The area was originally settled by Bushmen (San) and Hottentots, but towards the end of the 17th century they were gradually displaced by the Hlubi people wandering down from KwaZulu-Natal, led by a woman named Xhosa. These people claimed a common ancestry with all the tribes of the eastern coast, originating from a place called eMbo. When the Xhosa encountered the Hottentots, they were much taken with the clicks in the Hottentot language, which became a fashionable part of the Hlubi language.
Successive waves of people came down the coast and began to split up into homogenous groups. The northern group became the Pondo, the middle group became the Mtembu and the southern group became the Gcaleka.
Pressure from migrating tribes in the north pushed the population southwards where they began to encounter the white traders and settlers moving north. The inevitable result was conflict.