Shaka Zulu

Published 02 Nov 2017

Shaka Zulu was a prominent African leader who founded the great Zulu empire.Shaka Zulu was born around 1788 in a place called Melmoth. His parents belonged to the Mhlongo tribe which was ruled by Chieftain Dingiswayo Kamthethwa who was the most influential ruler in the area. Shaka Zulus parents were from the same clan and their marriage was against the Zulus laws. Shaka Zulus and his mother, Nandi were marginalized in the community, and this forced them to escape when Shaka Zulu was six years old and they sought refuge in the neighboring Langeni tribe. Langeni people also chased Shaka Zulu and his mother away, they went away and again sought refuge with the Mthethwa people who welcomed them. Shaka Zulu was a very active young warrior with exceptional fighting skills, this made chief Dingiswayo admire him very much, favored him even though he never belonged to the Mthethwa tribe this was the beginning for his future as a leader and a warrior.(Hamilton, Carolyn 1898)

The death of Shaka Zulus father Senzangakhona marked the prosperity of his political career as a military warrior and a leader. After the death of his father, Chief Dingiswayo who admired Shaka Zulu very much gave him military support and this helped him defeat his brothers and he took the leadership of the Nguni people, who were the minority group at that time. Shaka Zulus political star started shinning in1816 when he succeeded the Zulu chief.

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Compared to other military leaders at that time, Shaka Zulu was a credited military leader. When he became the Zulu ruler he introduced various changes. First was the weapon change. He is credited with introducing the new short stabbing spear with along, sword-like spear head and a large, heavy shield make of cow hide. He was a military genius and he taught his warriors how to effectively use these weapons and take advantage of the enemy. He hardened his soldiers by forcing them to train and march very long distances on rocky terrains without shoes and trained them encirclement tactics, whose who tried to disobey his instructions were immediately killed. He formulated a very well organized logistics support by youth formations, he implemented this by recruiting young boys aged six years and above in the army as apprentice warriors. These young troops were used to carry supplies like food, cooking materials sleeping mats and extra weapons for the main army, while under training to join the main army. Shaka Zulu organized his clan and forces into age-grade regimental systems. (Guttmann, J 2008)

Each age-grade was mandated with a particular activity like cattle herding, performing rituals and ceremonies, guarding the camp. There were also special military groups, each group with its own distinctive name and responsibility. Shaka Zulu is credited with his high-tech fighting tactic called the buffalo horn formation for his troops, this was the most effective and modern Zulu fighting tactic at that time. This tactic split the troops into four groups during battle, and these groups could form the shape of a bulls head. The first group forming the chest clashes head on, and while the enemy is still confused by this tactic, the second and the third group surrounds the enemy and the fourth group will be a reserve group. All young men and women from the enemy tribe were not killed, they were brought to the Zulu land to be trained as soldiers and the woman become Zulu men’s wives. This is how Shaka Zulu built the great Zulu nation. (Hamilton, Carolyn 1998)

Shaka Zulu continued with his mission of conquering small neighboring tribes among them the Langeni tribe whish had rejected him and his mother. He conquered many other tribes successfully and expanded his territory. His name inspired fear to all his opponents. He dominated many powerful clans like the powerful ndwande clan making them part of shaka people. His mother, Nandi died in 1827. The following year after his mother’s death was the year when his rule came to a drastic end. He concentrated all his troops on attacking enemies in the south, immediately they retuned he directed them to a huge war on the far north leaving behind very few soldiers to guard home, this was the last war for his exhausted troops during his rein. His half brothers Dingane and Mhlangane who never recognized his leadership as rightful since he gained power instructed an assassin who stubbed Shaka Zulu and he died bravely on September 1828 cursing his brothers that even if he dies they will not rule the great Zulu nation.

In the 1800s Africa condition was basically scramble for power, raiding and conquering by various tribal rulers to protect their territory and expand it. During this time, Africa had not organized itself into nations, It was divided into small kingdoms and tribes ruled by tribal chiefs .Africans tribal rulers during this time were on civil war, a powerful tribe could raid less resistant tribe and make it part it hence expanding its territory as well taking slaving advantage and conditioning white traders who were visiting Africa that time looking for trading commodities like the Portuguese to give tribute to this particular tribes. This was in addition the time when white settlers and colonies started exploring Africa. (Guttmann, J 2008)

Shaka Zulus and the American Indian leaders career where similar in that; just like Shaka Zulu, most American Indians were war veterans and tribal leaders who were busy training their forces to protect their territories and expand it by conquering their neighbouring less powerful clans. shaka Zulu and the American Indians were both military pioneers involved in the 1800 civil war which was going on during the scramble for Africa. They were both military leaders and chieftains preparing to resist white invasion into their territory. For instance chieftain Cheyenne was an American Indian who resisted the white man settlement of the Kansas and Colorado territories during the 1860s. (Hamilton, Carolyn 1998)

Shaka Zulu was the most influential leader of the Zulu kingdom, he is widely acknowledged by historians in Africa and the whole world as a greatest leader who united most South Africans tribes in to the Zulu kingdom. His statesmanship and vigor crowned him as one of the greatest Zulu chieftains. He made Africa proud and recognized by his bravely Africa was put into world maps. He created the great Zulu nation which is now what is known as South Africa. Today his life and death is remembered by the Zulu tribe and South Africa as a whole by yearly celebration of the Shaka Zulus day. There are popular films and praise songs and widely used poetic forms in Africa which sparks interests among not only the South African community but the whole world about this unshakeable South Africa leader as well as Zulus rich culture. (Hamilton, Carolyn 1998)

Shaka Zulu was an exceptional Zulus leader and military veteran. Through his military genius he transformed Africa, and specifically South Africa. When he took power as the Zulu leader he conquered and captured many tribes incorporating them into the Zulu nation. He is the founding father of the rich Zulu culture which even today inspires many people. As historians learning about Shaka Zulu is very important, it makes us understand what was happening in Africa and other parts of the world in the 1800s.It also equips us with 1800s Africa history, for instance during the time of Shaka Zulu Africans were governed by clan rulers. There was also civil war among these Africans tribes because some strong tribes were conquering small tribes and absolving them into their large clans hence expanding their territory .Learning about Shaka Zulu also gives us knowledge on when white settlers started exploring Africa and conquering it which was the beginning of civilization in Africa.

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