King Dingane ka Senzangakhona

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Biographical information


King of the Zulus (1828 – 1840)

First name: 
Last name: 
ka Senzangakhona
Date of birth: 
Date of death: 
February 1840
Location of death: 
Lebombo Mountains

Dingane ka Senzangakhona was a younger son of Chief Senzangakhona. His mother, Mpikase, was Senzangakhona's sixth and ‘great wife'. Shaka, the son of the third wife, also laid claim to the chiefdom, but was disowned by his father. But Shaka seized the Zulu chieftainship in 1816, and thereafter extended the Zulu kingdom. On 22 September 1828, Dingane and another half-brother, Mhlangana, assisted by a servant Mbopha, assassinated Shaka. Soon afterwards, Dingane had Mhlangana murdered. Dingane became the new Zulu ruler, and reigned until 1840. Dingane moved the royal homestead from Nobamba in the emaKhosini valley to a new inland location which he called Mgungundlovu, ('Place of the Great Elephant').

In 1837, Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his men visited Dingane at Mgungundlovu to negotiate the Voortrekkers' settlement in Natal. In February 1838, a treaty was allegedly signed which granted a large part of Natal to the Voortrekkers. In the meantime, however, Dingane had become convinced that Retief and the Voortrekkers were treacherous and had them murdered. Then he sent out soldiers to kill the rest of the Voortrekkers awaiting Retief's return from Mgungundlovu. Hundreds of Voortrekkers were consequently killed at Bloukrans and Moordspruit.

This set off months of bloody conflict between the Voortrekkers and Dingane's Zulus. Voortrekker leaders Hendrik Potgieter and Piet Uys sent out an expedition against Dingane, but were defeated at Italeni. The conflict culminated in the battle at the Ngome River on 16 December 1838, in which the Zulus suffered a severe defeat.

The Ngome River was renamed Bloedriver or Blood River, because it was said that river became red with the blood of the Zulus. The incident became known as the Battle of Blood River, and for many years 16 December was a national holiday.

Led by new Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, a Voortrekker commando went to Mgungundlovu to confront Dingane. But Dingane had burned down his whole kraal or homestead, and the Zulus launched an attack on the commando at the White Umfolozi River.

In the meantime, the British occupied Port Natal (now Durban). From there, they advanced on Dingane, but they were defeated at the Tugela River. Dingane's warriors also attacked the settlement at Port Natal.

In September 1839, another half-brother of Dingane, Mpande, defected with many followers to Natal. There, the Voortrekkers recognised his as the ‘Prince of the Emigrant Zulus'. On Christmas Eve 1839, the British garrison withdrew from Port Natal. Almost at once, the Voortrekkers hoisted the flag of the Republic of Natalia and made an alliance with Mpande's supporters to make a joint attack on Dingane

In February 1840, Mpande's forces finally decisively defeated Dingane on the Maqongqo hills. He fled north across the Phongolo River, where it is believed he met his death in the Lebombo Mountains at the hands of the Nyawo and his old enemy, the Swazi.

• Zulu History - Dingane (Dingaan) [online] Zulu Culture and Traditions [accessed 19 February 2009]
• Howcroft, P. (ed.) (undated)

Last updated : 03-Feb-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011