Xhosa people of Zim inspire first isiXhosa PhD thesis

Rhodes University scholar Dr Hleze Kunju’s thesis is based on Xhosa people who settled in Zimbabwe in the late 1800s, early 1900s.

Dr Hleze Kunju is a thirty-one-year-old Rhodes University graduate and just last week collected his doctoral degree written in isiXhosa, thanks to the new language policy at Rhodes University.

Rhodes scholar’s thesis is titled siXhosa ultimo lwabantu abangesonininzi eZimbabwe: Ukuphila nokulondolozwa kwaso.

Kunju hails from rural Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape. Having being taught in isXhosa in his schooling career, Kunju says having had to adapt to being taught and doing his Masters in English proved to be a challenge.

When I got to Rhodes, it was a big cultural shock. I experienced more difficulties when I was doing my Masters. I’d write a chapter, send it to my supervisor and it would come back highlighted with red correction marks.

Then for my PhD, I decided to do it in isiXhosa. I also thought it was the right time because it was during talks of transformation and decolonisation.

Kunju explains that his doctoral thesis is based on the Xhosa people who reside in Zimbabwe, who settled there in the late 1800s and early 1900s.They settled in Mbembesi near Bulawayo Makwiro/Msengezi,Chikwaka and Marirangwe near the capital Harare among other places in Zimbabwe.

They left with Cecil John Rhodes and settled in Zimbabwe and they’ve been there for more than 116 years now. Not a lot of people know about this. I thought this was something worth exploring.


Kunju says he felt compelled to explore and write his PhD on this Xhosa group that settled in Zimbabwe. He wanted to give the people of Zimbabwe an opportunity to relay their own language, cultural and traditional survival stories.

Dr. Hleze Kunju’s thesis can be read here