Braai4Heritage tour Day 27 – KwaDukuza and the land of Shaka Zulu MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Exploring the Land of Shaka Zulu: My Unforgettable Braai4Heritage Adventure

Today, I embarked on an incredible journey, starting with a somewhat drowsy but exciting 1.5-hour boat ride through the iSimangaliso Wetlands estuary. The name iSimangaliso translates to “miracle” or “wonder” in Zulu, and it truly lives up to its name. This mesmerizing place is home to a staggering variety of wildlife, including 524 species of birds, 114 types of fish, over 2000 crocodiles, 1000 hippos, and even five species of sharks that find themselves stuck in the estuary since the river mouth closed off from the sea in 2007.

Lush marshland, vibrant grassland, striking sand dunes, enchanting mangrove forests, and an estuarine wetland cascade into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The park boasts a tapestry of interconnected habitats that teem with life. This remarkable diversity, combined with the area’s unparalleled beauty, earned iSimangaliso the distinction of being South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

What a lovely way to begin a day! The crisp morning air had a refreshing effect, helping us shake off the lingering effects from the previous night’s celebrations. At 9am, we hit the road and headed south towards Stanger.

In 2006, the town of Stanger was officially renamed KwaDukuza. However, despite this change, many of the locals we encountered still referred to it by its original name. Funny enough, the “new” name actually has a longer history than the old one!

When I think about the rise to power of the infamous King Shaka Zulu in the early 1800s, it’s truly astonishing. He took the grassy hills of what is now northern KwaZulu-Natal and established his capital, KwaDukuza. Before Shaka, the Zulu people were just a small clan, living peacefully and herding cattle. They were overshadowed by larger and more powerful clans in the surrounding region. These clans had their own leaders and governed themselves. They were spread across a vast area, stretching from the south in Transkei, all the way up to the north near the Mozambique/Swaziland border and reaching as far west as the Drakensberg mountains.

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Shaka wasn’t born into royalty – he was actually the illegitimate son of the Zulu King at the time, Sezangakhona. But through cunning and warfare, he managed to rise to power. The clans that did not align themselves with the Zulu or fall to his armies had no choice but to flee. Some went as far as the Limpopo River and southern Zimbabwe, seeking safety and escape from Shaka’s dominion.

When I think of Shaka, I’m amazed at how he transformed the Zulu army. He changed everything – from their tactics to their weapons. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before.

The Zulu army was made up of young men who were organized into different groups based on their age. These groups were called “amabutho.” It was a bit like joining a club. When you reached puberty, you became part of an amabutho, and you were a member for life. Your loyalty to your amabutho was more important than anything else, even your family.

When it came to battle, Shaka had a clever strategy. He would send his experienced soldiers into the fight first, keeping the enemy occupied. Meanwhile, his younger warriors would move around to the sides, just like the horns of a bull. This allowed them to surround the enemy and attack from all directions at once. This tactic, known as the “pincer movement,” had been used before, but Shaka was the first to use it consistently and with incredible success. It’s amazing how such a simple maneuver could have such a powerful impact on the outcome of a battle.

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Hey there! Did you know that Shaka, the famous military leader, created a one-of-a-kind weapon called the “Iklwa”? It’s true! Back in the day, the locals used a longer spear called the “Assegai,” but Shaka had a clever idea. He shortened the handle and widened the metal tip, turning it into a fearsome stabbing lance for close combat. This unique weapon got its name, “iklwa,” from the sound it made when pulled out of an enemy’s body. Pretty intense, huh?

Now, here’s an interesting fact about Shaka: his rule lasted only a decade, from 1818 to 1828. One fateful morning, while sitting alone on a rock in his KwaDukuza kraal, he was assassinated by his own brothers. They sneaked up on him from behind and stabbed him to death. It happened on September 24, 1828, which the Zulu people now commemorate as Shaka Day. Cool, right?

In 1995, the government of South Africa made Shaka Day a national holiday. But they wanted to include all South Africans, so they also made it National Heritage Day. It’s a day for everyone to remember their diverse roots.

The Braai4Heritage mission wants to take this idea even further. Today is day 27 of our tour, and everywhere we’ve been in the country, people know what a braai is. They see it as an important part of their South African heritage. So, on 24 September, all South Africans can gather around a braai and celebrate their heritage, whatever that may mean to them.

On our way back to the coast from KwaDukuza, we made a stop at the Albert Luthuli museum in Groutville. This is where a truly remarkable person from our recent history, Chief Luthuli, lived for many years. Unfortunately, he was placed under house arrest during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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Chief Luthuli holds a special place in history. In fact, he was the first South African to be honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1960. However, it wasn’t an easy journey for him. He had to wait for a whole year to obtain permission from the government to travel to Sweden and receive his well-deserved prize.

Tragically, on the 21st of July, 1967, Chief Luthuli met an untimely and suspicious end. While he was alone, inspecting his fields on the boundary of his farm, he was struck by a train. The circumstances surrounding his death raised many questions, but no autopsy was ever conducted to provide answers.

When we finally made it to the coast, it was pouring rain, and the BBQ we had planned at Shaka’s Rock seemed like a hopeless idea. But we didn’t let that stop us. After scouting the area for a few minutes, we stumbled upon a sheltered tidal pool. And with a clever disguise as building contractors and a little smooth talking to the security guards, we were able to set up our BBQ by the changing room and get down to business.

The crayfish we cooked was hands down the tastiest I’ve ever had. I haven’t had too many crayfish before, but everyone agreed that these were something special. We happily devoured them along with a glass of delicious white wine and a flavorful salad. It was a perfect ending to a great day, and it made our arrival in sunny Durban even sweeter.

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