Shaka Legacy And Influence

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Shaka was the most predominantly known monarch of the Zulu kingdom. He changed the methods of warfare and was responsible for bringing together more than 100 chiefdoms to form the Zulu kingdom. In this essay we take a look at the life of this Zulu king and conqueror, as well as the legacy and impact he left on the world.


Shaka was born around 1878 in the present day region of Kwa Zulu Natal. His mother, Nandi,was daughter of the chieftain of the eLangeni tribe and his father, Senzangakhona, was leader of the Nguni tribe. As both his parents belonged to the same clan, their relationship infringed on Zulu customs. Senzangakhona named his son after “iShaka”, the intestinal parasite that caused menstrual irregularity. This was the illness
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On reaching his royal kraal, one of Shaka’s first acts was to kill anyone who had previously disregarded his mother. Their deaths were performed in very brutal acts, such as clubbing, spearing or impaling.
Shaka ruled the Zulus with an iron hand and there was punishment for every error. He reorganised the army, making it a much stricter regime of age groups, separate villages and uniform markings on shields, along with a variety of different ornaments and headdresses. While rearranging the army he also developed and implemented many basic tactics that the Zulus would use in battle. The different regiments in the army were known as the ‘impi’ and would travel at least 80 kilometres a day. Boys would accompany the warriors on their journey, carrying the cooking pots and sleeping mats.
Some of Shaka’s first acts with his new army were against those who had made his childhood a miserable time. He also attacked the eLangeni tribe because they had pushed him and his mother
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Even after his death the Zulus remained in power for many years under the reign of Dingane, Shaka’s half-brother.
The battle strategies Shaka had invented, such as the buffalo formation used to attack enemies, continued to play an important role in the Zulu victories. Other aspects that lived on and continued to influence the battlefield success of the Zulus was his introduction of new weapons and cow hide shields. He had also accustomed his troops to harsh war conditions.
Using Shaka’s many military tactics, the Zulus were victorious in a major battle against the British at Isandlwana, 50 years later.
Shaka’s legacy lives on today in many ways. Durban’s new airport, which was opened in 2010, is called King Shaka International Airport and Durban’s popular theme park is called uShaka Marine World. Our current president, Jacob Zuma, makes common knowledge of how proud he is of his Zulu heritage, which he frequently showcases. There was even a TV Series made in 1986 called Shaka Zulu about his life. The fact that we are studying him as part of our history curriculum highlights the impact of his

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