UNVEILING OF THE MEMORIAL OF
INKOSI MTHIYAQHWA KA DIDI OF THE BIYELA CLAN


SPEECH BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP, INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN
CHAIRMAN: HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS (KWAZULU NATAL)
UNDUNANKULU KAZULU
PRESIDENT, INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
AND MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

EMAHLAYIZENI, NKANDLA, SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 2000

Masters of Ceremonies, Mr B.V. Mthethwa and Mr Z.O. Zulu; the Reverend Canon Mbatha; Inkosi of the Emahlayizeni branch of the Biyela Clan, Inkosi Bhekizwe Biyela; Inkosi of Obuka section of the Biyela and Head of the Biyela Clan; Inkosi V. Biyela; the Honourable the Prince of KwaZiphethe, Prince G.L. Zulu, the KwaZulu Natal Minister of Welfare and Population Development and other members of the Royal House present; Amakhosi of this District and other amaKhosi from other districts; Indunas, Councillors and members of the Biyela Clan and all members of the Zulu Nation present here today.

I feel very honoured to be here at Emahlayizeni once again for the purpose of unveiling the tombstone of another of the amaKhosi of this section of the Biyela Clan. I thank His Royal Highness, the Prince of KwaZiphethe who has just presented me to you all. I know that the Prince presents me to you not just as his nephew and in my various capacities, but it is appropriate that it should be he who introduces me to you for he partly belongs to the Biyela family himself. The mother of Prince Mnyayiza was a daughter of Mfingwana of the Biyela Clan. So he performs here not only as a senior member of our Royal House and Minister, but also a member himself of the Biyela family as the Biyela blood flows in his veins.

Today we are gathered here to honour one of the heroes of our nation, Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa ka Didi whose tombstone we are assembled here to unveil. I wish to congratulate Inkosi of Emahlayizeni, Inkosi Bhekizwe Biyela, for the initiative that he and his people have taken to ensure that an appropriate memorial is erected to mark the grave in which rests the mortal remains of this hero.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in the Greytown District to unveil the tombstone of Inkosi Bhambatha ka Mancinza. It is my fortune that only after a fortnight after that, I am called upon to unveil the tombstone of another hero of our Nation, Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa of the Biyela Clan.

It is a wonderful coincidence that we are honouring these amaKhosi of the Zulu Nation when all sorts of question marks are being put on the institution of Ubukhosi by the powers-that-be. There is a new song that certain politicians are singing to the effect that amaKhosi played a dubious role during the colonial period and during the apartheid era.

The resistance to colonial rule in Southern Africa reached a climax when the British colonial powers deployed a force larger than the force that they used to conquer the continent of India in order to destroy the Zulu Kingdom. A full scale war took place in order to destroy the old Zulu order and to subjugate the Zulu Nation. It was our ancestor King Cetshwayo ka Mpande whose regiments took on the British forces. The British at that time had the mightiest army in the world. King Cetshwayo's regiments were only armed with their spears and their shields.

It was this very month of January, on the 22nd of January 1879, that Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa distinguished himself with others. My grandfather, Mkhandumba ka Mnyamana, was also present at Isandlwana, as was his brother, Mntumengana ka Mnyamana. Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa's brother who participated in the battle of Isandlwana was Mkhosana who was in charge of uKhandampemvu Regiment. He was the father of Inkosi Dumezweni, the father of Prince Mkhombisi, the father of Prince Nkanyiso, the father of the present General Heir of all the Biyela Clans who has participated in today's function when he received us as guests of Inkosi of Emahlayizeni in his capacity as the General Heir of the Great House of all the Biyela Clans. Mntumengana ka Mnyamana Buthelezi, just like Mkhosana ka Mvundlana ka Menziwa ka Xhoko, also died at Isandlwana and was buried by his brother there Mkhandumba, my father's father, Mathole. And yet question marks are put on the role of our amaKhosi during the colonial era and the apartheid era. There will always be black sheep in any society who play treacherous roles in any Nation. All amakhosi should not be tarred with the same brush as the majority of amakhosi did not commit treacherous actions during the colonial era.

There are many versions of the accounts of the battle of Isandlwana in which Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa participated on the 22nd of January 1879. Let us however look at the version of the events of that day as recorded by C.T. Binns in his biography of King Cetshwayo entitled 'The Last Zulu King - the life and death of Cetshwayo' pp. 126 to 131. It reads:

"Thus dawned the fateful 22 January 1879. At about 8. am a report reached the camp from a few mounted men who had been sent out in a northerly direction that a Zulu impi was approaching from the north east. The camp was immediately put under arms facing the direction from which the enemy was supposed to be approaching and Pulleine sent forward a despatch to Chelmsford: Report just come in (8.05 am) that the Zulus are advancing in force from left front of the camp.'

No Zulus were visible from the camp till about 9.am when a small number was seen on the crests of the hills in the distance, but these withdrew immediately. A little later however, another message came in from the forward party that the enemy were in three columns, two which were retiring while the third had moved out of sight towards the north-west.

About 10 o'clock Colonel Durnford arrived with his Native troops from Rorkes' Drift and hearing that the Zulus were in the vicinity sent back one troop of mounted Natives to protect his wagons, which were coming on behind. He also dispatched two troops to distant hills on the left of the camps to reconnoitre, the first under Captain Shepstone and Lieutenant Raw, the second under Captain Barton and Lieutenant Roberts.

He next ordered 1/24 company under Lieutenant Cavaye to take up a position on the hills to the north of the camp and about 1,500 yards away. Durnford himself then rode forward across the plain in order to prevent any Zulu columns from joining the force against Chelmsford; with him went two troops of mounted Natives, a rocket battery and one company of Natal Native Contingent under their European Officers; all were on their way by 11.am. About twelve o'clock firing was heard from the direction of the hill where Cavaye was posted.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Raw and his troop of Basutos, having advanced three or four miles in a northerly direction, had come across a herd of cattle which they followed over some rising ground. Reaching the top of the hill, to their amazement they saw a large Zulu force not more than a mile away and extending to their left; this was Umcityu impi (regiments) of about 4,000 men. Unaware that the whole Zulu army was hiding in the near-by valley, but realising the danger Raw ordered a retreat, Shepstone meanwhile having galloped back to the camp to raise the alarm. Like a flash the whole Umcityu impi (sic Umcijo regiment) roaring out their battle-cry of "Usuthu" sprang forward to the attack. The sudden advance of the Umcityu impi (Umcijo regiment) set the other regiments aflame, and they too rushed into action. The battle of Isandlwana which should not have taken place till the following day, had begun. Raw and his little force at first retired slowly, stopping at intervals to pour volley after volley into the closely packed ranks of their advancing foes. Undaunted and unfaltering, the Zulus swept forward, till Raw realized that his only hope of safety lay in getting back to camp with the utmost speed.

As soon as Shepstone reached the camp with the information that a vast Zulu army was approaching, two carbineers galloped out to tell Durnford and his men of their danger, for by this time they had reached a point about four and a half miles away from the camp, well in advance of the rocket battery and the Native contingent. Hardly had this information been received when the enemy appeared advancing swiftly towards them in an attempt to cut them from the camp. Instantly a retreat was ordered which was carried out fairly steadily, fire being maintained by alternate troops, and about two miles back they came upon all that remained of the rocket battery.

This battery also had been informed by another carbineer that Raw and his men were being heavily attacked on the further side of the ridge and that the enemy were approaching in great force. Almost at the same moment a small body of Zulus appeared, so it was decided to drive the guns up on a small plateau on this ride and open fire from this vantage point.

The going was heavy, for the climb was steep, rough and stony, and to add to the confusion the Zulus fired a volley at the mules from a distance of almost 100 yards, frightening them out of control. Unharnessing the animals, the men tried to manhandle the guns up the slope. Suddenly the tip of the left horn of the Zulu army appeared on the crest of the ridge and bore down on the gunners. The men taken completely by surprise and greatly outnumbered, lost the guns in the first on-rush and soon after fell fighting bravely, only four escaping with their lives out of a total of approximately 120 men. It was just about this time that Durnford and his men appeared on the scene. In their retreat they reached a deep donga (near where the present Isandlwana store stands) which afforded a measure of protection and from it they poured volley after volley into the Zulus - the Edendale Mounted Rifles specially distinguishing themselves - but as quickly as warriors fell, others took their places. The advance was checked for a few moments, but the Zulus pressed on, and when the British fire became too severe they used their dead comrades as a temporary shield. Nothing could halt their dead comrades as a temporary shield. Nothing could halt their onward rush, and soon the donga became untenable, for men were falling all around, ammunition was running short and by now (1 pm) the "crest" of the Zulu army was approaching. Leaping on their horses the remnants of this little force made a last desperate attempt to rejoin their comrades. But when they realised that to reach the camp was an utter impossibility, Durnford and his fast-diminishing body of men turned at bay and faced the oncoming horde, taking their stand just below Black's Koppie, which had already been partially occupied by the Zulus. Here the Colonel with his volunteers, the remnants of his Native Contingent, and some men of the 24th Regiment who had rallied round him, made their last stand, attacked from all sides, overwhelmed by vastly superior members and, when every round of ammunition was expended, fighting desperately with swords and bayonets. No quarter was asked, none was given.

About 12 noon another company of the 1/24th Regiment under Captain Mostyn, which had been sent forward to support Cavaye on the hills north of the camp, had taken up a position between the two sections of Cavaye's men, who were in extended order. On their extreme right and some distance from them, the two companies of the Native Contingent under Lieutenant Raw began to retreat to the camp, as the right horn of the Zulu army swept forward. Cavaye and Mostyn, in danger of being isolated were instructed to fall back on the camp. They did so without loss, for the Zulus, though under fire, temporarily refrained from attacking and pushed on, now swinging round to their left and pouring through the deep valley at the back (or western side) of Isandlwana till the tip of the horn should reach the neck and Black's Koppie, and this link up with the tip of their left horn more or less at the spot where Durnford and his men made their last gallant stand. Thus the encirclement of the camp would be complete and the annihilation of the whole British force assured.

The positions which the British had taken up were as follows: on the left of the camp facing north, were three companies of the 1/24th Regiment in echelon formation, under Captain Younghusband, Captain Mostyn and Lieutenant Cavaye respectively all in extended order; on their right and on the angle between them and the front line of defence were two companies of the Natal Native Contingent. The front line of defence was built up as follows: at the extreme left was the angle formed by the Native Contingent, with the artillery (two guns) firing towards the east and to the right of the guns was a thin line of soldiers in extended order consisting of two companies of the 1/24th Regiment and one company of the 2/24th under Lieutenant Pope with a wide open gap between each other. Still further to the right, and some distance away, Colonel Durnford and his men were making their last gallant stand.

Silently now the Zulus came on in their thousands, the 'chest' advancing from the north-east, and though countless numbers were mown down the British front line had to fall back. The Native Military Contingent were left in a somewhat advanced and isolated position and by 1 pm in spite of their heroic defence the Zulus had approached to within 200 yards.

They were now so short of ammunition that their fire was no longer effective. Runners sent to the camp for fresh supplies discovered that the Regimental Sergeant-Major in Charge of the ammunition boxes could not find a screw-driver with which to open them!

Quick to grasp this advantage the Zulus surged forward, till the Native Contingent broke and fled. Through the gap in that vital angle the enemy poured in a solid mass. Their frightful slaughter began for at in-fighting no army in the world could excel the Zulus. Before Cavaye and Mostyn had time to reform or even to fix bayonets, the warriors were among them and slew them to a man. Younghusband and his men succeeded momentarily in retreating to a terrace on the southern slopes of the mountain, but they too fell to the deadly assegais.

Colonel Pulleine was killed in his tent. Here is a story of his death from the lips of the Zulu who slew him: "I saw a little white house standing by itself and I sprang into its opening, looking for the whiteman's drink. At a table there was seated an officer, who when he saw me appear plucked out a little gun and shot me through the cheek. I staggered but found myself still alive. So I sprang upon him and finished him with my spear. That is why I am called Maqedindaba (literally he who finishes the matter) because I killed the Chief Induna of the army. And here is the scar of the wound he gave me."

The artillery had only been able to fire a few rounds before every gunner was killed. Although an heroic attempt was made to save the guns by dragging them over a space in the neck, as yet unoccupied by the Zulus, they crashed into a deep donga, and every man, with the exception of two officers and a sergeant were assegaied.

By two o'clock all was over - the Zulus were in complete possession of the whole camp, looting was in full swing and the British army suffered the most humiliating defeat in its annals."

I have taken the risk of being so detailed in quoting an account of what happened on the 22nd of January 1879, so that we can see the importance of today's ceremony in its correct perspective.

It is in this context that we can appreciate that the tombstones and monuments to the great men and women of the past are more than ornaments of the landscape. They are indeed like a door which enables us to walk into the past and reach out for our ancestors. They enable our souls to connect with the souls of those who are no longer with us, but who have yet a great role to play in our lives through their example and the memory of their deeds. Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela lived at a crucial time in the history of our Kingdom. He was one of the leaders who covered himself with world-wide glory during the Battle of Isandlwana in which the British troops were defeated. The memory of that day will live eternally in the collective consciousness of our nation. As we have just heard, the Battle of Isandlwana is itself a monument to the greatness of a nation which would not give up its freedom, independence, liberty and sovereignty without defending it to the last man.

The memory of Inkosi Biyela also brings us back to a time when traditional leaders were enabled to serve an important function within the growth, development and administration of our communities. Throughout our history our amaKhosi have led our people and been an instrument through which our people have expressed their collective needs, wants and aspirations. Memories of the past are always of great importance in assessing the challenges of the present and mapping the future path ahead. Today, traditional leadership is faced with unprecedented challenges. The legislation adopted by the national government has effectively prevented our amaKhosi from leading our people and from being the instruments through which our people can express and concretise their aspirations.

Traditional leaders have been replaced by municipalities as the primary local government of our people. Municipalities will have the responsibility, the burden and the privilege to plan and implement the development of our rural communities and they will be the sole institutions which, according to present legislation, will be receiving the administrative resources and financial capacity necessary to promote development. This leaves traditional leaders out of the equation of development and without a leading role in the governance of our people at the primary level of government. This is a very dangerous and unsatisfactory situation for our people and our communities.

However, when we stand before the tombstone of a man as great as Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela, we are reassured that the role of traditional leadership is forever. Traditional leaders will continue to lead our people because this responsibility has been bestowed upon them by history and they are carrying it out under the auspices of our ancestors and for the benefit of our posterity. No legislation can ever break this mystical chain of duties and responsibilities which bind together traditional leaders and their communities. The present legislation is an ill-advised solution to the dilemma of rural development and is the result of erroneous policies which will not withstand the test of time.

As we stand before this tombstone, celebrating the memory of a great leader who left his mortal responsibility more than one hundred years ago, we are deeply aware of the importance of the test of time. His memory has passed the test of time. Traditional leadership has passed the test of time, because, since time immemorial, it has served the needs and aspiration of our people. The present, ill-conceived and erroneous policies of government will not pass the test of time and are bound to fail because they do not have the interests of the people at heart. They are the product of ideological imperatives which certain people wish to apply to the real needs and aspirations of our communities. They do not care about what our people need and they are obsessed with imposing an ideological framework which should formulate new needs and aspirations for our people. This type of social engineering has failed wherever tried throughout the world, often producing untold miseries.

The risk exists that also in our context, the establishment of municipalities may create conflicts which may produce human misery and suffering. We must keep the interests of our people in mind as our first and foremost concern. In the next few months, we must ensure that all of us remain equally committed to avoiding the escalation of conflicts between traditional authorities and municipalities. We must ensure that all of us remain equally available to mediate and solve whatever conflicts may arise within an amicable spirit of goodwill.

We must realise that there may be different tiers of government and different institutions ruling over or providing for our people, including municipalities, but in the end there is only one layer of people. There might be different governments, but only one set of needs and aspirations which our people hold and which must be served. Therefore, we must be available to work towards the resolution of conflicts that the present ill-conceived policies of traditional leadership have created by placing the interests of our people above any other consideration.

We know that traditional leaders have served the cause of development of our people since time immemorial and that without their participation in local government, our people will not be uplifted nor will they prosper. For this reason, on an occasion such as this, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of traditional leadership. The struggle which began at the time of Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela still continues. He fought for the freedom and liberty of our people. Today we are still fighting for the freedom and liberty of our people, but this time it is not from the yoke of colonialism but from the pressure of abject social and economic conditions, unemployment, lack of essential services, malnutrition, and ignorance for lack of exposure and education.

Today’s struggle is as important and as difficult as that which confronted Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela in his day. We must ensure that traditional leaders remain the frontrunners of this struggle. As we recommit ourselves to protect the institution of traditional leadership, we express the certainty that perhaps in one hundred and fifty years our future generations will meet on a similar occasion to unveil a similar tombstone in celebration of the achievement of an outstanding traditional leader in the struggle for development, development and development.

There are many other heroes and heroines who will need to be celebrated in the future for their achievements in the present stage of our continued struggle for liberation. Traditional leaders will undoubtedly be amongst them in spite of the many attempts made by the national government to marginalise and emasculate them by depriving them of any of their powers and functions in local government. Traditional leadership has faced many challenges in the past. It is now facing a challenge which perhaps has no equal in our history. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that if we continue to struggle to defend the values which the tombstone of Inkosi Biyela stands for, the struggle for the empowerment of traditional leadership in the new South Africa will eventually be won. This victory will signify the victory of our people over social and economic oppression.

Throughout the history of our Kingdom amaKhosi have been the backbone of our nation. They have led our people in battles and in social development, such as farming activities. They have led our people when confronted by enemies as well as when confronted with opportunities. Traditional leaders will continue to remain the backbone of our Kingdom in spite of whatever may be provided by any law adopted in a distant and far removed legislative venue placed in Cape Town. We cannot allow that our nation be dictated to by the designs of people who are not part of our Kingdom. Our Kingdom will continue to rely on our amaKhosi to lead our people and to bring forward our struggle for liberation.

Even when thinking of the apartheid era we as traditional leaders of this Kingdom do not need to bow our heads in shame. It was the stand which I took with amaKhosi of this Kingdom which saved South Africa from being fragmented into apartheid mini-states. We saved the integrity of the South African territory and the citizenship of every black South African. Because some have been poisoned with the propaganda and vilification to which I have been subjected for decades from the ANC and the UDF and their allies in the media, I wish to quote from a book by Mary Benson who previously wrote the book on the history of the ANC and on President Mandela. In her book entitled "The struggle for a birthright" (Penguin African Library published in 1966) she states on pages 284 to 285:

"Yet so far, white fears of black 'swamping' of black revenge, should be countered by history, which shows that the black man has far more cause to fear the white, has suffered far more at the hands of the white man, than the contrary. And countered by the facts of present-day South Africa: in one area where Africans have a partial vote, the Transkei, a majority of voters chose multi-racial society despite every inducement and reason to opt for black domination. While in Zululand an important section of the Zulu people are resisting the mockery and racialism of a Bantustan led as they are by Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, whose strength, brave integrity and intelligence represent in a new sophisticated form traditional pride and valour. And Mandela, even today on Robben Island, represents the stand against racialism."

People like Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela did not live in vain. The memory of their existence commits us to move forwards rather than backwards. They fought to protect our Kingdom from colonial oppression. Throughout our history, our amaKhosi fought to protect the integrity and liberty of our Kingdom. This struggle is far from being completed and we shall not abandon the constant pursuit of the freedom and liberty of our Kingdom within a unified South Africa. The freedom of our Kingdom consists in determining how we best serve the needs and aspirations of our people and empower them to bring forward our struggle for liberation.

Today, traditional leadership stands for the most important values of integrity and honour in our country. In the past seven years many promises have been made to traditional leadership which were then breached and dishonoured. No one has ever explicitly said that traditional leaders would be deprived of their powers, and yet this goal has been pursued consistently and constantly since the beginning of negotiations in 1991. Also during the armed struggle many activists sought to turn our struggle for liberation into a struggle against amaKhosi, but never openly said that that was their objective. AmaKhosi have been dragged into extensive negotiations and embroiled in false promises and trickery of all types. However, amaKhosi have stood firm, honourably and dignified in their position and their demeanour.

Today, our amaKhosi remain one of the most honourable and noble parts of our South African society which, unfortunately, has been discredited by people who understand the art of politics as a game of deception and false promises. South Africa will need amaKhosi to re-establish a Republic based on honour and integrity. AmaKhosi are the repository of the type of values and governance which South Africa needs to overcome its present crisis. Without integrity and without values, our country is doomed and the interests of our people will not be served while only a few privileged or corrupted ones benefit.

We need to remember the lessons of the past to create a new leadership which can re-establish credibility, honour and respectability within governance. Traditional leaders have a lot to teach those who have made politics a career rather than a mission of service and dedication. Traditional leaders remain the moral backbone of South Africa. In unveiling this tombstone, we are also establishing a monument which spells out the course of our future commitments. AmaKhosi will not stand by if the country is misgoverned, but will play the role which is bestowed upon them by the traditions we have inherited from our ancestors. We are men of destiny.

I can assure Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela that amaKhosi will live up to the legacy of the memory bestowed upon us by the great heros of the Battle of Isandlwana. We thank Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa Biyela and all those who gave their lives for King and country in 1879, for an exceptional life and we remain committed to ensuring that his memory will live on forever.

 

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