Shaka Zulu (Henry Cele) with loincloth, boots and shield

Shaka Zulu

(As portrayed by Henry Cele)


The 1986 10-episodes Shaka Zulu TV series is classic action/adventure story detailing the rise of the warrior king Shaka Zulu, during the early 1800s. Though it is a South African series, it takes many artistic licenses with regard to actual history. Still, it is well-made and entertaining.

Henry Cele’s portrayal of Shaka Zulu is almost universally regarded as one of the highlights of the series. Prior to becoming an actor, Cele was a well-regarded soccer player and goalkeeper.


  • Real Name: Shaka.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Nandi (mother), Senzagakona (father – deceased), Nunko (younger sister), Mfunda (maternal grandmother – deceased), Gendeyana (step-father – deceased), Mkabayi (aunt), Dingonde (half-brother by Senzagakona), Zegujana (half-brother by Senzagakona – deceased), Gwazi (half-brother by Gendeyana, Jama (paternal grandfather – deceased), Beibae (maternal grandfather – deceased), unnamed illegitimate son (deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: King of the Zulu nation.
  • Base Of Operations: Zula Nation of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa early 1800s (specifically Kwa Bulawayo (“the place of the killing”) aka Shaka’s Krall).
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Eyes: 2, Brown Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

Growing up in a harsh environment and living as an outcast and illegitimate son of King Senzagakhona , Shaka had to fight all his life not only for his survival, but for the survival of his family. The experiences he gained as a young warrior and also while being hunted as a fugitive served him well.

He developed the tactics he would employ against his many enemies, and to forge the small tribes of the Zulus into a powerful, unified nation of warriors and conquerors.

Prophecy of the Warior King

Even before his birth Sitayi, the blind old witch woman, foretold of a warrior king that would be the leader of an army of shining black shields and blood-stained spears who would create a powerful Zulu nation.

She followed and observed from afar Shaka’s life with great interest. Sitayi even intervened on his behalf, using her mastery of the magical arts to protect Shaka and his mother from harm.

Mudli feared Shaka since his birth because of the prophecy foretold by the witch doctors at the time. Shaka was born in the month of Untulikazi – the time of the prophecy. All of Senzagakona’s wives would be barren during this time – the condition of the prophecy.

And that Shaka would bring about a reign of terror that would cause the Zulus to become feared throughout the region.



The show’s intro sequence, depicting Shaka practising with assegai and shield.


The mini-series is based on the story of Shaka, king of the Zulu nation from 1816 to 1828, and the writings of the British traders who dealt with him. Starting from his illegitimate birth around 1787 to a commoner, Nandi, through his tormented childhood at the Zulu court.

Virtually disowned by his father Senzangakhona, the scrawny and introverted Shaka grows into a tall, commanding presence even while branded as an outlaw.

It was during his time as a fugitive that the young Shaka would come across the wounded prince, Dingiswayo . Shaka tended Dingiswayo’s wounds and nursed him back to health. When he had recovered, Shaka helped Dingiswayo return to his territory. The two parted as good friends.

Shaka would later rejoin his mother, Nandi, and his sister, who had sought refuge with King Gendeyana. Gendeyana and Nandi had known each other since they were young, and years ago he had asked for her hand in marriage.

Nandi, however, was in love with Senzagakhona at the time. Having nowhere else to go Nandi asked Gendeyana for his assistance which he happily gave to her. Nandi and Gendeyana were married soon after and Nandi gave birth to Gendeyana’s son, Gwazi.

Senzagakhona, on the advice of his council, sought to reclaim his son and heir. However, when Shaka was brought before the council he made it public that if Senzagakhona did not acknowledge Shaka’s mother as queen, then he recognizes no one by the name of Senzagakhona son of Jama.

This act of public defiance would be seen as treasonous. It caused Shaka to become a fugitive again as Zulu warriors were dispatched to hunt him down and kill him. But not before Shaka defiantly told Mudli, Senzagakhona’s prime minister, that Shaka would return as king of all the Zulus and claim his rightful place on the throne.

Shaka the fugitive

Shaka manages to escape the Zulu warriors hunting him and makes it to the Mtetwa kingdom , but is wounded. As the Zulu warriors are about to close in on him, a regiment of Mtetwa warriors arrive to halt their advance in Mtetwa territory.

Shaka is taken to the Mtetwa royal kraal and is tended by the Mtetwa medicine man to recovers from his wounds. When he awakens, Shaka is brought before the king of the Mtetwas, Dingiswayo.

King Dingiswayo welcomes Shaka into his kingdom and gives him amnesty from the Zulus. The Zulu warriors are forced to return to their king empty handed.

Senzagakhona becomes enraged by this turn of events. He realizes that Shaka is rapidly growing in power and influence just by the number of powerful allies who all want the fierce young warrior on their side.

By having someone as powerful as King Dingiswayo preventing the Zulus and King Senzagakhona from reclaiming Shaka and maneuvering the Zulus into forging new alliances to combat the Mtetwas, Shaka is ostensibly manipulating the Zulu power structure into doing what he wants.

Shaka joins the Mtetwa military soon after and begins his career as a soldier. After proving himself an exceptional warrior and rising in the ranks of a necessarily more militant society, Shaka lends his influential support to King Dingiswayo who would later unify the Zulu Nation under the domination of his Mtetwa tribe.

It is during this time that Shaka would develop his special combat tactics and strategies that would forever change how warfare is fought in the region. Shaka enlists a renowned weapons maker to craft Shaka’s custom designed spear and shield.

Shaka Zulu (Henri Cele) pointing among a crowd

With these new weapons, Shaka is given a platoon of Mtetwa warriors to train as a special squad. Shaka scores significant victories in many confrontations which include defeating the armies of the Zulus sent against him by his father.

Shaka also takes this opportunity for dealing out vengeance as he takes his special squad to hunt down all those who caused his mother hardship. One man in particular, Zorbah, had caused Shaka and his family to flee through the desert which resulted in the death of his grandmother, Mfunda.

For this Shaka had Zorbah and his entire family impaled and left out in the open as a warning to all who dare to cross Shaka or his family.

Taking the throne

After Senzagakhona’s death, Shaka journeys to the Zulu royal kraal and claims the Zulu throne despite Mudli’s objections. Shaka tells his half brother Zegujana (by Senzagakhona) that Mudli has just turned against the rightful heir to the throne of the Zulus and orders Zegujana to be execute Mudli for high treason.

The young Zegujana reluctantly and fearfully obeys as he executes Mudli in front of the Zulu court. Shaka then approaches Zegujana and demands to know if he accepts Shaka as the rightful heir to the throne. Zegujana falls to his knees and acknowledges Shaka as the true royal heir.

Shaka then announces that Zegujana is a fool and kills him on the spot. Shaka has his mother brought in and asks if there are any others at the court who have offended her.

Nandi looks over the faces of the courtmembers and stops at Mkabayi (Senzagakona’s elder sister). Mkabayi prepares herself for Nandi to name her and order her execution. But Nandi instead moves on and approaches to the throne area.

Ngomane, King Dingiswayo’s prime minister, officiates Shaka’s claim to the throne and asks if there is anyone who objects to the decision. When no one objects Shaka is crowned the new Zulu king from which he would later expand the Zulu empire through successive military conquests over all of Natal (today, KwaZulu-Natal ).

In the early 19th century, the British began expanding their empire beyond the South African colonies. As they made their way up the continent’s southeastern coast, they encountered a formidable enemy: Shaka Zulu, the most powerful king in that region and founder of the Zulu empire.

Shaka had come to rule his people by being the strongest, most fearless warrior of the tribe. He had no intention of allowing the English to achieve their colonialist goals… even if he had to die stopping them.

As he grows up to fulfill an ancient tribal prophecy, uniting his people into a bold new nation, Shaka is driven by extraordinary intelligence, courage, astounding physical ability and an immortal stance. He leads his proud warriors in their quest to be one people, one power, one empire!


In film Shaka was described as a tall, lean African male with an athletic physique. This would be in keeping with Shaka’s abilities as a superior level warrior.


Determined and ruthless with a sharp mind for battlefield tactics as well as political infighting. Shaka combines many talents attributed to the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon.


“Never leave an enemy behind, or it will rise again to fly at your throat !”

DC Universe History

Shaka works best in his own self contained universe, but adventuring characters from that time period may have journeyed to South Africa and may have either encountered Shaka or one of his representatives.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Shaka Zulu

Dex: 07 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Power lust
Int: 07 Wil: 08 Min: 08 Occupation: King of the Zulus
Inf: 08 Aur: 07 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 012
Init: 026 HP: 030

Acrobatics (Athletics, climbing, dodging): 07*, Charisma: 08*, Martial Artist: 07*, Medicine (First Aid): 05, Military Science (Danger Recognition, Field Command): 06*, Weaponry (Melee, missile weapons): 07*

Expertise (Hunting and wilderness survival), Intensive Training, Iron Nerves, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Local Hero (among the Zulus), Luck, Rich Friend (King Dingiswayo), Scholar (Military tactics), Sharp Eye.

King Dingiswayo (High, powerful), Nandi (High), Mkabayi (Low), Sitayi (High, powerful), Ngomane (Shaka’s Prime Minister, High), the Oomfa Simba Regiment (Shaka’s warrior elite, High).

Authority Figure (after he becomes King of the Zulus), Minor Rage, SIA for vengeance, MIA to combat, Enemy: Mudli (early in Shaka’s life, until Shaka has him killed), Mistrust (early in his career Shaka was either an outcast from his tribe, or later on the run as a wanted fugitive).


  • Spear [BODY 05, EV: 05, (07 w/Martial Artist)]. The Zulu spear has a much larger spear head then other spears at the time of Shaka. It can be used as a thrown weapon, but is more effective as a close combat weapon.
  • LARGE SHIELD [BODY (Hardened Defenses) 04, EV 02 (05w/STR), Recommended STR 02, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 3 APs, Note: the OV bonus for the Shield Cover Manoeuvre is 3 APs]. Made of tough cow hide that has been treated the large Zulu shield provides good protection from thrown spears, or close range attacks.

By Pur_See_i8.

Source of Character: Shaka Zulu 1986 television serial directed by William C. Faure and written by Joshua Sinclair for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. (SABC). Played by Henry Cele.

Helper(s): IMDB, wikipedia.