2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography


Zulu Warriors, late 19th century (with some Europeans in the background)

Total population 10.4 million (2001 est. 1)
Regions with significant populations KwaZulu-Natal Province: 7.6 million

Gauteng Province: 1.9 million
Mpumalanga Province: 0.8 million
Free State Province: 0.14 million (2001 est. 1)

Language Zulu, many also speak English or Afrikaans or Portuguese or other African tribal languages such as Xhosa.
Religion Christian, Animist
Related ethnic groups Bantu

Nguni Basotho Xhosa Swazi Matabele Khoisan

The Zulu ( South African English and isiZulu: amaZulu) are an African ethnic group of about 11 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. Their language, isiZulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African History during the 19th and 20th centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as second-class citizens and severely discriminated against. Today, they are the most numerous ethnic group in the country, and have equal rights along with all other South Africans.



The Zulu were originally a minor clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded ca. 1709 by Zulu kaNtombhela. In the Zulu language, Zulu means heaven, or sky. At that time, the area was occupied by many small Nguni tribes and clans (also called isizwe=nation, people or "isibongo"=clan). Nguni tribes had migrated down Africa's east coast over thousands of years, probably arriving in what is now South Africa in about the year 800 AD


The rise of the Zulu kingdom under Shaka

Shaka Zulu was the illegitimate son of Senzangakona, chief of the Zulus. He was born ca 1787. He and his mother, Nandi, were exiled by Senzangakona, and found refuge in the Mthethwa. Shaka fought as a warrior under Dingiswayo, chief of the Mthethwa. When Senzangakona died, Dingiswayo helped Shaka claim his place as chief of the Zulu Kingdom.

The bloody ascendancy of Dingane

Shaka was succeeded by Dingane, his half brother, who conspired with Mhlangana, another half-brother, to murder him. Following this assassination, Dingane murdered Mhlangana, and took over the throne. One of his first royal acts was to execute several more of his royal kin. In the years that followed, he also executed many past supporters of Shaka in order to secure his position. One exception to these purges was Mpande, another half-brother, who was considered too weak to be a threat at the time.

Clashes with the Voortrekkers and the ascendancy of Mpande

In October 1837, the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief visited Dingane at his royal kraal, to negotiate a land deal for the voortrekkers. In November, about 1000 Voortrekker wagons began descending the Drakensberg mountains from the Orange Free State into what is now KwaZulu-Natal.

Dingane asked that Retief and his party retrieve some cattle stolen from him by a local chief. This Retief and his men did, returning on 3 February 1838. The next day, a treaty was signed, wherein Dingane ceded all the land south of the Tugela River to the Mzimvubu River to the Voortrekkers. Celebrations followed. On 6 February, at the end of the celebrations, Retief's party were invited to a dance, and asked to leave their weapons behind. At the peak of the dance, Dingane leapt to his feet and yelled "Bambani aba thakathi!"( isiZulu for "Kill the wizards"). Retief and his men were overpowered, taken to the nearby hill kwaMatiwane, and executed. It is believed that they were killed for withholding some of the cattle they recovered. Dingane's army then attacked and massacred a group of 500 Voortrekker men, women and children camped nearby. The site of this massacre is today called Weenen, (Dutch for "to weep").

The remaining Voortrekkers elected a new leader, Andries Pretorius, and Dingane suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838, when he attacked a group of 470 Voortrekker settlers led by Pretorius.

Following his defeat, Dingane burned his royal household and fled north. Mpande, the half-brother who had been spared from Dingane's purges, defected with 17,000 followers, and, together with Pretorius and the Voortrekkers, went to war with Dingane. Dingane was assassinated near the modern Swaziland border. Mpande then took over rulership of the Zulu nation.

Succession of Cetshwayo

Following the campaign against Dingane, in 1839 the Voortrekkers, under Pretorius, formed the Boer republic of Natalia, south of the Thukela, and west of the British settlement of Port Natal (now Durban). Mpande and Pretorius maintained peaceful relations. However, in 1842, war broke out between the British and the Boers, resulting in the British annexation of Natalia. Mpande shifted his allegiance to the British, and remained on good terms with them.

In 1843, Mpande ordered a purge of perceived dissidents within his kingdom. This resulted in numerous deaths, and the fleeing of thousands of refugees into neighbouring areas (including the British-controlled Natal). Many of these refugees fled with cattle. Mpande began raiding the surrounding areas, culminating in the invasion of Swaziland in 1852. However, the British pressured him into withdrawing, which he did shortly.

At this time, a battle for the succession broke out between two of Mpande's sons, Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi. This culminated in 1856 with a battle that left Mbuyazi dead. Cetshwayo then set about usurping his father's authority. In 1872, Mpande died of old age, and Cetshwayo took over rulership.

Fall of the kingdom

Anglo-Zulu War

On 11 December 1878, agents of the British delivered an ultimatum to 14 chiefs representing Cetshwayo. The terms of the ultimatum were unacceptable to Cetshwayo. British forces crossed the Thukela river at the end of December 1878. The war took place in 1879. Early in the war, the Zulus defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22. However, the war ended in Zulu defeat at the Battle of Ulundi on July 4.

Division and the death of Cetshwayo

Cetshwayo was captured a month after his defeat, and then exiled to Cape Town. The British passed rule of the Zulu kingdom onto 13 "kinglets", each with their own subkingdom. Conflict soon erupted between these subkingdoms, and in 1882, Cetshwayo was allowed to visit England. He had audiences with Queen Victoria, and other famous personages, before being allowed to return to Zululand, to be reinstated as king.

In 1883, Cetshwayo was put in place as king over a buffer reserve territory, much reduced from his original kingdom. Later that year, however, Cetshwayo was attacked at Ulundi by Zibhebhu, one of the 13 kinglets, supported by Boer mercenaries. Cetshwayo was wounded and fled. Cetshwayo died in February 1884, possibly poisoned. His son, Dinuzulu, then 15, inherited the throne.

Dinuzulu and the Boer mercenaries

In order to fight back against Zibhebhu, Dinuzulu recruited Boer mercenaries of his own, promising them land in return for their aid. These mercenaries called themselves "Dinuzulu's Volunteers", and were led by Louis Botha. Dinuzulu's Volunteers defeated Zibhebhu in 1884, and duly demanded their land. They were granted about half of Zululand individually as farms, and formed an independent republic. This alarmed the British, who then annexed Zululand in 1887. Dinuzulu became involved in later conflicts with rivals. In 1906 Dinuzulu was accused of being behind the Bambatha Rebellion. He was arrested and put on trial by the British for "high treason and public violence". In 1909, he was sentenced to ten year's imprisonment on St Helena island. When the Union of South Africa was formed, Louis Botha became its first prime minister, and he arranged for his old ally Dinuzulu to live in exile on a farm in the Transvaal, where Dinuzulu died in 1913.

Dinuzulu's son Solomon Solomon kaDinuzulu was never recognized by South African authorities as the Zulu king, only as a local chief, but he was increasingly regarded as king by chiefs, by political intellectuals such as John Langalibalele Dube and by ordinary Zulu people. In 1923 Solomon founded the organization Inkatha YaKwaZulu to promote his royal claims, which became moribund and then was revived in the 1970s by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, chief minister of the KwaZulu bantustan. In December 1951, Solomon's son Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon was officially recognized as the Paramount Chief of the Zulu people, but real power over ordinary Zulu people lay with white South African officials working through local chiefs who could be removed from office for failure to cooperate.

Apartheid years

The KwaZulu homeland

Under apartheid, the homeland of KwaZulu was created for Zulu people. In 1970, the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act provided that all Zulus would become citizens of KwaZulu, losing their South African citizenship. KwaZulu consisted of a large number of disconnected pieces of land, in what is now KwaZulu-Natal. Hundreds of thousands of Zulu people living on privately owned "black spots" outside of KwaZulu were dispossessed and forcibly moved to worse land previously reserved for whites contiguous to existing areas of KwaZulu in the name of "consolidation." By 1993, approximately 5.2 million Zulu people lived in KwaZulu, and approximately 2 million lived in the rest of South Africa. The Chief Minister of KwaZulu, from its creation in 1970 (as Zululand) was Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. In 1994, KwaZulu was joined with the province of Natal, to form modern KwaZulu-Natal.


In 1975, Buthelezi revived the Inkatha YaKwaZulu, predecessor of the Inkatha Freedom Party. This organisation was nominally a protest movement against apartheid, but held more conservative views than the ANC. For example, Inkatha was opposed to the armed struggle, and to sanctions against South Africa. Inkatha was initially on good terms with the ANC, but the two organizations came into increasing conflict beginning in 1979 in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising.

Because its stances were more in accordance with the apartheid government's views, Inkatha was the only mass organisation recognised as being representative of the views of black South Africans by the apartheid government. (The ANC, and other movements, were banned.) In the last years of apartheid, this acceptance extended to the covert provision of funds and guerilla warfare training to Inkatha by the government. Yet unlike the leaders of the Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and Venda bantustans, Buthelezi never accepted the pseudo-independence offered under the policy of Separate Development, despite strong pressure from the ruling white government.

Political violence

From 1985, members of opposing protest movements in what is now KwaZulu-Natal began engaging in bloody armed clashes, with combatants armed with AK-47's. This political violence occurred primarily between Inkatha and ANC members, and included atrocities committed by both sides. It was believed to be frequently instigated by a branch of the apartheid government's security forces, which became known as the "third force". The violence continued through the 1980s, and escalated in the 1990s in the build up to the first national elections in 1994.

The modern Zulu population

The modern Zulu population is fairly evenly distributed in both urban and rural areas. Although KwaZulu-Natal is still their heartland, large numbers have been attracted to the relative economic prosperity of Gauteng province. Indeed, isiZulu is the most widely spoken home language in the province, followed by Sesotho. IsiZulu is also widely spoken in rural and small-town Mpumalanga province.

Zulus also play an important part in South African politics. Mangosuthu Buthelezi served for a number of years as a Deputy President in a government of national unity in the 1990s, when reduction of civil conflict between ANC and IFP followers was a key national issue. Within the ANC, both the immediate past ( Jacob Zuma) and current ( Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka) Deputy President of the country have been Zulu, in part to bolster the ANC's claim to be a pan-ethnic national party and refute IFP claims that it was primarily a Xhosa party.

Zulu music

The singing styles of the Zulu people and their Nguni heritage are worthy of special mention. As in much of Africa, music is highly regarded, enabling the communication of emotions and situations which could not be explained by talking. Zulu music incorporates rhythm, melody and harmony — the latter is usually dominant and known as " isigubudu" (which can be translated as converging horns on a beast, with tips touching the animal, a spiralling inward that reflects inner feelings).

Maskanda and Mbaqanga are other Zulu music genres. Notable Maskandi musicians include Phuzekhemisi and Mfazomnyama.

Zulu music has also been carried worldwide, often by white musicians using Zulu backing singers, or performing songs by Zulu composers. Examples of the former are Paul Simon and South African Johnny Clegg. Examples of the latter are the song " Wimoweh" and several tunes on the first non-cassette album by Bow Wow Wow. In the case of both Bow Wow Wow and to a lesser extent "Wimoweh", the original Zulu musicians went largely unidentified and uncompensated by the white musicians.

The internationally successful Zulu group Ladysmith Black Mambazo are among the artists who have made Zulu musical traditions known throughout the world. After contributing to Paul Simon's Graceland album they have toured the world with numerous stars and received two Grammy Awards.


The language of the Zulu people is Zulu or isiZulu, a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. Zulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa, with more than half of the South African population able to understand it (Ethnologue 2005). Many Zulu people also speak English, Portuguese, SeSotho and others from among South Africa's 11 official languages.


Zulu can be Christians (whether Roman Catholics or Protestants in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, or part-Christian, part- animist-African in Zimbabwe) or pure-animists.

Zulu religion includes belief in a creator god (Nkulunkulu), who is above interacting in day-to-day human affairs. It is possible to appeal to the spirit world only by invoking the ancestors (AmaDlozi) through divination processes. As such, the diviner, who is almost always a woman, plays an important part in the daily lives of the Zulu. It is believed that all bad things, including death, are the result of evil sorcery or offended spirits. No misfortune is ever seen as the result of natural causes. Another important aspect of Zulu religion is cleanliness. Separate utensils and plates were used for different foods, and bathing often occurred up to three times a day. Christianity had difficulty gaining a foothold among the Zulu, and when it did it was in a syncretic fashion. Isaiah Shambe, considered the Zulu messiah, presented a form of Christianity which incorporated traditional customs.

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