Shaka was the first son of the chieftain Senzangakhona and Nandi, a daughter of Bhebhe, the past chief of the Elangeni tribe, born near present day Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal Province. He was conceived somewhere between 1781 and 1787
He is widely credited with uniting many of the Northern Nguni people, specifically the Mtetwa Paramountcy and the Ndwandwe into the Zulu Kingdom, the beginnings of a nation that held sway over the large portion of southern Africa between the Phongolo and Mzimkhulu Rivers, and his statesmanship and vigour marked him as one of the greatest Zulu kings. He has been called a military genius for his reforms and innovations, and condemned for the brutality of his reign. Other historians note debate about Shaka's role as a uniter versus a usurper of traditional Zulu ruling prerogatives, and the notion of the Zulu state as a unique construction, divorced from the localised culture and the previous systems built by his predecessor Dingiswayo. Research continues into the character and methods of the Zulu warrior king, whose reign still greatly influences South African culture.