Shaka was the first son of the chief Senzangakhona kaJama and Queen Nandi, the daughter of Bhebhe (Chief of the Elangeni tribe). During Shaka’s reign more than a hundred chiefdoms were brought together in a Zulu kingdom which survived not only the death of its founder but later military defeat and calculated attempts to break it up.
In his early days, Shaka served as an Mthethwa warrior under the guidance of local Chief Dingiswayo for ten years. In that time he managed to distinguish himself as a courageous close combat warrior. His skill pleased Dingiswayo who honoured Shaka by making him commander of his regiment or ibutho.
As he grew to manhood, Shaka began to discover new talents and faculties. Outwardly, he was tall and powerfully built, and his skill and daring gave him a natural mastery over the youths in his age group; inwardly, he was developing a thirst for power.
When Senzangakoma (Shaka's father) died, Sigujana, Shaka's younger brother, stepped in as Chief of the Zulu clan. Shaka, with the help of Dingiswayo and his half brother Ngwidi, had Sigujana assassinated, thus Shaka reigned as Chief of the Zulu clan.
Shaka is often said to have been dissatisfied with the long throwing "assegai", and credited with introducing a new variant of the weapon: the "iklwa", a short stabbing spear with a long, sword-like spearhead. He also introduced a larger, heavier shield made of cowhide.
A strong leader and military innovator, Shaka is noted for revolutionizing 19th century Bantu warfare by first grouping regiments by age, and training his men to use standardized weapons and special tactics. With cunning and confidence as his tools, Shaka built a small Zulu tribe into a powerful nation of more than a million people, and united all tribes in South Africa against European colonial rule. The Zulu nation continued to use Shaka’s innovations in wars after his death.