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Title of Course: Profiles In Black Mba Mbulu, Instructor

Textbook: None. Selected writings found online will constitute the textbook.

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Read the following information on Tshaka Zulu (The Great). Relate the information to the following questions to the best of your ability.

(1) How did the policies of white people impact on Tshaka Zulu's assessment of the needs of Black People?

(2) Tshaka was willing to make difficult decisions and shed blood in order to unify the Zulu nation. In your opinion, was he correct in this regard?

(3) What role did Tshaka's army play in his success? Did he pay so much attention to military matters because he knew his military matters would be crucial to the survival of the Zulu Nation?

(4) Do you think Tshaka was a despot?

(5) Is it possible for a despot or dictator to serve his people well?


Class #5: TSHAKA ZULU / Tshaka The Great (1787-1828)

Leader, Warrior, Hunter, Military Genius, Empire Builder

Tshaka Zulu was born an unwanted son of a minor chieftain. At the age of six, Tshaka and his mother were dismissed from his father's tribe. They left to live under the great King Dingiswayo, who later influenced Tshaka's development and way of thinking. Although Tshaka was just an ordinary herd boy, his brave acts prompted his fellow tribesmen to predict a future of greatness for him. Tshaka excelled in every sport and field of rivalry, and his acts of bravery were the type of deeds legends were made of. For example, when he was 13, he attacked and killed a black Mamba snake that had killed a prize bull he was guarding. And, at the age of 19, he killed a leopard by piercing its heart with a spear and crushing its skull with a club.

While a soldier in King Dingiswayo's regiment, Tshaka realized the need to unite all Zulu clans under one political system. Because of the open hostility that some clans showed toward others, he knew this would not be easy. King Dingiswayo had tried to unite the Zulu Nation, but he did not have the empire building qualities needed to pull it off. Tshaka knew that some difficult decisions would have to be made, and some tribes would have to be forced to submit. It would require bloodshed to achieve unity, so Tshaka began to experiment with fighting methods that would make Zulu warriors more dangerous and effective. He removed his shoes to make him faster than those who wore sandals, and cut his throwing spear in half so it could be used as a stabbing spear. Throwing the spear was the equivalent of throwing your weapon away, and Tshaka wanted no part of that. By cutting the spear in half it could be used to fight the enemy at close range, and was still in his possession after the enemy had been killed. Because of such innovative fighting tactics and his military skill, Tshaka became known as "Nodumehlezi" and "Sigidi" ("one worth a thousand").

Tshaka was soon at the head of his own regiment and, in 1816, upon the death of his father, became a chief. Starting with 100 square miles of land and 500 untrained soldiers, Tshaka built a Zulu Nation that expanded over a hundred thousand square miles of land and created a military machine capable of inflicting heavy casualties on British troops and calvarymen armed with rifles, cannons, rockets and other advanced weapons. After the death of King Dingiswayo in 1818, Tshaka became Chief of Chiefs and proved to be one of the greatest yet most misunderstood kings in all of African history.

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Tshaka is renown for his military genius, discipline and attempt to unify the warring tribes of the Zulu Nation. With the force of arms and diplomacy, he unified his people so effectively that he was able to resist the invasion of white people from Europe and maintain peace among Black People in the south part of Africa. Tshaka's Zulu warriors were respected everywhere because of their discipline, courage and respect for their leader. Tshaka would never ask his warriors to do anything that he himself would not do, and his acknowledgement of his soldiers' acts of bravery filled every warrior with a sense of spirit, achievement and appreciation. His warriors were loyal, relentless and fearless, so much so that the following was said of them: "You must not only kill a Zulu, you must also push him over to make the corpse lie down."

Tshaka developed an enlightened system of government and law and an economic system that eliminated poverty. There was always enough to feed everyone. Through unity and trade, safe passage was opened between various tribes even though each tribe's boundaries were respected. Minor chiefs were judges in their own tribes. When a case was outside the jurisdiction of a minor chief it was referred to a higher court (Tshaka was the Supreme judge). There were no class differences, and no oppression of one by another. Everyone was treated equally.

Tshaka was called a despot and dictator, yet he maintained peace and tranquility in Zululand. He was an early Black Nationalist and attempted to unite all Blacks of south Africa. If his dream of a united Black Africa had been fulfilled, European colonialism in Africa would not have been possible. With this end in mind, Tshaka was mapping out a plan of defense against European invaders that would have crippled their colonialist objectives, but he was killed by jealous brothers before he could initiate it. Had he lived, the complexion of south Africa would be appreciatively different. As it were, the system he left behind was so tight and strong that it frustrated the whites for quite some time.

Tshaka Zulu's bravery, leadership abilities, military genius and overall intelligence is the stuff Black Power is made of. Because of that, he will always be remembered as a Profile in Black.

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