Zulu king Shaka was born in 1787, and was the illegitimate son of the Zulu
Chief Senzangakhona and Nandi who was the daughter of a neibouring chief. Due to
Shaka's illegitimacy, his life was under threat, so he fled with his mother
Nandi to Dingiswayo, to seek refuge with the Mthethwa tribe. Shaka was fortunate
to have been a tall man, almost two meters in length, as well as being well
proportioned and gifted with great strength from an early age, all of which
shaped him into a natural leader. It is said that Shaka also displayed a
commanding presence, and creative intellect. Through his fearlessness he later
achieved a position of influence and became kindly regarded by Dingiswayo.
After the death of Dingiswayo, and that of his father Senzangakhona in 1818, Shaka was named as chief of both the powerful Mhethwa tribe, and the less prominent Zulus. This was the start of Shaka's brilliant military career, which later earned him the title of "The Black Napoleon of Africa". Shaka reorganized the structure of his army, and introduced new methods of fighting such as using a second shorter spear for stabbing and night fighting, as well as merging a large number of the Nguni clans into the Zulu nation. After his various improvements, Shaka's army of almost 50 000 warriors conquered the neighbouring territories and invaded Transvaal, Mozambique and Swaziland. In so doing he launched the "Mfecane" - the wars of extermination throughout Southern Africa.
He adopted a friendly attitude to the English traders and the newly arrived white settlers at Port Natal, and entered into a treaty with them. In 1825 Shaka built his new royal kraal, Dukuza, where present day Stanger lies. This kraal consisted of about 2000 traditional Zulu beehive huts, and was used as a halfway trading station between Zululand and Natal.
On 22 September 1822 all of Shaka's regiments, except one, had been out on military expeditions. Shaka was sitting on a rock (which now stands behind his memorial) looking at some of his cattle when his two half brothers Dingaan and Mhlangana, accompanied by one of Shaka's trusted servants approached him and began stabbing him. Severely wounded from the attack, Shaka stumbled across to a big tree which presently stands behind his memorial, where he was finally killed. It is said that the dying Shaka addressing his murderers prophesied: "Do you think that you will rule the land?...Not you, but the white people will rule the land". The area where the murder took place was actually a small cattle kraal known as the Nyakamubi.
According to traditional custom Shaka's body was wrapped in the skin of a black ox, and buried the following day with all his possessions in a newly dug grain pit, and covered with rocks. In 1932 a white memorial over the grave was erected by the Zulu people, and in 1946 the rock on which he had been sitting was rolled across the road to its present site. Each year on 24 September, the Zulu king, his royal household, dignitaries and thousands of warriors gather in traditional dress at this grave to honor the man who is said to have been the founder of the Zulu nation.
After Shaka's assassination on September 24 1828, his kraal Dukuza was burnt to the ground. In 1873, European settlers built a new town on the site, and named it Stanger after William Stanger, the Surveyor-General of Natal. Today, a small museum adjoins the site of King Shaka's grave in the town centre. The King Shaka Memorial includes a monument, a podium for various events, three representative huts and King Shaka's throne: a rock next to the memorial. A 20-minute slide show on the history of King Shaka can be viewed. There is also a small curio shop and an Interpretative Centre. Open daily from 8:30am to 4:00pm.
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