A dance in honour of King Dingiswayo. Image credit dailysun.co.za

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: Crisis in Nguniland: Zwide versus Dingiswayo

  • Dingiswayo(circa 1780-1817) was born Godongwana
  • He staged a failed coup against his father who was the king of the Mthethwa
  • He fled and adopted the name Dingiswayo which means wanderer
  • He came back to take the throne after the death of his father
  • The Mthethwa were one of the largest clans in Nguniland
  • Dingiswayo was a military genius
  • He was very innovative
  • He came up with the idea of a standing army which was made up of young men of the chiefdom
  • His army was organized into age regiments called amabutho
  • Each regiment wore a distinctive colour
  • The regiments joint forces in times of battle
  • He also introduced strict training programs for his army to instill discipline
  • With his military brilliance, Dingiswayo fought man successful wars around 1810 until his death which expanded his kingdom

Dingiswayo versus Zwide

  • The Ndwandwe became the Mthethwa’s greatest rival
  • Zwide was also a military genius as well
  • Rival ambitions between the two led to great wars being fought between the two groups by 1816
  • In 1818 Dingiswayo was then captured by Zwide and executed
  • Shaka who was a regiment commander let Dingiswayo down as he withdrew his forces
  • Dingiswayo’s death led to succession disputes in the kingdom and paved way for the ascension of Shaka Zulu to power
  • Shaka executed the legitimate heir to the Mthethwa throne and seized power
  • Zwide noticed that Shaka was going to be a threat to Ndwandwe dominance and decided to send his army to attack him but Shaka manage to defeat the army
  • Late 1818 Zwide launched an attack whereby he sent his whole army to attack Shaka
  • Shaka knew that Zwide’s army was too strong to be fought head on so he launched the scorched-earth military tactic and surprise attacks
  • This was a military tactic of burning or destroying crops and other resources that could be used by an invading enemy force
  • When the Ndwandwe army was exhausted and returning home Shaka then attacked them and crushed them
  • He then followed with an attack on the Ndwandwe capital and destroyed it
  • Zwide and his subjects fled from the state with two of his regiment leaders Soshangane and Zwangendaba leading the remnants of the army
  • Shaka finally defeated Zwide the remaining big three leader in 1819
  • Shaka then remained in control of the land formerly inhabited by the Ndwandwe and this led to his rise and intensification of the Mfecane

To access more topics go to the History Notes page.