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Shaka kaSenzangakhona (c. 1787 – c. 22 September 1828), also known as Shaka Zulu ( ), was the most influential leader of the Zulu Kingdom.
He is widely credited with uniting many of the Northern Nguni people, specifically the Mtetwa Paramountcy and the Ndwandwe into the Zulu kingdom, the beginnings of a nation that held sway over the large portion of southern Africa between the Phongolo and Mzimkhulu rivers, and his statesmanship and vigour marked him as one of the greatest Zulu chieftains. He has been called a military genius for his reforms and innovations, and condemned for the brutality of his reign.
Other historians note debate about Shaka's role as a uniter versus a usurper of traditional Zulu ruling prerogatives, and the notion of the Zulu state as a unique construction, divorced from the localised culture and the previous systems built by his predecessor Dingiswayo. Research continues into the character, methods and influence of the Zulu warrior king, who continues to cast a long shadow over the history of southern Africa.
At the time of his death, Shaka ruled over 250,000 people and could muster more than 50,000 warriors. His 10-year-long kingship resulted in a massive number of deaths, mostly due to the disruptions the Zulu caused in neighbouring tribes, although the exact death toll is a matter of scholarly dispute. Further unquantifiable deaths occurred during mass tribal migrations to escape his armies.
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