The History of Shaka Zulu

KZN North Happenings






Compiled and written by Louis-John Havemann

I again reiterate that I am not an historian but merely relate stories that I had heard as a child and stories I have heard and read about during the course of my life. I count myself fortunate to have met the author of the book Shaka Zulu, Mr E.A. Ritter when I was a young boy. My late grandfather, was a Zulu interpreter to the British Colonial Government in Natal, and was present at the capture of Chief Sigananda Cube during the Bambatha Rebellion. Chief Siganada Cube at the time was 96 years old and was an advisor to Chief Bambatha. He was also an "idibi" or water carrier to Shaka himself. My grandfather, Oupa, as he was known to me, also told me many stories of the Zulu history that he was familiar with as a young man growing up in the old Zululand.
I further count myself fortunate to have been priviledged to have had aquaintance with Zulu royalty, the likes of the late Prince Senzo, Prince Mbatha and Prince Gideon Zulu who hunted with me on my game ranch Windy Ridge, as well as the late Chief Nkanyezi Biyela, chief of one of the largest clans in the Zulu nation, who was my next door neighbour and with whom I had an extremely good relationship. Zulu history was discussed at length and the stories enthralled me.
Prince Gideon Zulu was guardian and mentor to the present Zulu king, King Goodwill Zwelethini, before he was old enough to be eligible to be the Zulu King.

There were many other Zulu people, too numerous to mention, who discussed with pride their nation's history and stories and to whom I am most grateful.










SHAKA ZULU 1787 - 1828

Shaka was born in 1787 in unfortunate circumstances. He was an unwanted child and this affected his approach to life throughout his entire life.

The custom of releasing the build up of sexual tension among young unmarried people, was for a couple to partake in "uKuhlobonga".

This was normally proceeded by a request to "Hlala endleleni" (To play or dally along the road) or "ayi shaya inyoka endleleni" (To strike the snake in the road).

If a warrior had killed an enemy then he had to "Wipe the axe or wash the spear" by partaking of ukuhlobonga. Before a conflict warriors were fortified against evil or darkness referred to as "umnyama".
By slaying a person you were thus tainted with umnyama and it was required of you to wash the spear or wipe the axe by indulging in safe sexual intercourse, in order to cleanse yourself of the evil of umnyama.


The methods of this practice were recorded by Henry Francis Fynn who was the first white man to see the might of Shaka's army. He was known as "Sofili"

Shaka Zulu
painting by Capt. A.D.Shorey

reproduced from the book Shaka Zulu by E.A.Ritter

There was no penetration allowed, so this consisted phallic and clitoral contact only, resulting in outside ejaculation.

If the partners lost control and pregnancy resulted then it was considered the man's fault and a fine of normally three cattle was levied.
During Shaka's reign the penalty was death to both partners. This practice was forbidden to members of the same clan.

Senzangakona the young chief of the Zulu tribe came upon Nandi who was a member of the Elangeni tribe, a sub clan of the Qwabe tribe, whilst she was bathing in a river pool. He was smitten by her beauty and requested to "dally along the road", to which Nandi agreed. The couple lost control. and when Nandi discovered that she was indeed pregnant, a messenger was sent to the Zulu tribe reporting the same.

An important Induna or headman of the tribe called Mudli, Shaka' uncle, denied this.



He told the messenger to return home and inform Nandi that she was stricken with "ishaka", which was thought to be an internal beetle that suppressed a woman's menstrual cycle.When Nandi gave birth to a son she named him uShaka and word was sent to the Zulu tribe to come and fetch Nandi and her son. Not only was Shaka illegitimate but Nandi's mother, Mfunda, was a daughter of Kondlo the Qwabe chief, and marriage between these tribes was forbidden. Remember that the two sons of Ntombela were Qwabe and Zulu. A chief could however do no wrong, so with this double disgrace over her she was brought in as the third wife of Senzangakona, without any marriage ceremony.


The relationship between Senzangakona and Nandi was never really good and she felt very unwanted and neglected. Fortunately Senzangakona's head wife Mkabi showed her sympathy and took her under her wing. Mkabi was related to Nandi.
A sister to Shaka, Nomcoba, was born but the first six years of Shaka's life in the Zulu tribe were very unhappy years, aggravated by him seeing his mother's unhappiness.

At the age of six in a moment of negligence he allowed a dog to kill a sheep entrusted to his care. He was admonished by his father and Nandi defended him. This further angered Senzangakona resulting in him banning Nandi and her son from the tribe. They were returned to the Elangeni tribe in disgrace. Shaka spent his childhood years here subjected to much bullying by the other boys of the tribe.
He was most unhappy during this time and he was further ridiculed because the small size of his genitals. He built up an abiding hate and resentment for the Elangeni people and this resulted in a fierce driving force within him to excel and to dominate in all activities.

He became introverted and antisocial and this further aggravated the way people felt about him.


Shaka on one occasion killed a Black Mamba, one of Africa's most dangerous snakes that had bitten and killed a bull in his care.

Chief Mbengi of the Elangeni tribe called him up before the people of the tribe and congratulated him for this brave deed by giving him a goat.

When it became apparent that he was gaining sexual maturity he was sent back to the Zulu tribe to undergo the ceremony of attaining puberty and was presented with his umutsha, which was an apron of skins to cover his genitals. Before puberty all boys ran around naked.

Shaka rejected this umutsha because he now had attained normal genital development and wanted to show everybody that he was normal, after all the teasing he had been subjected to as a boy. Public protocol eventually forced him to wear at the least an umncedo, which was a woven cup-shaped object that was attached to the end of a man's penis. Although nearly naked, a Zulu man was considered to be acceptably clothed if he wore only this.

He was resented by the older boys because he far surpassed them in all sports and outdoor activities and his burning desire to lead was considered arrogant.


Around about the year 1802, this part of what is now called Zululand experienced a very severe drought referred to as "Madhlatula", which literally means "Eat what you can get and keep quiet". This was in contrast to the Nguni habit of sharing whatever food they had with others. Nandi could no longer provide for her children, so she left with them for Mpapala at the headwaters of the the Amatikulu River, where a man named Gendeyana of the Mbedweni tribe resided. Nandi had previously born him a son named Ngwadi, Shaka's half brother. They stayed there for a while but Shaka was now over fifteen and had no rightful place in this tribe and both the Zulu tribe and the Elangeni tribe were trying to enforce his return to be incorporated in their tribes. Nandi instead chose to send Shaka to her Aunt in Mthethwa land. Both Nandi and Shaka were vagrants and had no real social standing, and as such were not well received. Eventually an induna (headman) called Ngomane, son of Mqombolo of the Mdletshe tribe treated them with kindness, which Shaka never forgot, and settled them with a man named Mbiya. Mbiya became Shaka's foster father and roll model and for the first time in his life was treated with kindness and respect.


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