The town of KwaDukuza, about 70 kilometres north of Durban, is an area steeped in history. Originally given its name by King Shaka when the town was formed in 1825, it later became known as Stanger, in honour of William Stanger, the first surveyor-general of Natal. In 2006 its official name was changed back to KwaDukuza in recognition of the history of the area, and what the story of the town means to the Zulu nation. Not only was it the place that King Shaka chose as his capital, but it is also the place where Shaka was assassinated by his half-brothers, and the site of his grave. As such it is the location of the annual Shaka Day celebrations that take place in September each year, on the anniversary of Shaka’s death.
The name KwaDukuza translates to ‘place of the lost person’, or more simply, ‘maze’, in reference to the 2000 or so thatched huts that littered its hills. Shaka is said to have chosen the area as his capital because he knew that the area was well watered and had good vegetation for grazing his vast herds of cattle. The new settlement began in July 1825, and was occupied by September. It was a massive, oval shaped settlement comprised of a huge central kraal for the royal cattle, surrounded by the beehive shaped huts, with the massive royal hut being built alongside a small stream.
King Shaka’s death is commemorated on the 24th of September each year, but in fact Shaka was assassinated on the 22nd of September 1828, just three years after he had established the town of KawDukuza. While sitting on a large rock, considered to be his throne, awaiting traders from the Transkei, Shaka was attacked by his half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, who were in collusion with Shaka’s body guard. Mhlangana stabbed Shaka on his left side, aiming for his heart, but instead hit the King’s arm. Shaka tried to walk away, but his brothers followed, striking him repeatedly in the back. On the following day the three men wrapped the King’s body in the skin of a black ox, and lowered him into a newly dug grain pit near the entrance of the Nyakamubi kraal.
Dingane, the new king of the Zulus, organised the building of a new royal settlement in Zululand, evacuating all the people from KwaDukuza, and burning the town to the ground. The area became overgrown with bush, and it was nearly 50 years before it was inhabited again, when European settlers formed the town of Stanger.
Today a small museum housing historical information and artefacts relating to King Shaka adjoins the site of his grave, which is located in the town centre, with the mahogany tree where King Shaka held important meetings, still standing proudly in front of the municipal offices.