Shaka, founder of the Zulu Kingdom of southern Africa, is murdered by his two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the Zulu tribe.
When Shaka became chief of the Zulus in 1816, the tribe numbered fewer than 1,500 and was among the smaller of the hundreds of other tribes in southern Africa. However, Shaka proved a brilliant military organizer, forming well-commanded regiments and arming his warriors with assegais, a new type of long-bladed, short spear that was easy to wield and deadly. The Zulus rapidly conquered neighboring tribes, incorporating the survivors into their ranks. By 1823, Shaka was in control of all of present-day Natal. The Zulu conquests greatly destabilized the region and resulted in a great wave of migrations by uprooted tribes.
In 1827, Shaka’s mother, Nandi, died, and the Zulu leader lost his mind. In his grief, Shaka had hundreds of Zulus killed, and he outlawed the planting of crops and the use of milk for a year. All women found pregnant were murdered along with their husbands. He sent his army on an extensive military operation, and when they returned exhausted he immediately ordered them out again. It was the last straw for the lesser Zulu chiefs: On September 22, 1828, his half-brothers murdered Shaka. Dingane, one of the brothers, then became king of the Zulus.
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