Ndlorukazi Nandi kaBebe eLangeni (meaning The Sweet One) was born around 1760, in Langeni to a minor chief of the Langeni tribe, Bhebhe. Very little known about Queen Nandi’s early life because there is no written documentation about her childhood.
Nandi was not treated like royalty before she became a Queen. It is believed after visiting a relative in the Babanango Hills, Nandi with her small caravan encountered Zulu warriors. Senzangakhona Kajama, King of the Zulu people was among the warriors. Senzangakhona impregnated Nandi out of wedlock. Village elders rejected her claim to the King that she was pregnant. Elders instead stated that she had become infected by the Shaka beetle which causes the stomach to bloat. She was infact pregnant and when the child was born she named him Shaka after the beetle, she gave birth to a Shaka Zulu.
Nandi and her new-born were escorted to the Zulu capital where they were ashamed. Senzangakhona initially denied having impregnated Nandi but eventually married Nandi. She was then placed at the status of a lowly third wife. Giving birth out of wedlock was not a welcoming idea that’s why her marriage was forbidden in inter-clan.
Queen Nandi’s mother was the daughter of a Qwabe chief, their marriage was forbidden since the Qwabe and Zulu claim the same ancestry, intermarriage between the tribes was forbidden.
Nandi and her son Shaka were not welcomed with open arms. She was being bullied constantly by Senzangakhona’s other wives and their children. Nandi finally took Shaka and fled Zulu tribe. They lived a nomadic life, until they found the Mthethwa clan. The Mthethwa clam embraced Nandi and Shaka. It was Diniswago, the clan leader who took young Shaka teaching him how to lead and fight. They remained with the Mthethwa clan until Shaka made his back to the Zulu people.
When Shaka returned to the Zulu tribe, he claimed the throne. He became King of the people who tormented his mother. Shaka appointed his mother to be his advisor as well as worshipping her on the same level as a god-like figure.
Queen Nandi advised her son until she died on October 10, 1827. She had a great power over the Zulu people even in death. To mourn her mother in style, Shaka ordered that any family who had a child within a year of Queen Nandi’s death would be executed. Nandi went from being mistreated lowly third wife to the Queen of the Zulu people.