Society of African Journal Editors

Inkanyiso: Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Relations between the Zulu people of Emperor Mpande and the Christian missionaries, c.1845-c.1871

Authors: MZ Shamase

Journal: Inkanyiso: Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

During Emperor Mpande's reign (1840-1872), following the deposition of his half-brother Dingane in 1840, the Zulu people mostly adhered to traditional norms and values, believing that the spirits of the dead live on. Ancestral veneration and the worship of the Supreme Being called Umvelinqangi were pre-eminent and the education of children was merely informal, based on imitation and observation. This worldview faced new challenges with the advent of Christianity and the arrival of Christian missionaries at Port Natal between 1845 and 1871. The strategy of almost all Christian missionaries was premised on winning the Zulu people en masse to Christianity through Mpande’s court. The doctrines preached by the missionaries disputed the fundamental ethical, metaphysical and social ideas of the Zulu people. Mpande, however, earnestly requested that at least one missionary reside in the vicinity of his palace. Nothing could deter Mpande’s attempts to use missionary connections to keep Colonial threats of invasion in check. While the Zulu people were devoid of organised religion which might have proved a bulwark against the Christianisation process, Mpande’s acceptance of the missionaries could be said to have been mainly strategic. He could not display bellicose tendencies while still at an embryonic stage of consolidating his authority. This paper gives an exposition of the nature and extent of relations between the Christian missionaries and the Zulu empire of Mpande. Keywords : Christianity, proselytes, missionaries, evangelisation, Zulu empire, Emperor Mpande