The Difaqane is the term used to describe the period of turmoil that engulfed southern Africa from the late 18th century to the mid-1830s. The epicentre of the difaqane was long regarded as having been in present day Kwazulu/Natal, and to have been initiated by the Zulu under Shaka. More recently, the transformations associated with the difaqane have been radically revised. The Zulu under Shaka were not the major cause of the disruption; indeed other kingdoms in the area were just as aggressive in protecting themselves as were the Zulu. Furthermore, increasing European penetration into the interior of South Africa from the Cape Colony and the Mozambique coastal area, played an important part in the destabilization of African communities.
In today's North-West province, a similar pattern of competition and conflict struck the baTswana-speakers of the region. The causes of this lay in increased competition for new trading opportunities and goods, an increase in cattle herds which became an easy target for raids, and competition for grazing and arable lands.
The Difaqane occurred in two distinct stages. The first was intra-baTswana conflict between about 1750 and 1820. Here, the baKgatla, baHurutshe, baFokeng and baRolong in particular waged a series of wars against the one another, often entering into aggressive or defensive alliances. Several chiefdoms fragmented or moved away from areas they had long occupied.
The second phase, from c.1820 to the late 1830s, consisted of disturbances created by newcomers onto the western highveld. The first of these were people who had fled their homes in the central highveld, and included the baPhuting, the baTaung and Sebetwane's Patsa-baFokeng. The second disruption was caused by the arrival of the amaNdebele under Mzilikazi. The amaNdebele built a powerful state in the North-West province, either by incorporating the local people, by forcing them into tributary status, or by driving recalcitrant communities from the amaNdebele domain. It was a period of hardship for many of the western baTswana, in particular the baRolong south of the Molopo river, who endured several devastating attacks from the amaNdebele armies. After the period of turmoil, the western baTswana tended to regroup along former lines, rather than to forge new communities from diverse groups of people. (See also Mzilikazi, AmaNdebele).