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Zulu Kindgom

1Zulu kaNtombhela c. 1709 ?
2Gumede kaZuluc. ? 1727
3Phunga kaGumede17271745
4Mageba kaGumede17451763
5Ndaba kaMageba17631781
6Jama kaNdaba17811816
7Senzangakhona kaJama 1816
8Shaka kaSenzangakhona 18161828
9Dingane kaSenzangakhona 18281840
10Mpande kaSenzangakhona 18401872
11Cetshwayo kaMpande18721884
defeated in 1879 Zulu War
12Dinuzulu kaCetshwayoc. 18841913
13Solomon kaDinuzuluc. 19131933
14Arthur Mshiyeni kaDinuzulu19331947
15Sifile Sibiya19471948
16Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon19481968
17Israel Mcwayizeni kaSolomon 19681971
18Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu 1971--
The Zulus originally were a small tribe called Abaguni, which spread by war, conquest, and the absorption of neighboring tribes, till the kingdom covered the seaward portion of south-eastern Africa from the country of the Swazies on the north toward Delagoa Bay, down to the land of the Pondos-in British Kaffraria. When they became conquerors, the Abaguni abandoned the name by which they are still known to some neighboring tribes, and adopted the word Zulu, which in their native tongue means "Heaven; " so that the Zulus, like the Chinese, in their own esteem are "celestials." The earliest Abaguni king remembered by the Zulus was Umalandel, followed in succession by Umdhlana, Zulu, Untombela, Ukosinkulu (big king), also called Mamba (large snake), Umageba, Upunga, Ufaina, and Senzagacone, each king the son of his predecessor, most of them making no wars, but living in peace and breeding cattle.

At the close of the 18th century the Zulu were an unimportant tribe numbering a few thousands only. At that time the most powerful of the neighbouring tribes was the Umtetwa (mTetwa or Aba-Tetwa) which dwelt in the country north-east of the Tugela. The ruler of the Umtetwa was a chief who had had in early life an adventurous career and was known as Dingiswayo (the Wanderer). He had lived in Cape Colony, and there, as is supposed, had observed the manner in of the which the whites formed their soldiers into disciplined regiments. He too divided the young men of his tribe into impis (regiments), and the Umtetwa became a formidable military power. Dingiswayo also encouraged trade and opened relations with the Portuguese at Delagoa Bay, bartering ivory and oxen for brass and beads.

When Senzagacone began his reign he was unmarried, but had a natural son, born in 1787, and then a year or two old, by the daughter of a chief of the Langmeni tribe. The boy was called Chaka (or Tchaka), that is, bastard; but the Zulus no longer use the word in its original meaning, and substitute Umlandhwana. Subsequently, Senzagacone married the mother, who became for a time his favorite wife, and he "gave her for a son," or legitimatized Chaka, whom before he meant to kill, thinking he might be troublesome when he grew up.

Meanwhile the king became lord of thirty wives and father of two hundred children, and when Chaka was fifteen years old he sent men to kill him, but his mother fled with him to the protection of the chief of the Umtetwa, a neighboring tribe on the coast on the north. In 1805 Dingiswayo was joined by Chaka, otherwise Tshaka (born c. 1783), the son of the Zulu chief Senzangakona. There Chaka became a great favorite and a powerful prince, and well skilled in all the warlike accomplishments. It is said that while he was among the Umtetwa, he heard from some English sailors at St. Lucia Bay of the conquests of the great Napoleon, who was then at the height of his power, and became inflamed with military ambition. In 1810, when Chaka was twenty-five years old, his father died, and through the influence of Dingiswayo, Chaka was chosen as ruler of the Ama-Zulu, though not the rightful heir. The Zulus sent for him to come and be their king. He went, and took with him great numbers of the Umtetwa, who wanted a warlike ruler. His numerous half-brothers acquiesced in his succession, and he is said to nave treated them kindly. Then began his terrible reign. Chaka joined in his patron's raids, and in 1812 the Umtetwa and Zulu drove the Amangwana across the Buffalo river. About this time Dingiswayo was captured and put to death by Zwide, chief of the Undwandwe clan, with whom he had waged constant war.

ShakaChaka was the founder of the Zulu kingdom, and he made it what it was in its most powerful days. He was a man of much military genius, of unquestioned bravery and unbounded ferocity, a devastating conqueror and a terrible tyrant. He established a standing army in which every male must serve, and all were organized in regiments, according to age, and in this way he broke up clanship, the soldiers not serving chiefs, but in the king's regiments. Long before the Zulus had learned the use of fire-arms, which they did not obtain to any extent till after 1870, their use of the assegai or javelin, and afterward of the short, stout, stabbing assegai, made them terrible to their enemies. According to Chaka's code, every male must be a soldier; before all else the people must be a military nation. All the boys of fourteen or fifteen were formed into regiments, and after a year's drilling were placed in military kraals, were incorporated with other regiments, or were formed into new ones. There wore two royal regiments, each having its own military kraal or headquarters, and the rest of the army made several regiments, some of them numbering thousands, and, in fact, constituting army corps.

The unmarried men, generally formed in regiments by themselves, though sometimes tliey were amalgamated with the elders, wore their hair in the natural way, and carried black shields. The names of some of these regiments or corps originally raised by Chaka, and added to by his successors, Dingaan. Panda, and Cetywavo, are sufficiently significant, such as the Uokenke, which in English means the dividers, Udhlam-bedhlu (ill-tempered), Udhloko (the snake), Urabonami (evil seers), Umxapu (sprinklers), Umhlanga (the reeds), Ngulubi (pigs), Udukuza (wanderers), Ngwekwe (crooked stick), Indluyengwe (leopard's den), Inkulutyane (straight lines), Umcitu (sharp-pointed), Usindandh-lovu (weight of the elephant), Amashutu (loiterers), Nkobamakosi (benders of rings), and Bulamayo (the place of killing). A few regiments were known from the locality of their military kraals, such as the Umlambongwenya (Alligator River).

Different regiments wore also distinguished by what might be called a uniform, such as their white, black, black and white, and spotted shields, and decorations of leopard or otterskin around their heads, monkey-skin earflaps, white cow-tails hanging down from the neck on the chest and back, black and white ostrich plumes, Kaffir finch and blue crane feathers. The officers generally wore a short kilt of green monkey-skin, belted around the waist, and hanging half-way to the knees.

Formerly the Zulus were only armed with the throwing assegais, or javelins, which they earned to the field in a bundle, and when they were expended, the fight was as good as over. Chaka devised a better method, at once cunning and cruel. He brought two of his regiments together in a fight, arming one with the throwing assegai and the other with short sharpened sticks. At the close of the contest, which was brief, it was found that the throwing regiment was worsted, because after they had thrown their javelins, their opponents rushed into close quarters, and stabbed them right and left. This experiment was sufficiently satisfactory to prompt Chaka to order that, in future, the arm of the Zulu soldier should be the short stabbing assegai in his right hand, with the shield on the left arm. These shields, which are long and wide enough to cover the warrior, are made of ox-hide stretched over a wooden frame, with eye-holes in the centre, and under such protection the Zulu fights fearlessly in the open field, his tough shield resisting the javelins of other native tribes, and enabling him to come to close quarters with his stabbing assegai.

He also grouped all the women in classes or regiments, according to age, and they were compelled to marry into the male regiments as the king commanded; nor were men permitted to marry till they were allowed to put on the head rings with which their hair was interwoven, which was generally when they reached the age of forty; and so men and women married comparatively late in life. He had about him an imperial guard of 15,000 of the best warriors, ready at any hour to march in any direction to destroy a town or tribe. He introduced new tactics and manoeuvres, numerous fortified kraals were built as permanent camps, soldiers were sedulously drilled, and were taught not to throw their assagais, but to shorten and stab with them in hand-to-hand conflict with their enemies. His kingdom soon- became the most formidable military power in South Africa. When he moved an army, every able-bodied man must march.

By the mid-1820s, Shaka ruled a kingdom of more than 100,000 people with a standing army of 40,000 men. During the fourteen years of his reign, Chaka conquered and subdued fifty or sixty tribes, one after the other, slaughtering thousands, dividing, distributing, and mixing up the survivors so that their original tribes were effaced, and obliging them to take the name Zulu. He thus overran the lands of the Swazies and the Amatonga, the Basutos and the Pondos, and swept Natal and the eastern districts of the Transvaal and Orange territories. His well-drilled army was irresistible. As every able-bodied man, except the witch doctors, who were exempt, must be a soldier, Chaka saw that there were too many witch doctors and that they were increasing, so he laid a trap for tncm. One night, he and two men who were in the secret, sprinkled the huts in several kraals with bullock's blood. Then the king called all the witch doctors in the land for a grand "smelling out." They came, and after sundry divinations accused several persons. But two of these doctors were bold enough, or shrewd enough, to say that the king himself did it. So Chaka ordered all the witch doctors but these two to be killed, and the witch medical corps was speedily reduced to that number.

When Chaka was checked in his conquests, met with temporary disasters, or was in any way offended by "his people, his revenges were terrible. At one time he caused to be murdered one hundred and seventy boys and girls, because their parents had disobeyed him. Some of these children were flogged to death, and the rest had their necks twisted, Chaka helping with his own hands. Once he put to death a whole regiment of married soldiers, with their wives and children, because they had been defeated in battle.

His last military expedition was sent against the Usoshengane, to the north of hini toward Delagoa Bay. The campaign lasted two months, during which the Zulus suffered severely from disease, fatigue, hunger, and exposure to the summer nuns. Wiien Chaka heard of their ill success he was very much enraged, and concluded to punish their misfortunes by murdering the wives they had left under his kingly care. The slaughter of these women, at the rate of three hundred a day, went on while the army, reduced to one-third of the force with which it set out, was on the return march. When the army was on the way home, two of the king's brothers, Dingaan and Umhlangane, discovered that their wives were among the victims and they resolved upon revenge.

The avengers were in the advance. The expedition against the Usoshengane had left Zululand nearly destitute of fighting-men. The king was almost alone with his women, His royal guard, and a few male attendants and servants. The conspirators plotted with the king's confidential servant, Umbopa, who at all times had access to his royal master, and his hand struck the blow in the presence of the king's brothel's and several discontented chiefs and courtiers. The assassination was on September 23, 1828. Chaka was a little more than forty years old, and in his comparatively brief reign of fourteen years he raised the Zulus from a mere tribe to a powerful nation, founded a dynasty, and made his people an important political and military element in South Africa.

Chaka left no son to succeed him; indeed, it is said that all the children born to him were killed by his command. The Zulus liken their king to the lion who kills his male cubs where he finds them, and it is customary to hide away the male children born to a Zulu king. Chaka's brother, Dingaan, who assisted in the assassination, was his successor.

The Zulu called themselves Abantu ba-Kwa-Zulu, i.e. "people of Zulu's land," or briefly Bakwa-Zulu, from a legendary chief Zulu, founder of the royal dynasty. They were originally an obscure tribe occupying the basin of the Umfolosi river, but rose suddenly to power under Chaka, who had been brought up among the neighboring and powerful Umtetwas, and who succeeded the chiefs of that tribe and of his own in the beginning of the 19th century. But the true mother tribe seems to nave been the extinct AmaNtombela, whence the Ama-Tefulu, the U'ndwande, U'mlelas, U'mtetwas and many others, all absorbed Of claiming to be true Zulus. But they are only so by political subjection, and the gradual adoption of the Zulu dress, usages and speech. Hence in most cases the term Zulu implies political rather than blood relationship. This remark applies also to the followers of Mosilikatze (properly Umsilikazi), who, after a fierce struggle with the Bechuana, founded about 1820 a second Zulu state about the head waters of the Orange river. In 1837 most of them were driven northwards by the Boers and were known as Matabele.

The origin of the Zulu people has given rise to much controversy. It is obvious that they are not the aborigines of their present domain, whence in comparatively recent times since the beginning of the 16th century they had displaced the Hottentots and Bushmen of fundamentally distinct stock. They themselves are conscious of their foreign origin. Yet they are closely allied in speech and physique to the surrounding Basuto, Bechuana and others . Hence their appearance in the south-east corner of the continent is sufficiently explained by the gradual onward movement of the populations pressing southward on the Hottentot and Bushman domain. The specific differences in speech and appearance by which they are distinguished from the other branches of the family must in the same way be explained by the altered conditions of their new habitat. Hence it is that the farther they have penetrated southwards the farther have they become differentiated. Thus the light and clear brown complexion prevalent amongst the southern Tembu becomes gradually darker as we proceed northwards, passing at last to the blueblack and sepia of the Ama-Swazi and Tekeza. Even many of the mixed Fingo tribes are of a polished ebony color, like that of the Jolofs and other Senegambians.

Their dwellings were simple conical huts grouped in kraals or villages. Although cattle formed their chief wealth, and hunting and stock-breeding their main pursuits, many turned to husbandry. The Zulu raised regular crops of "mealies" (maize), and the Pondo cultivate a species of millet, tobacco, water melons, yams and other vegetables. Milk (never taken fresh), millet and maize form the staples of food, and meat was seldom eaten except in time of war.

A young boy attains man's estate socially, not at puberty, but upon his marriage. Polygyny was the rule ana each wife is regarded as adding dignity to the household. Marriage was by purchase, the price being paid in cattle [in the matrimonial market, while the Ama-Xosa girl realizes no more than ten or twelve head of cattle, the Tembu belle fetched as many as forty, and if especially fine even eighty]. Upon the husband's death family life is continued under the headship of the eldest son of the house, the widows by virtue of levirate becoming the property of the uncle or nearest males, not sons. A son inherits and honorably liquidates, if he can, his father's debts.

Dearer than anything else to the Zulu were his cattle; and many ceremonial observances in connexion with them were once the rule. Formerly ox-racing was a common sport, the oxen running, riderless, over a ten-mile course. The owner of a champion racing ox was a popular hero, and these racers were valued at hundreds of head of cattle. Cattle are the currency of the Kaffirs in their wild state. Ten to twenty head were the price of a wife. When a girl married, her father (if well off) presents her with a cow from his herd. This animal is called ubulungu or "doer of good" and is regarded as sacred. It must never be killed nor may its descendants, as long as it lives. A hair of its tail is tied round the neck of each child immediately after birth. In large kraals there is the " dancing-ox," usually of red colour. Its horns are trained to peculiar shapes by early mutilations. It figures in many ceremonies when it is paid a kind of knee-worship.

The Zulu had three, not four, seasons: "Green Heads," "Kindness" and "Cutting"; the first and last referring to the crops, the second to the "warm weather." Women and children only ate after the men are satisfied. A light beer made from sorghum was the national drink.

Dingaan did not add much to the territories of his tribe, as Chaka had done; but he made himself known, and probably respected, among his subjects by horrible butcheries of the Dutch pioneers. In the last week of January, 1838, Pieter Retief, accompanied by seventy picked horsemen, crossed the Buffalo river, and on the 2nd of February arrived at Dingaan's kraal. The Zulu monarch fixed the 4th of February as the day for signing a formal cession of an immense district in Natal to the emigrant Boers. The Dutchmen were invited into the king's kraal to take leave of Dingaan. As requested, Retief and his followers left their arms outside. The Zulu monarch, surrounded by his favourite regiments, conversed in the most friendly manner, and while a "stirrup cup" of maize beer was in course of being drunk, suddenly cried out, "Bulala matagati!"" Kill the wizards!" These words were the signal for a cruel massacre. More than 3000 savages beat to death, with knobkerries, the unfortunate Dutchmen who had been weak enough to trust to Zulu promises and Zulu honesty.

The name of Dingaan then became dreadful through the land. It was not only that he butchered the Dutch, but that he maintained his authority and the dread of bis name by the indiscriminate slaughter of his own people. If the stories told be true, he was, of all South African savages, the most powerful and the most savage. He met the end common to tyrants, and was murdered, after having, however, been first defeated by his brother Panda, whose cause the Dutch settlers espoused, vanquishing Dingaan, and driving him out of his land.

During Dingan's reign, or rather at the close of it, which came through a war with the Boers, as a result of which he was chased out of the country and died of his wounds in the wilderness, his kingdom was divided, in 1840, and the southern half of it, called the Natal District, came into the hands of the Dutch, and then, in 1842, into the hands of the English, and so became a British colony; while the northern half, which had since gone by the name of Zululand, came under the rule of Umpande, brother of the two previous kings. Umpande continued nominally at the head of affairs till the day of his death, in October, 1872, when his son Ketchwayo was installed king. The employment of "witch doctors" for "smelling out" criminals or abalagati (usually translated "wizards," but meaning evildoers of any kind, such as poisoners), once common in Zululand, as in neighboring countries, was discouraged by Cetywayo, who established "kraals of refuge" for the reception of persons rescued by him from condemnation as abalagati. Cetywayo held office till the English-Zulu war in 1879, when he was taken captive and carried to Cape Town and thence to England.

Zululand, formerly the home of the Zulu kings, was declared British territory in May, 1887. After the conflicts between the adherents of Cetywayo and Usibepu, which resulted in the cession of over 4,200 square miles of the country to the Boers, and the formation of the New Kepublic (subsequently merged in the South African Republic), the British Government intervened, and rescued as much of the remaining territory as they could for the unfortunate Zulus. The people being unable themselves to form an orderly administration, it was found necessary to extend the Queen's authority over them, which was done by proclamation issued by Sir Henry Havelock, who was then Governor of Natal. The area of Zululand is 8,900 square miles, and its population numbers a total of 145,884, of whom 548 are whites. Its revenue in 1891 was 51,313, and the expenditure 41,200.

The British Government, now professing to have a kind of moral protection and authority over the Zulu realm, divided it into thirteen sections, and over each appointed a kind of petty chief or kinglet, the result of which was confusion, strife, and anarchy. Then Ketchwayo was carried back to Zululand and reinstated king, January 31, 1883. over at least a part of his former realm, but soon died, some say of heart disease, some of grief and disappointment, while others think he was poisoned by his late antagonist. The division of the country into sections under native chiefs continued for some years in Zululand proper. But in 1897 Zululand was made a part of Natal, with the Governor of Natal in control, and with Zululand represented in the legislative body of the Province. "Smelling out" of abalagati was finally suppressed by the British in the early years of the 20th century.

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Page last modified: 25-10-2012 15:44:15 ZULU