The estimated year of Shaka’s birth was 1785. He was born to Nandi, daughter of a previous chief of the eLangeni tribe. His father, Senzangakona was the chief of the then small Zulu tribe. The marriage of his parents, after his conception, did not last, and although Nandi returned to her tribe, she was made to feel unwelcome. She returned to the Zulus, who tolerated her, but was nevertheless not treated well. Shaka was teased and ridiculed and made to feel like an outsider.
He understandably grew up to be bitter and angry, hating his tormentors and listening carefully to his mother’s tales about his royal blood on both sides. He was a young man in his early twenties when he became a warrior for the Mtetwa tribe, fighting for his people and for six years he proved to be an outstanding soldier. He firmly believed in being the conqueror, never the conquered and would hate it when another, weaker tribe surrendered before war could take place. He created a dangerous weapon called the iKlwa.
Dingiswayo, the chief of the Mtetwas saw Shaka’s potential and decided to train him as a future chief of the Zulus, a tribe that the Mtetwas had conquered during Shaka’s first battle. Dingiswayo reasoned that Shaka and the Zulus would act as a buffer against invading forces. Shaka rose through the ranks of the Mtetwa army and soon became the leader. He carefully and meticulously planned and formatted brilliant battle strategies and altered, where needed, the weapons used during battle. When the Zulu chief, Senzangakona died, Shaka became the new chief.
The era of Shaka, Zulu king had started. Shaka started to build up a mighty army of Zulu warriors. He demanded total loyalty and obedience. Death was the reward for those who hesitated in carrying out his commands. He drilled his warriors, fine-tuning them into a slick warring machine. He devised new, unheard of till then, battle tactics. He built up divisions within his army - certain divisions concentrated on making weapons. He was one of the warriors, living as they did without the trappings that he was entitled to as a chief. Shaka, king of the Zulus and his warriors, called “impis” were invincible. He believed in total annihilation and only spared those tribes and people who had shown kindness to Nandi, his mother and the young Shaka.
He never married but had over 1200 concubines. In 1817 Shaka and Dingiswayo decided to move in the Southeast of Africa. Dingiswayo died and the different tribes warred against each other to dominate the Mtetwa Empire. Shaka Zulu won the battles and was king of all the territories in Natal and Southeast Africa in 1820.
The white man arrived in Natal in 1824 and immediately sought out Shaka who held them in high regard - they had treated him medically after an enemy had stabbed him. To show his gratitude he signed over land for next to nothing - the Europeans had tricked him, although he was unaware of it. They helped him conquer other parts of South Africa.
It was during a hunt with the white man that he received a message that Nandi, his mother, was dying. Shaka was demented with grief and ordered a few thousand people executed in memory of his mother. Somehow 7000 people were slaughtered. He furthermore, demanded that his tribe go on a fast to commemorate Nandi and only after three months, when many were near to death, did he lift the fast.
Madness seemed to take hold of Shaka and his impis started to lose ground. On 22 September 1828 Shaka, king of the Zulus was murdered by two half brothers on his father side. The one half brother was Dingaan who immediately claimed kingship.
Shaka the Zulu king had a mystic about him that still lives on today. His brilliant battle tactics were revolutionary for those days and his thirst for revenge frightening. He is one of the most famous South Africans ever to have lived.