples by seeking protection from and alliances with whites (often serving during wars as British levies), for which they were rewarded with grants of land. Also attributive.
1850J.W. AppleyardKafir Lang. 41The term Amafengu is a conventional national epithet, first applied to the Fingoes by the Kafirs, but now in general use amongst themselves. The root from which it is derived is fenguza, and signifies to ‘seek service,’ implying, at the same time, the total destitution of the person who uses it. The word amafengu will accordingly mean, ‘destitute people in search of service,’ and correctly characterizes their condition when they arrived amongst the Kafirs.
1855J.W. ColensoTen Weeks in Natal 146The Fingoes..took refuge with Hintza and his people, who called them ama-Fengu, ‘miserables or paupers,’ and, though Kafirs themselves, made slaves of their black brethren.
1860W. ShawStory of my Mission 525The refugees..were called Fingoes, or ‘Amamfengu,’ — a designation referring to their abject and forlorn condition, as driven from their country and seeking refuge among strangers.
1882J. NixonAmong Boers 94Natal was originally inhabited by the Amafengu and kindred tribes, who were driven southwards by the Zulus under T’Chaka.
1902Encycl. Brit.XXX. 3The formerly degraded but now respected and civilized Fingos or Fengus, who gave their name to the district of Fingoland.
1912Ayliff & WhitesideHist. of Abambo 15When the fugitives entered lower Kaffirland they were asked, ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ They replied, ‘Siyam Fenguza,’ which means ‘We seek service’. ‘We are destitute.’ The word Amafengu therefore means ‘hungry people in search of work’.
1975W.F. LyeAndrew Smith’s Jrnl 1834–6Index, AmaMfengu, Refugee Nguni peoples who fled from the Northern Nguni country during the rise of the Zulu and sought a home amongst the Southern Nguni.
1977F.G. ButlerKaroo Morning 84What would have happened if the Fingos, or Mfengu, had not stayed loyal to the whites, God alone knows.
1980Report of Ciskei Commission 141It was through the political manoeuvres of D’Urban and Smith that the Mfengu tribal cluster (Zulu fugitives) was incited against the Xhosa both in the Transkei and Ciskei.
1983C. SaundersHist. Dict. 108Mfengu,..It is said that the scattered remnants of various Nguni groups (Hlubi, Zizi, Bhele and others), broken up and disrupted by the Mfecane, introduced themselves to the Xhosa of the Transkei in the 1820s by saying ‘siyamfenguze’ (‘we are hungry and seek shelter’).
1985W.F. Tabata inProbe July 26The presence of amaMfengu in that area was vital for the defence of Fort Peddie and they were essential intelligence-gatherers for the Cape Colony rulers.
1986P. MaylamHist. of Afr. People 61The inferior, dependent status associated with clientage soon rankled with many Mfengu, and they increasingly looked towards Cape colonial society as an avenue for their advancement.
1990J. Collinge inWeekly Mail 8 Feb. 12The Tsitsikamma land from which the Mfengu were removed at gunpoint in 1977 may soon be on the market again.
A member of a Xhosa-speaking people descended from the remnants of several refugee groups displaced during the Mfecane, and who settled in the eastern Cape and southern Transkei during the 1830s; Fingoa; Mbo3. Also attributive.
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