When President Nelson Mandela officially renamed the North Coast’s commercial rallying point, adding a significant Zulu title to the town’s existing colonial moniker, our rich and intricate history was finally afforded its deserved recognition. For the town of Stanger – named after the first Surveyor-General to the province and proclaimed a magisterial seat in 1873 – was built on the site of dynastic King Shaka’s crowning glory and final resting place. This was the royal settlement he called ‘Dukuza’, to proclaim the ‘maze’ of several thousand huts encircling his enormous regal dwelling. KwaDukuza-Stanger and its immediate environs offer today’s visitor fascinating insights into our region’s formative processes’.
Rise to Glory
Between his coronation in 1816 and construction of Dukuza in the mid- to late 1820’s, King Shaka and his army of fearless footsoldiers traversed the length and breadth of modern-day KwaZulu- Natal province, subjugating all in their path with the king’s innovative new weaponry and battle-strategies. Gone were the throwing- spear and small shield of his forefathers – standard issue during three centuries’ of inter-clan warfare – replaced by the stabbing- spear and full-length body-shield. These were designed to facilitate Shaka’s lethal new concept – encircling his enemy with a horn- shaped pincer movement and engaging in highly effective hand-to-hand combat.
Mustering the Realm King Shaka ordered the construction of several, far-flung royal settlements and military camps during this consolidation of his Zulu empire – the ‘barracks’ at present-day Shakaskraal and Umhlali were built when the king moved into permanent residence at Dukuza following the death of his mother. It was she – Princess Nandi of the Elangeni clan – who bestowed on Shaka the name ‘Ilembe’ to praise the ‘wisdom and courage’ of her son the king. This shift of the ‘Royal Seat’ was prompted by Shaka’s declared fondness for the North Coast’s natural beauty, sweet drinking water and lush grazing, plus its close proximity to the white traders, settlers and colonial figureheads based at Port Natal, with whom the king had already established a working relationship. Elephant tusks, animal skins, meat and sea-salt were exchanged for cloth, beads and other trinkets.
Friends and Enemies
Shaka Zulu also provided ‘safe passage’ for his white trading partners on their forays into the bush, and saw his diplomacy repaid when Henry Francis Fynn aided the king’s recovery from an assassination attempt at his northernmost settlement. Ironically, it was from the diaries of another white acquaintance – Nathaniel Isaacs – that details finally emerged of King Shaka’s death on 22 September 1828. Planned by a jealous aunt, the king’s demise had come at the hands of his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana, aided by a treacherous royal bodyguard. These three had feigned exhaustion to remain at Dukuza when Shaka dispatched his army to quell an uprising in the northern reaches of his kingdom. Dingane immediately eliminated his accomplices, declared himself the new Zulu King and moved his people back north leaving Dukuza to the bush and wild animals. Fifty years after King Shaka’s murder, the Anglo- Zulu War finally erupted near Dukuza, and important reminders of this conflict are today encompassed within the much-visited Harold Johnson Nature Reserve.