Episode 99 – Shaka assassinated by muddle-headed brothers Dingane and Mhlangana

First we pick up the point where James Saunders King made his way back to Port Natal following his failed diplomacy on Shaka’s behalf – the result would be catastrophic for Shaka.
It provided added incentive for Shaka’s enemies inside the Zulu to move against him, the members of the Royal house were conspiring to kill him and had been for at least four years.

Remember in early 1828 Shaka had sent the impi to raid the amaMpondo in an attempt at wiping away the tears of his mother Nandi’s death, and also to keep his army on the move which is often the best option when there is treason in the wind.
Once the army had returned from their raiding along the Umtata River, they had no break – Shaka sent them away once more, in the opposite direction.

The failed embassy led by James Saunders King returned to Port Natal on 17th August 1828. Sothobe who was Shaka’s emissary bluntly laid the blame for the fiasco in the Cape on King, and Shaka was humiliated.

King returned with Isaacs on two ships, the Helicon and the Elizabeth and Susan, and when they hove off Port Natal on 17th August 1828, King was pale and sick. Isaacs had to carry King to his residence at Mount Pleasant.

On 19th August Isaacs broke open the boxes supposedly for Shaka which contained a few sheets of copper, a piece of red broadcloth, a few medicines, knives and trinkets.

King had added a mirror or looking glass as it was known – and it was also an expensive luxury back in 1928. He also tossed in a few beads.

When Isaacs arrived at kwaBulawayo with the presents, Shaka was contemptuous of the gifts and suspicious of the seals being broken.

Shaka demanded that each gift be described, and when he was shown the ointments, Isaacs explained they were for healing wounds and the Zulu king exclaimed

“do you think we are such scabby fellows as you are…”

Later Shaka asked for the medicine that changed the colour of hair, the black oil, otherwise he was totally underwhelmed by the gifts.

“…these are of no use to my subjects, they are not troubled with the disorders you mention, the best medicine for them is beef…”

While all of this diplomacy was going on, the Zulu king had sent his army to Soshangane kaZikode of the Gaza Kingdom north of Delagoa Bay. This latest impi was going to take a very long trek, heading to the high ground 130 kilometers north west of Delagoa Bay. It overlooked the malaria and tsetse fly infested country of the bushveld around the Olifants .. the Lepelle River – which the Zulu called the Bhalule.

This was to be known as the Bhalule expedition, and was Shaka’s last.
1 Jan English South Africa History · Places & Travel

Other recent episodes