shaka

 

 

 


Shaka Zulu

 

 

This is the enigmatic story of Shaka, the man who formulated the tribes of south-eastern Africa into a powerful nation - the Zulu.

 

The clans or tribes living in the area of southern Africa at the time of Shaka's birth in the late 18th century were too many to mention. Although originally descendants of the Nguni peoples from the north, clans or tribes were separate,  known by the family name of the chief or elders of each grouping, with some clans paying tribute to a more venerated or powerful chief.
 
Its like saying the Jones and the Smiths and the Thompsons each are a clan, and that collectively they are known as the residents of High Street - but then High Street is part of the village Riddleton, and Riddleton is part of the district called Vale, and Vale is part of the county called Redshire - so that each group could be known as a ?High Streetian' or a 'Riddletonian' or a 'Valerian' or a 'Redshirian', or by his clan name of Smith, Thompson, or Jones.
 
We are descendants of the Normans, the Romans, the Vikings, the Saxons - but we are no more related -


 
History tells that Shaka was not a weak man and that he was cruel to his people often resorting to barbaric and torturous methods of getting his people to subject to his will.
 
But history also tells that his reputation as a despot was misaligned and came about as a result of a deliberate propoganda campaign by Europeans with selfish motives.
 
I tell you his story from the writings of Glen Lyndon Dodds, author of the book The Zulus and Matabele - Warrior Nations, who has been interested in Zulu and Matabele history since his childhood, and who it is deemed provides a sympathetic and perceptive account of the events.
 
As to the allegations that the Zulu, and Shaka in particular, were hostile to the Europeans in Natal - yes, Shaka did on occasion resort to trickery but on the other hand he was in great respect of the then King of England, George IV, and was particularly friendly and amicable to the settlers in Port Natal (Durban) and to Henry Francis Fynn who was leader and spokesman for the little group of traders at the Port.


 
Shaka's life-story and events in Natal in Shaka's years are gleaned from accounts from Jantshi kaNongila, whose father had been one of Shaka's principal spies, and told to James Stuart, a fluent Zulu speaker and an avid recorder of Zulu testimony, and from Henry Francis Fynn.
 
 In the late 18th century, the Zulus were an obscure Nguni tribe of some 1,500 people, ruled by a petty chief named Senzangakhona.
 
In either 1786 or 1787, Senzangakhona met Nandi, a woman of the eLangeni tribe, while traveling and the two engaged in the Nguni institution of uku-hlobonga, designed to release sexual tension among the young without conception resulting. However, both partners broke the rules.

 


 
Once it was discovered that Nandi was pregnant, a messenger was dispatched, bearing a formal indictment against the young Zulu chief. He replied insultingly that the pregnancy no doubt was false and due to iShaka, an intestinal parasite known to cause menstrual irregularity.
 
Some months later, the eLangeni elders requested Senzangakhona to come and collect his woman and her "iShaka," which he reluctantly did. A corruption of the intestinal parasite's name became the less-than-flattering name Senzangakhona gave to his newborn son ... Shaka.
 
At the age of 6, Shaka began to care for his father's sheep with the other herd boys. When he allowed a dog to kill one of the flock, his father became angry, his mother defended him and Senzangakhona dismissed them both from his kraal.

 


 

Nandi and Shaka spent miserable years wandering from one kraal to another, pursued by derision and abuse. Around 1803, Nandi and her son finally found a haven in a kraal close to the center of the dominant power group in the region - the Mthethwa hegemony.


Because of his intelligence, drive and unconquerable spirit, 16-year-old Shaka became the senior herd boy. Once the young man even stood his ground and single-handedly killed a leopard attacking the herd, earning praise and a cow from the king.  


Shaka came under the protection of Chief Jobe of the Mthethwa people and when Jobe died Shaka was then placed under the special care of one of the principal advisers and chief military commander, Ngomane kaMqoboli, who became Shaka's adoptive father.
 

However, the consequent pain, both mental and physical, from the teasing and abuse had left their marks upon his character leaving him withdrawn, angry and resentful. It would certainly account for why he became a harsh despotic leader.
 
It is also reported that Shaka was not a handsome man and that he had a speech impediment, and that his physical appearance was off-putting to women with many refusing to sleep with him. On more than one occasion in later years, he killed a woman for rebuffing his attentions.
 
Chief Jobe was succeeded by Dingiswayo, a shrewd and capable leader who carried out war-raids on other tribes in the area and started what is known as 'forced migration' or Difaqane.
 
King Dingiswayo came to the Mthethwa throne and by diplomacy and warfare built up a federation of more than 50 tribes. 


He started by reorganising the army. In place of the undisciplined 'mobs' referred to by Shepstone, he instituted a regimental system.


His conquests went much further than those of any other Nguni chieftain. And as his influence extended, so his army grew.


Young men of the clans he overpowered were conscripted into the Mthethwa age regiments which he had introduced, called amabutho,  and their traditional clan ties were consequently weakened: adherence to the regimental system gave rise to a new concept of loyalty.


The fierce competition among the cattle-herding Ngunis for the scarce grazing land was drastically changing the nature of warfare from a quasi-recreational pastime to a serious struggle for survival.

Dingiswayo then began to assert his authority ... first over the Mthethwa and then over the region as a whole.

He also decided to bring the hundreds of domestic clan feuds to an end, by asserting an overall military control over the area around the coastal lowlands and further inland to the heart of the country around the middle Umfolozi River.

 

 

This strategy was intended to end the inter- tribal bickering, but was also necessary to provide a counter to the expanding Ndwandwe, Ngwane and Hlube tribes to the north.
 
In the early 1800s conflict had been on the increase in the region.

The reasons given for this rise in bloodshed was the growing competition for land and severe episodes of drought. And that some chiefs were prepared to use force to enhance their wealth and power, and to control local trade with the Portuguese settlement to the north at Delagoa Bay in Mozambique.

Dingiswayo certainly tried to monopolise the Delagoa trade-market with the Europeans, of ivory in exchange for goods such as brass and beads, and often used violence to achieve this.
 
Shaka's residence amoung the Mthethwa began before Dingiswayo assumed chieftainship. He therefore witnessed the inaugruration of this novel experiment in Nguni military ... tactics.
 
There was much to be learned from the remarkable achievements of Dingiswayo, and Shaka proved an apt pupil.

Dingiswayo's innovations were to provide him with both the knowledge and the organisation he required to realise his own, more bloody ambitions.

As far as is known, Shaka was conscripted into the Mthethwa army in the iziCwe ibutho (regiment) when he was in his early twenties. He was recognised as a brave and resourceful leader and was soon promoted to command his regiment.


Not only his courage but his ingenuity singled him out as an exceptional soldier. He had his own ideas about how battles should be fought. To Dingiswayo's military reforms, he added some valuable innovations of his own.

He was quick to recognise the disadvantage of going into battle armed solely with the traditional throwing assegai.

 


 
This longshafted spear, thrown from a distance, was useless in hand-to-hand combat; it was too flimsy to be used as a thrusting weapon and once it had been hurled a warrior was left defenceless.
 
He also considered that the traditional Nguni way of fighting - standing some distance away from opponents and throwing spears - was too tame and inept, and chose instead to engage in hand-to-hand combat, with a more deadly outcome.
 

He refined the spear into a large-bladed stabbing spear set in a stout shaft, which he called iKlwa - a unique word, said to be an onomatopoeic term imitating the sucking sound made when it was withdrawn from a body thrust. and developed an effective way of employing it as a weapon.

 


In 1816 his natural father, Senzangakhona, chief of the Zulu clan, died. His successor however was murdered, apparently by Shaka under the backing of Dingiswayo. And Shaka became chief of the Zulu.
 
He built his homestead, called Bulawayo, in the Natal area around the White Mfolozi and Mhlahuze Rivers and began to organise the menfolk of the clan into small regiments, grouping them according to age.
 
Shaka then began to train his regiments rigorously with the men being drilled and redrilled.
 
He abandoned the use of the throwing spear and instructed his men in the use of his new stabbing spear - thrusting the weapon underarm, and employing it in conjunction with their shields.

 


 
He introducted a larger version of the traditional oval shields, and these afforded the warrior with full body protection covering him from shoulder to ankle.
 
The warriors were instructed to hook the left edge of this shield over the edge of that of his adversary, and thus wrench the opponent's shield to the left and dragging it across his body, so throwing the opponent off-balance and rendering him vulnerable to the stabbing spear.

Furthermore, to enhance manoeuvrability, Shaka commanded his men to discard their cowhide sandals and fight barefoot. To toughen up the soles of their feet, they were required to stamp on thorns, and to increase their fitness the men were sent on lengthy marches.
 
Once Shaka had prepared his troops into the little dynamic war machine, he took the offensive.
 
Some sources say that the first people to suffer were the eLangeni - in view of the harsh treatment he and his mother had received.  He reportedly took them by surprise, singling out and putting to death individuals who had done him wrong. And by the time he had finished the eLangeni people buckled under his control.
 
He also attacked the Buthelezi, who had been a tributary people of the Zulus but who had gone their own way during the chieftainship of Shaka's father, Senzangakhona.

Apparently the clans were brought sharply under his control and that he was ruthless in his approach, killing even women and children, a practice not previously employed in tribal warfare.

 

Shaka realised the value of terror earlier on in his life and its effectiveness as a weapon that it could intimidate actual and potential adversaries, causing them to either flee or submit.
 
However, during this period, Shaka was not the only chief at war with the tribes of southern Africa. Clans and tribes were continually warring with each other and the key players at this time were also Dingiswayo and his arch rival, Zwide, chief of the powerful Ndwandwe tribe located to the north-west.
 
In 1817 these two powers clashed with much bloodshed.
 
It is reported by Henry Fynn, the Port Natal trader friend of Shaka, that Shaka accompanied Dingiswayo during the campaign and betrayed him to Zwide by informing him of where Dingiswayo would position himself to watch the conflict.
 
But on the other-hand the Catholic missionary who collected a wealth of oral tradition in Zululand in the 19th century, A.T. Bryant, reported that Dingiswayo was seized by an enemy patrol before Shaka's arrival at the camp whilst he was out with his handmaidens.
 
In any event, Dingiswayo fell into the hands of Zwide and following his death the Mthethwa confederacy began to collapse.
 
Zwide was determined that he and his tribe would not succombe to the power of Shaka and in 1818 mounted a battle against Shaka, lead by his heir Nomahlanjana and 10,000 troops.
 
The battle took place near Shaka's homestead of Bulawayo on Gqokli Hill. Although not much is known about the battle it has been reported by the successor to Shaka, Cetshwayo kaMpande, that Shaka's troops were attacked before they were ready and that the battle was bloody with much slaughter. Shaka himself was forced to flee.
 
Following the battle, the Ndwandwe tribe laid waste  Shaka's homestead of Bulawayo and much of the surrounding valley of the White Mfolozi River.
 
In the year before another attack by the Ndwandwe tribe, Shaka continued to consolidate and strengthen his position through both diplomacy and violence and a number of clans joined the growing Zulu clan.
 
After being beaten by Shaka in the second attack near the Mhlatuze River, Zwide was determined to crush the rising Zulu power once and for all. He sent another army under the command of a formidable individual named Shoshangane. 
 
But the crafty Shaka had another battle tactic up his sleeve -


Instead of confronting the Ndwandwe, Shaka ordered his troops to fall back before them - leading them deeper and deeper into Zululand towards the wooded terrain of the Nkandla Mountain range.

Customary to military practice of the Nguni nation, troops were expected forage for food, but Shaka took with him grain and cattle. The Ndwandwe troops were lead into unknown harsh and rugged country where natural food was scarce. 
 
Shoshangane's men became fatigued by hunger, exhausted by fruitless chases of the Zulu warriors, and subjected to a number of hit-and-run commando attacks by Shaka's men, before finally being thrust into a full-scale bloody battle in which the Ndwandwe troops were decisively defeated and scattered.

Shaka wasted no time in moving on to the heart of Zwide's kingdom - where he employed another effective battle tactic.
 
On approaching the chief's homestead he instructed his men to sing the Ndwandwe victory chant. The people came out to greet their heroic 'victors' - only to be met with the sharp blades of the stabbing spears -

 
Zwide fled - across the Pongola River into the area known as southern Swaziland with some of his people, leaving Shaka the dominant force south of the river, with most areas also under his control extending from the Tugela River northward to the Mkhuze and as far west as the Mzinyathi (Buffalo) River.

 


 
With his main opposition gone, Shaka now concentrated on securing the area to the south of the Tugela River - the area known as Natal.
 
Natal, which in Portuguese means 'Christmas', was named by the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama in 1497 when his ship passed the area on Christmas Day - this area was marked on maps and seafaring charts as Terra Natalis and has been referred to as Natal ever since.
 
In the next few years Shaka subjected the inhabitants of the area in repeated and savage raids known as mfecane (crushing).
 
Many less powerful clans fled the onslaught of the Zulu warriors, hundreds of homesteads were destroyed, thousands of livestock were slaughtered, and the resultant hunger of the remaining clans led to more deaths and despair as they began attacking one another desperate for food.
 
By 1824 the area was almost wholly depopulated.
 
At the conquest of Zwide some years earlier, Shaka had also gained control of the Tsonga kingdom of Mabhudu (Maputo) south of the Portuguese port at Delagoa Bay.
 
The port of Delagoa Bay was later renamed Lourenco Marques.
 
According to Alan Smith, a trader, Shaka's envoys interacted peacefully with the Tsonga and the Portuguese only resorting to force in cases of disagreement with trade.
 
Shaka was keen to keep the trade supply active and the Tsonga traders were shrewd business-men who brought much 'revenue' in the way of goods to the foundling Zulu nation. Thus the clans in this area were spared the onslaught of the Zulu and the Maputo area flourished.
 
Glyn Lyndon Dodds, author of the book The Zulus and Matabele - Warrior Nations now describes how Shaka formulated his regiments. And this tradition is still prevalent today in the warrior-system amongst the Zulu and the Swazi.

The Bantu tribes still follow the tradition of a young boy entering into manhood through initiation. Mostly this is carried out with elaborate ceremony and initiation rites. The ceremonies differ amongst the tribes as to what the boys must do to gain his rites but usually follow some sort of circumcision.
 
However, by the early 19th century in the fledgling Zulu nation, the practice of circumcision had virtually died out and instead the chiefs and elders of the clans would band together the young adolescent boys and get them to perform various services as part of their initiation rites into manhood.

 


 
It was also customary for a young boy to make his first 'kill' - usually one of the larger animals and preferably one that could fight back - such as the lion, as this then distinguished him as a hunter and a protector for a family.
 
Although regiments were used in battle by his predecessors, Shaka refined them and used the age-system instead of the clan-system so that he effectively had a young virile army.
 
The different units were called amabutho (ibutho singular) and were commanded by indunas appointed by him. Each regiment was given a name, a distinctive uniform, and ordered to construct a regimental barracks or ikhanda (plural amakhanda).
 
These were located at strategic points around the country and served as centres of the King's authority, for in addition to housing regiments they also functioned as royal homesteads and were often placed in the charge of female members of the royal house.
 
The amakhanda were enclosed by a stockade, in some cases using a double row of stakes crossed at the top with thornbush filling the gaps in between.
 
His troops occupied shared huts arranged in a circle around a central open space that accommodated the regimental cattle, which belonged to Shaka, and which also functioned as a parade ground.
 
At the top of each barracks was a fenced area, the isigodlo, where the King or his representatives dwelt when in residence.
 
The isigodlo also housed young women reserved for royal service and when a regiment was present, guards were posted outside it to keep the warriors at bay.
 
The warriors, when resident at amakhanda, were provided with meat and drink by the King but other things, such as grain, had to be provided by members of the warrior's family.
 
The warriors based at these military homesteads were bachelors and remained as such until their regiments were given Shaka's royal permission to marry. Upon given permission to marry, usually when they were 40 years old, the men chose brides also from a specific age group, as the womenfolk also were formed into age-grades. These married men, although primarily paying allegiance to their immediate families, were required to remain within the amabutho system and could be called upon again when required to by the King.
 
Shaka's army also gathered to observe the all-important annual Harvest Festival, the great umKhosi or First Fruits ceremony, which was usually held at the end of December or in early January. Its main purpose was to secure the blessing of the ancestral spirits of the Zulu clan on the new harvest.


 
At the umKhosi, the regiments wore their full regalia. And during the ceremony which lasted several days, the King would repeatedly be smeared with herbs by the izinyanga (medicine doctor) both as protection against evil spirits and  to make him receptive to the influence of his deceased ancestors.

At the height of the umKhosi ceremony, a young regiment was required to prove their worth by killing unarmed a fierce black bull taken from the herd of an enemy.
 
Regiments were divided into two wings, one led by the regimental commander, the other by a subordinate induna, both of whom were chosen by  Shaka.
 
They were then further divided into izigaba, or sections, with their own commanders. Each of these divisions was made up of companies consisting of men who had served a period of cadetship at the same ikhanda.
 
Regiments and companies varied in both size and strength - some only consisted of 50 men, others neared 200 and regiments up to 1,200 men strong.
 
The Zulu armoury included the knobkerry - a club cut from a single piece of wood with a stout straight handle and a heavy knob at the end; the standard weapon being the stabbing spear iklwa - a tapering blade about 45cm long and about 4-5cm wide; and the shield.
 

 
Warriors had to make and provide their own iklwa, while the shields were provided by Shaka from the hides of the royal cattle and kept in stores in each barracks until required.
 
When Shaka established a new regiment, he granted it a herd of cattle comprising animals whose hides were fairly uniform in colour and markings, thus the distinctions between the different amabutho were quite specific.
 
Newly formed amabutho had shields which were predominantly black while those of senior regiments were generally white.
 
These regimental uniforms were based on those that Dingiswayo had introduced whilst Shaka was serving his cadetship.

When Shaka summoned his army for campaign, the regiments underwent various ceremonies aimed at binding them together and a key feature of the preparations was the giya, in which prominent regiments were called upon to perform an aggressive dance in front of their colleagues.
 
The Zulu army was extremely mobile in comparison with its European counterparts and could cover about 20 miles in a single day without undue effort, and maintain such a pace for days.
 
Whilst on the army (impi) was on the move scouts ran ahead of an advance guard reporting the movements of the enemy, while the advance guard served to fool the enemy into believing that it represented the main Zulu force.
 
The Zulu's favourite attack formation was an encircling movement known as the 'beast's horns', the impondo zankomo - comprising a centre, flanking units, and a reserve.


 
The centre consisted of veteran regiments which would advance to engage the enemy, while on the flanks the 'horns', made up of younger more virile warriors, would dash forward with the aim of surrounding their opponents. The reserve stayed to the rear to enter the fray when and where required.
 
The impondo zankomo, or horns tactic, is credited to Shaka but it is not certain whether he invented it, or it had emerged early in the kingdom's history with one of Shaka's predecessors.
 
It was certainly used though by his successors during the 1830s.
 
At the end of a military campaign when Shaka's regiments returned to the royal kraal, warriors who had distinguished themselves on the battlefield were rewarded and given commendations for their bravery and fighting skills. Cowards however were executed.

 


 
The "Coward's Tree" Where King Shaka tested warriors who were not aggressive in a particular battle.
 

By 1824 the region of Natal was virtually depopulated by the mfecane of the Zulus, and reports of a powerful and wealthy kingdom and its formidable King Shaka had filtered down to Cape Town by refugee clans fleeing the mfecane.
 
At this time, the settlement at Port Natal was not even established as its founder, Henry Fynn, was still living in Cape Town.
 
The residents of Cape Town dismissed much of the tales given by the fleeing Bantu clans, but those who did take notice, namely -. Henry Fynn, John Robert Thompson, Francis George Farewell and a few others - decided to go and try to make contact with Shaka.
1In 1823 Farewell chartered two vessels and sailed up the coast. Although they did not made contact with Shaka at the time, they did however find the Rio de Natal so named by the Portuguese sailors 400 years or so earlier.
 
Returning to Cape Town they spent the next year planning the establishment of an alternative port to rival that at Delagoa Bay. And in May 1824 Henry Fynn and his party entered the beautiful bay of the Rio de Natal which was teeming with wildlife - and during their first night ashore they were harassed by hyenas.
 
Fynn soon made contact with a returning Zulu war-party who took him to Shaka's homestead.
 
With the port at Delagoa Bay, Europeans were not unknown to the Zulus and they were often referred to by the Zulu as the 'makers of wonders'. The Zulu also called the Europeans abeLungu meaning 'pale and bedraggled sea creatures' on account of the shipwrecks that had occurred over the years.
 
Shaka greeted Fynn and Farewell with a display of his military-might, his warriors dancing and engaging in mock battle tactics. Fynn was impressed by the discipline of the Zulu regiments. Shaka had heard of the King of England, George IV from an individual from the Xhosa tribe, named Jakot, who had been at the royal homestead in 1823 and had told Shaka about the skirmishes between the British forces and his tribe.  Shaka wanted to know from Fynn whether the British monarch was as powerful as he.
 
Farewell returned to the little port at the Rio de Natal in late July while Fynn and a servant remained behind at Shaka's insistence as Shaka wanted to know more about the customs of the Europeans.
 
Within days of Farewell's departure, an assassination attempt was carried out on Shaka's life by one of the dissident tribes. Shaka was wounded in the arm by a spear. Fynn sent word to Farewell to return with medicine for the King and in the interim he and the inyanga tended to Shaka's wounds.
 
Upon his return Farewell, presented Shaka with a petition asking to be granted land so that he and the other traders could settle at the mouth of the Rio de Natal.
 
Shaka, being grateful for the administrations whilst he was ill by Fynn, thus ceded the bay and 3,500 square miles of the surrounding countryside to the traders. And on 27th August 1824 the Port of Natal was formally given status.
 
Because of the assassination attempt on his life, Shaka decided to move his capital Bulawayo from beside the White Mfolozi River to the ridge above the Mhlatuze Valley where he constructed a new homestead.
 
Here the new homestead had an outer palisade nearly two miles in circumference and enclosing some 1,500 huts.
 
The new royal kraal, sometimes referred to as Gibixhegu, was in Qwabe country, the tribe who Shaka believed had carried out the attempt on his life.
 
It is thought that he built this impressive homestead and moved into the Qwabe territory as a means of stamping of dissent among the Qwabe clans and to bring them into the Zulu nation.
 
In return for permission to settle at Port Natal, the Zulu king also expected the European traders to submit to his rule, as to him they were now chiefs subject to his will and that of the Zulu nation.
 
And on several instances over the next few years the traders were called upon to assist in Shaka's military campaigns against the Ndwandwe, who by this time were ruled by a king called Sikunyana following the death of Zwide. Despite having been defeated in 1819 the Ndwandwe were still a formidable force and regularly made raids on Shaka's northern territories.
 
At first the traders were reluctant to get involved into the Zulu's affairs, and refused Shaka's summons when he called together the amabutho.
 
However, when he reminded them that he and his army could wipe out the little settlement at any time he wished, the traders decided it was better to comply with Shaka's requests. Thus they accompanied him on the raid against the Ndwandwe.

 


 
With the area of Natal now under his control, Shaka turned his attentions on the south.
 
His armies had already raided the kingdom of the Pondos, some 200 miles away, and beyond that lay the territory of the Xhosa, who were in turn bordered to the south by the British settlers living in the Cape Colony on the far side of the Great Fish River.
 
It has been suggested that Shaka may have considered extending his authority southward and opening up direct contact with the British and indeed in the November of 1826 he moved south across the Tugela River and established a new principal residence at Dukuza near the sea.
 
Glynn Lyndon Dodds, author of the book The Zulus and the Matabele - Warrior Nations, then tells of the death of Shaka's mother Nandi and the grief of Shaka which lasted for nearly a year in which certain prohibitions, punishable by death if broken, were imposed on the daily life of the Zulu nation.
 
Fynn also tells of many deaths and bloodbaths during this emotionally charge period in which Shaka arranged for many enemies, real or imagined, to be killed, and a southern campaign against frontier tribes soon followed the mourning period.
 
It has been suggested that these campaigns were instigated by the traders of Port Natal in the hope that Shaka's attacks would lead to retaliation by the British authorities and pave the way for a greater British say in the affairs of Natal, with themselves as beneficiaries.
 
And Shaka may have been persuaded that by subduing the remaining Bantu tribes and the Xhosa who lived in the area between Zululand and the Cape Colony a treaty of friendship could be agreed with the British authorities at the Cape, which would acknowledge his right to supremacy over the region's Bantu population.
 
Shaka held the British King in authority and wished to be on good terms with the British, and his impi were ordered not to progress further south than the territory of the Xhosa chief, Hintza.
 
Shaka also sent a diplomatic mission to the Cape, led by one of his most trusted indunas, Sothobe kaMpangalala and including two Port Natal settlers, James King and Nathaniel Isaacs, on a schooner constructed by the settlers.
 
But the party was held up at Port Elizabeth for three months during which Major Josias Cloete subjected the Zulus to questioning believing them to be spies, and informing Sothobe that James King enjoyed no status with George IV or any other British authority.
 
In the August the HMS Helicon arrived at Port Elizabeth with official word that the authorities did not wish to receive the mission and James King and the Zulus had to return to Port Natal.
 
In the meantime, Shaka's war-party had reached the Mzimkhulu River where they split up, with one party going to attack the Pondo and the other going to attack the Thembus who lived further inland.
 
The Pondos at first avoided conflict by abandoning their homesteads and sheltering in strongholds in the rugged country  but were attacked and defeated when the Zulu army re-entered their territory on a second raid.
 
The Thembus were also defeated and the Zulu came back with thousands of head of cattle.
 
Upon receiving word of the Zulu invasion, the British sent a small force under the leadership of Major Dundas and attacked what he thought was the withdrawing Zulu army.
 
It was not. It was the followers of the chief named Matiwane, one the Ngwane, who had been ejected with his clan from the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains some years earlier by Shaka. And a month later the British again attacked the Ngwane, believing them to be a Zulu war-party.
 
Shaka was relentless, sending his men out on campaigns with little or no rest, dissent began to develop amongst his subjects who witnessed execution after execution, sometimes unjustly, of people who he feared were his enemy or who had wronged him in some way.
 
And another assassination attempt was made on his life.


This time it was carried out by his two of his younger half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana together with another conspirator, Shaka's body-guard Mbhopa kaSithayi. And on 24 September 1828 Shaka was assassinated at a small homestead in the vicinity of Dukuza - he was only about 41 years old.
 
Shaka has often been described as the 'Napoleon of Africa' -

 


 
I tell the story of King Shaka merely as an illustration of the capabilities as a fighting force that the Bantu peoples can be. The fighting did not stop with Shaka - it carried on - with Shaka's successor Dingane, with Mpande, with Cetshwayo, with Mzilikazi, with Lobengula -

 
Pick up any history book - they are full of them - tales of Battles and Wars in Europe.
 
In the 41 years of Shaka's lifetime alone there had been the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Waterloo, the Gurkha War in India, the Greek War of Independence, and in America the US War of Independence had only just finished -

 
Country against country, nation against nation - the Zulu and the Bantu tribes of Africa are no exception -

 




 

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