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Shaka Zulu Death: What Is the Reason of His Death?

At kwaDukuza in 1828, the Zulu monarch and founder of the Zulu empire, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, was killed by his two half-brothers Dingane and Telangana. One source gives the date as September 24, although other sources offer different dates. After the assassination, Dingane ascended to the throne and became king.

The Dying Words of Shaka

It is believed that in Shaka’s final moments, he told Dingane and Mhlangana that it will not be “white people who will come up from the sea” but rather “white people who will rule over the Zulu nation.” This story is prevalent in South Africa and among the Zulu people. In a different version, it is said that swallows will be the ones to dominate, which is a reference to white people because white people make their homes out of mud, just like swallows do. ​

Shaka Zulu Death

On the other hand, the version that comes from Mkebeni kaDabulamanzi, who was the nephew of King Cetshwayo and the grandson of King Mpande (who was also Shaka’s half-brother), is the one that is most likely the most accurate “Are you trying to stab me in the back, lords of the earth? You are going to bring about your destruction by killing one another.”

The Zulu Nation Under Shaka the Great

Assassinations committed by pretenders to the throne have occurred often in kingdoms all across the world and throughout history. While Shaka’s natural half-brother Dingane was the lawful son of a small chief named Senzangakhona, Shaka was an illegitimate son. Nandi, Shaka’s mother, was finally given the role of the third wife by this chief; nevertheless, their marriage was fraught with conflict, and Shaka, along with his mother, was eventually expelled from the household.

Shaka became a member of the army of the Mthethwa, which was commanded by chief Dingiswayo. After the death of Shaka’s father in 1816, Dingiswayo lent his support to the decision made by Shaka to have his older brother Sigujuana, who had succeeded to the throne, murdered. At this time, Shaka was the leader of the Zulu people, yet he was Dingiswayo’s subordinate. Shaka became the leader of both the state of Mthethwa and the army after Zwide was responsible for Dingiswayo’s death.

Early Life

After the death of Shaka Zulu’s father, Senzangakhona, in 1816, Shaka’s younger half-brother Sigujana became the lawful heir to the Zulu chiefdom and took over as the ruler of the Zulu people. Dingiswayo was eager to consolidate his power, so he provided Shaka with a regiment so that he could put Sigujana to death. This allowed Shaka to execute a relatively bloodless coup that was considerably supported by the Zulu. Sigujana’s reign was short as a result of Dingiswayo’s actions.

Shaka Zulu Death

As a result, Shaka was elevated to the position of Chief of the Zulu clan, even though he continued to serve as a vassal of the Mthethwa Paramountcy until the death of Dingiswayo in combat one year later at the hands of Zwide, a great chief of the Ndwandwe (Nxumalo) country. After suffering a decisive loss and being temporarily dispersed, the Mthethwa warriors allowed Shaka to step into the power vacuum. After defeating Zwide in the Zulu Civil War of 1819–20, he reassembled what was left of the Mthethwa and other regional tribes and then went on to retake control of the Zulu nation.

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As Shaka worked to reform the Zulu military structure, his influence began to grow. On the battlefield, innovations such as the long-bladed assegai and the bullhorn formation contributed to greater victory for their respective armies. He had a strict military discipline and included both adults and children in his forces. His soldiers were vicious. He prevented his soldiers from getting married.

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He achieved his goal of controlling all of modern-day Natal by annexing surrounding regions or forging partnerships with their rulers. As a result of this action, a large number of adversaries were driven out of their domains, and they migrated, wreaking chaos throughout the region. Despite this, he did not engage in hostilities with the Europeans that lived in the region. He did, however, provide permission for some Europeans to live in the Zulu country.

What Motive Led to Shaka’s Assassination?

In October of 1827, Shaka’s mother Nandi passed away, and his grief caused him to behave unpredictably and violently. He demanded that everyone else express their sorrow alongside him, and he put to death as many as 7,000 people who, in his opinion, were not expressing their sorrow adequately. He issued decrees prohibiting the planting of crops and the consumption of milk, two orders that were guaranteed to bring about starvation. Any woman who is pregnant would face the death penalty, as would her husband.

The assassination of Shaka was attempted on multiple occasions by his two half-brothers. Their assault was successful at a time when the majority of the Zulu forces had been moved to the north and the level of security at the royal kraal was inadequate. Mopar, a servant, eventually joined the group of brothers. There are conflicting reports as to who was responsible for the actual killing; some say it was the servant, while others say it was the brothers. They put his body in a drain hole that was empty at the time and then filled it up, thus the precise position of his remains is unknown.

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Dingane ascended to the king and immediately began purging Shaka’s loyalists. To foster loyalty within the military, he made it possible for the soldiers to get married and own homesteads. His half-brother Mpande eventually dethroned him after he had ruled for a total of 12 years.

Conclusion

It is believed that in Shaka’s final moments, he told Dingane and Mhlangana that it will not be “white people who will come up from the sea” but rather “white people who will rule over the Zulu nation.” This story is prevalent in South Africa and among the Zulu people.

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In a different version, it is said that swallows will be the ones to dominate, which is a reference to white people because white people make their homes out of mud, just like swallows do. ​

Shaka Zulu Death

On the other hand, the version that comes from Mkebeni kaDabulamanzi, who was the nephew of King Cetshwayo and the grandson of King Mpande (who was also Shaka’s half-brother), is the one that is most likely the most accurate “Are you trying to stab me in the back, lords of the earth? You are going to bring about your destruction by killing one another.”

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