South Africa
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Shaka Zulu (1787 - 1828)

The Chief who made the Zulus supreme

At the beginning of each winter the all-conquering Zulu regiments would gather in their ancestral lands to pledge themselves to new conquests with the salute, 'Ngathi impi', translated meaning 'because of us, war!'

The man who ruled over the Zulus at this time of their greatest glories, who had led their growth from a small tribal clan into the dominant power on the coast of south-east Africa, was called Shaka.


Shaka was born as the result of a chance meeting between the youthful chief of the Zulu clan, Senzangakhona and a pretty young girl called Nandi, from the neighbouring Langeni clan. Three months after their alliance word reached Senzangakhona that the girl was pregnant. The young chief tried to talk himself out of the situation, 'perhaps she is simply harbouring iShaka' (an intestinal beetle) but six months later the 'beetle' arrived in the shape of a lusty son, who was promptly named Shaka.

Shaka soon proved himself a courageous warrior inspite of being taunted for his illegitimacy and while still young he invented a short, broad-bladed, stabbing spear which proved to be a devastating weapon.


In 1816 at the age of about 30 Shaka became chief of the Zulus and he mustered all the men of the Zulu clan below the age of 40 and over the next few years he systematicallly attacked every independent tribal group in the vicinity, either driving them away or absorbing them into the Zulu nation.


By 1823 Shaka was triumphant, his army was supreme and his followers were delirious with success. Cattle, loot and women simply poured into the hands of the Zulu nation and the once peaceful little valley became too small to contain them all. In the winter of 1823 Shaka began to build a new capital on a site overlooking the valley of the Mhlatuze River and named it kwa-Bulawayo, meaning 'the place of the persecuted man'.

During the hot summers his people tilled the fields and armourers made spears and shields. Each winter was the time for war and raids were launched wherever a tribe could be found still in possession of cattle or other forms of wealth.


In 1826 Shaka built another hut city further south on the site of what became the town of Stanger. He named it kwaDukuz, meaning 'the place of the lost person' because it was easy to get lost in the labyrinth of huts.

The death of Nandi

In 1827 at kwa-Bulawayo his mother, Nandi, died. Shaka was with Henry Fynn and several British ivory hunters hunting elephants in the Mhlatuze Valley. They left a description of the incredible sequence of events when Shaka heard of his mother's death whereby in an explosion of grief about 7000 tribal people were massacred.


In 1828 Shaka led his army on a great raid down the south coast of Natal and into the Pondo country of the then Transkei. He returned to spend the summer at kwa-Dukuza.

The death of Shaka

It was here, in a small outlying kraal towards sunset on 22 September while waiting to receive a tribute from a visiting party of Tswanas, that two of his half brothers, Mhlangana and Dingane strode into the cattle enclosure and stabbed him to death. The next day his corpse was bundled into a black ox-hide and buried, together with a few belongings, in an empty corn pit.


The King Shaka Memorial includes a monument, a podium for various events, three representative huts and King Shaka's throne; a rock next to the memorial.

A 20-minute slide show on the history of King Shaka can be viewed. There is also a small curio shop and an Interpretative Centre.

Open daily from 08h00 to 16h00

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