SOUTH AFRICA
2003


"Spitting Cobra"

Shakaland and the Zulus, KwaZulu-Natal

 

Zulu and Zulu War locations.

The Zulu are rightly very proud of their heritage. The Battle of Isandlwana was one of the few defeats suffered by the Victorian British Army, by a non-European army.

Today the word "Zulu" a strong tourist marketing symbol with tourists visiting KwaZulu-Natal to visit its historical sites almost as much as its wildlife reserves and parks.

One such attraction is Shakaland, near Eshowe, named for the great Zulu leader Shaka, where visitors are entertained by zulu warriors and maidens and introduced to Zulu culture and history.

We visited Shakaland to film a snakebite reconstruction, a small Zulu girl bitten by a spitting cobra whilst sleeping on the ground in a traditional hut at night. The sequence would lead into the terrible injuries resulting from spitting cobra bites that we would be seeing at Empangeni Hospital.

 

Shakaland - Zulu village experience.
The team stayed here and filmed a snakebite reconstruction in one of the authentic huts.

In the car park at Shakaland we discovered a very 21st Century intrepation of the Mozambique spitting cobra as a dangerous adversary, a security van belongin to Mfezi Security, the Zulu name for the Mozambique spitter.

Mfezi Security !
Donald and Mark discover a Zuluand security company
using the Mozambique spitting cobra as their mascot.

At DumaZulu, another traditional Zulu village near Mtubatuba were received a juvenile Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica) for our spitting experiments.

A juvenile Mozambique spitting cobra, Naja mossambica, from Dumazulu.

 

Venomous snakes are also considered strong medicine all over Africa and the people who can handle them are considered to have magical powers. In South African these people are Zulu sangormas, or witchdoctors.

Khekhekhe's kraal on the Tugula River.

A little way west of Eshowe we visited a kraal at Ngudwini on the Tugula River belonging to one of the more famous sangormas, an elderly man with 14 wives and upwards of 100 children, called Khekhekhe.

Tour operators trucked in large numbers of tourists to see Khekhekhe 'work his magic' with venomous snakes but unfortunately we were less impressed by his handling of the three puff adders and one mfezi, all of which seemed in poor health and subdued.

The display involved slapping the snakes with the hand and placing their heads in the sangorma's mouth. It is all about he sangorma's power over evil but for people who do not see snakes as evil it was a little too much. Donald and I left before the exhibition was over.

 

The Zulu sangorma Khekhekhe with three puff adders and a Mozambique spitting cobra.