Ama Gqunukhwebe is a sub-group of the Xhosa nation that was created under the reign of King Tshiwo (1670–1702) of amaXhosa who was a grandfather to Gcaleka and Rharhabe. This consisted mostly of the Khoi chiefdoms (Gonaqua, Hoengeniqua, Inqua and others) that were overrun by western expedition pioneers among Xhosa people and incorporated into the Xhosa nation.
Khwane kaLungane, a trusted counselor and a great warrior of King Tshiwo of amaXhosa, headed this new chiefdom of amaGqunukhwebe. This was the start of the Khwane dynasty, the son of Lungane ka-Debe. He was succeeded by his descendants as follows: Bane ka-Khwane, Tshaka ka-Bane, Chungwa ka-Tshaka, and then Phatho ka-Chungwa.
Their land spanned from Buffalo (Qonce) to Zwaartkops (Qhagqiwa) rivers, but most of it was lost as a result of the Frontier Wars and was mostly given to colony settlers (west of the Fish River) and amaMfengu (between the Fish and Keiskamma rivers) by the colonial government.
After many years of intermarriage, there were no physical differences in these people in terms of their Khoi and Xhosa origins. However, the Gqunukhwebe chiefdom developed new subdivisions. This happened through Chungwa's sons Phatho, or Pato, and Kama that he had with his senior wife, Malishe (daughter of Nqeno of amaMbali chiefdom). They respectively settled along the coast and inland. According to the diary notes of a certain Mr. Hampton who was the Cape Colony surveyor at the time, the main contributor to this rift was the younger brother's (i.e. Kama) conversion to Christianity.
Some writers consider him the one of the first people of royal blood line to convert to Christianity, which contradicted his older bother's wishes that he must take a second wife. Kama later moved away from this tribal pressure with some followers and eventually settled in the area that is today known as Middledrift.
After the terrible "Cattle-killing" and many frontier wars with the colony, Phatho and his followers were weakened and the Cape Colony wrongfully recognised Kama as the Paramount Chief of all amaGqunukhwebe people, also probably due to Kama's religion conversion which made him house friends with the white missionaries.
Today the two amaGqunukhwebe chiefdoms are controlled from two centres, the coastal lineage with headquarters in Tsholomnqa (the Phatho house) and inland in Middledrift (the Kama house). However, the ordinary people of the tribe still understand that the senior house is from the Phato lineage.
A longtime councilor of Phatho royal family, the late Frank Mathanga from the Tshawe-clan has done excellent work of documenting the successions in the Phatho house.
Chief Phatho married Noxina daughter of Toyise from the Gasela-clan as senior wife and had a son named Dilima. Chief Dilima's senior wife was the daughter of Ndileka (a Chief of imiDushane kaNdlambe tribe) and had a son called Namba. After succeeding his father, Chief Dilima ka-Phatho picked up his father's spear and took the battle to the colonists. He was later arrested and imprisoned in Robben Island.
Chief Namba ka-Dilima had four sons Khangelanzima, Sofutha, Mkhanya, and Dyosini. Both Khangelanzima and Sofuthe died as young men before they could get married. The next in line to the throne of amaGqunukhwebe was Mkhanya, he had a son called Silimela who was taken away by his mother after she had a strong quarrel with Chief Mkhanya. She never returned their boy and the Chief never bothered to search for his son. Silimela also never bothered to return to his biological father when he came of age.
When Chief Mkhanya ka-Namba died, his younger brother and right-hand man Dyosini ka-Namba succeeded him. He had two sons, Rhamnwana and Nompempe through his wife Nontozimbi Rhatsha of the Giqwa-clan.
Their elder son Rhamncwana ka-Dyosini was inaugurated as Chief of amaGqunukhwebe aseLwandle in 1975 under the Ciskei Bantu Tribal Authority led by L.L.W. Sebe. During this time his first wife Nokhazi of amaBamba clan had died but already had children together and their eldest son and heir to throne was Ntlanganiso.
Chief Rhamncwana remarried to Nondenze (Nongenile), daughter of Mbutiyakhe ka-Twani from the Qhinebe-clan, and they had two sons Xolani and Gcobani. Nongenile is still acting regent.
The heir to the throne, Ntlanganiso ka Rhamncwana Phatho married Nondumiso (daughter of Petros Namba of the Tshawe clan from Twecu village) in 1970, and they had a son called Zolani is 1973. This marriage collapsed in 1976 and their son Zolani went to the initiation school at King Xolilizwe's (Gcaleka-Xhosa) place. Zolani returned to his ancestral home in 2008 from Cape Town.
Ntlanganiso then remarried in 1982 to Ntomboxolo (daughter of Mxolisi Sandile the King of Rharhabe-Xhosa) and they had two daughters, Nolwandle and Nomonde.
According to tradition Zolani ka-Ntlanganiso Phatho is expected to be the next in line to ascend the throne when he's of age.