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The Great Warrior King Shaka Zulu
Zulu Kingdom - documentary from BBC
Shaka Zulu (1813-1829)
When Shaka was a young man, he served in the army of Dingiswayo (one of the most powerful rulers of Zululand), where Shaka’s acts of bravery won him Dingiswayo admiration. Upon Senzangukon’s death, Dingiswayo saw an opportunity to establish his influence over the Zulu by giving Shaka, his protégé, the military assistance to ascend to power.
Shaka is accused of killing his half-brother and seizing the throne. At that time, Shaka was only the twenty-six and Zululand was only one hundred square miles in size. The new Zulu ruler declared it was his aim to rule all Africans. Shortly afterwards, Dingiswayo was killed by Zwide, another political aspirant. Shaka in turn set out to assassinate Zwide; after two attempts, Zwide was killed, through reportedly not by Shaka.
Shaka implemented a new system of military organization that incorporated regiments from defeated tribes. Accordingly, when a chiefdom was conquered it became a territorial segment of Shaka’s kingdom-at-large. The young warriors became a part of the royal army and were drilled and fought beside combatants from other chiefdoms. This encouraged their loyalty to transcend the bounds of the warriors’ original environment.
To maintain his royal army, Shaka established military towns provided his army with the best of training and provisions. The Zulu king demanded the strictest of discipline and perfection from his regiments. For example, his soldiers were required to remain celibate during their period of enlistment. Any violation of this rule was punishable by death. He also killed any soldier that exhibited signs of fear. Shaka’s existence was based on excellence and he imposed his strict requirements on others.
Shaka also revolutionized the Zulu army’s weaponry and its military tactics. He perfected several complex battle formations that outflanked and confused his enemies. It was customary for Zulu warriors engaged in battle to throw their spears and retreat. Shaka considered this method both unsatisfactory and cowardly. If his men retained their weapons and advanced right up to their enemies behind protective shields, Shaka reasoned the Zulus would have their foes at a considerable disadvantage. Shaka therefore designed a short handled stabbing spear, an “assegai,” that was used and retained throughout battle.
Shaka unified many tribes of the South African region and his efforts are directly credited with saving that region from European domination during his lifetime. Nevertheless, some historians have characterized the Zulu ruler as an extremely militaristic man who was prone to violence. Ironically, in 1829, at age 42, Shaka met with a violent and premature death at the hands of his own brother. He was repeatedly stabbed to death, and his body was thrown to the vultures. Many black contemporary historians believe that Shaka is perhaps the most misinterpreted of all the African kings.
Excerpt from A Salute to Historic African Kings & Queens.
This is only a summary of the life of King Shaka.