Women king makers: the case of Zulu princess Mkabayi Kajama (c.1750 – c.1843)
Since the beginning of time, women had a great share in shaping history by different means during different epochs. Historians, in typical chauvinistic tendencies, wrote about women in a manner that considered them as inferior citizens whose existence was limited to the confines of homes and the care of children. Despite this, Africa in general and South Africa in particular, are replete with many examples of female dynasties, king makers, regents and rulers who took up positions of leadership through periods of nation-building and wars of resistance. Zulu culture is fraught with a plethora of women, the most important of whom were princess Mkabayi kaJama; queen Nandi, the mother of Emperor Shaka and also queen Monase who contributed in shaping the Zulu monarchy to what it became in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and making kings behind the scenes. The purpose of this paper is to interrogate the character traits of and give an exposition of the role Mkabayi played in nurturing the Zulu monarchy. Historical and archival sources about the Zulu royal women provided information for this study. It was largely through indigenous knowledge that one could comprehend what their thinking, character traits and contributions were. Unravelling the important role played by Mkabayi in the Zulu monarchy and nation is assumed to be the major contribution of this paper.
Keywords: chauvinism, dynasty, emperor, indigenous knowledge, oral history, royal house, royal women, Zulu monarchy, traditions