Nandi, The Sweet And Fiery Zulu Queen

Queen Nandi is one of my role models. I know she lived in ancient times, but modern women experience the same abuse and hardships that our Queen experienced during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Queen Nandi

Queen Nandi

Ndlovukazi (Queen) Nandi kaBhebe of eLangeni was the daughter of the Langeni Chief, Bhebe Mhlongo and his wife, Mfunda. She was born in 1760 at the eBunzini umuzi on what later became the Bull’s Run Estate on the banks of the Mhlathuze River. She was married to King Senzangakhona and was the mother of Shaka Zulu, The Great. She was also the Queen Mother of the Zulu Nation. The name “Nandi” means, “the sweet one” in isiZulu. But the abuse that Queen Nandi experinced throughout her life, replaced her sweetness with a fiery temperament.

Dudu Mkhize as Queen Nandi in the Shaka Zulu 1986 TV series.

Dudu Mkhize as Queen Nandi in the Shaka Zulu 1986 TV series.

When the eLangeni people announced to Senzangakhona and the Zulu family that Nandi was pregnant, Senzangakhona and his relatives humiliated Nandi by denying paternity, saying that she was not pregnant, but suffering from a stomach ailment caused by the iShaka beetle, an intestinal beetle on which menstrual irregularities were usually blamed on.

Henry Cele as King Shaka, and Dudu Mkhize as Queen Nandi in the Shaka Zulu 1986 TV series.

Henry Cele as King Shaka, and Dudu Mkhize as Queen Nandi in the Shaka Zulu 1986 TV series.

After Nandi gave birth to Shaka, Senzangakhona finally accepted paternity, and took Nandi as his wife. He offered a paltry sum for her Lobola, which she turned down, and legend has it that she settled on 50 head of cattle. Nandi knew her worth, even before she became Queen. But Senzangakhona’s other wives were jealous of Nandi, so they put pressure on Senzangakhona to banish Nandi and Shaka into exile. Nandi returned to the eLangeni clan with Shaka and his sister, Nomcoba. Unfortunately they experienced further abuse because Nandi was a single mother, and her children were fatherless. During the 1802 great food shortage, Nandi travelled long distances on foot to seek help in other areas, enabling her to provide food for her children. Regardless of the hardships, Nandi raised Shaka with the kind of training and guidance a royal heir should have. She always reminded him that he was destined to be King, and taught him to never leave an enemy behind during a war or battle.

In the end, after years of hardships, abuse, pain and hell, Nandi was finally rewarded when Shaka later returned to the Zulu Kingdom, to become the greatest of all Zulu Kings. She was crowned the Queen of Queens, and she, with other women surrounding Shaka, was put in charge of military kraals and given power to govern while Shaka was on campaign.

To this day, the Zulu people use the name, “Nandi”, to refer to a woman of high esteem. She passed away in October 10, 1827.


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