African Ngwenyama (king) whose son, Mswati II, created the Swazi nation. Also known as Ngwane IV.
Date of birth: c. 1780 (or 90)
Date of death: 1836 (or 39), near Manzini, Swaziland,
An Early Life
Sobhuza was the son of a Ngwanwe chief, Ndvugunye, and grandson to chief Ngwane II. He was a member of the ruling Dlamini clan of the bakaNgwane who had settled to the north of the Pongola River, in what is now Swaziland. His birth name was Somholo, which means 'wonder' (Swaziland's independence day, 6 September, is also known as Somholo Day).
Sobhuza became king in around 1815, a turbulent time, since to the south two Nguni groups (the Ndwandwe and the Mthethwa) were in conflict. In order to avoid involvement in the fighting to the south, King Sobhuza I moved his people north across the Usutu River, where they settled and accepted a small trickle of Nswandwe refugees also fleeing the conflict.
Although the Ndwandwe initially managed to defeat the Mthethwa, the Mthethwa joined forces with Shaka Zulu, and returned to crush the Ndwandwe. In 1820 the defeated Ndwandwe split, with two major groups heading north to Mozambique (settling as the Gaza Kingdom) and to Malawi, and the rest joining the bakaNgwane as refugees. With the Ndwandwe nullified, Sobhuza I led his people back across the Usutu to settle in the Ezulwini valley (now the capital of Swaziland, Lobamba).
Creating a Nation
Sobhuzu married Thandile laZwide (aka Tsandzile), the daughter of Zwide (the deposed Ndwandwe king), and they had a son, Mswati. During the late 1820s and early 1830s Sobhuza extended his domain to cover much of what is now Swaziland. Sobhuza's people managed to fend off raids by Shaka in 1828 and 1836, and established a stable and strong kingdom. He developed a strong army modeled on Shaka's age-group, regiment system and military organization -- this created a bond across clan loyalties, strengthening the nation. When Sobhuza died in 1839 (or 1836, as determined by the Rev. AT Bryant1), he was succeeded by his son Mswati (for whom the Swazi are named).
1 Rev Alfred T Bryant, Olden Times in Zululand and Natal, published by Longmans, Green and Co, 1929. This was considered the pre-eminent reference on northern Nguni peoples, at least until more modern research was published after the 1970s.