Traditional Zulu political organization was hierarchical, with the king at the apex. Authority was delegated to chiefs of districts and from them to homestead heads. The lowest level of political and kinship organization was the umuzi, variously translated as "village," "kraal," or "homestead." These settlements were patrilocal extended-family or clan barrios. Polygyny was the norm and was often sororal. Each kraal was the homestead of a male, which included a separate hut for each of his wives. The huts were arranged, according to the status of the wives, around the central cattle kraal. Villages were moved every few years. The kraal head had the responsibility of keeping law and order and settling disputes. Disputes that could not be settled in the kraal or cases of a special nature were dealt with by the district head.
Zulu society was organized into patrilineal sibs. Through a process of growth, subdivision, and incorporation of aliens, the sib developed into a "tribe," which, however, was still known by the name of the ancestor of the dominant sib. The sibs were divided into lineages, which were composed of descendants of a common ancestor in the near past.
The king, the head of the Zulu "tribe" or "clan," had judicial and legislative power. The legislation, formed by consultation with old men or the council, was not of enormous significance, consisting of orders for the regiments to marry or announcements about campaigns. The council of the king consisted of headmen or the heads of important families who were required to live at the royal kraal for certain periods to advise the king.
Shaka made a number of military innovations, not the least of which was a reorganization of the regimental system. An intanga consisted of a group of men of roughly the same age who lived at the royal kraal, tended to the king's cattle, and formed the standing army. According to Reader (1966), the regimental system, although not organized for war, is still an active institution in Zulu society.