Shaka Zulu

TV series, 1986

Bill Faure's epic and controversial series about the legendary Zulu king. The series was produced by the SABC, but in order to get around cultural boycotts against South Africa, the corporation made a deal with American production company Harmony Gold to distribute the series abroad. The SABC even hid their involvement completely in some countries. Despite the controvercy, accusations of apartheid propaganda and many historical inaccuracies, the series became incredibly popular. It was seen by millions across the world, including in America, England and West Germany. In 1987, Henry Cele became the first black actor to win an Artes Award, for his portrayal as Shaka.

Shaka Zulu
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Shaka Zulu

Production summary: 

Premiere date:

9 October 1986


TV1; TV2


English; Zulu


Historical drama; Epic drama; Based on real events; Based on book

Number of series:


Number of episodes:


Production company:

SABC; Harmony Gold (distribution)


Bill Faure


Joshua Sinclair

Based on:

Based on Sinclair's novel about real historical characters and events

Cast and Crew: 

William C. FaureNarrator
Henry CeleShaka
Edward FoxLt. Francis Farewell
Robert PowellDr. Henry Fynn
Trevor HowardLord Charles Somerset
Fiona FullertonElizabeth Farewell
Christopher LeeLord Bathurst
Dudu MkhizeNandi
Simon SabelaDingiswayo
Sam WilliamsJama
Patrick NdlovuMdoli
Roland MqwebuNgomane
Bingo BentleyBhuza
Conrad MagwazaSenzagakona
Tu NokwePampata
Gugu NxumaloMkabayi
Graham ArmitageWilkins
Alex HeynsVegte
Vuyisile BojanaMgobozi
Nomsa XabaSitayi

William C. FaureDirector; Script editor
Joshua SinclairWriter
Ed HarperProducer
Leon RautenbachExecutive producer
Frank AgramaAssociate producer
Dave PollecuttMusic
Margaret Singana and the Baragwanath ChoirTheme song performers

Theme song: 

Music and Lyrics: 

"We Are Growing", written by Patric van Blerk, Julian Laxton, Margaret Singana and Dave Pollecutt.
Sung by Margaret Singana and the Baragwanath Choir.


Episode 1
Original air date: 9 October 1986

The story starts with an epilogue: After the Anglo-Zulu War, defeated Zulu King Cetshwayo visits Queen Victoria in England. He asks her to restore the Zulu kingdom, with him as ruler, and tells her of the mighty Shaka Zulu, the father of the Zulu nation.

Back in 1823, Shaka's Zulu warriors are waging wars and conquering people all across South Africa. As they draw closer to the Cape colony's borders, its British rulers writes to Britain asking for reinforcements. While the empire can't spare any more soldiers, they do come up with a plan: to send Lt. Francis Farewell with a group of volunteers to go to Zululand (under the guise of ivory traders) to make personal contact with Shaka and to find out more about the threat of the Zulu army. On their way to Natal, Farewell and his crew are shipwrecked and they wash up on the beach, where they're met by Zulu soldiers.

Episode 2
Original air date: 16 October 1986

Farewell and his men are taken to Kwa-Bulawayo, Shaka's royal homestead and the capital of the Zulu empire. There, they meet Shaka and his mother, Nandi, and realise the extent of Shaka's power.

Episode 3
Original air date: 23 October 1986

Dr Henry Fynn starts to chronicle the life of Shaka and the rise of the Zulus. In the 1780s, young Nandi bears a son. She names him Shaka, "The Beetle". His father is Senzangakona, a prince of the small Zulu tribe.

Episode 4
Original air date: 30 October 1986

Senzangakona, who has succeeded his father as Zulu king, takes Nandi as one of his wives. While Shaka is growing up in his father's kraal, he notices how he's father abuses his mother. One day, he threatens to kill his father. Shaka and Nandi are forced to flee.

Episode 5
Original air date: 6 November 1986

Now a young man, Shaka returns to his father's home to become his heir. But when he has to flee once again, he finds a home in another tribe and begins to train as a warrior. His criticism of the traditional warfare techniques puts him at constant odds with General Bhuza.