When this miniseries first aired, although it was not on a major network but was distributed via the syndicated route, there was quite alot of discussion - much of it actually included as wrap-around forums before, during, and after the airing of it. In essence, this was the first time that a biographical/historical African notable was given a non-documentary miniseries treatment for television viewers (at least in the U.S.), although the 4-hour, 2-part TV movie "Sadat", which aired in 1983, should probably be counted. It seems the director of "Shaka Zulu" was apparently not aware of "Sadat" - but then again back then and even today, it seems that some refuse to acknowledge that Egypt is actually physically located on the African continent due to some geographical scotoma and denial. In any case, with little to go on that was substantive (outside of the usual idiocy of calling Africans "savages") outside of the journal written during the era by one of the main characters who encountered Shaka, and the oral histories of the time by the residents of an area in what is now the still-volatile Natal Province, South Africa, a sweeping epic is crafted to highlight the title character's childhood and brief but brutal reign in what is Zululand. The creator/director insisted that just as historical tyrant figures like Napolean (who was a contemporary of Shaka), Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun, Winston Churchill, etc., have been glamorized, he too wanted "Africa" to have its due for one of its great "warriors". This idea, at least according to some of the critics in the wrap-around discussions, was paternalistic (to which I agree). But the distaff argument was essentially that this was "entertainment" (which is true) as opposed to being an outright documentary, so license is generally and should always be expected to be given. The attempt was apparently to take this area of Africa out of the Tarzan-like depictions and thrust it more fully into reality.
The cast, most notably the intense Henry Cele, is certainly up to the task and the costumes (which are still worn today ceremonially) are gorgeous. There is generous use of flashback to help develop the character and eventually lead to the conclusion.
For those curious about why South Africa is the way it is (with so many issues still unresolved), this is definitely a much-watch to at least get one piece of the puzzle that apparently helped to shape the society that we see there today.