Infobox Ethnic group
group = Zulus
pop = 10,659,309 (2001 census) [http://www.southafrica.info/ess_info/sa_glance/demographics/census-main.htm South Africa grows to 44.8 million] , on the site [http://www.southafrica.info southafrica.info] published for the International Marketing Council of South Africa, dated 9 July 2003, retrieved 4 March 2005.]
regions = flagcountry|South Africa
region1 = KwaZulu-Natal
pop1 = 7.6 million
ref1 = lower|
region2 = Gauteng
pop2 = 1.9 million
ref2 = lower|
region3 = Mpumalanga
pop3 = 0.8 million
ref3 = lower|
region4 = Free State
pop4 = 0.14 million
ref4 = lower|
languages = Zulu smaller|(many also speak English or Afrikaans or Portuguese or other indigenous languages such as Xhosa)
religions = Christian, African Traditional Religion
related = Bantu· Nguni· Basotho· Xhosa· Swazi· Matabele· Khoisan
The Zulu (isiZulu: "amaZulu") are the largest South African ethnic group of an estimated 10-11 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. Their language, isiZulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African History during the 19th and 20th centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state sanctioned discrimination. Today, they are the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and have equal rights along with all other citizens.


The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded ca. 1709 by Zulu kaNtombhela. In the Nguni languages, "iZulu/iliZulu/liTulu" means "heaven", or "sky." At that time, the area was occupied by many large Nguni communities and clans (also called "isizwe"=nation, people or "isibongo"=clan). Nguni communities had migrated down Africa's east coast over thousands of years, as part of the Bantu migrations probably arriving in what is now South Africa in about the 9th century A.D.


The Zulu formed a powerful state in 1816 under the leader Shaka. Shaka, like all the Zulu chiefs before him, gained a large amount of power over the tribe. A commander in the army of the powerful Mtweta Empire, he became leader of his mentor Dingiswayo's paramountcy and united what was once a confederation of tribes into an imposing empire under Zulu hegemony.

Conflict with the British

On December 11, 1878, agents of the British delivered an ultimatum to 14 chiefs representing Cetshwayo. The terms required Cetshwayo to disband his army and accept British authority. Cetshwayo refused, and war followed at the start of 1879. During the war, the Zulus defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22. The British managed to get the upper hand after the battle at Rorke's Drift, and win the war with the Zulu defeat at the Battle of Ulundi on July 5.

Absorption into Cape Colony

After Cetshwayo's capture a month after his defeat, the British divided the Zulu Empire into 13 "kinglets". The subkingdoms fought amongst each other until 1883 when Cetshwayo was reinstated as king over Zululand. This still did not stop the fighting and the Zulu monarch was forced to flee his realm by Zibhebhu, one of the 13 kinglets, supported by Boer mercenaries. Cetshwayo died in February 1884, possibly poisoned, leaving his son, the 15 year-old Dinuzulu, to inherit the throne. In-fighting between the Zulu continued for years, until Zululand was absorbed fully into the Cape Colony.

Apartheid years

The KwaZulu homeland

Under apartheid, the homeland of KwaZulu ("Kwa" meaning "place of") was created for Zulu people. In 1970, the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act provided that all Zulus would become citizens of KwaZulu, losing their South African citizenship. KwaZulu consisted of a large number of disconnected pieces of land, in what is now KwaZulu-Natal. Hundreds of thousands of Zulu people living on privately owned "black spots" outside of KwaZulu were dispossessed and forcibly moved to bantustans - worse land previously reserved for whites contiguous to existing areas of KwaZulu - in the name of "consolidation." By 1993, approximately 5.2 million Zulu people lived in KwaZulu, and approximately 2 million lived in the rest of South Africa. The Chief Minister of KwaZulu, from its creation in 1970 (as Zululand) was Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. In 1994, KwaZulu was joined with the province of Natal, to form modern KwaZulu-Natal.

Inkatha YeSizwe "meaning the crown of the nation"

In 1975, Buthelezi revived the Inkatha YaKwaZulu, predecessor of the Inkatha Freedom Party. This organization was nominally a protest movement against apartheid, but held more conservative views than the ANC. For example, Inkatha was opposed to the armed struggle, and to sanctions against South Africa. Inkatha was initially on good terms with the ANC, but the two organizations came into increasing conflict beginning in 1979 in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising.

Because its stances were more in accordance with the apartheid government's views, Inkatha was the only mass organization recognized as being representative of the views of black South Africans by the apartheid government (the ANC and other movements were banned). In the last years of apartheid, this acceptance extended to the covert provision of funds and guerrilla warfare training to Inkatha by the government. citation Yet unlike the leaders of the Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and Venda bantustans, Buthelezi never accepted the pseudo-independence offered under the policy of Separate Development, despite strong pressure from the ruling white government.

Political violence

From 1985, members of opposing protest movements in what is now KwaZulu-Natal began engaging in bloody armed clashes, with combatants armed with AK-47's and machetes. This political violence occurred primarily between Inkatha and ANC members, and included atrocities committed by both sides. It was believed to be frequently instigated by a branch of the apartheid government's security forces, which became known as the "third force". The violence continued through the 1980s, and escalated in the 1990s in the build up to the first national elections in 1994.

The modern Zulu population

personal standard of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu adopted in 1999] The modern Zulu population is fairly evenly distributed in both urban and rural areas. Although KwaZulu-Natal is still their heartland, large numbers have been attracted to the relative economic prosperity of Gauteng province. Indeed, Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in the province, followed by Sotho. Zulu is also widely spoken in rural and small-town Mpumalanga province.

Zulus also play an important part in South African politics. Mangosuthu Buthelezi served a term as one of two Deputy Presidents in the government of national unity which came into power in 1994, when reduction of civil conflict between ANC and IFP followers was a key national issue. Within the ANC, both the immediate past (Jacob Zuma) and current (Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka) Deputy President of the country have been Zulu, in part to bolster the ANC's claim to be a pan-ethnic national party and refute IFP claims that it was primarily a Xhosa party.


The language of the Zulu people is Zulu or "isiZulu", a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. Zulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa, with more than half of the South African population able to understand it (Ethnologue 2005). Many Zulu people also speak English, Portuguese, Shangaan, Sesotho and others from among South Africa's 11 official languages.


The rural Zulu economy is based on cattle and agriculture. Consequently, the main staple diet consists of cow and agricultural products. This includes barbecued and boiled meat; amasi (curdled milk), mixed with dry, ground corn or dry, cooked mealie-meal (corn flour); amadumbe (yams); vegetables; and fruits. The Zulu traditional beer is not only a staple food but a considerable source of nutrition. It is also socially and ritually important and is drunk on all significant occasions.

Drinking and eating from the same plate was and still is a sign of friendship. It is customary for children to eat from the same dish, usually a big basin. This derives from a "share what you have" belief which is part of ubuntu (humane) philosophy.


Older Zulu women wear clothes that cover their bodies. They wear isicholo, a wide hat made of straw and decorated with beads (ubuhlalu). They also wear isidwaba, a pleated skirt made of cowhide and softened by hand. Younger women sometimes decorate their 'isidwaba' with beads, whereas older women wear it plain. Clothing for Zulu girls is mainly made of beadwork and is usually revealing

Beads are the pride of the Zulu nation. Zulu beadwork encompasses a symbolic language that may include reprimands and warnings, messages of love, and encouragement. Different beads carry symbolic meanings that may be used during courtship. When a young man proposes love from a woman, she gives him a gift of betrothal beads as an indication of her acceptance of him. This acceptance is usually followed by lobolo (bride price) by which the young man pays eleven cows to the woman’s family.

Traditional Healing

Zulu people believe in ancestors and in traditional healing. They believe that the divine healer, isangoma, has supernatural powers of communicating with the ancestral spirits on their behalf. Isangomas play a significant role among the Zulu nation and are assigned very powerful status among the society. Usually it is women who take up this profession. Isangomas predict the present and the future of the people who come to seek help from them. Sometimes they are expected to find stolen goods. They throw bones to determine the future and to find stolen things. Isangomas work alone or sometimes in conjunction with medicine men (inyanga).making it possible for all of us


Zulu people can be Christians (whether Roman Catholics or Protestants in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, or part-Christian, part-Traditionalist in Zimbabwe) or pure Traditionalist.

Zulu religion includes belief in a creator God (Nkulunkulu), who is above interacting in day-to-day human affairs. It is possible to appeal to the spirit world only by invoking the ancestors (amaDlozi) through divination processes. As such, the diviner, who is almost always a woman, plays an important part in the daily lives of the Zulu people. It is believed that all bad things, including death, are the result of evil sorcery or offended spirits. No misfortune is ever seen as the result of natural causes. Another important aspect of Zulu religion is cleanliness. Separate utensils and plates were used for different foods, and bathing often occurred up to three times a day. Going barefoot has always been a traditional sign of Zulu spirituality and strength. Christianity had difficulty gaining a foothold among the Zulu people, and when it did it was in a syncretic fashion. Isaiah Shembe, considered the Zulu Messiah, presented a form of Christianity (the Nazareth Baptist Church) which incorporated traditional customs. [cite web|url=http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/people/Zulu.html|title=Art & Life in Africa Online - Zulu|publisher=University of Iowa|accessdate=2007-06-06]

Ancestral spirits are important in Zulu religious life. Offerings and sacrifices are made to the ancestors for protection, good health, and happiness. Ancestral spirits come back to the world in the form of dreams, illnesses, and sometimes snakes. The Zulu also believe in the use of magic. Anything beyond their understanding, such as bad luck and illness, is considered to be sent by an angry spirit. When this happens, the help of a diviner (soothsayer) or herbalist is sought. He or she will communicate with the ancestors or use natural herbs and prayers to get rid of the problem.

ee also

* Abahlali baseMjondolo
* Inkatha Freedom Party
* Ladysmith Black Mambazo
* List of Zulu kings
* Nazareth Baptist Church, Shembe
* Nguni
* Nguni stick fighting
* Shaka Zulu
* South African Translators' Institute
* Zulu Civil War
* Zulu language

External links

* [http://www.afropop.org/radio/radio_program/ID/682/The%20Zulu%20Factor Afropop Worldwide's public radio program on Zulu Music, "The Zulu Factor"]
* [http://www.encounter.co.za/article/61.html Article on Piet Retief, including his interactions with Dingane]
* [http://zululand.kzn.org.za/zululand/about/ History section of the official page for the Zululand region]
* [http://hrw.org/reports/1993/southafrica2/ Human Rights Watch report on KwaZulu, just prior to the 1994 elections.] - This includes detailed, well-referenced sections on recent Zulu history.
* [http://www.africanholocaust.net/peopleofafrica.htm#z People of Africa, Zulu marriage explained]


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