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The Gaza empire (1824–1895) was an African empire established by the powerful general Soshangane, and was located in southeastern Africa in the area of southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe as well as parts of South Africa (sections of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces). The Gaza Empire, at its height in the 1860s, covered the whole of Mozambique between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers.
In the 1820s, during a period of severe drought, 
Soshangane died in 1856 and there was a bitter struggle for power between his sons Mawewe and Mzila. With help from the Portuguese, Mzila eventually gained power in 1861 and ruled until 1884. Soshangane's grandson, Gungunyana, took over the Gaza Empire from his father Mzila and moved the capital southward to Manjakazi, putting him in closer proximity with the Portuguese.
With the prolonged drought, the rise of Gaza, the dominance of the 
For centuries, the Nguni peoples are thought to have lived in scattered patrilineal chiefdoms, cultivating cereal crops such as millet and raising cattle. The current geographic distribution of Nguni peoples largely reflects the turbulent political developments and population movements of the 19th century. In the 1820s the cattle-herding Zulu, led by their king Shaka, embarked on an aggressive campaign of conquest and expansion known as the mfecane. Shaka's large and well-armed armies conquered a number of neighboring peoples, and sent others fleeing. Some Nguni groups adopted the Zulu's methods of warfare and used them to subjugate the peoples in whose territory they ultimately settled.
The Gaza Kingdom comprised parts of what are now southeastern Zimbabwe, as well as extending from the Sabi River down to the southern part of Mozambique, covering parts of the current provinces of Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo, and neighbouring parts of South Africa. Within the area encompassed by the Gaza Empire, Nguni armies invaded the north and established cattle-owning military states along the edges of the Mozambican highlands. Although not within the borders of modern-day Mozambique, these military states nonetheless served as effective bases for raids into Mozambique.
Soshangane extended his control over the area between the Komati (Incomati) and the Zambezi rivers, incorporating the local Tsonga and Shona peoples into his Kingdom. The waves of armed groups disrupted both trade and day-to-day production throughout the area. Two groups, the Jere under Zwangendaba and the Ndwandwe (both later known as Nguni) under Soshangane, swept through Mozambique. Zwangendaba’s group continued north across the Zambezi, settling to the west of contemporary Mozambique, but Soshangane’s group crossed the Limpopo into southern.[where?]
Another army, under the command of 
Despite their eviction from the highlands, the Portuguese gradually extended their control up the Zambezi Valley and north and south along the Mozambican coast. In 1727, they founded a trading post at Inhambane, on the southern coast, and in 1781 they permanently occupied Delagoa Bay. However, Soshangane’s army overran these Portuguese settlements during the time of the Gaza Empire.
After the death of Soshangane in 1856, his sons fought over the chieftainship. Soshangane had left the throne to Mzila, but Mawewe felt that he should be chief. Mawewe attacked Mzila and his followers, causing them to leave Mozambique and flee to the Soutpansberg Mountains in the Transvaal. In 1884 and 1885 European powers carved Africa into spheres of influence at the Berlin West Africa Conference. As a result of this scramble for Africa by the European States, the territory of the Gaza Empire was designated as Portuguese territory. Gungunyana fiercely resisted the encroachment of the Portuguese but was eventually defeated. Gungunyana was exiled to the Azores where he died in 1906. The cause of the collapse of the Gaza Empire was its defeat by the Portuguese in 1895.
What was once the Gaza Empire is present-day Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as parts of South Africa (sections of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces). Mozambique is divided into ten provinces, one in which is named Gaza.