Historical Personalities & Issues

Compiled & Edited by Phillip True, Jr.

Chapter Eighteen


Chaka, "Great Zulu warrior", "The Black Napoleon", "Absolute ruler and tyrant." These were the titles and characteristics used when describing Chaka. He was a strong leader and military innovator. Chaka is noted for revolutionizing l9th Century Bantu warfare. He was a man with great power and the heart of a tiger. Chaka had no rifles, and different from Napoleon, used hand-to-hand war tactics.

Chaka was born in 1786, the son of Senzangakona, Zulu Chief and his mother Nandi. Chaka's parents were blood relatives which was a crime, punishable by death. However, Chaka's father was not killed because he was a Chief.

As a young boy, Chaka was a very difficult child. On many occasions, he had confrontations with people in his village. He was also the victim of terrible cruelties. One time, hot porridge was poured on his hands, and burning hot meat forced down his throat. Those who inflicted evil on Chaka would live to regret it.

When Chaka was twenty-six, his father died and left the throne to a son, Sijuana. Chaka ambushed and killed Sijuana, taking leadership of the Zulus. He came to power around 1820. Chaka revolutionized military tactics. He chose the most superior and graceful soldiers. Chaka was the first to group regiments by age, and to train his men to use modern weapons and special tactics. He developed a short stabbing spear. He marched his regiments in tight formation using large shields to fend off the enemy. Chaka's troops were feared by enemies, they would flee at the sight of them. Chaka caused over two million people to die. Chaka's motto was "Death or Victory."

Chaka built the Zulu tribe into a powerful nation of more than one million, and united all tribes in South Africa against colonial rule.

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