Nongqawuse, who was born in the Kentani district and raised by her uncle (Mhlakaza a famed spirit-medium) was fourteen years old when she was sitting on a rock at a pool near the Gxara River. She then saw the faces of her ancestors appearing in the pool. They told her that they would drive all the white settlers out of the country. A huge wind would come up and blow all the settlers into the sea. But first, as an act of faith to prove their belief in the world of the spirits, the Xhosa would have to kill all their cattle and destroy all their crops.
The Xhosa paramount chief Sarili was convinced of the truth of her prophecy and ordered his subordinate chiefs and those under British rule to slaughter their cattle.
Over a period of ten months the Gcaleka and other Xhosa clans killed their livestock (it is estimated that the Gcaleka killed some 300 000 to 400 000 head of cattle) and burned their crops until they had nothing left but their family.
Nongqawuse was subsequently arrested by the British near the Mbashe River and imprisoned on Robben Island, near Cape Town. After several years she was returned to a farm in the district of Alexandria in the eastern Cape. She died in 1898.
Sir George Grey, the Cape Governor used the situation to his advantage, dispossessing Sarili and his people, and giving the land to white settlers and the Mfengu people.
Today it is believed that she was under instruction from her uncle, Mhlakaza (in cooperation with Chief Sarili or Sir George Grey), to reveal a millenarian prophecy and thus influence the future of the Xhosa.
Today, the valley where Nongqawuse met the spirits is still called Intlambo kaNongqawuse (Xhosa for River of Nongqawuse).