Zulu History

The Zulu ancestors first settled in Zululand in the late 17 century in the valley of the Mhlathuze River near 1here Eshowe is today. At a later stage, under the leadership of a young chief named Zulu; a group of these early settlers moved westward to the valley of the Mkhumbane River that became known as the Makhosini, Valley of the Kings. The descendants of Zulu were known as the abakwaZulu – people of Zulu. Through unquestionable diplomacy Shaka unified most of the independent clans in the region and formed a powerful nation in an unprecedented rise to power. Shaka ruled the Zulu nation from 1816 until 1828 when he was assassinated by his half-brother Dingane, who became king.

King Shaka

King Shaka was born at about 1787 and died in 1828. He was the son of the Zulu chief Senzangakhona and the Elangeni princess Nandi. On being expelled by his father he joined the Mthethwa tribe under King Dingiswayo, where he rose in the ranks of the army. On the death of his father Shaka, supported by Dingiswayo, was unable to take over the Zulu throne (which was then under Mthethwa domination). On Dingiswayo’s death (1817), Shaka was able to gain control of the whole Mthethwa kingdom, which was one of the most powerful groups north of the Thukela. The powerful Zulu kingdom that he had built was to dominate the South East African region for the first half of the 19th century.

At this time there was great turmoil in this region, referred to as the Mfecane by the Zulu. A number of powerful Nguni were created which led to the absorption of older clans, the division and scattering of others and the joining of these scattered people into new and large states. At the time of Shaka’s take-over, his only serious rivals were the Ndwandwe under Zwide (who were finally defeated in 1826). To control his kingdom, Shaka used his strictly disciplined mobile army, which wew by the inclusion of young men from conquered chiefdoms into the amabutho (age regiment) system. He also exploited rivalries that existed between the chiefdoms that he incorporated. It was therefore through political astuteness and military strength that he was able to develop and maintain his empire.

In about 1820 Shaka’s capital was kwaBulawayo II, (near Eshowe) and it was here that his first contact with the Natal Settlers took place. In late 1826 Shaka built his Dukuza ikhanda (military settlement, the name meaning hide away) where Stanger is today. At first this was a military settlement and a place where Shaka went to enjoy greater privacy but after the death of Nandi, he settled there permanently.

Nandi’s death initiated an extended period of mourning, with the result that Shaka was unable to ensure that the balance of power remained in his favour. For some time there had been discontent amongst the incorporated groups as well as his troops and an attempt had already been mad on his life.

While his army was away from Dukuza his brothers Dingane and Mhlangana, aided by his father’s sister Mkabayi, planned another attempt on his life. It culminated in his assassination in September 1828 at the entrance of Nyakamubi, the private section at the back of Dukuza. There is no exact information about the different parts of Dukuza because the town of Stanger covers the original site. The available information needs to be confirmed by research.

In 1932, the Zulu people erected a memorial to Shaka, which was declared a National · Monument in 1939. The stone beside the monument is believed to be the stone upon which King Shaka sat and it was moved to its present position a few years ago. The tree where Shaka is believed to have sat at the time of his assassination is across the road from the memorial and on private property.

After having assassinated King Shaka, Dingane became the king of the Zulu.

The suggested situation of the Mavivane Execution Cliff, Shaka’s spring, Bathing. Pool and other sites of interest can be found by contacting Mrs. A Gibb, Curatrix of Stanger Museum, Tel 25500.


King Dingane was on the throne when the Zulu Kingdom’s struggle against colonialism began in earnest. After having obtained permission from king Dingane, the Voortrekkers crossed the Drakensberg and began to settle in the KwaZulu area.

The confrontation between Dingane and the Voortrekkers as well as the murders at uMgungundlovu stands within history as a case of engendered mistrust through hidden motives and a lack of diplomacy from both leaders. The subsequent death of Piet Retief and several others created a rift between the Zulu and the Boers. King Dingane sought to drive the Voortrek-kers out, but his army was defeated at Blood River and he was forced to flee northwards.

A Nyawo tribesman assassinated him in the Gwaliweni Forest on the Swaziland border. Mpande King Mpande succeeded Dingane in 1840 and maintained cordial relations with the Voortrekkers and the British colonists, who had established themselves south of the Tugela River.


King Cetshwayo succeeded his father in 1872. He immediately set about building up the Zulu kingdom, something the British colonists saw as an impediment to their expansionist ideas. The British invaded KwaZulu in 1879. The first invasion was repulsed at the historic battle of lsandlwana. The Zulu army suffered defeat in the second invasion at Ulundi. Cetshwayo died in 1883 and the British charged his son and heir, Oirnn!Ulu, with treason and banished him to St. Helena. He featured in the so-called Bambata Rebellion of 1906, which is the last armed resistance to colonial rule in South Africa. He lies buried in the Makhosini Valley.

Solomon followed as leader (1913 – 1933), then Cyprian (1948 – 1963). The current king is Zwelithini Goodwill kaCyprian Bhekuzulu.

Zulu Society

The Zulu social fabric has been woven over centuries to become an ordered patriarchal society that is based on fundamental principles of traditional knowledge, diplomacy and etiquette, loyalty and a deep reverence for one’s ancestral spirits or ‘Amadlozi’. The tradition and tribal value systems have largely survived the onslaught of twentieth century technology and rapid westernisation. The survival of physical structures, however, such as the family homesteads or ‘imizi’ has come under increasing pressure. Land for the layout of these homesteads has become scarce and unavailable. Bricks and mortar have, in many areas, replaced the traditional ‘uhlongwa’ grass thatched beehive huts, which require much maintenance. ·

Zulu craft, in its purest form, is still largely uninfluenced by European culture and trends. While the Zulu artist or craftsman is sensitive to aesthetic qualiti~~J;,the work is almost entirely dedicated to creating articles that are functional or practical. f»The Zulu have their own particular style of traditional craft that is unique to their culture and heritage. One speciality is basket weaving. Zulu women are also experts at beadwork, weaving beads into intricate patterns to form jewellery and other decorative ornaments. Today beadwork has developed as a form of language with colours symbolising different meanings. For example; a white bead represents love and purity, a black bead means grief, loneliness and disappointment, pink beads signify poverty and green beads imply love-sickness or jealousy, while blue beads represent faithfulness. Red beads symbolise tears and longing, yellow beads stand for wealth and striped beads imply doubt.

Zululand forms the North Eastern part of KwaZulu Natal and embraces the area from the Tugela River to the Mozambique border. This area is steeped with history marked by monuments and museums. Game-parks, reserves and farms in the area are all dedicated to conservation of wildlife.

Dumazulu Traditional Village

Graham Stewart an anthropologist, who has been closely associated with the Zulu nation, their culture and heritage since 1967, personally manages the farm, His team has strived to authentically capture the traditions practised during the reign of Shaka. This is a living museum where there are daily demonstrations of the age-old manufacture of spears, shields, clay pots, weaving of palm baskets, intricate beadwork and the Sangoma predicting the future by throwing bones. This is the only cultural kraal to have been opened personally by His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini and is situated just off the N2 near the village of Hluhluwe.


Kwabhekithunga One of South Africa’s most unique tourist attractions is tucked away in an indigenous setting of aloes and mimosa trees overlooking the Umhlatuzane Lake. The site was originally created for the film sets of Shaka Zulu and John Ross. It is an unusual cross-cultural centre and living museum where Zulu folk pursue the customs and traditions of their forebears. Visual explanations of typical Zulu traditions such as beer brewing, spear making, hut building, pottery, weaving and beadwork as well as lectures on traditional dress, Zulu etiquette and the layout and social structure of a Zulu kraal are presented daily. It is situated on the R68 between Eshowe and Melmouth.

Kwabhekithunga is the tribal home of the Fakude tribe that is true to the Zulu culture and traditions that span centuries. Lectures on the structure and social order of an Umuzi, traditional dress and ragalia, crop and food storage, hut building and the role of women and children in the society are presented. The Umuzi women will specially create six succulent dishes, prepared in the traditional Zulu way and served with fresh fruit, for the visitor. Overnight visitors are accommodated in traditional Zulu beehive-huts. Kwabhekithunga is situated on the R34 between Empangeni and Melmoth.

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