Shaka Zulu (1987)





Director:  William C. Faure, Joshua Sinclair

Starring:  Edward Fox (Lt. Francis Farewell), Robert Powell (Dr. Henry Fynn), Trevor Howard (Lord Charles Somerset), Fiona Fullerton (Elizabeth Farewell), Christopher Lee (Lord Bathurst), Henry Cele (Shaka), Dudu Mkhize (Nandi), Roy Dotrice (King George IV), Gordon Jackson (Prof. Bramston), Kenneth Griffith (Zacharias Abrahams), Conrad Magwaza (Senzagkona), Patrick Ndlovu (Mudli), Roland Mqwebu (Ngomane), Gugu Nxumalo (Mkabayi), Tu Nokwe (Pampata)




Good movie.  Plenty of semi-nude South Africans make sudden history buffs of many history haters. Really quite impressive and one can almost feel how and why even his own people were scared of this great South African Zulu leader, Shaka.




Historical Background:


Today the Zulus are a nation of Nguni-speaking people in KwaZulu/Natal province, South Africa, a branch of the southern Bantu with close ethnic, linguistic, and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. They were grain farmers who supplemented their livelihood by keeping large herds of cattle.

The Zulu nation was a highly organized military society.   The society was a patriarchal clan system; the clans comprised several patrilineal households, each with rights in its own fields and herds and under the domestic authority of its senior man. The genealogically senior man of each clan was its chief.  Polygyny was practiced; a man's wives ranked by strict seniority under the "great wife," the mother of his heir. Boys were seen as prospective soldiers.  They were initiated at adolescence in groups called age sets; each age set constituting a unit of the Zulu army and were stationed away from home at royal barracks under direct control of the king.

European settlers took much of the land from the Zulu.  The modern Zulu are largely wage laborers on farms (still many owned by whites) or work in the cities. The Zulu today are the single largest black ethnic group in South Africa with about 9 million people.


1652 -- Riebeeck readies himself to sail for the Cape, South Africa, to establish a victualing station there. He worked for the United East India Company (VOC in Dutch)

1660 -- trees planted by Jan van Riebeeck, leader of the first Dutch settlers to land at the Cape of Good Hope. Van Riebeeck sent for slaves from other parts of the Dutch seaborne empire (and from other parts of Africa, Indonesia, Malaya, Indo-China, Ceylon, India, Madagascar, and Mozambique), and for the next 182 years South Africa is a slave state.

somewhere between 1781-1787  --  Shaka Zulu born out-of-wedlock, the son of chief Senzangakhona and Nandia (a past chief of the Langeni tribe).  Shaka would come to be a soldier for chief Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa (to which the Zulu paid tribute). Zwide, a powerful chief of the Ndwande clan, killed Dingiswayo, and Shaka swore to avenge his mentor's death.  It is said that Shaka enclosed Zwide's  mother in a house filled with hyenas and she was ripped apart.  He then burned the house down. 

1795 -- British annexation of South Africa. Britain decides to occupy the Cape to protect this vital sea link. Afrikaners (the Dutch settlers) are suddenly confronted on their arcadian frontier by the world's most modern society.

1803 -- British interlude ended with the Peace of Amiens.

1806 -- British back as the struggle with France intensifies.

1812  --  on the death of his father, Shaka (aided by Dingiswayo) was able to defeat his brother and assume leadership of the then insignificant Zulu clan.  Shaka made alliances with smaller tribes to counter the threat of the Ndwande clan raiding from the north.  Some have said that Shaka was a military genius. But one thing for sure was that he made a number of changes to military tactics and weapons to improve the performance of his army. 

1815 -- Freek Bezuidenhout refuses to heed the summon from the Circuit Court; British come to arrest him and he is killed; Boer community outraged and plot revenge.

Before they joined with the neighboring Natal Nguni (see Nguni) under their leader Shaka in the early 19th century to form a Zulu empire, the Zulu were only one of many Nguni clans; Shaka gave the clan name to the new nation.

1816 -- Shaka Zulu (1785-1828) on his way to the White Umfolozi River to take over the chieftainship of the small Zulu clan on the outer fringes of the Mtetwa paramountcy.  

1817  -- in the Zulu territories Shaka meets with the Mtetwa chief, Dingiswayo, and they decide to engage in a major expedition that would take over much of Southeast Africa.

1818  --  at the Battle of Gqokli Hill on the Mfolozi River, Shaka was able to use his encirclement tactics to defeat Zwide of the Ndwandwe.  Shaka follows this victory with another one, this time at the Mhlatuze River.  He then led a fresh reserve 70 miles to destroy completely the royal krall of Zwide.  Zwide escaped but killed later by others. 

1820  -- Shaka wins and commands most of southeast Africa and Natal. During the Mfecane, the Scattering, many tribes moved to escape further trouble with the Zulus.

1824  --  Europeans visit Shaka. They mend Shaka's stab wound from an enemy clan. Shaka held these Europeans in high regard. He signs over land to them not knowing he is giving the land away. The whites aid Shaka in his wars to conquer more of South Africa. When he learns that his mother is dying, he executes several men, but in the resulting chaos over 7,000 people die. Shaka seems increasingly to lose touch with reality and practically orders his clan to death by starvation in reverence to his mother. This spells the beginning of the end for Shaka as he and his army go downhill.

c.1825  --  Shaka and Zwide meeting in military conflict in Phongola.  Shaka emerged victorious, but he suffered major casualties and lost his head commander, Umgobhozi Ovela Entabeni.

1828, September 22  --  Shaka is murdered, his half-brothers repeatedly stabbing him to death. They take the body, throw it in an empty grain pot, and then fill it with stones.

Half-brother Ningane then ruled for some 12 years. 

1840  --  half-brother Mpande, with the support of the Boers and the British, was able to take over the leadership and rule for 30 years.

1872-1884  --  Cetshwayo KaMpande, chief. 


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