The Zulu peoples were an important tribe in South Africa in the late 18th century
(around 1790). They lived around the areas called Natal today. There were many small groups of Nguni,
which was the old name for the Zulu. The groups lived separately and were not organised under one leader.The Zulu were cattle herders but they also grew some crops. They came into contact with Portuguese farmers living in Mozambique. The Portuguese grew maize
, which they brought to Africa from the Americas. Maize was a good crop to grow, because it produced more food from the same area of land. The Zulu also started to grow maize. This gave them more food and allowed Zululand to support more people. The Zulu became better fed and stronger and their population increased greatly.
was the leader of one of the smaller Zulu chiefdoms. Because there was plenty of food he was able to have an army. The food for the warriors was provided by others. This allowed them to be a full-time army. They developed better weapons. One of these was the assegai
, a short stabbing spear. The assegai was feared by enemies. Using his well-trained warriors Shaka took over neighbouring lands.
The Tribute System
He force other tribes to pay him tributes
in exchange for protection. The tributes were gifts. They included cattle, furs, feathers, and carved wooden sculptures. He took control of all the precious metals
. At this time they were copper and brass. The metal was used to make wooden clubs stronger. It was also used for ornaments, like neck rings and armbands. The more of these you had, the greater your importance in the tribe.
Drought and Crop Failure
The problems for the Zulu started after 1800
. By then most of the good land was being used. As the population grew, the extra people had to fight for land in order to survive. Things were made worse by 10 years with much less rain. The period of drought
meant that crops failed. This led to food shortages
The Zulu Wars
The Zulu started to fight among themselves for land and water. This led to the Zulu Wars
from about 1815 to 1820
. Many people were killed and many others were forced off the land. The survivors had to move out of Zululand.
This led to the great migration called the Mfecane
, which meant the "great scattering
". The Mfecane lasted from 1815 to 1840
. The people could not move south, because the Dutch settlers
had lived there since the 17th century. They could not move east because Portuguese farmers
were there and there were also slave traders. So they moved north toward East Africa. Zangendaba
led the Ngoni group that made their way north as far as Southern Tanzania. This was what we now call the Ngoni migration.