Shaka Zulu was born into the small South African clan of the Zulu in 1787. His father was Senzangakhona and his mother was Ndlorukazi Nandi kaBebe eLangeni who later became queen of the Zulu nation. Zulu was named after the shaka beetle, which is the beetle that Zulu village elders denied Nandi’s pregnancy for, claiming that she must have been infected by one.
When young Shaka was born, his father, Senzangakhona denied paternity of him but eventually married Nandi. Zulu and his mother were treated poorly. Nandi was the lowly third wife who was subject to bullying and mistreatment by Senzangakhona’s other wives and their children. Zulu was tasked with watching the sheep and cattle, protecting them from wild animals.
Due to their mistreatment, Nandi gathered young Shaka and fled. They sought refuge, finding it in the nearby clan of the Mthethwa people. Zulu was bullied by the other boys in the village but they were not shamed by the entire village like they were with the Zulu clan.
Zulu grew into a tall, strong leader that the other young men–the ones who teased Zulu as children–looked up to. The Mthethwa clan leader, Diniswago, trained Zulu, teaching him how to lead and be a warrior. Zulu discovered that fighting barefoot made him a better warrior. He then had a blacksmith design a spear that could be better controlled in hand-to-hand combat.
Zulu’s unique fighting method and his courage made him the fiercest warrior in the Mthethwa clan. When Zulu’s father died, he took the throne, becoming the new chief of the Zulu people. He made his mother queen of the Zulu clan and depended on guidance from Diniswago. Shaka overthrew nearby clans, creating more Zulu warriors and establishing the Zulu Kingdom.
After Diniswago died, Zulu continued to take over nearby tribes. In 1818, he faced his most formidable opponent, Zwide. The two chiefs and their soldiers fought at Gqokli Hill. Although the Zulu army was outnumbered, they were trained in Shaka’s unique form. Zulu defeated Zwibe and became the most powerful leader of the most powerful kingdom in the region with a military of nearly 40,000 soldiers.
When Queen Nandi died, Zulu was heartbroken. He forced his subjects to mourn her loss along with him. No new crops were to be planted for a year and any female–human and animal–who became pregnant within a year of Queen Nandi’s death would be executed. Zulu executed a total of 7,000 people for improperly mourning the Queen’s death.
After witnessing Zulu’s cruelty against his people, Zulu’s brothers realized that he had gone mad. Shaka Zulu’s brothers overthrew and assassinated him in 1828. He was in his early 40s. They buried Shaka Zulu’s remains in an unmarked grave.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black and affiliates. Thank you.**
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