Shaka Zulu Potrayed as Bloodthirst
- Pages: 7
- Word count: 1629
- Category: Africa
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According to the diary of Henry Francis Fynn, Dingiswayo’s death (c.1818) was the result of Shaka’s treachery, though firm testimony of this is lacking. However, it is known that when Dingiswayo fought his last battle, Shaka did not arrive at the scene until after his overlord’s capture. He thus retained his forces intact. Zwide later murdered Dingiswayo, and, when the leaderless Mthethwa state collapsed, Shaka immediately assumed leadership and began conquering surrounding chiefdoms himself, adding their forces to his own and building up a new kingdom. The defeat of the Ndwandwe
Zwide decided to smash his new rival. After a first expedition had been defeated by the superior control and strategies of the Zulu at Gqokoli Hill, Zwide, in April 1818, sent all his army into Zululand. This time Shaka wore out the invaders by pretending he was retreating and drawing Zwide’s forces deep into his own territory; then, when he had successfully exhausted the invaders, he flung his own regiments on them and defeated them conclusively at the Mhlathuze river. This defeat shattered the Ndwandwe state. Part of the main Ndwandwe force under Shoshangane, together with the Jere under Zwangendaba, the Maseko under Ngwane, and the Msene led by Nxaba, fled northwards. The survivors of the main Ndwandwe force settled for a time on the upper Pongola River. In 1826, under Zwide’s successor, Sikhunyane, they again fought the Zulu, but were totally routed. The majority then submitted to Shaka. He was able to recruit additional warriors from these sources and proceeded to train them in his own methods of close combat. Shaka’s supremacy
By then, Shaka had no major rival in the area of present day KwaZulu/Natal. During his brief reign, which lasted only ten years after his final defeat of the Ndwandwe, his regiments continuously went on campaign, steadily extending their assaults further afield as the areas near at hand were stripped of their cattle. If a chiefdom resisted, it was conquered and either destroyed or, like the Thembu and Chunu, driven off as landless refugees. When chiefdom submitted, he left local administration in the hands of the reigning chief or another member of the traditional ruling family appointed by himself. The Zulu Military System
Once in power Shaka began reorganizing the forces of his people in accordance with ideas he had developed as a warrior in Dingiswayo’s army. The assegai. He had seen that the traditional type of spear, a long-handled assegai thrown from a distance, was no good for the regulated fighting in close formation he had in mind. A group of warriors who held on to their assegais instead of hurling them, and who moved right up to the enemy behind the shelter of a barrier of shields would have its opponents at its mercy and would be able to accomplish complete victory. Having proved the advantages of the new tactics, Shaka armed his warriors with short-handled stabbing spears and trained them to move up to their opponents in close formation with their body-length cowhide shields forming an almost impenetrable barrier to anything thrown at them.
The formation most generally used was crescent-shaped. A number of regiments extending several ranks deep formed a dense body known as the chest (isifuba), while on each side a regiment moved forward forming the horns. As the horns curved inward around the enemy, the main body would advance killing all those who could not break through the encompassing lines. Discipline. By means of much drilling and discipline, Shaka built up his forces, which soon became the terror of the land. Shaka prohibited the wearing of sandals, toughened his warriors’ feet by making them run barefoot over rough thorny ground and in so doing secured their greater mobility. His war cry was `Victory or death!’ and he kept his impi on continuous military campaigns until he thought they had earned the right to wear the headring ( isicoco) of manhood. Then they were formally dissolved and allowed to marry. The male amabutho.
The young men were taken away to be enrolled alongside others from all sections of the kingdom in an appropriate amabutho, or age-regiment. This produced a sense of common identity amongst them. Each of these amabutho had its own name and was lodged at one of the royal households, which became military communities as well as retaining their traditional functions. Each military settlement had a herd of royal cattle assigned to it, from which the young men were supplied with meat. The hides of the cattle were used to provide the shields of the warriors and an attempt was made to select cattle with distinctive skin colouring for each amabutho. The female amabutho. Numbers of the young women of the kingdom were assembled at the military settlements. Officially, they were wards of the king. They were organized in female equivalents of the male amabutho and took part in ceremonial dancing and displays. When one of the male amabutho was given permission to marry, a female amabutho would be broken up and the women given out as brides to the warriors.
Until such time, however, sexual intercourse between members of the male and female age regiments was forbidden. Transgressions were punished by death. The royal women. Each settlement contained a section of royal women headed by a formidable woman, usually one of Shaka’s aunts. Shaka, however, dreaded producing a legitimate heir. He never married and women found pregnant by him were put to death. His households were thus not dominated by wives but by stern senior women of the royal family. In the king’s absence, administrative authority was wielded jointly by the female ruler of the settlement and by an induna who was usually a favourite of the king. The military system thus helped develop a strong sense of identity in the kingdom as a whole. The traditional leaders of the subject chiefdoms still held local administrative authority, and on the dissolution of the amabutho the young men would return to live in their community of origin.
Thus, the sense of identity of these subject chiefdoms was not entirely lost, but remained an important element in the later politics of the Zulu kingdom. The military indunas or captains, as trusted favourites of the king, received many cattle from him and were able to build up large personal followings. These developments resulted in the evolution of powerful figures in later reigns with strong local power bases that they had been able to build up because of royal appointments and favours. KwaBulawayo. Shaka’s first capital was on the banks of the Mhodi, a small tributary of the Mkhumbane River in the Babanango district. He named his great place KwaBulawayo (`at the place of the murder’). As his kingdom grew, he built a far bigger KwaBulawayo, a royal household of about 1,400 huts, in the Mhlathuze valley, some 27 km from the present town of Eshowe.
Economic and social changes. The development of the military system caused major economic and social changes. That so much youth was concentrated at the royal barracks resulted in a massive transfer of economic potential to a centralized state. However, the cattle wealth of the whole community throughout the kingdom was greatly improved; even though most of the herds were owned by the king and his chiefs and indunas, all shared in the pride roused by the magnificence of the royal herds as well as the pride of belonging to the unequalled military power of Zulu. Effects of Shaka’s wars. His wars were accompanied by great slaughter and caused many migrations. Their effects were felt even far north of the Zambezi River. Because they feared Shaka, leaders like Zwangendaba, Mzilikazi, and Shoshangane moved northwards far into the central African interior and in their turn sowed war and destruction before developing their own kingdoms.
Some estimate that during his reign Shaka caused the death of more than a million people. Shaka’s wars between 1818 and 1828 contributed to a series of forced migrations known in various parts of southern Africa as the Mfecane, Difaqane, Lifaqane, or Fetcani. Groups of refugees from Shaka’s assaults, first Hlubi and Ngwane clans, later followed by the Mantatees and the Matabele of Mzilikazi, crossed the Drakensberg to the west, smashing chiefdoms in their path. Famine and chaos followed the wholesale extermination of populations and the destruction of herds and crops between the Limpopo and the Gariep River. Old chiefdoms vanished and new ones were created. Few kings of any culture have matched the rise and accomplishment of Shaka Zulu, the founder of the modern Zulu kingdom in South Africa For his relatively short life of roughly 41 years, Shaka Zulu united many of the Nguni people of the north and incorporated the Mtetwa Paramountcy and the Ndwandwe into his kingdom.
His holdings expanded from the Phongolo to the Mzimkhulu Rivers and his overall vision and statesmanship led him to become one of the most respected kings during the early part of the 19th century. Shaka played a major role in South Africa history. The precise date and even year that Shaka was born is uncertain, being conceived out of wedlock by his mother Nandi and his father, the reigning chief Sensangakhona sometime between 1781 and 1787. He spent his early years growing up with his mother at her settlement until he was old enough to become a warrior under the local chieftain Dingiswayo. For over a decade Shaka served with bravery, but hardly any notable distinction while learning from Dingiswayo and his new military tactics he was developing. While his predecessor used the military merely as a means of raiding and political influence, Shaka would seize upon these advances for his own use when he became ruler of the Zulu tribe.