Site of Battle for control between King Shaka and Inkosi Zwide
- Published: Monday, 24 November 2014 18:02
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Declining rainfall in the last decades of the eighteenth century, followed by a calamitous ten-year drought that began about 1800, caused massive disruption and suffering. The adoption of corn as a major staple gave this drought an even greater impact than those of the past because corn needed much more water than local grains in order to produce. When the rains failed, therefore, the effect was devastating. People fought one another for meager supplies of grain and cattle, hunted down whatever game they could find, and sought out any remaining water supplies in a desperate attempt to survive.
Warfare erupted, and two kingdoms -- the Ndwandwe under the leadership of Zwide, and the Mthethwa under Dingiswayo -- battled for control of resources. Both kingdoms became more centralized and militarized, their young men banded together in age regiments that became the basis for standing armies, and their kings became more autocratic as they fought for survival. The Ndwandwe appeared victorious in 1818 when Dingiswayo was killed and his forces scattered, but they were soon overcome by Shaka, founder of the Zulu state.
The Ndwandwe kingdom was the dominant force in the east from 1750 to 1820. The kingdom’s role has been neglected because its history has been overshadowed by the successor Zulu state. Historians of this period feel that it is important that the Ndwandwe be put included in the study of the history of this time. According to the new view, the Zulu kingdom emerges as one of several important African states. It was the product rather than the cause of a long period of political upheaval.
When Dingiswayo was killed, Shaka with his military machine avenged his mentor's death, destroying the Ndwandwe in battle (two of Zwide's generals, Shoshangane and Zwangendaba, fled north and established kingdoms in present-day Mozambique and southern Tanzania, respectively). Shaka then incorporated the Mthethwa under his rule, and established the Zulu state as the dominant power among the northern Nguni.
The Battle of Gqokli Hill was fought between the forces of King Shaka and Inkosi Zwide of the Ndwandwe in 1818. Although he faced a numerically superior enemy, King Shaka’s military tactics won the day and he scored a huge victory. Two other generals, who would later found nations on the sub-continent, were involved in the battle. They were Soshangane who founded the Shangane nation in Mozambique and Mzilikazi, who founded the Ndebele in today’s Limpompo province and southern Zimbabwe.