the enigmatic story of Shaka, the man who formulated the tribes of
south-eastern Africa into a powerful nation - the Zulu.
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
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
In the late 18th century, the Zulus were an obscure Nguni
tribe of some 1,500 people, ruled by a petty chief named
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
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 ...
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
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
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
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
He started by reorganising the army. In place of the undisciplined
'mobs' referred to by Shepstone, he instituted a regimental
His conquests went much further than those of any other Nguni
chieftain. And as his influence extended, so his army
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
Dingiswayo then began to assert his authority ... first over
the Mthethwa and then over the region as a whole.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The "Coward's Tree" Where King Shaka tested warriors who were not
aggressive in a particular battle.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 -