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THE ANGLO ZULU WAR OF 1879
BY
ROBERT GERRARD FRGS

Part 12

 

KING CETSHWAYO’S CAPTURE

Following the Battle of Ulundi, General Sir Garnet Wolseley immediately set about the destruction of Zululand.


King Cetshwayo had disappeared, and as a result many of his senior Indunas considered they no longer owed allegiance to him. However to the north of Zululand there were numerous independent chiefs. Once Colonel Evelyn Wood had departed from Khambula they started rustling cattle, burning the kraals of petty chiefs, as well as British and Boer homesteads. The abaQulusi and Manyanyoba warriors were particularly active in raiding homesteads in the iNtombe Valley.


Wolseley considered the only way to subjugate the Zulus would be to capture Cetshwayo and bring the recalcitrant chiefs into line by force. He disbanded Lt General Lord Chelmsford’s 1st and 2nd Divisions, despatching home many of those that had been sent out as re-enforcements, and reformed two Columns under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Clarke and Lieutenant Colonel Russell. Two officers he knew well and had summoned from Afghanistan prior to his departure from London.


Lieutenant Colonel Clarke would draw his command from Units that had served in the original 1st Division, and establish a camp at Ulundi and search for, and capture Cetshwayo. Lieutenant Colonel Baker Russell would set up a new Flying Column from men of the original 2nd Division and move north with the aim of bringing about peace to that region.


On the 19th July Wolseley held council with the coastal chiefs informing them that he intended to split up Zululand, ordering them to re-assemble at Ulundi at the end of August, when he would announce his peace settlement. Meantime they were to hand over their rifles and any royal cattle they had under their control, and no further action would be taken against them. They agreed, realizing that further resistance was useless. He then set off for Ulundi to await the King’s capture.


In formulating his peace settlement, Wolseley failed to consult with Sir Bartle Frere; Theophilis Shepstone, who was about to retire; or his son John Shepstone, who was now Acting Secretary for Native Affairs. Total authority had been given to him by Disraeli’s Government. Although in a letter to Hicks Beach, written on 9th October 1879, Wolseley stated : At first I intended to divide Zululand into five or six territories, but Sir Theophilis Shepstone remarked that it would be much better, and safer, for the country, which would also be made more manageable, if these districts were smaller and more numerous. To meet Shepstone’s views I decided to increase the number of chieftainships to thirteen. I have partly followed Shepstone’s advice and am attempting to reconstitute tribes in their areas prior to Shaka’s reign, under rightful descendants of their own chiefs. Wolseley probably got the idea of the kingdoms from Charles Brownlee who had been Secretary of Native Affairs in the Cape Colony, not Theophilis Shepstone. Brownlee had been present at the Ultimatum Tree, and been one of those British representatives to advise Chelmsford on various ideas for peace at the time.


Zululand had come about through a series of bloody battles, which had eventually united hundreds of clans under Shaka, who named his kingdom Zululand. The most powerful of these clans was the uSuthu, Cetshwayo’s clan, and the uZibhebhu kaMaphitha, who had always been rivals. Cetshwayo having now disappeared, old rivalries and a struggle for power would occur.


Cetshwayo had stayed close to Ulundi prior to the battle. Once he learnt of the defeat of his army he then moved north to the kraal of his Prime Minister, Mnyamana. From here he tried to gather support, but no one rallied to his call. He learnt that Wolseley would not negotiate with him – his life would be spared but he’d be imprisoned for failing to adhere to the terms of the Ultimatum. By the beginning of August he left Mnyamana’s kraal. He was on the run and moved from one small kraal to another.


Lieutenant Colonel Clarke, having set up camp at Ulundi, learnt that Cetshwayo was heading for the Ngome Forest, and despatched Major Marter with a troop of Dragoons to capture him. A few days out Marter received convincing information of Cetshwayo’s location when he learnt that Captain Lord Gifford VC was also pursuing the King and knew his whereabouts. A race began to develop. The hunt for Cetshwayo became an individual challenge for Marter and Gifford. Both wanted the kudos of capturing the King. Gifford had won his VC during the Ashanti War while acting as a scout. For ten days he’d covered a vast area of largely uninhabited ground north of the Black Mfolozi, searching for the King. Frenzied by lack of success he’d taken to manhandling and beating men and women, before finally receiving information he was convinced would provide him with the kudos he wanted.


For a few days Cetshwayo moved from kraal to kraal evading the net he knew was closing in around him. The combination of dissident Zulu spies and his physique were his downfall. He was a large man and grossly overweight and, being constantly on the run, he was exhausted.


On 28th July both Marter’s and Gifford’s patrols were heading for the same spot from different directions. Marter, led by some dissident Zulus, got there first. From the top of a cliff a small kraal, consisting of four or five huts could be seen a couple of thousand feet below. Marter was told that Cetshwayo was resting in the kraal. Realizing that an approach from the cliff would alert those in the kraal, he sent the dissident Zulus to clamber down the cliff as silently as possible and remain hidden close to the kraal in the bush, and he led his mounted men around the cliff into the valley below. As they approached the kraal they galloped forward surrounding the little kraal, surprising the inhabitants.


A missionary’s son, Martin Ofterbro had volunteered to accompany Marter as an interpreter. He had known Cetshwayo in childhood. Ofterbro dismounted his horse and silently walked to the door of the house in which Cetshwayo was resting, and called out to him, using the name Magwegwana (crocked legs) by which Cetshwayo had been known as a child. Cetshwayo recognized the voice and replied Was your father a friend of mine for so long that you should do this to me? He then asked Ofterbro the rank of the officer to whom he was to surrender. On being told that Marter was a Major, Cetshwayo, indignant at the thought of surrendering to anybody but a General, told them to enter and kill him. Hastily Ofterbro assured him that he would be well treated, whereupon the door opened and Cetshwayo stepped out. It was immediately obvious to all that he was not only exhausted but in some discomfort as the inside of his enormous thighs were chaffed raw from walking. Marter ordered a horse saddled and all the inhabitants of the kraal to prepare to travel. When Cetshwayo was told to mount, he shook his great head and said I would rather die here where I stand than ride that great horse. A quick search was made of the huts, then Marter and his patrol set forth to escort his prize to Ulundi.


Gifford and his patrol had got so close to winning the race. They’d seen the kraal earlier that day from the top of the cliff and had decided to approach the kraal at night, only to discover his prize had been snatched from under his nose. The following day Gifford passed Marter’s slow moving group and headed back to Ulundi to inform Wolseley.


Three days later Marter and his royal prisoner arrived at Ulundi, and Cetshwayo was led to Wolseley’s tent, passing through a column of soldiers standing to attention with bayonets fixed. Wolseley then informed the exhausted King that he was to be imprisoned, and that his kingdom would be divided amongst chiefs who had supported the British. It was six years since Theophilis Shepstone had crowned him King. Four hours later Cetshwayo and his small entourage were sitting on grass, scattered across the bed of a cart drawn by mules, heading for Fort Durnford and escorted by two Companies of Infantry and half a dozen Dragoons.


Three days before Cetshwayo arrived at Port Durnford. Over two hundred chiefs assembled at Ulundi where, on 1st September Wolseley announced the terms of his peace settlement. John Shepstone, the acting Minister of Native Affairs, translated the conditions. Each point had to be totally understood, and the whole affair took hours.

1. Zululand would be split into thirteen kingdoms.
2. A chieftain had been appointed for each.
3. The chiefs would rule their kingdoms in the manner of their people.
4. Each chief would commence his reign as soon as they had signed, or made their mark on the document they had been given.
5. Each would adhere to their allocated boundaries.
6. None could form an army.
7. All men could marry when they wished without the need to approach the chief.
8. All could travel freely in order to find work.
9. No arms or ammunition were allowed in a kingdom.
10. No life could be taken without a fair trial. Sentence would be passed by a Council of Indunas.
11. Those wanted by British justice had to be handed over.
12. A native court could try no British soldiers.
13. No land may be sold.
14. A British resident would be appointed who would maintain overall control of the thirteen kingdoms.
15. The succession of chiefs would ultimately be determined by the British resident.

Wolseley’s selection of chiefs was largely determined by those that had shown loyalty or were in favour of the British cause. Three of these chiefs had become enemies of Cetshwayo : John Dunn, Hamu and Zibhebhu. Wolseley had tried to nominate John Dunn as the white King of the Zulu nation. He’d declined, but was allocated an enormous track of land from Eshowe south to the Thukela River, and the British resident established his office at Eshowe. Dunn had lost favour with most of the senior Indunas. Chelmsford had forced him to change his allegiance and he was no longer trusted in Zululand.


Hamu, who had served Evelyn Wood so loyally, was reinstated to what had been his original territory, as the chief of the north-western area of Zululand, which included the area to the north of the disputed territory, and the abaQulusi clan, who had supported Cetshwayo. Zibhebhu, Cetshwayo’s thirty-five year old cousin, was the only member of the royal household to be allocated land. Although he’d fought at ISandlwana and Ulundi, he’d argued with Cetshwayo vigorously against going to war. Dunn had recommended him to Wolseley and he became chief of a sparsely populated and mountainous area east of Hamu. The Basutu chieftain Hlubi, who had served Durnford so well, was allocated a small area to the north-west of Dunn’s area along the Buffalo and Blood Rivers, which took in Sihayo’s territory. This would cause deep resentment. Cetshwayo’s Prime Minister, Mnyamana, was offered a kingdom but turned down the offer out of loyalty for the King. As a result he would live under the jurisdiction of Hamu.


The old tribe of the abaThetwa were gathered together and were placed under the chieftain Mlandela, who was a direct descendant of Dingiswayo, and they settled along the coast to the north of John Dunn. The Ndwandwe tribe were settled under Mcojana, a descendant of Zwide. The remaining kingdoms were allocated to Faku, Gawozi, Mgitshwa, Mfanawendlela, Sekethwayo and Ntshingwayo, the Zulu commander at ISandlwana and Khambula. These appointed chieftains were expected to rule over subjects they didn’t know and would contest their appointments, although it would take nearly two years before their wrath really manifested itself.


On 4th September Cetshwayo arrived at Port Durnford and saw HMS Natal waiting at anchor in the bay. Within minutes Cetshwayo and his entourage were aboard a longboat and proceeding towards the vessel that he now knew would take him to Cape Town. As he boarded the longboat he stood for a moment, staring back at the green hills that had been his kingdom. And as the longboat began to move, he sat down and looked out at the immense expanse of water that he’d always feared. During the voyage he discarded his imvunulo (the animal skins worn from the waist like a kilt), and umutsha (coloured cloak) for a black suit and tall black hat, which he’d been given. A carriage awaited him at Cape Town, which bore him through the streets to the Old Fort. Large crowds had gathered who waved and cheered when they spotted the Zulu King as the carriage passed. At the fort, Colonel Fairfax Hassard RE took custody of the fifty-two year old King and his entourage and Captain Poole was appointed to look after him and they became close friends.


In 1880 Disraeli’s Conservatives lost power to Gladstone’s Liberal party and the attitude of the British public changed. Newspapers reported the demise of the Zulu King locked up in the Old Fort, the terms of the peace settlement and the growing unrest within Zululand. Many began to think that the war had been unjust and to look up to Cetshwayo as a noble, rather than a violent savage, who had been made a scapegoat for what they considered was Frere’s war. After all the war had cost the Exchequer over £5,000,000. Over nine thousand Zulus had died and sixteen thousand were wounded. One thousand five hundred and thirty British and white Colonial soldiers had died and hundreds of the NNC, and over one thousand men and ninety-nine officers had been wounded and sent home.


Celebrities, including Prince Albert and Prince George (later George V) visited Cetshwayo while visiting the Cape. He was kept advised of developments in Zululand and he worried about his people. Eventually his imprisonment ended and he and his entourage were moved to a farm on the Cape Flats called Oude Moulen where, although under house arrest, they were able to move about more freely.


In March 1880 Mnyamana made a plea to the authorities in Pietermaritzburg to restore Cetshwayo to the throne. Serious disturbances between the kingdoms had, and were occurring. Zibhebhu had attacked and destroyed Ndabuko’s kraals and stolen his cattle. Mnyamana’s life had been threatened by Hamu, and Hamu had attacked the abaQulusi and stolen thousands of cattle.


Mlandela had been threatened by Sitimela, a young man who claimed to be Dingiswayo’s grandson and taken refuge with John Dunn. Mlandela and Dunn combined forces, defeated Sitimela, who fled Zululand, never to return. And, Zibhebhu and Hamu formed an alliance.


It was already clear to those in Natal and the Transvaal that Wolseley’s peace settlement was not going to work. By December 1880 Sir Garnet Wolseley had departed, General Sir George Pomeroy Colley was Governor of Natal and Southern Africa was in turmoil. Not only had a civil war started in Zululand, but a Cape Colony Basutu war had erupted.


And on the 15th December the Boers in the Transvaal took advantage of the unrest, invaded Natal and seized Laing’s Nek on the Natal border, and declared themselves a Republic. The First Boer War had started, but would end within three months with the death of George Colley and the defeat of the British at Majuba on 27th February 1881.


Sir Evelyn Wood had returned to Natal and took over command of the British Forces in Natal. Although anxious to continue the war, Gladstone’s Liberal party instructed him to negotiate an armistice, which was concluded at O’Neil’s farm at the bottom of Majuba Hill, and the Transvaal was restored to self-rule under British suzerainty.


By the end of 1881 the conflict between the various kingdoms of Zululand had grown to such an extent that Cetshwayo, in a meeting with Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor of the Cape, asked him to petition Queen Victoria to allow him to return to Zululand to bring peace and stability back to the nation. Robinson’s petition was accepted and on 12th July 1882 Cetshwayo and a small entourage set sail for England on HMS Arab. The events that took place during his visit will always be remembered.


On 5th August they sailed into Portsmouth and on the 7th Cetshwayo was hosted to tea by Queen Victoria at Osborne House on the Isle of White. A week later she presented him with a silver cup with three handles (a love cup) on which was inscribed Presented to Cetywayo by Queen Victoria August 14 1882. Queen Victoria was impressed by Cetshwayo’s dignity and the manner in which he pleaded to be allowed to return to his people.


He then travelled to London where he was cheered by large crowds and escorted by Lord Granville, the Colonial Secretary, through Hyde Park, and then on to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, where he realized the strength of the Great White Queen.


Meantime Queen Victoria had agreed to his return to Zululand. She wanted Zululand restored to a single unified kingdom. Wolseley’s endeavours to bring lasting peace had failed. Before his return to Zululand could take place Bulwer, the Governor of Natal, had to coerce many to agree to the plan. After four months of protracted discussions with chiefs who had been assured by Wolseley that Cetshwayo would never return, it was agreed that the King could return to one of the thirteen kingdoms.
On 10th January 1883 Cetshwayo sailed into Port Durnford on board HMS Briton to be greeted by Sir Theophilis Shepstone, the man who had advised Frere that the King was a coward and would surrender at the sight of the British army. This was to be Shepstone’s final task before retiring.


Cetshwayo built his new kraal at Ulundi. The territory allocated to him was little larger than the area over which the battle of Ulundi had been fought twenty-nine months before. He’d thought that upon his return that the majority of his Indunas would rally to his call, but the only supporter was his half-brother, Dabulamanzi who had been subjected to living under Dunn’s rule. Within days of his return conflicts between the various chiefdoms occurred and a major civil war erupted. The abaQulusi fought Hamu’s people. The uSuthu clans, and the uMgazini and Mnyamana Buthelezi combined and assaulted the uZibhebhu’s main kraal and slaughtered many of the Mandlakazi clan. Zibhebhu abandoned his kraal, retreating north. The uSuthu pursued him and on the 13th March Zibhebhu ambushed the uSuthu in the Msebe Valley killing more than four thousand uSuthu. By July 1883 the situation was chaotic and on the 21st the uSuthu clan, who had been defeated by Zibhebhu and the Mandlakazi, destroyed a Mandlakazi kraal.


Maddened by what they perceived to be the King’s allies attacking their kraal, a small group of Mandlakazi, led by Zibhebhu, marched on Ulundi and set fire to Cetshwayo's kraal, killing a number of his followers and the nation’s elderly Indunas. Cetshwayo fled, but in doing so, once more left his throne abandoned and lost the support of not only his followers but also the Natal Government. The only possible solution would be for Britain to send troops to Zululand and annex the entire region. This the Crown refused to consider. Gladstone’s Liberal Party wanted nothing to do with Zululand.


On 8th February 1884 Cetshwayo’s body was discovered by Sir Melmoth Osborne, the resident Commissioner of Zululand, at the Gqikazi kraal near Eshowe. He’d been dead for some hours. Some believed him poisoned by his brothers. The Medical Officer present, who examined the body, was not allowed to perform an autopsy and proclaimed, perhaps wisely, that he’d died of fatty disease of the heart. Although not intentional, his restoration had been a cruel mockery for a once proud King.


King Cetshwayo is buried near the Mome Gorge, an area of great beauty in the Nkandla Forest district of Zululand.


So ends the Anglo Zulu War of 1879.
But it is important that we continue with the story of these people’s tribulations
and the absorption of the Zulu nation into South Africa

See ‘Aftermath’ by Robert Gerrard FRGS



Zululand split into thirteen kinglets

(Picture courtesy of AMAFA)






Isandlwana from the pool at Isandlwana Lodge



For permission to use all, or any part, of text, maps or pictures, contact Robert J. Gerrard at foxzulu@saol.com.

Copyright Robert J. Gerrard 2003