Who Was Queen Nandi Zulu, The Mother of Shaka?

Queen Nandi Zulu (1760 – 10th October 1827) was a Zulu woman famous in history as the mother of Shaka Zulu, a legendary king of the Zulu nation.

Nandi went through so much as a mother trying to protect the life of herself and her son, Shaka. Knowing all that his mother had done for him, when Shaka finally became the king of Zulu, it was reported that he almost worshiped her like a god, and when she passed away, he ensured that Zulu people felt the pain of losing a mother.

Biography and Quick Profile Summary Of Queen Nandi Zulu

  • Name: Nandi Zulu
  • Gender: Female
  • Date of Birth: 1760
  • Date of Death: 10th October 1827
  • Place of Birth: Melmoth, South Africa
  • Ethnicity: Zulu
  • Nationality: South African
  • Queen Nandi Zulu’s Husband: Senzangakhona Jama, Gendeyana
  • Children: 3 (Shaka, Nomcuba, Ngwadi)
  • Queen Nandi Zulu’s Parents: Bhebhe
  • Best known for: Being the mother of Shaka Zulu

Queen Nandi Zulu Was The Mother of Shaka Zulu

Queen Nandi Zulu is best known as the mother of Shaka Zulu, a prominent late king of the Zulu kingdom. Legend has it that Nandi had her son, Shaka, out of wedlock and had to raise him, alongside his step-siblings, singlehandedly. Not just that, she also had to constantly move from place to place to escape from threats against her life and that of her kids, especially, Shaka.

But from being a poorly treated woman who faced humiliation due to having a child out of wedlock, she became the queen of Zululand and the King’s adviser until her death. To date, her name is still written on the sands of time, and almost anytime Shaka Zulu is mentioned, his mother will be brought to mind as well.

Queen Nandi Zulu Was Born In 1760

Queen Nandi Zulu

Nandi Zulu was born in 1760 at Melmoth. Her father, Bhebhe, was a minor chief from Elangeni. Not so much is known about her early life as she was born when the only means of record-keeping was writing – even though nothing was written about her early life.

Her life took a significant turn while returning from visiting a relative in the Babanango Hills when she and the small group she was with encountered Zulu warriors on their way back. Among the warriors they met was Senzangakhona, the son of Jamas, and the then-king of the Zulu people.

Senzangakhona Got Nandi Pregnant Out Of Wedlock

The meeting between Senzangakhona and Nandi resulted in intimacy that led to the conception of a child. When she discovered she was pregnant, she informed the king, but the village elders rubbished her claims, stating that she had been infected by the Shaka bettle, an infection associated with stomach bloating.

Though it is not written in history whether or not it was a rape case or with mutual consent, it was recorded that the people of Mhlongo demanded that Senzangakhona pays damages for what he had done against their daughter. Nandi, who seemed to have been hurt by the fate that had befallen her, requested that 55 herds of cattle be paid for the damage; to avoid war, her demand was granted.

Nandi Was Later Shamed For Being A Mother Out Of Wedlock

To date, a young girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock faces some level of disregard by the public, even with the level of civilization today. Considering that Nandi was faced with this fate at a time when morals were upheld so much, especially in Africa, you can attempt to imagine what she must have gone through.

Following the birth of the child she named Shaka (she called him after the Shaka beetle, which was used to discard her pregnancy claims), Nandi was escorted to the Zulu capital, where both herself and her child were shamed. She was placed at the lowly position of a third wife to the king of Zulu.

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There are reports that Senzangakhona initially denied the child’s paternity. Still, there are also contradictory reports that he truly loved her and that initially, she spent some time at his kraal before the relationship between them got sour and she had to leave his kraal. The situation was too much for Nandi that she had to go back to Mhlongo, leaving her son, Shaka, at Senzangakhona’s kraal.

While Moving From One Place to Another, She Got Into A Forbidden Marriage With A Qwabe Man

Leaving Shaka at Senzangakhona’s kraal did not seem like a good idea, seeing that his life was in danger, so his uncle Mudli brought Shaka back to his mother. However, being in Elangeni was not safe for Nandi and her son, so she finally had to leave Elangeni for Qwabe.

Queen Nandi Zulu

At Qwabe, Nandi found love again with Gendeyana, and they got married, together they had a son named Ngwadi, but then again, her supposed joy did not last long because she had gotten into a forbidden marriage. Qwabe and Zulu claim the ancestry; as such, intermarriage between the two tribes was prohibited.

Once again, the pressure was too much for Nandi, and she had to leave Qwabe and continue moving from one place to another until she found solace in Mthethwa, where she was welcomed. When she got to Mthethwa, she was now a mother of three children, Shaka, Ngwadi, and a daughter named Nomcoba.

At Mthethwa, the clan leader, Diniswago, took Shaka under his guide and trained him to be a leader and a fighter. Shaka joined a Chwe regiment that was led by Bhuza. It was there that Shaka learned how to devise military tactics.

When Shaka Became King Of Zulu, He Made His Mother The Queen Of Zulu

Despite growing up in Qwabe and Mthethwa, Shaka still knew who he was, and when he became a grown-up man, he went back to Zulu to claim the throne. Fortunately for him, he became the king of Zulu and did not waste any time appointing his mother as the Queen of Zulu people and the king’s advisor.

On 10th October 1827, Queen Nandi Zulu lost her life after a battle with dysentery. Her death brought so much hurt to Shaka that he took it out in the people of Zulu. He set up a law that no crop was planted and no milk be used the following year. It is important to note that at that time, milk was the basis of the Zulu people’s diet. To cap it all up, Shaka Zulu also ordered that no human or animal was to get pregnant that year, and the penalty for conceiving a child was death – for both husband and wife. Following these outrageous decrees, at least 7000 people were affected, and they lost their lives.

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Romeo Ndlovu
Romeo Ndlovu
Romeo's secret talent is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary content. At work, he is thinking about how best to provide the most unique, original content that provides utmost satisfaction to the user. Away from work, he is a football addict who loves to catch up on his favorite pastimes


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