Dingiswayo was a Mthethwa chief, best known for his mentorship over a young Zulu general, Shaka Zulu, who rose to become the greatest of the Zulu kings.
He was born Godongwana, son of Mthethwa chief Jobe. We first hear of him during the wanderings of Nandi and her illegitimate son Shaka, who settled with the Mthethwa under king Jobe.
During this time Jobe was plotted against by Godongwana and his brother Tana. The plot was discovered, Tana was killed but Godongwana made his escape. Nursed back to health by a sister, the young man found refuge amongst the foothills of the Drakensberg. He changed his name to Dingiswayo, which means "he who is troubled", or "The Wanderer". Upon the death of his father, he returned to claim the chieftainship.
He had not spent his exile idly, as he returned on horseback, and with new military ideas. He found his brother Mawewe in power, but displaced him without resistance. Mawewe fled, but was lured back and killed.
MacKeurtan, G. The Cradle Days of Natal (1497-1845). Pietermaritzburg. 1948. asserts that he observed a troop of Hottentots under Lieut Donovan which had accompanied Dr Cowan, who was murdered by Chief Phakathwayo and whose horse and gun Dingiswayo subsequently acquired. Dingiswayo's new military tactics were an adoption of western techniques of drills and formation movements under a chain of command.
With Shaka as a young general, he attacked the Amangwane under Matiwane about 1812 and drove them across the Buffalo river. It was the first of the Mfecane migrations - tribes displaced, latterly by the Zulus, and who in turn displaced others in a series of inter-necine wars.
Dingiswayo banded together a number of smaller tribes in opposition to his chief rival to the north - king Zwide of the Ndwandwe.
In 1816 Shaka returned to the Zulu to claim chieftainship, while still recognising the larger Mthethwa and Dingiswayo as overlord. However, a year later he betrayed Dingiswayo to Zwide, in a divide-and-conquer strategy to the benefit of his small (1500) Zulu clan, and later defeated Zwide in the Zulu Civil War.
Dingiswayo was killed by Zwide, and the Mthethwa defeated and scattered, the remnants reforming under Shaka.
Dingiswayo's grave can be seen today on the north bank of the Tugela River, in KheKheKhe 's kraal.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46