Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Shaka Zulu's Cruelty and His Demise

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2019
  • Samuel Albert
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  • Source : The South-Eastern Bantu, Abe-Nguni, Aba-mbo, Ama-Lala by John Henderson soga

    Perhaps the wars in which Tshaka engaged as supreme chief of the Imithethwa and AmaZulu reveal the best side of the man, or at least do not display conspicuously the evil that was in him.

    His warrior and their leaders by their excesses help to share any responsibility, and to keep his shortcomings in the background. The savage nature of this inhuman tyrant comes into clearer relief through the details of his private life.

    In a fit of ungovernable fury over some trivial matter, he stabbed his mother, Nandi, to death, and afterwards made a great show of extreme grief.  Mr Henry Fynn states that the Zulus told him that Nandi died from dysentry. 

    But A. M. Fuze (in Abantu Abamnyama) in reference to this says, "Is it likely that the Zulus would open their hearts to a whiteman on the real facts of a matter of this kind?" Which, in short, means that Tshaka actually killed his mother with his own hands.

    There are so many instances of his extreme brutality that it would require a separate volume to record them all. We therefore pass them over and refer to the last, which so exasperated everyone that the natural corollary was the determination to put him to death. 

    The Zulu army had been despatched on an expedition against the Pondos. Though they overpowered the Pondos, the Zulus were yet unable to follow them into the fastness of the Mgazi and completely crush them. So, having exacted a promise from them that they would become tributary to Tshaka, the Zulus contented themselves with this and the captured cattle and returned home. 

    In the absence of his army on this expedition, Tshaka professed to have had certain revelations made to him, through the medium of dreams. He summoned the wives of many of the absent warriors before him. He, then, went through the formulae of the witch-doctor, and charged each one with being guilty of a certain offence. 

    Each individual was asked, "are you guilty?" When the answer was "No," the unfortunate woman was put to death. Others, hoping to escape the same fate, would reply "Yes," but they also were put to death. 

    Thus he trifled with the lives of human beings, disregarded the sacred ties of human affection. The tiger had tasted blood. It is said that four hundred of the wives of his warriors were done to death by him on this occasion. 

    Having temporarily satiated his lust for blood, he began to think and, in thinking, to fear the effect of his excesses on the army. Consequently on its return, he allowed it no time to rest, but sent it immediately on another expedition, this time far to the north-east. 

    That the death of Tshaka was being privately canvassed is evident from an incident which took place about this time. It is related that a notorious thief, Gcugcwa, was brought before Tshaka. It should be mentioned that certain forms of theft were punishable by death. This man was of the AmaQwabe tribe, that is, the Principle House of the Zulus, and was therefore a relative to the tyrant, and of some standing by birth. 

    When he appeared before Tshaka, the latter said to him as if in salutation, Sakubona Gcugcwa ("I see you, Gcugcwa"). Gcugcwa replied,  "Yes, Ndabezitha, I see you also." A second time Tshaka said, Sakubona Gcugcwa. The culprit saw a veiled menace in the salutation, but replied as before. 

    The Qwabe thief was no coward, and feared not death. When Tshaka, therefore, a third time said to him Sakubona Gcugcwa, Gcugcwa replied "Yes chief, you see me to-day, but others will see you to-morrow." "Seize him," said the chief, and Gcugcwa was led to instant execution.

    Retribution is a slow traveller, but reaches its destination in the end. The principal conspirators working for the death of Tshaka were his two brothers, Dingana and Mhlangana. They had not, as is sometimes stated,  gone out with the army on its expedition to the north-east, but had on some pretext remained at home. 

    They got into touch with Tshaka's immediate personal attendant, Mbopha, son of Sithayi, and succeeded in gaining him over to their interest by promising him a large tract of Zululand, and recognition as chief of that part of the country.

    Dazzled by this offer he became a tool in their hands. A sister of Senzangakhona, Tshaka's father, named Mkabayi, was still alive. She had seen her two nephews, Nomkayimba and Mfogazi, cruelly put to death and their inheritance seized by Tshaka. 

    She never forgave him and carried an aching heart with her through life. The conspirators knew this and broached the subject to her. She gave them every encouragement and used all her influence and powers of persuasion to detach Mbopha from his allegiance to Tshaka, and with the help of the promises made to him by Dingana and Mhlangana succeeded. Mbopha dissembled before his master till the fatal day arrived. 

    Tshaka was engaged with Faku's representatives who had come to tender the submission of the Pondos as tributary to the Zulu chief, at the same time placing before him the cranes' feathers, and other articles demanded as an indication of their submission. The meeting was in progress within the cattle kraal of the Great Place. 

    Tshaka seemed to be dissatisfied with the tribute, and was remonstrating with the Pondos, when Mbopha entered, followed by Dingana and Mhlangana. Mbopha took advantage of the chief's attention being distracted to plunge his assegai into Tshaka. Dingana and Mhlangana also set upon him, stabbing him repeatedly till he died. The Zulus thus sacrificed one tyrant, but in Dingana they got another and, if possible, a worse one.
    Dingane kaSenzangakhona

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