I am humbled and very delighted to be the recipient of this honorary doctoral degree today. This gesture expressed towards me is not something that I take lightly as if it is something that is an everyday occurrence.
I also have an understanding that this recognition comes as a result of my commitment to using my knowledge and skills which I have used to research and document the history of the Zulu nation, in the community and across all levels of formal education. It is something that is very close to my heart to continue with my efforts to encourage our community to be active participants in the documenting of its own history because of the present wisdom to conduct research on all that is cultural and developmental.
What is important to me is working in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal which possesses an abundance of intellectual knowledge, research, and technology and promotes the engagement of the community in developmental issues. I’m also pleased with the University’s recognition of the importance of recording the history of the Zulu nation because this is extremely important. I would like to commend and thank the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof. Nhlanhla Mkhize and his team for making this day a success.
I’m also pleased to be sharing this occasion with the people who have supported me throughout my life’s journey, which had hardships and challenges. Through today’s speech, I wish to offer encouragement and inspiration, determination and hope to everyone, especially our youth. The journey of life requires a person to be committed, brave and heroic and can take risks in order to achieve their aspirations. We all understand that when a child is born, there are daily changes that occur in their life.
It is this determination that motivates the child to start suckling which leads to smiles of enjoyment as these feelings engulf the entire being even if the child can’t see the source of their smile. This smiling becomes a source of great joy to the child’s parents. Such is the motivation that is derived from this, it encourages the child to start crawling, then to stand and start walking. At this stage, the child is still only a mirror of the parents and the family.
The child grows and learns many things as we see today these children who fill up this venue. This is because they have carried this determination from the time they suckled from their mother for the first time.
When you left your parents and homes, you journeyed to this institution to gain all the knowledge that you have received over the years, with the main aim of returning home and effecting changes that are noteworthy to the world.
In my address today, I wish for us to look back at the history of the beginning of the Zulu nation as I inspire you with the success of a hero and father of the Zulu nation, King Shaka kaSenzangakhona. King Shaka’s life teaches us who are living in modern times something deep about the rich heritage that he left for us. There is a lot that has been said and written in subjects about his leadership and military prowess.
Today I want to comment on the life lesson that people can learn from the life of King Shaka. King Shaka was also a child born by his mother like all of us. Even though the people of KwaZulu were of an oral tradition, but those who were the first writers gathered that he was born between 1785 and 1787.
He displayed this amazing determination and courage at his birth. Queen Nandi recalls that one day when she found her son playing with a baby, she said to him:” This baby is like you and does exactly what you used to do when you were his age”. She then said:” try and take the wooden spoon from the baby and see what is going to happen.” this child was still at a crawling age. When the King tried to take the spoon from the child, the child stretched the hand and pulled with such force that the spoon ended up back with him.
The queen then said he used to do the same thing when he was younger. I found it to be very important in my thinking that today I speak about King Shaka kaSenzangakhona who made history that can never be forgotten by the Zulu nation and the world at large. I decided to pick up on his life as a shepherd for his father King Senzangakhona.
He was doing this at five (5) to six (6) years of age. When the Queen would see him worried, she would say to him:” Don’t worry my Mlilwana, you are going to grow up to become a great King, greater than all Kings and rule over the entire world. These were very powerful words that Queen Nandi was using to encourage her son, King Shaka. There are many of us here who grew up under great adversity like King Shaka. The important lesson is that growing up under difficult circumstances shouldn’t make us lose the courage to do things that lead to our success.
Even when King Shaka was still at Elangeni, he was seen as a child who was violent and brutal towards other children and this was because of the fire that was burning inside his heart. One day when he was herding King Makhedama’s cattle, one of the King’s bulls was bitten by a black mamba. At this time, King Shaka was approximately 8 to 9 years old.
It is said that he got very angry as you as he was such that he fought and killed the mamba and when he went to report the incident to the King, he had the dead snake with him. When the King saw this, he encouraged the boy by rewarding him with a heifer. King Shaka arrived at the Mthethwa clan when he was between 13 and 16 years of age. Even there, he displayed great courage and never wanted to be assisted when he was confronted with a difficult situation. One day while King Shaka was herding cattle, he found a leopard attacking King Dingiswayo’s calf.
Shaka confronted the leopard and stabbed it to death then carried it to the King. The King rewarded him with a cow thanking him for his bravery. After a short while, he also confronted a lion that was terrorizing the community by preying on their cows. Sishaka kasishayeki stabbed it and killed it, then he took it to the King. The King was amazed by what Shaka had done. King Dingiswayo rewarded him with ten heifers which made him a herd of cattle.
King Dingiswayo had a great warrior who led the army, this warrior fought many wars until he was mentally unstable. This great warrior was Lembe from the Mavundla clan. When Lembe had lost his sanity, he took the King and community’s cows by force and went into the forest next to the Mfolozi River with them. When King Shaka heard about the lunatic who had hijacked the King, he told Chief Ngomane that he can defeat the culprit. King Shaka confronted the madman from the Mthethwa clan and killed him. That is where he received the praises that day when he was 18 years old: “USishaka kasishayeki, uNodumehlezi kaMenzi, ILembe eleqa amanye amaLembe ngokukhalipha”
When he was 18 years old, King Dingiswayo conscripted him into the Izichwe regiment which was led by Bhuza Mthethwa. In that same year Bhuza fell ill and died, the Kind promoted King Shaka to command the regiment. This was just a reward for a young person who was driven by what he did. It is said that the Izichwe regiment grew very powerful when it had King Shaka as its commander. As he was working under King Dingiswayo, his mind was racing imagining his reign as the leader of the Zulu nation.
When the opportunity to take over his father King Senzangakhona’s throne in 1861, he left the Mthethwa clan with one thought of building a huge empire where he would build the Zulu nation. He ascended to the throne at the age of 29 years. He transformed the war tactics of the Zulu army. He instructed his army to attack with sheer forcefulness like the waves of the sea. He attacked using a formation that resembled the horns of a buffalo.
His wisdom in matters of warfare, strategies and tactics that he used at that time were copied by rulers worldwide. The victory of the Zulus against the English army at Isandlana was due to the application of the wisdom and war strategies learned from King Shaka. According to today’s standards, a person who is 29 years old is still regarded as part of the youth. He had this vision of combining small clans in order to build a strong nation. He declared that young boys, women and children must not be killed in order to build a new nation with them.
He worked tirelessly being led by the belief that everything he was doing was the will of the ancestors. He worked very knowing very well in his mind that his life was going to be short and that he was answerable to the ancestors when he passed on. When King Shaka was alone, he imagined himself with the Zulu nation and all the departed kings. He thought about his people day and night.
He was of a belief that his ascending to the throne was from the ancestors. That is why he believed that everything he did was supported by his ancestors in order for him to build a strong Zulu empire. When he thought of the Zulu. Kingdom, he imagined it as being like a high tower that rose to a point where no one could reach. That is why he believed that his voice was the voice of the ancestors, the voice of the supreme being. He was always thinking of doing great things hence he was able to see things that others couldn’t see.
He had a dream that was as clear as daylight where he saw his kingdom growing to the point that he = used the mountains to describe its size. He conquered many nations and destroyed boundaries because they were the source of conflict between people. Like King Shaka, nothing can stop today’s graduates from having visions and creating groundbreaking innovations, having deep thoughts, have the drive and motivation to make history in their lifetime.
When he presided over cases, his ruling was final. He believed that this was a divine gift from the Almighty, that was bestowed upon him in order for him to adjudicate fairly and justly. That is why he took this responsibility very seriously and with the utmost respect for the ancestors and the Almighty. He didn’t have time to rest, he was constantly thinking about how he was still young and his people were still not enough. He was under this vision that drove him, a vision that he only saw, of himself growing to be a great such that his head would be above the clouds, so people won’t even see it.
He regarded his face as the face of the Zulu nation. He would say that the face of the Zulu would be so brilliant that other nations would be unable to look at it because of its brightness like the rays of the sun in the sky. When he grew, so did his people and they would occupy the whole world. He understood that the future was not his. So he spent a lot of time thinking about his name which was the Zulu nation’s name, who we are today. He knew that he would also die like everybody else.
The only thing that worried him was having achieved what he had been sent by the ancestors to do. King Shaka ruled for 12 years but built a strong foundation for the Zulu nation, a foundation that can’t be shaken even today. This is a nation with a vision, a nation of warriors, a brave nation, a nation that is united, a nation that can’t be divided by others. It was unfortunate that the first authors who recorded the early history of King Shaka never highlighted that he was the creator of this great nation which is respected worldwide when he started as a youth. The writers of that time only portrayed him as someone who was just bloodthirsty.
He never enjoyed his rule in these 12 years because he was busy fulfilling his dream of building a strong Zulu empire. He died at the age of 41 still believing that he still had a huge role to still play. At the time of his passing, he had sent emissaries to engage with other nations across the seas. He intended for his nation to connect with other nations of the world and to learn new things.
King Shaka’s life is a great example of a young person who comes from home and goes to train hard without any rest, in their mind is the will to bring about a change in the family, in the community, in the neighbouring country and in their own country South Africa. We expect to see changes in the country’s future in our youth that come from higher education institutions. When King Shaka was out in the wilderness with Queen Nandi, he wasn’t discouraged but he believed that he was being trained to be able to face his future and the future of his people.
To the youth that is graduating today, I see you having a bright future therefore I encourage you to have a vision to reach for the skies because of the knowledge that you have gained from this University. Your future is in your hands. Be proud of your University and be sure that you have the power and knowledge to change the world.
I am humbled by the gesture of the University of wanting to work collaboratively with rural communities, especially in research where the communities participate in the recording of their history. I do not believe that this honour is bestowed upon me due to my previous works. I see it as motivating me and I see it as an opportunity to work hard, especially in rural areas.
In closing, when I reflect on King Shaka’s life, what comes to my mind is that it is possible that he worked this hard because of the thought that one day he was going to die. But his passing having united the Zulu empire was going to be an eternal joy for him and his people. The whole territory of the Zulu is his whether he is alive or not. His voice is that of the ancestors, the voice of the supreme being.