Tshaka Zulu was one of the greatest warriors in the world. His battle techniques revolutionized the way wars were fought in Africa. Tshaka introduced new battle techniques and weapons. His army consisted of different regiments or impis. Each regiment consisted of boys of a certain age. Each had its own shield, war cries and uniform. Tshaka, devised innovative tactics and weapons to establish nineteenth-century Zulu dominance of Africa and increase his control over a population that began at 1,500 and grew to more than 250,000. Known to friend and foe alike as cruel, bloodthirsty, and deranged, Tshaka still managed to develop a military system that reined supreme for more than fifty years after his death.
Tshaka (also known as Chaka, Shaka) was born an unwanted son of a minor chieftain. At the age of six, Tshaka and his mother were dismissed from his father's tribe. They left to live under the great King Dingiswayo, who later influenced Tshaka's development and way of thinking. Although Tshaka was just an ordinary herd boy, his acts of bravery were the type of deeds legends were made of. For example, when he was 13, he attacked and killed a black Mamba snake that had killed a prize bull he was guarding. And, at the age of 19, he killed a leopard by piercing its heart with a spear and crushing its skull with a club. Tshaka's illegitimate birth in about 1787 to a Zulu chief, Senzangakhona, and a woman of a lower-class clan (Nandi) led to his harsh treatment as an outcast, perhaps the root of his own future ruthlessness. The name Tshaka itself translates as "intestinal parasite," or more simply as "bastard."
After the death of King Dingiswayo in 1818, Tshaka became Chief of Chiefs and proved to be one of the greatest yet most misunderstood kings in all of African history. On becoming King Tshaka called his capital Bulawayo. Tshaka is renowned for his military genius, discipline and attempt to unify the warring tribes of the Zulu Nation. With the force of arms and diplomacy, he unified his people so effectively that he was able to resist the invasion of white people from Europe and maintain peace among Black People in the south part of Africa. Tshaka built a Zulu Nation that expanded over a hundred thousand square miles of land and created a military machine capable of inflicting heavy casualties on British troops and calvarymen armed with rifles, cannons, rockets and other advanced weapons.
Ultimately, Tshaka's end came from internal rather than external enemies. Tshaka's erratic behavior worsened with the death of his mother in 1827. The often cruel treatment of his own subjects, including execution for "smelling like a witch" and arbitrary mass executions of entire villages, created terror within his civilian subjects. His army also grew unhappy with the constant operations, which ranged farther and farther from home as Tshaka sought new tribes and lands to conquer. Tshaka's enforcement of chastity in his warriors also lowered their morale.
The training regime was very strict. Tshaka tolerated no weakness in his men. He drilled them vigorously, and forced them not to wear sandals. Even though this allowed the men to run faster it meant that they often got thorns stuck in their feet. To toughen their feet Tshaka made them run on beds of thorns and any man that cried out in pain was killed.
By the time of his mother's death, Tshaka no longer took the field at the head of his army, further eroding the confidence of his people. On September 23, 1828, Tshaka's half brothers Dingane and Mhlangana assassinated him. His killers buried him in an unmarked grave somewhere near today's Natal village of Stanger.
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