I was just watching a bit of Shaka Zulu:
It's an epic miniseries about the powerful tyrant Shaka Zulu, the last of the great African kings, and his encounter with the British.
This is more of a "diary entry", which as silly as it sounds is what it really is. lol
Shaka just never stood a chance. Watching the miniseries made me think of the first time many people encountered Europeans. There the Chinese who got their ass kicked in the Boxer Rebellion (although that wasn't the first time they met Europeans). There were the Japanese and Commodore Perry. The Aztecs and the disgraceful way their empire of a million people was defeated by a few hundred Spaniards. The Indians, and I'm not sure exactly how they got beaten by the British.
I guess one could compare the Zulus to the Chinese and Japanese to make a point. The Chinese were far more advanced than the Zulus, they wore clothes number one! They had an actual system of government based upon civil service examinations, based on the teachings of Confucius, his disciples and I'm sure other content. They had cannons, some flintlock muskets, cavalry, crossbows, some light armor, currency, writing, roads, and canals. They also had a larger unified population than the Zulus. Yet they also stood no chance against the Europeans. The Chinese were beset upon by the entirety of the West, as well as the Russian. Nearly every European country, plus the US and Russia invaded China. I don't know if it would have mattered if it was just a few European countries. If the Chinese couldn't stand up to the Europeans, then I guess on those grounds alone the Zulus had no chance.
The miniseries actually starts off after the downfall of the Zulu, when some royal descendant of the Zulu is asking the Queen of Britain for his lands back. The Queen says no and that a unified Zulu nation would be too unruly, so they would have to be broken up. So bearing the previous Chinese example in mind, what the Zulus would want to do is JUST SURVIVE with the nation intact against the British. That is the highest they could achieve. I think the Japanese model is the best one for that. I'm not well-versed in Japanese history, but I believe that what set them apart was their open-mindedness to Western technology. The Chinese were plagued by a pathetic political system that left the fate of the entire nation to the personality of one emperor, much like Rome. The entire empire rose, fell or stagnated due to the personality of one individual, which is something that ruined China, Rome and the Ottoman Empire. So for whatever reason, the Japanese decided to adapt, and the Chinese allowed nearly 100 years to pass without undergoing rigorous reforms and modernization after things started getting violent with the Europeans.
My point is that adaptation and nimbleness was the key to surviving European invasion with your nation intact. I think that with the Zulus lacking so many of the basics of civilization (writing, philosophy, government) they had no chance to adapt.
Maybe they were just too far behind to adapt and subjugation was inevitable.
End of "diary entry" for now. Oh, I hate that term.
Edit: If you don't even have a system of writing, you're a dead man by the 1800's. Your civilization is a dead man walking. You have to have a 19th century mind, if you're going to survive in the 19th century. You have to have the basics in order to just try to compete with the Europeans:
With no writing there is no education. With no education there is no technology. With no currency or roads, there is only bartered trade. With only bartered trade and no urban centers, the economy is weak. With a weak economy, the military too must be weak. With a weak military comes the conquest of the land and the people and the death of the nation.