A painting depicting Tshaka. Image credit ancient-origins.net

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: The Zulu under Tshaka: The rise of Tshaka

  • Shaka was born in 1787 as an illegitimate of Senzangakona who was a Zulu chief and Nandi a daughter of chief of the Elangeni tribe
  • During the time of his birth, the Zulu was a small clan that was part of Mthethwa clan
  • Shaka was rejected by his father together with his mother
  • He was raised among his mother’s relatives
  • He was ill-treated growing up and this is believed to the reason for his aggressive behavior later on in life
  • Shaka also grew up facing the stigma of being an illegitimate child
  • Shaka wanted to prove his worth by becoming great

Shaka’s Apprenticeship

  • Shaka’s potential was realized by Dingiswayo who recruited him into one of his regiments
  • During his apprenticeship, he introduced a number of war tactics
  • In 1806, his father died and was succeeded by Sigujana
  • Dingiswayo then helped Shaka to seize power from Sigujana and become the Zulu king
  • It should be noted that Shaka was the younger than many sons of Senzangakona and was not eligible for the throne
  • As he had gained a lot military experience from Dingiswayo, one of Shaka’s tasks as soon as he rose to power was to make military reforms

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