Shaka Zulu is one of the most famous (or notorious) leaders to have graced Southern Africa in the past few centuries. Hate him or love him, if you have any interest in the history of Southern Africa, you must have heard about Shaka Zulu, the renowned personality that established the Zulu tribe. Many respect him, some revere him while some others just plain wish he were still alive. Zulu is one of those people that demonstrated the true spirit of Africa. He was a warrior who never backs down. Despite all we know about the legend, there are, however, certain truths about him that many people don’t know. In this article, ten shocking truths about Shaka Zulu are shared.
1. Shaka Zulu Was A Rebel
Shaka Zulu was a true rebel who had very little patience with certain aspects of culture which he deemed not particularly valuable. He decommissioned initiation school, where young girls and boys are taught how to be men and women. Things like the role of the man in the house versus the role of the woman were taught. He made away with such institutions and traded them in favour of military training for boys. The girls would ordinarily be initiated by their family, by performing a coming-of-age ceremony.
2. He Loved His Mother
Shaka Zulu really loved his mother. This must have been brought about by the fact that he was an illegitimate son of a chief, who was then banished – together with his mother, to live with his mother’s people away from the royal house. History has it that they moved from place to place. Later on, he was trained by Dingiswayo who taught him much of his military knowledge. Dingiswayo subsequently helped him come into power. Throughout his reign, Shaka Zulu was inseparable from his mother.
3. Shaka Zulu Killed More Zulus Than Any Of His Enemies Did
Although a lot of sympathizers have come on to cast doubts on many of the accounts regarding Shaka, there is no doubt that Shaka was a ruthless man, who killed more of his people than any other king.
4. His Capital Was Called Bulawayo – ‘The Place Where They Are Killed’
Shaka had very little regard for people that he deemed not good enough. After every battle, his troops would gather at Bulawayo, the capital to be examined. Anyone found with a wound on his back would be killed, because he must have been fleeing. Any troop member who showed any sign of fear would also be taken there to meet his untimely end. Bulawayo was meant to live up to its name.
5. In Shaka Zulu’s Campaigns, He Never Bothered Bushmen
It is not popularly reported, but Shaka spared the bushmen when he went out to conquer other tribes. The main reasons for such mercies are not exactly known, but while many tribes were being slaughtered, bushmen would be curiously bypassed.
6. He Stole The Crown
Although Zulus and other people revere Shaka so much, the truth is that he usurped the crown. He killed his half-brother and installed himself as king. Nguni culture dictates that an illegitimate child cannot assume his father’s crown under any circumstances, but he did. Not only was he disqualified from the position, but he had other half-brothers who were qualified, such as Dingane.
7. Shaka Zulu Forbade His Troop From Marrying
Shaka forbade his troops from marriage or having homesteads. He believed that marriage would somehow degrade their military readiness. This was clearly something that the troops silently resented, because after Dingane had murdered Shaka and installed himself as king, he allowed them to marry and have families, as a way of buying their loyalty – and it worked.
8. He Allowed White Settlers Into His Kingdom
Shaka was a ruthless ruler and was resented by many of his people. No-one dared to speak openly though because any opposition to him was sentenced to death. One day Shaka survived an assassination attempt. In order to receive the best treatment, he called for and allowed whites to come into his kingdom in order to give him the treatment. As a sign of gratitude, he allowed them to come and settle in Port Natal, now known as Durban.
9. Shaka Zulu Killed Many Zulus To Mourn His Mother’s Death
When his mother died, he declared a mourning period of more than a year. During this time, crops were not planted and any woman who became pregnant was killed, together with her husband. All the cows that gave birth were killed so that their calves could know how it felt like to lose a mother.
10. He Is The Founder of the Zulu Nation
Before Shaka, Zulus did not exist. Instead, there were many small Nguni tribes occupying most of what is called KwaZulu Natal in South Africa today. Ngunis were like many tribes in Southern Africa; they were organized into many tribes that coexisted along one another. There were frequent squabbles, but nothing too serious. Shaka strengthened his own tribe and started conquering neighbouring tribes through both war and diplomacy. He then named them Zulus, after Dinizulu, his grandfather.