King Shaka Zulu History Facts Summary and Analysis

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Zulu Tribe Army

In the early 1800’s, the Zulu army was ill equipped with ox hide shields and flimsy throwing spears similar to all other African tribes. Battles tended to be brief encounters with little or no casualties. The outnumbered tribe surrendered or ran away before any significant number of dead and casualties occurred.

Zulu Fighting and the Mfecane

Battle tactics, methods of fighting and weaponry changed for the Zulus when Shaka (Chaka) became king. King Shaka ruled with an iron fist totally transforming the Zulu army into an effective killing machine. Developing lethal methods of combat, a campaign of extermination of neighboring tribes began. The Zulu army surrounded the enemy by a tactic Shaka called the horns and the loins of a Buffalo. It proved quite effective in that the enemy was unable to escape. Shaka rearmed his army with long-bladed, short-hafted stabbing assegais, which forced them to fight at close quarters. Troops could no longer just throw a spear and run. To insure victory, Shaka ceremoniously killed commanders who lost battles. The Zulu army spread across Natal crushing neighboring tribes. As the Zulu army swept through, fleeing tribes seeking refuge elsewhere exterminated other tribes in their path. This domino event known as the Mfecane or crushing resulted in an estimated 2 million deaths. At the time of the Boer trek, Shaka had depopulated Natal and surrounding areas. [10]

Reign of Terror

Shaka became psychotic after his mother died. A reign of terror began.

In 1827, Nandi died, and with his mother’s death Shaka became openly psychotic. About 7,000 Zulus were killed in the initial paroxysm of his grief, and for a year no crops were planted nor could milk- the basis of the zulu diet staple be used. All women found pregnant were slain with their husband, as were thousands of milch cows, so that even the calves might know what it was to lose a mother. [11]

Shaka's Death: Dingane becomes King

To end the oppression, associates and two of Shaka’s half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, murdered Shaka in September of 1827. Dingane became king. When Shaka was dying, he whispered to Dingane that the white man would take the Zulu lands away and in the process take power away from Dingane. Consequently, Dingane became paranoid and treacherous. Dealings with Dingane would prove deadly for both the Zulu tribesmen and the Boer Trekkers, who were at that time migrating into Zulu territory.

Dingane recognized early the need to arm his men with guns.[14] He welcomed the Boer Trek leader Retief and his followers. Retief foolishly trusted Dingane. Talked into leaving their guns at the gate, the Boer party entered the Zulu village for what they thought was a celebration. The Zulus seized the Boers and executed them one by one. The missionary who warned Retief, watched dismally from afar. After the mass execution, the Zulus launched war parties to massacre all the Boer trekkers east of the Drakensberg Mountains. [15]



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