Shaka iLembe

Shaka iLembe: The Story Of Shaka Zulu Premieres June 18

It’s been 37-years since Henry Cele stepped into the historical role of ‘Shaka Zulu’ in the hit TV-miniseries of the same name. Now, Mzansi Magic is gearing up for the release of ‘Shaka iLembe’, on 18 June 2023 at 8pm, its largest prime-time drama series to date.


  • This epic 12-part series delves into the origin story of the renowned African monarch and military strategist, King Shaka.
  • After six years in the making, the highly anticipated show features some of South Africa’s most prominent stars.
  • Shaka iLembe is already generating significant interest beyond the borders of sub-Saharan Africa.
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Shaka iLembe offers audiences the chance to immerse themselves in a captivating African narrative set in the 1700’s, showcasing not only the heritage of the Zulu Nation, but also telling this pre-colonial story and tapping into the world’s enduring fascination with King Shaka.

African history is seldom depicted on screen and remains largely locked in academic volumes. We want to bring these exciting and important stories to life, to encourage young people to learn more about this epic history, to celebrate African Kings and Queens and real heroes from African history.

// Bomb Productions Executive Producer, Desiree Markgraaff


Filmed in isiZulu, the series tells the origin story of the famous Zulu King and the events that shaped his remarkable life. While the series is an entertainment title and a fictional interpretation of historical events, the producers have taken care to ensure that Nguni culture is authentically portrayed and respected.


Fittingly, Shaka iLembe was filmed in 4K, with state-of-the-art visual effects, ensuring the best screen treatment for the sweeping dynastic saga. The production has been six years in the making, consulting historians, academics, and family descendants, including the incumbent King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as well as the late King Goodwill Zwelithini.



At the heart of the Shaka iLembe story is actress Nomzamo Mbatha, who not only plays a key role but also serves as an executive producer. Nomzamo shares her excitement about the project, describing it as a rich and visually stunning series shot in 4K on a grand scale. From the meticulous accuracy of the wardrobe to the captivating script and intense battlefield choreography, every aspect of the production aims to bring the story to life. Nomzamo also emphasizes that although Shaka iLembe is a fictional tale, it draws inspiration from real events, people, and places.


Nomzamo is joined by an exceptional ensemble cast, including talented actors Lemogang Tsipa, Senzo Radebe, Wiseman Mncube, Thembinkosi Mthembu, Mondli Makhoba, and actresses Khabonina Qubeka, Sthandiwe Kgoroge, Dawn Thandeka King, and rising star Hope Mbhele. The young newcomer Ntando Zondi portrays the boy destined to become King.



Shaka iLembe was predominantly filmed in South Africa, showcasing the country’s breathtaking wildlife and scenery, particularly in the picturesque province of KwaZulu Natal, the ancestral home of the Zulu people. Notable filming locations include Eshowe, Nkandla Forest, Port Edward, Drakensberg, Mooi River, and Zulu Falls. Additionally, parts of the series were shot near the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘The Cradle of Humankind’ in the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve (GCNR) where four crucial sets were constructed.


In addition to large parts of the show being filmed on location across KwaZulu-Natal, more than 120 builders and thatchers from KwaZulu-Natal were engaged in building the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve sets, all experienced in traditional hut building methods. They joined artisans from Gauteng to construct the 4 main kingdoms built within the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve, complete with raised watchtowers that served as an early warning system.


When the set with its culturally beautiful rounded thatched huts was complete, filming began on the property. The creative team comprised Oscar-nominated director Angus Gibson; executive producers Nomzamo Mbatha, Nhlanhla Mtaka and Desiree Markgraaff. They also worked with cultural and historical adviser Professor Hlonipha Mokoena while Royal praise singer, Inyosi Mdletshe called on the ancestors to bless the land and the project.


The filming of Shaka iLembe was particularly poignant for the CEO of The Cradle Boutique Hotel and Greater Cradle Nature Reserve, Kobus Botha. He was a cameraman on the first Shaka Zulu television series which was filmed in 1986.

For me it’s come full circle – what a privilege it has been to host this ground-breaking series. We, at the Cradle Boutique Hotel and guests who joined our Origins Tours that traverse our property on game drives, have watched in wonder as the sets took shape. The authenticity was astonishing. We are delighted to have been chosen as a prime destination for the filming of this iconic story.

// The Cradle Boutique Hotel and Greater Cradle Nature Reserve CEO, Kobus Botha


However, in keeping with the strict rules of the nature reserve, the filmmakers had to stick to a rigid building schedule and abide by the prescribed on-site protocols.

No lasting structures are allowed to mar the pristine natural setting, ensuring that the land is allowed to return to its original state once the set has been dismantled.

// The Cradle Boutique Hotel and Greater Cradle Nature Reserve CEO, Kobus Botha


Over 8’000 individuals contributed their skills to create Shaka iLembe, as well as a talented creative team behind the show, including Creative Director Angus Gibson and Executive Producer Desiree Markgraaff, who tapped into the wealth of talent in South Africa. Acclaimed Zulu musician Mbuso Khoza lends his skill and vision to drive the series’ soundtrack.


As Shaka iLembe prepares to make its debut, it promises to captivate audiences both at home and abroad, immersing them in a world of rich African history, powerful storytelling, and breathtaking visuals.


For those curious to watch the 1986 Shaka Zulu starring Henry Cele, Edward Fox and Robert Powell, the miniseries is now streaming on Netflix, chronicling the Zulu Nation’s conflict with the British Empire in the early 1800’s with the iconic Margaret Singana theme tune ‘We Are Growing’.


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