NANDI, Life as The Queen Mother

nandi_300`Shaka had a deep respect for his mother, Nandi, and his aunts, princesses Mkabayi, Mmama and Nomawa.*(11)

In 1816, Nandi had returned to live with Shaka as the Queen Mother. She held a reputedly cruel sway over her household and exercised a great deal of influence over affairs of the kingdom. Nandi, with other women surrounding Shaka, was put in charge of military kraals and given power to govern while he was on campaign. It is said that Nandi was a force for moderation in Shaka’s life, suggesting various political compromises to him rather than violent action.

Each settlement had a selection of royal women usually headed by one of Shaka`s aunts. According to evidence later given by Cetshwayo,*(12) the woman`s work in a kraal consisted of cultivating and reaping crops, getting wood and water, cooking, making matting for covering huts, making sleeping mats, making izilulu (a grass receptacle for corn), and cleaning house.

As Shaka swept through Zululand incorporating various clans into the Zulu all the unmarried Buthelezi women – about 100 – aged from eighteen to twenty, became Shaka`s crown property. They were divided into three groups of even number and he appointed one group each to his military kraals the Belebele, (ruled by his aunt Mkabayi) and the Esi-Klebeni (ruled by his father Senzangakhona`s first wife, Makabi and forth wife, Langazana. The third group formed the nucleus of the Um-Dlunkulu (those of the great house) and were kept under the watchful eye of Nandi. At Bulawayo Nandi was responsible for their good conduct and careful monthly inspections to ensure that they were not pregnant.

John Laband, in his book, `Rope of Sand`, in refering to Nandi, writes,`His mother was clearly of a most difficult, aggressive temprement however, and Nandi`s praises refer to her physical unattractiveness and sexual frigidity, as well as to her violent temper:

She whose thighs do not meet, They only meet on seeing her husband.`


*(11)Stephen Taylor , Shaka’s Children a History of the Zulu people, published in 1994.

*(12) A Zulu King Speaks – Statements made by Cetshwayo ka Mpande – B Webb & J.B Wright.

After Shaka`s great victory at the Umthatuze river he gave Nandi a herd of thousands of cattle and started the building of her own Royal kraal at Emkindini not far from the Mfule river and halfway between present day Melmoth and Umhlatuze river.

At around 1821, six years before Nandi`s Death, Shaka built a new capital on the southern slopes of the Umthlatuze valley to the right of the present day Eshowe-Empangeni road, and like the first, also named it Bulawayo (place of the killing).As soon as this was completed, Shaka built Nandi a similar kraal but of lesser dimentions, that was situated on the broad flat summit of a hill five km south-west of the new Bulawayo. It was called the Emkindini (girdle) after the name of her earlier one situated near Melmoth and was almost encircled by the Emateku and Embuzane streams with the Empongo hill to the east. Nomcuba, Shaka`s sister, now presided over the old Emkindini kraal.