[also called Zulu Civil War]
The Zulus were originally a small tribe that had migrated to the eastern plateau of present-day South Africa; they became a strong tribal nation largely due to the efforts of an ambitious chieftain named Shaka (c. 1787-1828). A rebellious young man, Shaka was estranged from his father, who was a Zulu chief, and became a warrior with the Mtetwa people. Dingiswayo (d. 1817), the Mtetwa paramount chieftain, helped Shaka become recognized as head of the Zulus after Shaka's father died in 1816. The two chieftains were close friends, and their warriors fought together against common enemies, such as the Ndwandwe headed by Zwide (d. 1819). After Dingiswayo was murdered by Zwide, the Mtetwa people placed themselves under Shaka and took the Zulu name. Shaka revolutionized traditional ways of fighting by introducing the assegai, a light javelin, as a weapon and by organizing warriors into disciplined units that fought in close formation behind large cowhide shields. In the Battle of Gqokoli Hill in 1819, his troops and tactics prevailed over the superior numbers of the Ndwandwe people, who were routed; Zwide was killed. Most of the Ndwandwe abandoned their lands and migrated northward, leaving Shaka master of Zululand. Now began the Mfecane ("The crushing"), a series of tribal wars that devastated the region in the early 1820s, during which Shaka created a military Zulu empire and extended his rule, especially in the area of present-day Natal. Zulu warriors defeated local tribesmen and massacred many.