The Zulu Tribe – Enjoying Themselves In The Valley Of One Thousand Hills

Actually, the Zulu Tribe occupies the eastern part of South Africa which is between the Drakensburg Mountain and the Indian Ocean. In this valley appears many hills, too many to count, and that is why this area is referred to as the Valley of One Thousand Hills.

The Zulu People

The Indlamu Dance Of The Zulu Culture – A Display Of Strength & Mastery Of Their Weapons


According to 2011 South Africa’s census, there were about 10 million Zulus living in South Africa which works out to be a fifth of the whole of the country’s population. Of course, the Zulus would also be identified in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Lesotho as a minor tribe as part of their respective countries’ population. The tribe originally sprang from the Nguni speaking people who had migrated from the North during the “Bantu Migration” some centuries ago. From the north, the Nguni pushed southwards conquering smaller tribes until they reached South Africa. They found the original inhabitants who were the San or Bushmen and displaced them.


Shaka kaSenzangakhona founded the Zulu Kingdom between 1816 and 1827 through a power struggle. His late father did not appoint him to be the heir, but because of the support he received from King Dingizwayo of the Mthethwa Tribe, where he had proved himself as a formidable soldier, he enthroned himself as the Zulu King. The ill-treatment his mother and he endured in his childhood turned him into a ruthless ruler. He had a spectacular physical appearance and was ambitious enough to see his kingdom expand from a minor kingdom with few hills to the kingdom of one thousand hills. He became a bloody thirsty dictator who instilled fear in his people. For instance, if his soldier (impi) returned without his fighting spear from a battle, he humiliated him publicly by thrusting his spear onto the foot of his soldier, wounding him badly.

The Face of Shaka Zulu

The Face of Shaka Zulu by Reconstruction Artist – M. A. Ludwig


Shaka’s military tactics made it easy for him to expand his kingdom quickly. Each tribe he defeated in battle was incorporated into his kingdom by only allowing women because men and male children were killed. Those who were spared were incorporated into his fighting unit. This made some people who did not want these dictatorial tendencies leave his kingdom and heard northwards to eventually go and settle in the present-day Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. Other tribes in the region heard of Shaka’s brutality and ran away on their own before his impis reached their kingdoms. In this way, the land of the Zulus in South Africa was expanded to the land of one thousand hills during this period of upheavals referred to as the “Mfecane.”


Shaka’s military successes were mainly attributed to his military changes from the traditional methods his people had implemented. He changed the long fighting spear to a short one so that his soldiers would get close to the enemy and stab him in the chest. It was possible to do so because of the enlarged shield that was used for protection as the soldier moved forward to attack his enemy. The third method he used was to harden the soldiers’ feet by not wearing any footwear, but be able to put out fire with bare feet and step on thorns. The fourth one was to attack the enemy using the horn formation. The enemy would only see one group of soldiers approaching them not knowing that others had branched off from the main group to go and encircle the enemy and surprise them. In this way, many defeated groups left an empty wasteland for the Zulus to enjoy grazing their captured cattle without any threats from any tribe or grouping.


On 22nd January 1879, the above military tactics helped to defeat the British soldiers in the battle of Isandlwana. The British military commander had underestimated the strength of the Zulu impis and their military tactics. Therefore, they suffered a humiliating defeat under Cetewayo’s soldiers as he was the King of the Zulus at that time.


After overwhelming the British soldiers at Isandlwana, the British no longer underrated the Zulu impis and prepared adequately for them at the battle of ULUNDI. The battle took place about six months later on 4th July 1879. This time the British conquered the Zulu warriors. King Cetewayo, the Zulu Chief at that time, was captured and exiled. Then the British sub-divided his kingdom and put minor chiefs whose allegiance was to the British.


With many smaller tribes incorporated into the Zulu Tribe, a kind of language sprang up which made communication easy. Their “ISIZULU” Language eventually became influential enough for other tribes in modern South Africa to embrace it and speak it. On the whole, it contains respectful phrases for addressing parents and elderly people. First names are frowned upon, but the inclusion of a prefix BABA for the father of a child or MAMA for mother of a child is warmly welcome before addressing an elderly person.


The Zulus believe in ancestral spirits playing an active part in blessing or cursing the people who are alive. These guardian spirits have to be respected and feared at the same time by offering sacrifices to them.  In this way the tribe enjoys victory, peace and prosperity in many aspects of their lives. Although the Zulus believe in the existence of a higher spiritual being, the ancestral or guardian spirits are easier to relate to from time to time. Little wonder the tribe has not been displaced from the land of the thousand hills! This is in spite of the skirmishes with the British, the Boers and the Apartheid Regime!


In spite of the animosity shown to other tribes under their founding leader, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, the modern-day Zulu people are warm and friendly. They believe in equality and respect for a human being. If the Zulus occupied the whole of South Africa, the question of Xenophobia attacks could not rise.


Polygamy is common among the Zulus and this practice must have risen from killing men during the Shaka’s Mfecane period and rescuing only women. This action must have led to men being greatly outnumbered by women. This practice is slowly dying out as a result of the conversion of men to and women to Christianity. This religion is against polygamy.


Rites of passage for both boys and girls include many animal sacrifices to the guardian spirits. They also include activities such as feasts and celebrations after which everybody seems tired as a result of playing the drums, dancing or participation in other activities. It is a time of extreme joy to everyone present.


The Zulus have produced Jacob Zuma as a President of South Africa who took over from Nelson Mandela. They are proud of this fact. Even during the presidency of Nelson Mandela, the Zulus happily participated in Independence Celebrations by wearing traditional regalia and showing off their traditional dances. Both men and women are very good at displaying their VICTORY DANCE which includes thumping, stomping, stamping the ground with their feet with all their strength and soul. Similar activities and the wearing of the traditional regalia takes place each month of September when they celebrate the founding of the Zulu Tribe by Shaka.


Many Zulus can leave their land and go to settle in other provinces or cities of South Africa or even settle abroad. However, the association to the land of a thousand hills cannot be forgotten because of the activities and survival of the tribe in the territory earmarked for them by Shaka kaSenzangakhona. May his soul rest in peace.

14 thoughts on “The Zulu Tribe – Enjoying Themselves In The Valley Of One Thousand Hills”

  1. Wow. You made a great article here full of information.

    I didn’t know that this Zulu tribe is so big. Almost 10 million of Zulu people can populate twice my country. This tribe seems is alive for 200 years and I think Shaka needs to be the first Nelson Mandela who fought for freedom and left a legacy for his people.

    Thanks a lot and keep going with this awesome content.

    1. You are right Nimrodngy, 10 million are quite a big number and ranks it as the biggest tribe in Africa easily beating the Masaai in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania.
      Much as Shaka created the stage for the growth of the kingdom and tribe, unlike Nelson Mandela, he had a sad end having been killed by his two half brother due to his increasing mental illness. 

  2. This is quite an extensive history of the Zulu tribe and Shaka kaSenzangakhona.  The evolution of South Africa over the years is a remarkable story transitioning from its white oppression to the rise of pivotal figures such as Nelson Mandela.  To see this country be returned to it indigenous peoples is a triumph.  It is great to learn that a Zulu descendent has the opportunity to guide South Africa in a direction that will aid his people to greater prosperity.

    1. Shaka resisted external intervention for good reason because apartheid had an impact on the pride of the Zulu people. I am glad too that now the indigenous people have a say in the managing of affairs of the country.

  3. Wow thank you so much for sharing the detailed story about the Zulu tribe. I’ve been helping my cousin for his project to do some research about Africa, and your article has provide me some good insight about Zulu. I can also learn from the history of Shaka. It’s important to raise the children with love, so they can grow into proper adult. 

    1. I am glad Albolue that the post will be helpful in your cousin’s project. 
      I agree with you that love can help raise children to be good adults. Shaka’s childhood challenges formed his perception of life as an adult and also the love for his mother.

  4. Wow, this is so amazing, I’ve not been able to read about this amazing tribe before now, this is a great opportunity for me and I’ve actually learned a lot from it. The Zulu tribe is surprisingly one of the major dominants of South Africa, about 10 million isn’t a small percentage. This shows that the struggle of their past heroes transpired into something very big and prosperous. Thanks for sharing this interesting article.

    1. Andrea, I am glad that this post has informed you about the Zulu tribe. Times are changing fast and it is hard to get facts of historic events especially about Africa. 
      It is easy to tell where the current generation draws inspiration from. 

  5. Hey, it is so interesting the Zulu tribe enjoying themselves In the valley of one thousand hills.As a matter of fact, the Zulu Tribe involves the eastern piece of South Africa which is between the Darkens burg Mountain and the Indian Ocean. In this valley seems numerous slopes, a huge number, and that is the reason this region is alluded to as the Valley of One Thousand Hills Which makes travel more fun and interesting.

    I love hearing about such a Zulu tribe through your article.You will  give more of this kind of article I am always with you.

    Thanks for posting this.

    1. Thank you Sathi for showing interest in this article and other articles to come. What is important to note is that this tribe is not only in South Africa but in other countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 
      Their long-held traditions of the Reed Dance, beadwork, clothing and spiritual beliefs have always set them aside and recognizable. 

  6. What a nice and interesting history the people of Zulu has, I always love to read about ancient places like this and how they got to be. Zulu’s heritage is one that is well appreciated and cherished. Also pleasant is the story of Shaka and how he won the battle. I’ll share this to some other groups cos I’m very sure many people don’t know about the indepth story of this great people. It’s really thoughtful of you to share.

    1. Wildecoll, appreciating ancient history and places makes the two of us! 
      It is hard to talk about the Zulu tribe without mentioning Shaka. He was a strategic thinker and a warrior. With his revolutionary warfare style which included change of weapons, army movement and age-grade regimental system, he formed a dormant army that contributed to the rapid growth of the kingdom. By the end of his ten-year rule, he had over 50,000 soldiers. 

  7. I remember watching the Shaka Zulu movie when I was young and reading this article brings back the memories. The Zulu were great and strong warriors whose influence spread all over southern Africa.
    Thank you for taking me down memory lane.

    1. Shaka kaSenzangakhona was a great warrior and ruler of the Zulu Kingdom who developed war tactics that enabled him to easily win battles.
      This inspired many movies about him as a unique king in the 19th Century. These movies give us a visual idea of what happened and enrich our understanding of historical events.
      I am glad that I have taken you down memory lane with this article Patrick.

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