How was Shaka able to build and maintain a powerful Zulu state?

How was Shaka able to build and maintain a powerful Zulu state?

  • Shaka was able to build and maintain the Zulu state by carrying out reforms in the political, social and economic aspects of the Zulu state.

  • Shaka introduced a standing army. His worriers were always ready to defend the state.
  • Shaka replaced the traditional throwing spear with a short stabbing spear. The short stabbing spear was more effective in hand-to-hand fighting compared to the long throwing spear which left the warrior armless upon throwing it.
  • Shaka employed the scorched earth policy whereby he destroyed the enemies’ food and poisoned water sources thus weakening them.
  • Shaka employed cow horn military formation. In this tactic his warrior could encircle the enemy thus defeat them easily
  • There was tough training and drilling to master new methods of fighting by his soldiers
  • He forbade his soldiers from getting married until they had reached the age of 40 years.
  • Soldiers discharged from active service in the army after the age of 40 formed a reserve army that could be called upon to defend the kingdom whenever the need arouse.

  • Shaka strengthened his army by absorbing young men of the conquered territories into his force.
  • Shaka’s warriors did not carry their own luggage. Boys were employed to carry the luggage such that soldiers could move easily and swiftly while fighting.
  • Shaka employed spies who reported on the strength of the enemy’s side. This help to know how, where and when to strike the enemy.
  • Shaka used the religion as an instrument of nation building. He made himself the chief priest and persecuted other religious leaders.
  • Shaka abolished the traditional custom of the circumcision which affected the youth at the time they were needed to defend their state.
  • Shaka introduced a class of medicine men who treated the wounded soldiers.
  • He replaced the Dingiswayo’s small shields with big ones. The warriors would be protected from enemies’ spears.
  • Military Indunas were not allowed to hold meetings without the consent of Shaka.
  • Shaka replace the traditional councils of chiefs with military commanders called Indunas.

The chiefs of the conquered territories were either replaced by Shaka’s nominees or had to pay allegiance to Shaka.

Shaka abolished the wearing of sandals by his forces this made their movements swift.

Shaka encouraged trade and friendship with the British

Shaka also promotes agriculture to ensure ready supply of food in his kingdom.


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