King Sobhuza I

Posted by Jeeva Rajgopaul on

People category:

Biographical information

Synopsis:

First king of the Swazi 

Title: 
King
First name: 
Sobhuza I
Last name: 
Sobhuza
Date of birth: 
1795
Location of birth: 
Swaziland
Date of death: 
1836*

Sobhuza I was the first king of the Swazi people as we know the group today. He was born in Swaziland in 1795 and succeeded his father, Ndvungunye, as king of the Dlamini clan in 1815.

He was determined to expand his authority, but was forced to move northwards, away from his home near the Pongola River, by the Ndwandwe, shortly after the beginning of his reign. The Ezulwini valley in central Swaziland, where he settled, became the social and political centre of the Swazi people.

Sobhuza I continued to subdue or drive away the nearby Sotho clans and consolidated his power in the region. Eventually his rule extended as far as Lydenburg. He managed to avoid the worst of the Zulu invasion, which was driven by Shaka, and the mfecane, through diplomacy. He managed to establish a new nation in a tie when most groups were broken up and in process of losing their identity.

In 1836 the Dlamini under Sobhuza I did defeat the invading Zulu forces by adopting their military strategy. There is some contention as to the year of the Swazi king's. Some sources indicate that he passed away in 1836 while others say 1839. He was succeeded by his son, Mswati, and the name Dlamini was changed to Swazi.

Sobhuza I was also known as Somhlolo, or the Father of Mysteries. He was given this name because he left the Swazi people with a legacy that influenced their way of life and philosophy a great deal. Apparently, one night shortly before his death, he had a prophetic vision. He saw white skinned people with hair like the tails of cattle. He also saw that they brought two things with them. The first was a scroll or book and the second a round piece of metal. These have been interpreted to represent the Christian Bible and money.

*Some sources indicate that he passed away in 1836 while others say 1839.


References:
• Potgieter, D. J. (1974). The Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, SLE-TUN. Johannesburg: Nasionale Opvoedkundige Uitgewery
• https://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9068428&hook=247274
• https://bahai-library.com/newspapers/somhlolo.html
• https://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/southafrica/swazilandpre1894.html

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 11-Oct-2011

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