James Stuart.

A history of the Zulu Rebellion, 1906 : and of Dinuzulu's arrest, trial, and expatriation online

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Sir Henry McCallum that " His Majesty's Government
have at no time had the intention to interfere with action
of the responsible government of Natal, or to control
Governor in exercise of prerogative. But your Ministers
will, I feel sure, recognize that, in all the circumstances
now existing, and, in view of the presence of British troops
in the Colony, His Majesty's Government are entitled, and
were in duty bound to obtain full and precise information
in reference to these martial law cases, in regard to which
an Act of Indemnity has ultimately to be assented to by
the Crown. In the hght of the information now furnished,
His Majesty's Government recognize that the decision of
this grave matter rests in the hands of your Ministers and
yourself." The Secretary of State went on to express
regret that Sir Henry McCallum did not keep him informed
by telegraph of the steps he was taking, pointing out that
it was the lack of such information that had necessitated
the telegram directing suspension. The Governor took

1 Cd. 2905, pp. 32, 34.


the rebuke in a dignified manner, although it was generally
believed in the Colony that he had been assiduous in the
discharge of his duties and had kept Lord Elgin fully

The murderers of Hunt and Armstrong, twelve in
number, after a trial that was in every way fair and
impartial, were shot at Richmond in the presence of a
large number of Natives, including Chiefs, at mid-day on
the 2nd April, the firing-party consisting of comrades of
the deceased. There is no doubt that the public execution
of these men, who met their death with fortitude, created
a profound impression on the Native population, and had
no small share in checking the spread of the Rebellion, not
only in that district, but in other parts of the Colony.
Nor is it too much to say that the resolute action of the
Government on that occasion will serve as a lesson for
many 3^ears to rebelHously inclined Ethiopians throughout
South Africa.

Swayed by certain Members in the House of Commons,
Lord Elgin cabled on the 6th April to the Governor to
know if the warrant held by the poHce on the 8th February,
as well as other documents connected with the executions,
could be produced. The cabled reply of Ministers,
whilst intimating abiHty and readiness to furnish any
information that might properly be called for, and appre-
ciating the position in which the Secretary of State was
placed, contained a request that they might be protected
" from harassing interference on the part of Members of
the House of Commons in regard to matters for which
Ministers are themselves solely responsible."

And no further application seems to have been made.


Whilst McKenzie was demonstrating in the south-west,
and Leuchars was similarly occupied at Mapumulo, a state
of affairs was rapidly developing in the Mpanza valley,^
not more than sixteen miles from Greytown, destined soon
to alter the whole character of the situation.

Owing to the fact that neither McKenzie nor Leuchars
had met with any opposition whatever when deahng, as
has been seen, promptly and effectively with all cases of
disaffection that came to their notice, it was, by the end
of March, generally supposed that all further trouble was
at an end, at any rate, for the time being. This conviction
was strengthened by the execution of the murderers of
Hunt and Armstrong. This execution, however, proved to
be not the end, but only the end of the first phase of the

How far the Trewirgie affair can be associated with
what was taking place in Mpanza valley is for the reader
to judge, after consideration of the facts that will be laid
before him. To understand it, it is necessary to examine
the character and antecedents of the man who, on the
4th of April, became the initiator of the second and far
more vigorous phase of the Rebellion. This is all the more
necessary, not only because the Natives generally refer to
it as his Rebellion, ^ but because he was the Chief of a

^ This name, in full, is uMpanza, not iMpanza or Inipanza, as soine-
times written.

2 Cf. Wat Tyler's, Jack Cade's, and Monmouth's Rebellions in


comparatively small, low-class tribe and almost unknown,
either by Europeans or Natives, beyond the division in
which he lived. The role he took on was one which a far
more imposing man like Mehlokazulu (of Zulu War fame),
or even Zibebu (had he been Hving),^ might have been proud
to assume, had opportunity favourable for so hazardous
an enterprise presented itself. Indeed, the general belief
of the Natives of Natal and Zululand in regard to the
poll tax was that, if there was to be any overt action at
all, Dinuzulu himself would take it as head of the Zulu
House. But for his imprisonment and banishment to St.
Helena, it is quite possible he would have taken it. As
he failed, or at any rate preferred to remain in the back-
ground, it fell, of all Chiefs in this portion of South Africa,
on one Bambata to step forward as protagonist on this
unique and dramatic occasion.

As a section of the Native public appeared desirous of a
change in the way in which they were being governed, it
devolved, of course, on some one to take the lead. Who
should this be ? A Chief ? Of course, for, in a matter
such as this, it would be altogether foreign to Native
sentiment for a mere commoner to do so. Look how
Makanda and Mjongo had failed. What Chief, then, so far
forgetful of his own interests, as well as of those of his
tribe, would dare to translate into action the spirit of
resistance innate in the people ? Who, in short, would
have the temerity to start an insurrection against a
Government which, however much it might be regarded
as oppressive, had yet, as Bambata well Imew, dehvered
his ancestors, and those of a million other Natives, from
the wrongs, cruelties and inhumanity of Tshaka and
Dingana, and enabled every man, woman and child to
sleep peacefully in their homes for upwards of two genera-
tions, undisturbed by death-dealing, predatory raids ?

The question, therefore, arises as to how it came about
that one so petty and obscure as Bambata should stand

1 Zibebu's loyalty was never doubted for a moment. His name is
mentioned here only because of his exceptionally fine qualities as a
military commander.


forth, practically alone, as the redresser of the nation's
alleged wrongs. Who and what was he ?

Bambata was born about the year 1865 in the neighbour-
hood of Mpanza valley. His father was Mancinza, alias
Sobuza, member of the Zondi tribe,^ and his mother the
daughter of Pakade, a well-known Chief of the Cunu tribe,
now for the most part Uving in Weenen division. This
woman was Mancinza's principal wife. In regard to the
principal wife, a tribe is, by custom, called on to contribute
towards her lobolo ; an attempt was made to do this in
the present instance. The tribe, however, objected to the
Chief taking a girl of the Cunu tribe, and refused to assist
in lohola-ing her.^ Determined to marry the girl, Mancinza
delivered the necessary forty or more cattle out of his own
herd. A few months after the wedding, the bride became
so averse to living with her husband's three other wives
that, after accusing them of wishing to kill her, she
deserted and took up her abode at the kraal of another
man of the same tribe. It was at this establishment that
Bambata was born. His mother then insisted on a kraal
being specially erected for her. This was done, the result
of the unusual action being that the former place was well-
nigh wrecked, for the other wives complained of their
husband devoting too much attention to Bambata's

As a boy, Bambata was headstrong and fond of fighting.
He frequently neglected the cattle he had to herd. When
chastised, he took the beating well, never crying out or
shouting as boys sometimes do. He became expert in the
use of the assegai, and was an exceptionally fuie runner.
Owing to the latter qualification, he earned the sobriquet

^ One often hears Bambata's people spoken of a ha seNgome—ihe
Ngome people. The reason is this. At the base of Ngome, a prominent
little hill, three miles east of Mpanza valley, Mancinza and previous
Chiefs of this section of the tribe lived for two or more generations.

2 To lohola is to deliver to a girl's father the cattle or other property
required by custom to be so handed over as part of the marriage settle-
ment, viz. lobolo. These cattle are not piu-chase price or barter, but
merely consideration or compensation for loss of the girl's services, as
well as a visible guarantee of intention on the part of the bridegroom to
treat his wife at all times fairly and justly under the Zulu system of life.


of " Magadu " (short for Magaduzela, o wa honel 'empun-
zini),^ which stuck to him all his Hfe. His father had a
double-barrelled, muzzle-loading shot gun. This the youth
soon accustomed himself to, and became a good shot.
When he was about 25 years of age, his father died. His
uncle, Magwababa, to whom there will be further refer-
ence later, was appointed to act as Chief. After a few
years, he was formally superseded by Bambata himself.
A year or two after becoming Chief, Bambata committed
a daring theft of three head of cattle belonging to a Boer.
He was tried and severely punished, though not im-
prisoned. On the amount of the fine being raised by
members of the tribe, he was released.

As Chief, he was harsh, extravagant and reckless, selfish
and domineering. On one occasion he fined a man, but,
as the latter would not pay, he attacked him with an
armed body of men and forced him to comply. He rapidly
squandered the property his father had left and, like his
father, ran counter to the wishes of the tribe in selecting
his principal wife. The elders were in favour of his pro-
moting a particular woman, and opposed to his own choice,
on the ground that the woman was a twin. He ignored
their wishes and, after one of his wives (there were four in
all), had committed adultery and been expelled, whilst
another had deserted, he erected a solitary hut for the
principal one — calling it Emkontweni {the place of the
assegai) — thereby following once more the irregular
example set by his father.

In the meantime, the relations he stood in towards his
European neighbours were even less satisfactory. The
total strength of his tribe at the end of 1905 was 910 huts
in Umvoti, 120 in New Hanover, 21 in Umgeni, and 91 in
Lion's River, divisions, or 1,142 in all ; representing a
total approximate population of 5,000 men, women, and
children, or about 500 capable of bearing arms. The system
of recruiting regiments was followed in this as in some
other tribes of Natal and Zululand. Owing, however, to

^ " The runner that took the duiker for his model," The duiker is a
small antelope.


limited numbers, there were incorporated into each regi-
ment men of widely differing ages. During the twenty-
four years Bambata was nominally Chief, he recruited
only two regiments.

Most of the kraals of the tribe, as well as his own,
especially in the Umvoti division, were distributed over
a number of private farms. The landlord of the farm on
which he personally lived, viz. Aangelegen,^ demanded a
rental of £3 per hut, this, of course being apart from
Government taxation. Such rent was undoubtedly high,
although on other farms in the same district a similar, and
even heavier, charge was not uncommon. Notwithstanding
these obhgations, he continued in his career of extrava-
gance. He ilhcitly purchased European hquor and drank
freely thereof, as well as of Native beer, though not so as
to become a confirmed drunkard. In order to make good
what he had squandered in drink and in other ways, he
borrowed from lawyers who. not being less importunate or
exacting than other people, usually got back their own
with interest through the local Magistrate's court. Bam-
bata was constantly being sued, either on account of loans
or for outstanding rent, and to such indebtedness there
seemed to be no end. Instead of bracing himself up and
endeavouring to meet his obhgations, he persisted in his
reckless conduct, until he became a nuisance to Europeans,
on the one hand, and the members of his tribe, on the
other. A more perturbed spirit than he was at the close of
1905 it is scarcely possible to conceive. He, hereditary
Chief of a tribe, which, though of humble origin as com-
pared with many of the adjoining ones in Zululand and
Natal, was of no mean size, seemed to be daily losing his
grip over the people and coming within measurable dis-
tance of utter ruin. This prospect he was smart enough
to realize, and it was because he knew such end to be
sooner or later inevitable that his despondency grew to

^ This farm, in 1881, belonged to the Swiss Mission Society. It was
bonded to the Standard Bank, when a rent of £1 per hut was charged
by the trustees. Later on, it was sold to Messrs. Theunis Nel and Gabriel


In common with all other Chiefs throughout the Colony,
including Zululand, he was required, in April, 1904, on
coming with his people to pay the hut and dog taxes, to
give information in connection with the census. He was
the man who, as has been stated, protested to the Magis-
trate against furnishing a few matter-of-fact details, con-
cluding with the remark : "If there be anything behind
all this, we shall be angry." The threat was uttered at
Marshall's hotel, exactly two years and a day before his
starting the Insurrection not a mile from the same hotel.
Mr. J. W. Cross, the Magistrate, by way of pacifying and
convincing him that the Government had no sinister
motive, said : '* You may as well expect the sun to fall
from the heavens as imagine that harm will come to you."
" That was just what we wanted to hear," he exclaimed
in reply.

In August, 1905, a faction fight occurred in the ward.
Owing to having taken part in it himself, Bambata was
charged before the Magistrate, but the case was not dis-
posed of till early in 1906, as one of those assaulted was
too unwell to appear. He was convicted and sentenced to
pay a fine of £20, with an alternative of three months'
imprisonment. The Government was advised to depose
him, as being unfit for the position of Chief, and because
he was always being sued. About this time he visited his
lawyer in Pietermaritzburg, from whom, it seems, he
learned that his deposition was in contemplation.

When, in September, 1905, the Poll Tax Act was pro-
claimed in Umvoti division, no opposition was raised by
the Zondi or other local tribes ; the headmen, however,
complained that the law would result in complete loss of
the small control kraal-owners still retained over their
sons. Bambata took the opportunity of reminding the
Magistrate of the statement the latter had made
when the census was being taken, asking that official to
reconcile the assurance then given with the demand for
the poll tax that was being made. The Magistrate was
unable to do this to Bambata's satisfaction.

As a matter of fact, there was considerable and general


objection to the tax, though not given expression to in the
presence of ofl&cials as at other magistracies. Among those
who objected in the Zondi tribe was the headman,
Nhlonhlo. He assumed a determined and defiant attitude.
But for the part he took, Bambata might not have broken
into rebelHon. Nhlonhlo called together the people about
him, proceeded with them to Bambata and declared they
would not pay. Bambata apparently did what he could
to persuade, but without success. The only reason why
Nhlonhlo made the stand he did was because he had five
taxable sons, and did not see why all of these should be
liable. Like Bambata, he had got into difficulties with his
own landlord, and when, some years previously, the latter
had sought to eject him, he borrowed money of Bambata,
more than half of which is said to be still owing.

Towards the end of 1905, confidential information was
received by the Magistrate to the effect that Bambata
was in league with the Zulus, and that he had agreed to
bell the cat by putting to death the Magistrate and
his staff on their visiting Mpanza to collect poll tax. As
a result of this, the collections were begun in another part
of the division instead of, as was usual, in Bambata's ward.
So far, then, from being the first, Bambata was the last
Chief to be called on to pay. More than this, he and his
people were ordered to attend for the purpose at the
Magistrate's office in Grey town. The date fixed was the
22nd February. After receiving the instructions, he
requested the Magistrate to come as usual to collect in
Mpanza valley. Mr. Cross, however, said he was unable to
countermand the order.

On the day appointed, the people appeared at the Magis-
trate's office. They arrived about 11 instead of 9 a.m.
The Chief was not with them, as he should have been. An
induna appeared in his stead, apologizing for the Chief's
absence on the ground of ill-health. (He was said to be
suffering from a stomach-ache.) The Magistrate naturally
concluded Bambata was at his kraal some thirteen or four-
teen miles away, whereas, as was afterwards reported, he



and a number of young men had concealed themselves in
a wattle-tree plantation, overlooking, and about two and
a half miles from, Grey town. Those who came up to pay
were chiefly elderly men. They at first appeared very
surly. Li reply to a question as to where the young
men, i.e. those hable for the tax, were, the old men said
they had gone out courting.

About 8.30 p.m. the same day, information was received
from Native sources that Grey town was to be attacked
during the night "after the white people had gone to bed,"
for Bambata had gathered together an impi and was with
it in the trees overlooking Grey town, meaning Mr. Lay-
man's and Dr. Wright's plantations. It was explained
that payment of the tax that day was simply a ruse ' to
hoodwink the Europeans,' and that Bambata intended to
recover the money paid in. A similar rumour came from
another quarter. Steps were thereupon taken to warn
and protect the inhabitants. There happened that night
to be a dance on in the town hall. The electric hght was
purposely kept burning all night in the building as well as
in the streets. The hall, in the meantime, was quickly
transformed into a lager. Arms were issued and pickets
posted in various directions.

This ' scare,' for such it was, was based on incorrect
or insufficient information. Careful inquiry of those
actually with Bambata on the day in question has resulted
in the following explanation : — As directed, the Chief called
on his people to proceed to Grey town to pay the tax. He
instructed them all to assemble on the ridge just before
coming within sight of the town. Such procedure was not
irregular, as Chiefs, when calhng on their people to pay
hut tax, often direct them to assemble at a given spot to
afford an opportunity for preliminary inspection. Quite
contrary to Bambata's orders, it would seem, a number of
young men came up from Mpanza valley led by Nhlonhlo,
all being armed with shields and assegais. They proceeded
to the vicinity of a kraal beside the road, a couple of miles
further away from Greytown than where Bambata had
directed them to assemble. On learning this, Bambata,


then some little way off, sent a messenger to order the
young men to put down their arms and go to Greytown
with the others and pay. They refused point-blank.
" If," they said, " we are to throw away our assegais and
go empty-handed, we certainly shall not comply." Bam-
bata now borrowed a horse and moved to inspect the
other section of his people who were in front. As he went
off, Nhlonhlo's party were heard to shout to the lender of
the horse, "If, after your supplying him with a horse,
Bambata should be arrested by the white people, we shall
stab you." When the Chief reached the rendezvous, he
found his uncle, Magwababa, had already been driven into
Greytown by Mr. Botha, whilst a number of others had
followed him. Of those present, some were not properly
dressed ^ and, moreover, had not the necessary money.
He ordered them home, telling them to sell their goats and
so find the amount of the tax. Others were sent into
Greytown with a message to the man in charge to say that
Bambata was absent owing to a headache.

Already apprehensive as to what might happen,
especially as he had, contrary to custom, been summoned
to GreytoAvn without knowing why such course had been
adopted, and, again, finding that a few hot-bloods, who
had by then heard all about the Trewirgie affair, had
taken up arms for the purpose of protecting him, and, if
need be, resisting by force any attempt to arrest him, can
anyone be surprised that Bambata showed some hesitation
about going forward ? He was in a dilemma. The course
he took was, questionable as it seems, on the side of law
and order, at any rate for the time being. His people
were obviously inchned to get out of hand, and it required
his personal presence to check any rash or hostile demon-
stration. Had he gone into Greytown and been appre-
hended, it is quite possible an effort at rescue would have
been made. As it was, nothing occurred. Nor would
anything have occurred, because his arrest was not con-
templated. It was, of course, bad enough that a body of

^ There is a standing rule that no Native may appear in a European
town unless clothed from neck to knee.


young men should have assembled where they did, armed
with assegais, in much the same way that those of Mveli's
had done when Mr. Bennett went to collect at Henley,
but, at that time Bambata had apparently no intention of
attacking Grey town. Where he made a fatal mistake was
in not reporting the incident at once, as Mveh had done,
thus placing on the Government the onus of preserving
peace. Rather than sacrifice the lawlessly inchned he, by
inaction at a critical moment, caused himself to be identi-
fied with them in every respect. " If we fail to denounce
the crime, we become participators in it." ^ From the
moment he excused himself from appearing on the lying
pretext that he had a headache, it became more and more
difficult for him to do otherwise than rebel. At that
moment he unfitted himself for the position of Chief.
This the Government, some days later, recognized, where-
upon Magwababa was appointed to act as Chief as from
that date.

On the day after the scare, a message was received from
the Secretary for Native Affairs summoning Bambata to
attend at his office in Pietermaritzburg. Two Native
police were sent to say he was to take an early train to
Pietermaritzburg on the following morning (Saturday).
The messengers returned to say he had promised to com-
ply on the Monday. After the police had gone, Nhlonhlo
intervened and would not allow the Chief to keep the
promise, for the reason that, having by that time slept
in the veld for three days with men under arms, he woiild
be looked on as already in revolt, and, therefore, as a
criminal to be put under arrest. Nhlonhlo and his impi
thereupon carried him off to another kraal. On Tuesday,
a further message was sent. After some trouble, the
messengers found him and defivered their message. He
told them to inform the Magistrate he was afraid of going
to Pietermaritzburg, as he had heard the European people
had taken up arms against him.

At this stage, Mr. C. Tatham, an attorney of Greytown,
who had one of Bambata's relations working for him,

1 Dilke.


Bambata himself, moreover, being his cUent, sent to the
Chief to say that, if afraid of obeying the summons, he was
to send a particular man to him, when Tatham himself
would go and see Bambata and, after explaining the
position, conduct him to the authorities. Bambata was
besought by his wiser followers to seize the opportunity,
which he said he would do. The man referred to arrived,
but found Tatham unwell. The latter then sent word to
say Bambata was to come by himself, and, if afraid, he
was to proceed direct to Tatham's residence, when he
would be conducted to the Magistrate's office. On hearing
this, Nhlonhlo exclaimed : " He won't go." In reply to
a remark about the probabihty of Bambata being released
on payment of a fine, Nhlonhlo remarked : "I prefer he

Online LibraryJames StuartA history of the Zulu Rebellion, 1906 : and of Dinuzulu's arrest, trial, and expatriation → online text (page 15 of 52)