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Shaka Zulu: the African Napoleon?

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  • Shaka Zulu: the African Napoleon?

    The greatest leader of Africa must certainly be Shaka Zulu.

    He was the founder of the Zulu kingdom, conquering much of Southern Africa in barely 14 years. His rise to power reminds me alot of the rise of Genghis Khan - subjugating the minor neighbouring tribes and making them part of his future kingdom.

    What were his military techniques to accomplish this? How did he govern? What was his secret?

    Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

    It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

    Aut viam inveniam aut faciam


  • #2
    Great question and one that can be debated until the cows come home. My studies of Shaka (AKA Chaka, Tshaka or Tchaka) ended some time back, but off the top of my head are some things I recall:

    Shaka was a bastard child, and as such was victimised from a very young age. I recall an incident where he was forced to hold just out of the pot hot pap (mealie porridge) in his hands. He suffered as a kid and stayed with his mother and her clan before getting accepted for his bravery and courage and was taken under the wing of Dingiswayo. He forged the Zulus into a warrior clan from a tribal one and expanded his empire through brutal and fearful means. His arch foe was Zwide and he killed his mother (who was a witch doctor) brutally through the use of hyenas, iirc.

    He trained his warriors mercilessly too, one method was making them walk, not run, over red hot coals. He also advanced their tactics and weaponry for that day and age, taking them, comparatively, into the gunpowder age. He modified their spears they had into two, the short stabbing spear, (iklwa) and a longer one for throwing in the initial stages of attack (assegai). He modified the shields that they had into heavier and bigger shields that were used in a unique manner - holding it on the left and hooking the opponents shield out of the way to expose their ribs for the iklwa stab.

    He is also credited with the first type of formal pincer movement, called the buffalo horns, but I am not in agreement with this as it has been used in wars and battles before time began. However, it was new at the time on this continent and worked to great affect.

    I do recall people calling him the Black Napolean, but I am also not in agreement with this in so far as his lasting legacy - Napolean at least gave us the basis for the modern legal systems that we have - Shaka? An irrational fear of the might of the Zulus? He killed many in his wars, as did Napolean, caused a deal of instability in the region with a mass exodus of those who could not stand up to him and was as brutal as Napolean in dealing with his foes, so there are certainly parallels to be drawn between the two in that regard.

    I shall go back to my books and refresh my memory on this giant of Southern African military might.


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