Spider's Web: CHEELA CHILALA
THOMAS Carlyle, the world-famous Scottish writer, essayist and philosopher, once said, “No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the
biography of great men.”
One might argue that perhaps the statement is an exaggeration, but it still bears some amount of truth: history records the deeds and words of the great.
History takes note of the great because they often influence events, and the destiny of individuals and even nations.
History, to be sure, would not be complete without mentioning Jesus. More than any other human being, he has influenced and shaped the destiny of nations and world affairs.
There would, no doubt, be no Christian faith without Jesus. Similarly, there would be no Islam without Muhammad, no Islamic states or laws without him.
History has recorded the exploits of Alexander the Great and Queen Elizabeth because their lives have had impact on world affairs.
Can the history of the world be written without mention of villains and dictators like Adolf Hitler? His actions and decisions shook the world and changed the destiny of many.
Without him there most likely would have been no Second World War, no holocaust.
Would we write the history of Zambia without mentioning Kenneth Kaunda and Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula?
What about Nelson Mandela? He is almost the impersonation of the anti-apartheid struggle. His actions before, during and after prison helped shape the South African nation.
I would like, however, to draw our attention to the exploits of one great South African – Shaka king of the Zulu.
Like Cecil Rhodes after him, Shaka changed the demographic map of southern Africa through his military conquests.
The “mfecane,” as the military campaign was called, led to the dispersal of thousands of people from the south eastern area of present-day South Africa where Shaka was mostly active.
The word “mfecane” means “crushing” in Zulu. In Sesotho it was known as “lifaqane” or “difaqane” – meaning “scattering,” or “forced dispersal”.
The mfecane happened between 1815 and 1840.
Through his military conquests Shaka was able to annex huge tracts of land and expand the Zulu kingdom.
This he did through the introduction of close-combat military tactics which could not be matched or countered by the opposing armies.
His warriors, known as “impis,” were able to rout all opposing armies. His new military tactics changed the way battles were conducted.
In place of the long spear which warriors threw at their opponents, Shaka introduced the short stabbing spear known as the assegai.
In place of the small shields used for blocking spears thrown by the enemy, Shaka introduced a wider shield which effectively kept out enemy spears.
However, it was not just the change of shields and spears that made Shaka a great military strategist. He also used clever tactics, such as in his final rout of the Ndwandwe under Zwide, who had conquered Dingiswayo.
Shaka pretended to be retreating with his forces, drawing the Ndwandwe deeper into Zululand, before turning on them and destroying them completely.
During his brief ten-year reign, Shaka changed not just the way battles were waged, but also the map of southern and central Africa.
As the other tribes fled from Shaka’s Zulu might, they moved further north. Due to their fear of Shaka, for example, leaders like Zwangendaba, Mzilikazi and Shoshangane fled northwards into the central African region.
As they moved, they also wreaked havoc and destruction on less powerful tribes. Some of them, now called the Ngoni, ended up in eastern Zambia and are now under Paramount Chief Mpezeni.
Without Shaka there would have been no Ngoni people in Zambia, and the demographic map of southern and central Africa would have been different. He was a game changer.