DEPARTMENT OF ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

COMMEMORATION OF THE BATTLE OF HOLKRANS / KWAMTHASHANA


REMARKS AND PRESENTATION OF
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE ZULU NATION
BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
CHAIRMAN, THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS (KWAZULU NATAL)
AND UNDUNANKULU KA ZULU

VRYHEID : SUNDAY : MAY 5, 2002

As we approach the closing of the centenary celebrations of the Anglo-Boer War, it is fitting that we gather to remember the contribution made by every man and woman throughout the unfolding of this prominent milestone of our country’s history. I wish to thank the Minister of Arts, Science, Culture & Technology, the Hon. Dr BS Ngubane, and the organisers of today’s commemoration for inviting me to attend and introduce His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation. I feel that with our words and our unity we must do justice to the memory of all those who, through their remarkable courage under terrible circumstances, shaped the South Africa we now share. We must recall and pay tribute to the fact that in times of war, it is after all ordinary people whose lives are sacrificed to direct future history. This is the tragedy of human strife which touches our humanity to the core and keeps us remembering.

The Anglo-Boer War is sometimes rightly referred to as the South African war. I am pleased when I hear this, because I feel that in the past it has sometimes not been highlighted that this war involved not only the British and the Boers, but that many black people participated in the war on either side. Some were part of the British attackers, while others were on the side of the Boers. In varying degrees, all South Africans participated in the war. This very fact has brought us together today with our King to commemorate the conflict and to honour those upon whom, unregarded and at times uncelebrated, heroism was thrust.

The history of the Zulu people recalls our involvement at this time. King Dinuzulu had returned from exile in St Helena where he was banished with two of his uncles, Prince Ndabuko and Prince Shingana in 1897. He lived for a while in Eshowe before proceeding to his Osuthu Royal Residence in 1898. As we remember, this was only some months before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war.

As I have mentioned, in the past the general attitude of white people was that this was a white-on-white conflict, and the African people were supposed to keep out of it. As we have seen, that was not to be. As is the case now, the border of the Kingdom of KwaZulu was shared with the then Transvaal Republic. This boundary was not supposed to be violated but for a long time this had not been the case, particularly because this war was by and large a war in which guerrilla warfare was employed. A major strategy was to seize the cattle of whoever was perceived to be the enemy, which is an old strategy used throughout history to try to starve one's enemy into submission.

The Zulu King at that time had been allowed to return to his Kingdom on condition that he held the position of Government Induna. That is what the imperial authorities decided, but as far as the Zulu Nation was concerned, truncated as it was through General Wolseley's dispensation into 13 mini-kingdoms after the Battle of Ulundi, King Dinuzulu was their King. When the Military Command decided to employ the strategy of destroying or seizing the cattle of their enemies, they felt some need to use the African people to do so. The Military Command, without consulting the Natal Government, therefore decided to send Colonel Bottomley to approach King Dinuzulu and ask him to assemble his men and arm them. When this approach was made, the King duly reported it to the Magistrate in Nongoma. Although the Magistrate objected to these orders, and suggested to the King that he should disregard them, he was over-ruled as the country by then had been placed under martial law. The King was forced to obey, but only assembled 24 companies consisting of 1,500 regiments.

The battle of KwaDleka then followed and two of the King's warriors lost their lives in that skirmish. During this conflict, a Boer wagon was attacked and a number of firearms were seized. This intervention by the King's men prevented a Boer attack on the neighbouring Magistracy, which resulted in the King's people mobilising around him, giving him the recognition that the Natal Government did not want his people to give him.

Naturally the Boer guerilla forces decided to retaliate after the battle of KwaDleka. They decided to raid Zulu settlements in the Vryheid district and to seize their cattle. As we all know, this area was the area of AbaQulusi, the people of whom were well known for their bravery. This resulted in Sikhobobo ka Mabhabhakazana Sibiya retaliating to protect his people. There was a party of Boers who were referred to as Potgieter's commando who were bivouacked near the foot of the Holkrans mountain, 12 miles from here. The Boer field-cornet had been warned that the Baqulusi were on the war path, but the uneasiness this news caused within the commando was soon disregarded as some false alarm. This was also because some kind of armistice had already been declared between the Boers and the British.

The story of that skirmish is that as members of the Commando were sleeping at about four o'clock, at the crack of dawn the AbaQulusi attacked with rifles and assegais. As we know, both the Zulus and the Boers are brave warriors, so it became a bloody encounter. Members were taken by surprise. Of the 72 burgers, 56 were killed. The Abaqulusi also lost about 70 who died on the field. A number of guns seized in this skirmish were taken to the King's Osuthu Royal Residence, and the King restrained his people from further acts of violence.

I recall how a few years ago the family of Sikhobobo Sibiya invited me to unveil the tombstone on his grave. On that occasion I had the opportunity to recollect much of what we recall here today. These memories, though of a time one hundred years ago, belong to an intimate collection of our history which, as a whole, captures and reveals our identity as a people. I take pleasure in meeting as we do today to speak about this shared past, for I believe that it must be spoken about, its lessons must be learned and together we must gather the collective wisdom to move away from war to reconstruction and complete reconciliation. The task of reconciliation between all South Africans is one to which I have dedicated most of my life. I will continue to do so in the determined hope that our future shall never hold such tragedy as we have known in the past.

Events like this are an opportunity for reflection, for while we remember brave people on both sides, we cannot help thinking about the futility of war. Perhaps what should capture our attention today is the need to build on the foundations of our history a united and shared South Africa. When war ends, reconstruction must begin. I believe we may take pride in seeing this gathering of diverse cultures and language groups meeting to remember a time of division. Surely this event by itself reflects how far we have moved towards a time of unity in which past grievances, offences and tragedy are pushed away to embrace a future of social stability, mutual respect and shared efforts of nation building. Seeing us gathered here today, I am heartened for the prospects of our future. Perhaps in another hundred years our posterity may gather to recall not only those whose lives were lost to make history, but those in our own generation whose lives were indeed lived for the sake of our future.

Pondering the full significance of this historic occasion, however, I remind myself that my role today is to present to you the great-grandson and heir of King Dinuzulu, and our present King, His Majesty King Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, who is the main speaker at this ceremony. Today King Zwelithini sits on the throne of King Dinuzulu. For me, as the grandson of King Dinuzulu and his Traditional Prime Minister, it is a great privilege to fulfil my task and present to this gathering His Majesty the King of the Zulu nation.

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