In this capacity, they won several victories against their Xhosa enemies (particularly the Gcaleka Xhosa), and through shrewd and successful management of regional trade, formed a developed and materially successful nation.
In addition, many bought farms and started businesses in the small towns that were springing up in that part of the Cape frontier.
It is assumed that the restructuring of these territories into the divisions of Butterworth, Idutywa, Kentani, Nqamakwe, Tsomo and Willowvale dates from these times.
Originally farmers, the Mfengu had quickly built themselves schools, created and edited their own newspapers, and translated international literature into their language.
His military genius in the frontier wars earned him considerable renown and he was an acknowledged leader in the Cape Colony. He famously once jumped onto a wounded and charging lion, holding it by the tail, overpowered it and killed it.
He was invited to London in 1889, where Queen Victoria requested to meet him to thank him for his services.
The Mfengu did not take part in the great cattle-killing in 1857, which devastated the Xhosa people.
The name ama Mfengu means “wanderers” and the Fingo nation – like the Bhaca, Bhele, Hlubi and Zizi peoples – was formed from the tribes that were broken up and dispersed by Shaka and his Zulu armies in the Mfecane wars.They also were recorded as producing large excesses of grain at this time for their starving neighbours.The famine induced by the cattle-killing effectively brought much of the armed resistance in the eastern Cape to an end.The ama Fengu were known across southern Africa as skilled gunmen, were invaluable allies of the Cape Colony in its frontier wars.They subsequently became notable allies of the Cape Colony in the frontier wars against their former oppressors.