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The Assassination of the Great King Shaka Zulu

Updated: May 5, 2021

Mighty Kings and Kingdoms have risen and fallen through time immemorial. The greatness of any kingdom remains in its legacy economically, military and livelihood transformation. Africa in its breadth cannot be spoken of without the mention of a great, fierce and couth Warrior-King Shaka.

His tales are well documented as his kingdom had severe infiltration of the British settlers. He was feared from the corners of the Southern Africa to the central parts of Africa. The King was successful in battles that came his way and those that dared crossed his path. He succeeded in uniting the Kingdom under his reign and brought Zulu Chiefs of a number above hundred into one Kingdom, the Zulu Kingdom.

Shaka kaSenzangakhona introduced close contact combat using long blades, short-handle stabbing spears or assegais. This was to get the enemy closer and increasing striking chances to a definite. He chose the finest men who would undergo immense training that was designed to filter cowards. No soldier was allowed to come with a wound in the back; it meant he was cowardly running from his enemy. Soldiers would marry after their service in the army of the great King. His military prowess gave him glory as he gored anyone who came head-on against him. He reduced shields to more manageable proportions and trained his men to use their shields to hook their opponent's shield pulling it aside, enabling stabbing by the short spear. He also introduced the scotched earth attack formation also known as the cow-horn formation that would encircle the enemy trapping them for attack and doomed for the wrath of Shaka.

Born to Queen Nandi and Senzangakhona kaJama the father of three Zulu Kings who reigned, Shaka grew up an outcast yet he was an heir apparent. He was ushered into the Dingiswayo’s army at age twenty-three. He reigned in the army until he was commander and this is where his skills would be refined preparing him for the inevitable rulership in his blood.

Shaka’s reign was coupled with ruthlessness and heavy handedness. He had many enemies as he sought to unify the chiefs. This was not a great idea even for the British settlers who were starting to frequent the Kingdom. The divide and rule modus operandi was the most acceptable way of defeating the natives. In the guise of trade and exploration the British would infiltrate the Kingdom and it is rumored that they had courted alternatives to the King’s reign, maybe a softer King.

Divisions within the royal family culminated in his assassination in 1828. Shaka kaSenzangakhona, Zulu king and founder of the Zulu empire, was murdered by his two half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana at kwaDukuza in 1828 on September 24. Dingane ascended to the throne after the assassination. According to Mkebeni kaDabulamanzi, King Cetshwayo's nephew and grandson of King Mpande (another half-brother to Shaka) King Shaka’s last words were, "Are you stabbing me, kings of the earth? You will come to an end through killing one another. "This was prophetic and their demise would be turmoil in the Kingdom later.

Dingane wanted the throne as they said Shaka was their father’s illegitimate son while he was the rightful heir. This wound never healed and there were several attempts before the final attempt on the fateful day in September 24, now celebrated in South Africa as the Heritage Day.

In 1827, Nandi the mother to King Shaka died and the King went into a rage of mourning. It escalated his enemies’ attempts as he lost focus. Thousands of people were killed for breaking the rules of mourning. No one was to till their land, no one was to have a child, no marriages were to be conducted, no cow would be milked, a cow that gave birth would be killed and there were 10 virgins that were buried with his mother to accompany her on her afterlife journey. The people and animals had to feel what it meant not to have a mother. The people grew angry and the thought of a savior was good news perhaps. The mourning period was worsened by terrible induced hunger. The people grew miserable.

bope connived with the two half-brothers of the King when the security was more relaxed on a period when most of the guards had gone to war up North. Some accounts say Mbope fatally stabbed the King while some say Dingane killed him; a sad end for a great King. It was grief that took his eyes away from his throne; he loved his mother dearly and died with his pride.

All his loyalists were removed from influential positions and the soldiers were allowed to marry while many reforms were reversed. They hated that the King Shaka’s legacy would be a forever sore to live with. They died with the secret of his final resting place.

Shaka's corpse was dumped by his assassins in an empty grain pit, which was then filled with stones and mud. The exact location is unknown to this day.

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