Sigidi kaSenzangakhona popularly known as Shaka was a great Zulu king and conquerer. He was born around c. 1787 and lived in an area of south-east Africa between the Drakensberg and Indian Ocean.
He was the son of Senzangakohona, who ruled over a small chiefdom, the Zulu and his mother was Nandi, the daughter of a Langemi chief and was the third wife of his father.
Before the reign of Shaka, there were more than a hundred chiefdoms but were all brought together after he became king. After his father died in c. 1816, Dingiswayo, the army commander was made king but was killed in battle in c. 1818 and Shaka was made king. The reign of Shaka was a great one as he united Zulu Kingdom together but he was murdered by his two half-brothers, Diangane and Mhlangana in c. 1828.
Assassination by rivals to the throne is constant in monarchies throughout history. It’s assumed Shaka was an illegitimate child of his mother while his half-brother, Diangane was legitimate. After the death of his father, Shaka and his mother were driven away and Shaka joined the army of Mthetwa, which was led by Dingiswayo who supported Shaka to assassinate his elder brother, Sigujuana, who had then ascended the throne.
After his brother’s assassination, Shaka became chief but was a vassal of Dingiswayo and assumed full leadership of the kingdom and army when Dingiswayo was killed by Zwide in battle. His power grew as he reorganized the Zulu military system and even invented the long-bladed assegai and the bullhorn formation which helped him win many great battles.
He had a ruthless military discipline and recruited both men and youths in his armies. He even forbade any of his troops from getting married. When his mother died in October, 1827, Shaka made his grief turn him into more ruthless king.
He ordered everyone to mourn his mother and whoever he thought was not grieving enough, was executed. More than seven thousand people faced this punishment and he ordered for no crops to be planted or milk be used and this was a sure sign of an incoming famine.
Every pregnant woman as well as her husband was also executed and this made his half-brother’s turn on him. They tried more than once but always failed until many of the Zulu troops were sent North and the security around Shaka was weakened.
Together with a servant, Mbopa, the brother’s murdered Shaka, dumped his body in an empty grain pit and filled it so the exact location of Shaka’s body was never found as the location of the pit was unknown. Diangane assumed the throne and allowed the troops to marry and set up a homestead. He was king for twelve years until he was defeated by his half-brother, Mpande.