Mpande kaSenzangakhona was king of the Zulu nation from 1840 to 1872, the longest reigning Zulu king.
Date of birth: 1796 (alternatively 1798), Babanango, Mthethwa confederation (which became part of Zululand under Shaka, now KwaZulu Natal)
Date of death: 1872, Nodwengu, Zululand.
Mpande was born in Babanango, son to Senzangakhona kaJama, and half-brother to Shaka and Dingane (both of whom preceded him as Zulu king). Unfortunately little is recorded about his early life.
Mpande's half-brother Shaka, who had been rejected by their father, rose to dominance, taking over the leadership of the Mthethwa (one of two Ngoni people in the region) after the death of King Dingiswayo. Shaka's rise initiated a period known as the mfecane and the expansion of the Zulu clan into a nation. By the late 1820s Shaka's rule became more and more erratic. The death of Shaka's mother, Nandi, finally drove him over the edge.
Shaka was assassinated by Dingane in 1828 (with the help of another brother Umhlangana), who then set about consolidating his new kingship, eliminating Shaka's supporters as well as his own remaining brothers. Dingane ordered his inDuna, Ndlela kaSompisi, to kill Mpande, but Ndlela recognized Mpande's importance -- he, of all of Senzangakhona's sons, had produced an heir. Blood lines were particularly important to the potential succession of the Zulu. Because Mpande was not considered too great a threat, Dingane relented, and Mpande was allowed to live. Mpande had several sons, foremost and most favored of whom was Cetshwayo. But all of them (Mbuyazwe, Dabulamanzi, Ndabuko, Sitheku, etc) could be potential successors to the throne.
By the late 1830s Mpande's brother, King Dingane, was having difficulties with the neighboring Boers as well as rebels within his own Zulu nation. In November 1837 Dingane met with the Voortrekker leader Peit Retief, supposedly signing a deed of cession, handing over Zulu lands to Boer administration. A few months later, in February 1838, Dingane had Retief and his party killed -- over 500 Boers, including women and children were massacred. The town built near the site of the massacre was called Weenen (Dutch word for 'weeping') by Voortrekker settlers.
On 16 December 1838 had his 10,000 strong impi, under the command of Ndlela kaSompisi, attack the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and his camp on the Ncome River. (Known to the Boer as Slag van Bloedrivier, the Battle of Blood River.) Only three of the 470 odd Voortrekkers present were injured (including Pretorius), compared to around 3000 Zulus dead. It was a crushing blow to Dingane, and Mpande took the opportunity to foment his revolt against Dingane.
At the Boer Volksraad at Pietermaritzburg in 1839, as part of Mpande's plan to take power, the Boers were introduced to Mpande's thirteen year old son, Cetshwayo, potential heir to the Zulu throne. (A nick was taken out of Cetshwayo's ear to make future identification easy.) In January 1840, Pretorius and 400 burghers aided Mpande in battle. There was another bonus for Mpande -- in the Battle of Maqongqe, Dingane's inDuna, Ndlela, sent the amabutho forward one at a time, rather than in the traditional 'horns of the buffalo'. As a result, Dingane's forces were convincingly beaten. Dingane fled towards Natal, but not before having the 'traitor' Ndlela strangled to death. Dingane was subsequently killed in Hlatikhulu Forest.
Mpande, King of the Zulu
Mpande was crowned king of the Zulu with Pretorius in attendance. A treaty was drawn up setting the boundaries of Zulu and Boer lands at the Tugela River.
As Mpande's son Cetshwayo grew, he gained popularity. So much so that Mpande became worried for his own kingship (and life). As a result, Mpande encouraged Cetshwayo's half brother, Mbuyazi, in persuit of the throne. Mpande's kingship was questioned more and more, especially after drought and famine hit the Zulu nation in the early 1850s. Trying to strengthen Mbuyazi's claim, Mpande bestowed upon him a large tract of land in south-east Zululand. At the same time, he ignored all of Cetshwayo's appeals for an audience. Conflict was inevitable.
In 1856, when John Dunn, an administrative assistant to the Natal Border Agent, offered to negotiate a peace things looked hopeful. But Mbuyazi persuaded Dunn to join his forces and Battle ensued -- the Battle of Ndondakusuka. Despite the edge given by Dunn's Frontier Policemen and native contingent, Cetshwayo defeated Mbuyazi's forces.
Seeing Cetshwayo's success, Mpande now negotiated a peace. In 1857 Cetshwayo was given effective control of the Zulu nation, whilst Mpande remained as titular king with 'ultimate' authority. In truth, his kingship was severely reduced. Over the next 15 years, Cetshwayo cemented his position, and when Mpande died on 18 October 1872, Cetshwayo was crowned king of the Zulu.