James Stuart.

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

. (page 7 of 52)
Online LibraryJames StuartA history of the Zulu Rebellion, 1906 : and of Dinuzulu's arrest, trial, and expatriation → online text (page 7 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the withdrawal had its origin in dissension that had
arisen between Natal and Great Britain. Disgusted with
the manner in which Natal was governing her Native
population, England, it was said, had turned her back on,
and would no longer help, her Colony. This absurd
rumour succeeded in obtaining considerable credence, and
threatened to undermine the pubhc sense of security,
especially of loyally disposed Natives. It was, therefore,
with something of avidity that the offer of the Imperial
Government of 10th February (the day following the pro-
clamation of martial law), that a regiment should proceed
to Pietermaritzburg, was accepted by Natal. In accepting,
however, the Government said it did not anticipate that the
troops would be required for active service. The General
Officer Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa had wired
that he held in readiness a battaHon at Pretoria, as well

1 I.e. spears. Some of these are used for throwing — the average
distance thrown being 50-60 yards — whilst hold is retained of the larger-
bladed ones for stabbing on coming to close quarters.

2 On the cessation of hostiHties all the foregoing irregular corps were
gradually disbanded, the services of Royston's Horse and the Natal
Rangers being the last to be dispensed with.



64 THE ZULU REBELLION

as the Standerton Mobile Column. It was arranged that
the former should proceed to Natal. The Queen's Own
Cameron Highlanders accordingly received orders without
delay, and reached Pietermaritzburg three days later
(13th). The General, at the same time, offered to increase
the number to 4,300 if required. The occasion to apply
for the increase fortunately did not arise. The presence
of the troops (they were present until the conclusion of
hostiHties) had a most reassuring and salutary effect, and
gave exactly that touch of moral support the situation
required. It was as successful in giving the Ue to the
false rumour referred to as if a whole army corps had been
mobihzed for the purpose.

The hand of the Imperial Government was seen in yet
another direction. When, prior to the first outbreak
(February 8th), the Governor ascertained that H.M.S.
Terpsichore would arrive at Durban on the 21st February,
in connection with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of
Connaught, he requested Admiral Durnford to expedite
the ship's movements, as the presence of a man-of-war at
Durban at that time would tend to allay the prevaihng
excitement. The request was promptly acceded to, and
the Terpsichore steamed into Durban a week sooner than
had been previously arranged. Later, whilst proposing
the vessel should accompany the Duke on his departure
from Durban, on the 27th February, the Admiral offered
to cancel his orders in the event of the political situation
being such that her continued presence would be desirable.
There being, by that time, no immediate cause for anxiety,
the arrangements which had already been made for
departure were not interfered with.

(6) Other Offers. — A few days after the second and more
serious stage of the RebeUion had begun, the Cape and
Transvaal Governments wired intimating a readiness to
assist in any way. This was followed, a few days later,
by an offer from the latter Government of 500 Volunteers,
armed, equipped, and maintained whilst in the field at
its own expense, whilst the Cape Government offered
six maxims, armed by Cape Mounted Riflemen, as well



MILITARY ORGANIZATION 65

as a Signalling Corps. These and two further generous
offers — one by Mr. (now Sir) Abe Bailey of Johannesburg,
to raise, equip, and maintain at his own expense a con-
tingent of 150 men (25 being mounted) of the Lancaster
and York Association, and the other by the Natal Indian
Congress, of a corps of 25 stretcher-bearers, — were grate-
fully accepted.

The first three offers will be more fully dealt with in
subsequent chapters.

A large number of other opportune and generous offers
were received from various sources in England, South
Africa, etc., but as the Government had decided that,
unless a serious development of hostihties took place,
no efforts would be made to recruit outside South Africa,
and in South Africa only in case of absolute necessity,
they were not accepted. They were, however, gratefully
acknowledged and borne in mind.

Among the Colony's staunchest supporters was a small
knot of Natalians living in London, headed by Major Gen.
Sir John Dartnell, K.C.B., the Right Hon. Sir Albert
Hime, P.C, K.C.M.G., and Sir Walter Peace, K.C.M.G.
These lost no time in convening a meeting, cabhng an
assurance of unqualified support of the Ministry, and
thereafter dispatching, at the earliest opportunity, 27
Rexer guns, a most valuable arm, especially in Native
warfare, that had only just come into the market.^

THE CADETS.

The Cadet system, one of the principal institutions of
the Colony, and one that at once attracts the attention
of a visitor, be he soldier or civilian, has been in existence
for many years. The first corps was formed at a private
school in Hermannsburg in the year 1869. Hilton College
and other schools were not long in following the example.
The principles governing the system in its later develop-
ments and in vogue in 1906 will be found in the Militia

^ The guns were taken to Natal by Sir Jolin Dartnell, and arrived in
time to be of the greatest assistance.



66 THE ZULU REBELLION

Act, 1903. The Cadets were under the general supervision
of the Commandant of MiHtia and the special control of
an officer of the permanent MiHtia staff, under the style
of " Commandant of Cadets." For many years, the latter
officer was Lieut.-Col. W. H. A. Molyneux, V.D., owing
to whose energy and devotion, assisted to the utmost by
the Superintendent of Education (C. J. Mudie, Esq.), the
efficiency of the various corps rose to a standard previously
unapproached. No opportunity was lost of promoting
the interests of his charges and rendering their course of
training so popular and successful as to become the envy
of other states, not excluding the Mother Country.

The Cadets began their training at the age of ten ; they
were not enrolled for miHtary service, although steps
were taken to induce lads of eighteen, in the senior corps,
to join the Active Militia. They were taught to march,
go through the physical, manual, and firing exercises, as
well as simple parade and field movements, as laid down
in the manual of drill for the mounted forces.

Boys between ten and fourteen were drilled without
arms and instructed in musketry, for both of which an
efficiency standard was laid down.

In 1896 the total number of Cadets on the muster roll
was 1,931 (25 corps). In 1906 they had increased to
about 3,500, with nearly 50 separate corps, 3 being those
of senior Cadets. The senior corps, on account of lads
being required by their parents to enter business at early
ages, were much more difficult to control, and therefore
did not prove nearly as successful as the junior ones.

With the system so long in vogue, it followed that the
majority of the Natal troops (including Reserves) which
took part in the Rebellion had, at one time or another,
been trained as Cadets in the rudiments of soldiery. It
was largely due to having had such experience that the
men were as generally efficient as they were.



IV.



ZULU MILITARY SYSTEM AND CONNECTED
CUSTOMS.i

(With a Note on the Rebel Organization, 1906.)

As a result of the precarious conditions of living anterior
to Tshaka's accession (about 1814), each of the then more
or less independent Chiefs of Zululand was obliged to
establish a kind of militia force for employment in
defensive or aggressive operations as circumstances
demanded. Owing to this prevalence of all-round isola-
tion, it was impossible for any Chief to do otherwise than
send into the field heterogeneously formed groups of
warriors — old and young fighting side by side. The
character of warfare of those days was, in consequence, of
a very mild description. When, however, Tshaka became

^The main reason for outlining here a system suppressed in 1879 is
that it was at a partial revival thereof that the rebels perpetually aimed.
The character of their organization and warfare was generally in accord-
ance therewith. Nor, seeing many of them had been obliged to conform
thereto in earlier days, is this any cause for surprise. A description of
the old and famous order becomes, therefore, the best and most illuminat-
ing introduction to their methods in 1906.

It will be remembered that when Tshaka set about conquering the
various tribes of Zululand and Natal, some of the more important broke
away and fled to far-off parts, e.g. Rhodesia, Lake Nyasa, Gasaland,
etc. Having regard to the enormous prestige acquired by the Zulus, a
prestige which outshone that of any other tribe in South Africa south
of the Equator, not only did tribes adjoining those which had arrived
find it in their interest to copy the habits and customs of the dominant
race and learn their tongue, but more particularly to adopt the system
by which the prestige had been won. Thus a description of the system
has the added interest of perhaps throwing light on what, in point of
fact, has become practically the basic idea or exemplar of all Native
military organizations in South Africa.

Had a tolerably comprehensive sketch of the system and its connected
customs been available, the present attempt would not have been made.



68 THE ZULU REBELLION

Chief of the Zulu tribe, and, by a poHcy of vigorous
aggression, succeeded in obtaining the allegiance of other
tribes, it became possible for him greatly to extend and
perfect the system, learnt from his friend and protector
Dingiswayo, of recruiting regiments on an age basis.^
And, once he had acquired a force more efficient and
powerful than that of other tribes, only time was wanted
to enable him to extend his operations and add still
further to the strength and efficiency of his army.

With the various tribes knit together into one nation,
the estabhshment and development of what is known as
the Zulu MiHtary System, i.e. Tshaka's system, became
for the first time possible. Thus, this engine of war, as
we now know it, was simply the outcome of a successful
appKcation of principles superior in themselves to those
of surrounding tribes, and its pre-eminence and dominion
were won by intrinsic merit and genius rather than by
accident or sheer force of numbers. We proceed, then,
to describe what came into being about one hundred years
ago and continued to exist until 1879.

The whole manhood of the country was Hable for
service. In practice, however, a few exceptions were
allowed — among them diviners and those physically or
mentally unfit. The total strength averaged from 40,000
to 50,000, though, on special occasions, it rose to 60,000
or even higher.

Each man was armed with a stabbing assegai and one
or more throwing ones, also an ox or cow-hide shield.
About fifteen to twenty royal kraals were estabhshed in
various well-inhabited parts of the country. Some of
these were used as mihtary barracks, and were known as
amakanda (heads). Large numbers of warriors were,
moreover, usually stationed at the principal royal kraal.

1 Dingiswayo, Chief of the Mtetwa tribe (near St. Lucia Bay, Zulu-
land), is, ciu-iously enough, believed to have had one or more funda-
mental featiu-es of the system suggested to him, either from observmg
the organization of British soldiers, as might have been done m the
Cape Colony at the beginning of the nmeteenth century, or, at least,
by obtaining a detailed account thereof from some person familiar
therewith.



ZULU MILITARY SYSTEM 69

All these kraals, being composed of wood and wattles, and
the huts covered with grass, were occasionally moved to
fresh sites in their respective locahties whilst retaining
their names.

Regiments were constantly being formed, more by
automatic than independent process. This is seen from
the fact that every boy of about sixteen was required to
serve as a cadet at the handa within whose jurisdiction his
father's kraal happened to fall. Every two years or so,
when the lads were old enough to be formed into a regiment,
they were '' collected " from the various amakanda, and
marched off to the King for inspection, when the latter
gave them their new or regimental title. The destination
of the new regiment depended on circumstances. It
might, if numerous, be directed to go to some district and
build and live in a kanda of its own, or it might be ordered,
wholly or in part, to serve at one or more of the already
existing amakanda, where, of course, they would profit
by the older men's experience. Thus, at these barracks
one frequently found men of various ages, notwithstanding
that recruitment had invariably taken place on the basis
of age. It was from the fact of cadets being " collected "
that the word ibuto (regiment) was probably derived.

The amakanda were designed and built in accordance
with a plan common to all. For instance, the barracks
of a regiment, according as they were on the right or
left side as one entered the principal gate below, were
technically described, so with various other sections of
such right or left side, down to the gate referred to or up
to the King's harem at the top. Thus, it was possible for
any soldier to define exactly where he belonged, even
though the rows of huts were three or more deep. In the
case of the largest regiments, e.g. Tulwana, the men,
according to the portions occupied, would be given
distinguishing names. Thus, in Tulwana, one found the
Zisongo, Mkingoma, etc., divisions on the right, whilst
Amabunsumana, Ingoye, etc., were on the left — each
of them, by the way, nearly as large as an ordinary
regiment.



70 THE ZULU REBELLION

The principal motive for keeping up this huge organiza-
tion, once the safety of the State was assured, was for
attacking neighbouring tribes, generally on the slightest
pretext, and making them subject to the State by looting
as many of their cattle as possible. This, in fact, was but
another expression of the mercenary ideal which even
civilized nations of to-day seem to keep before them.

Until an age between thirty-five and forty had been
reached, the warriors were not permitted to marry or even
to associate with girls. Nor might girls marry men of any
age until special authority had been given. Girls, too,
were " collected " into classes, though not required to serve
at any kanda.

It was on some such occasion as the great Feast of the
First Fruits, held annually about the first week in January,
that the King himself gave permission to a regiment or a
class of girls to marry. This was granted, not to indi-
viduals, but to a particular regiment or class en bloc.
Special directions were also given as to what regiment
or regiments any particular class of girls should marry
into.

Before, however, receiving permission to marry, a
regiment required royal approval to conform to the ancient
practice of assuming the isicoco or headring. As this ring,
made of wax and strips of sedge bound round with cord,
was sewn into the hair by means of ox-sinew, it sometimes
happened that an aggressive mihtary expedition was
arranged to take place beyond the borders of the State
" for the purpose of fetching the necessary sinew " —
a metonymic expression, where " sinew " stands for
" cattle." The head was shaved on the crown and sides
when the ring was put on.

Owing to this wearing of the headring — once on never
removed ^ — the warriors became roughly divided into two
great sections, (a) the head-ringed, (h) those without the
ring. The former were known as the " white " Zulus, the
latter as the " black " — the colour of the first being

^ At intervals, as the hair grew long, it would be removed, but only
to enable it to be sewn closer to the head.



ZULU MILITARY SYSTEM 71

probably derived from the glittering of the highly pohshed
ebony-like rings or the preponderatingly white colour of
the shields they carried, whilst that of the latter was from
their heads all being jet black from the uniform colour of
their hair, or from the amount of black in their shields.

In charge of each kanda was an officer as well as others
of subordinate rank. Upon these devolved the respon-
sibihty of seeing that all within the mihtary district
rendered a reasonable amount of service in each year.
Owing to a wonderfully efficient system of control, evasions
rarely occurred.

With the lapse of time, and on account of the perpetually
recurring warfare, it followed members of any given regi-
ment became greatly diminished. Thus, although the
names of perhaps forty to forty-five regiments could be
furnished as having been enrolled since Tshaka became
King, all but eighteen to twenty would, at any given period,
have been of little real use. This is best appreciated by
recalKng the fact that '' collection " began at eighteen or
nineteen, that a regiment was, as a rule, formed after every
two years, and that, after a man reaches the age of fifty-five
or sixty, he is unfit to undertake the exertion of long and
rapid marches on foot. The power to mobifize for war
lay with the King, though for some years it became
customary for him to seek permission of Mnkabayi (grand-
aunt of Cetshwayo), who hved in the north-west of Zulu-
land. For all occurrences of a sudden and local kind,
e.g. raid, insurrection, or breach of the peace, the resident
officer or induna had authority to call out men under his
command. Indeed, it was his duty to do so, and one
which he dared not neglect.

At the head of each regiment was an induna or com-
manding officer, generally a good deal older than the men
of his corps. There was also a second in command,
together with junior officers. The strength of regiments
varied greatly ; the maximum of one might be 700, of
another 4,000. There was also subdivision into com-
panies, known as amaviyo, with 50 to 60 or more men
apiece. Each viyo had two jmiior officers. These



72 THE ZULU REBELLION

companies originated at the amakanda during the days of
cadetship. Members associated early with one another,
grew up and kept together. If, however, any such group
was too small, batches of others, from other amakanda,
were " thrown into " them on arrival at headquarters to
make up a viyo. As cadets, there was no appointed induna
to a company. Amaviyo diminished in size as time went
on, — from death, desertion (to Natal), or by being put
to death by the King. For instance, shortly before the
Zulu War, Cetshwayo sent a force on purpose to put so-
called invahds (but really mahngerers) to death. Many,
again, to evade miUtary service, became diviners, who, as
has been remarked, obtained exemption as a matter of
course. These were, with notable and necessary excep-
tions, collected by Mpande into a regiment of their own,
and ordered to live in a single kraal. This device had
the effect of checking the prevaihng craze.

When reduced, amaviyo were often combined with
others of their own age, though younger men were often
added. The reason for so keeping up the strength of
regiments was to cause the enemy to respect them and not
treat them with contempt. Certain corps, again, were
made abnormally large so that notwithstanding wastage
through sickness, etc., when on the march, their size,
on reaching the enemy, would still appear formidable.

From what has been said, it can be seen there was no
such thing as retirement from service. When Tshaka
dispatched his army to Sotshangana, a Chief living on the
coast beyond Delagoa Bay, he insisted on every available
person going, even old men who no longer left their
homes.

During the period of cadetship, known as uku-xeza,
from commonly milking the royal cows they herded into
their mouths, boys learnt the use of the national weapon,
the assegai or umkonto. The proficiency then attained
remained with them through life, hence there was practi-
cally no special training necessary in after years. There
were no special exercises in throwing or stabbing, in
guarding with their 5-ft. oval shields, or in marching.



ZULU MILITARY SYSTEM 73

running, manoeuvring, etc. The fact that the people were
a pastoral race and spent the greater portion of their Uves
in the open under exacting conditions stood them in good
stead.

There was nothing in the shape of remuneration for
service, either in time of war or of peace. Nor was com-
pensation given for any injuries received in war. Offences
were punished by the indunas, but punishment never took
the form of imprisonment for obvious reasons. In regard
to the younger warriors, it was invariably severe beating
about the body administered by the indunas.

Although no oath of allegiance was prescribed, not a
soul ever dared question the right of the King to caU him
out, or failed to render instant and loyal service of the
most arduous description.

The Zulu army took on the character more of a per-
manent mihtia than of a standing army. Although
required to serve at the various amakanda, service was
not obligatory for more than a reasonable period, say two
or three months per annum. And, as with Europeans,
men of a given regiment were under the orders of only
their own officers.

Just as the whole nation was compelled to render
mihtary service, so, in time of need, all aliens who owed or
pretended to owe allegiance to the King were called upon
to assist. Tshaka, on more than one occasion, insisted on
Fynn, Isaacs and others taking part in his operations.

Zulus erected defences, but only to the extent of what
is known as the outer fence of the kraal. The cattle
enclosure was frequently made much higher and stronger
than was necessary to keep the cattle from getting out on
their own accord. But the latter provision was a pro-
tection more against wild beasts than human foes. Where
it was necessary to obtain protection against a too powerful
enemy, the people fled, with their property, to caves,
precipices, forests or other places in their immediate
neighbourhood.

The uniforms, a most striking characteristic of the
army, varied with the different regiments. They were



74 THE ZULU REBELLION

lavishly ornamental, and composed almost entirely of
feathers, cow- tails and hides. The birds chiefly favoured
were the ostrich, lorie, crane and sakabuli (jet-black
finch, with especially long and beautiful tail feathers) ;
the animals were : blue monkey, civet cat or genet, otter,
leopard and the ordinary cow. All wore the bushy portion
of cow-tails (generally white) tied round at the elbows,
wrists, below the knees, and the neck (falHng over the
chest). Some had kilts ; the majority, loose coverings
of various hides. Many, again, wore ear-flaps of different
hides and designs, also bands tied round the head across
the forehead, of otter or leopard skin. The feathers were
worn about the head singly, also in large rounded or other-
wise artistically-shaped tufts and plumes. Every man
carried one or more assegais and a large war-shield of ox
or cow-hide capable of completely covering him. It
sometimes happened the principal distinguishing feature
of a regiment was the colour of its shield ; for instance, all
might have black and white, or red and white, red only,
black only, white with small black patches, or a single
regiment might have two or more types of shields. The
shield Tshaka himself carried was a great snow-white
one, with a small black patch sHghtly to the left of the
centre, and there stood planted erect in his hair a solitary
crane-feather fully two feet long.

No portion of the uniform, arms or equipment belonged
to the King or government. All was privately owned.
It, however, often happened that iron-smiths, — many of
whom flourished in the neighbourhood of Nkandhla forest
and on the Imfolozi River — were required by the King to
manufacture assegais for the troops. Once presented —
but only to men known to be brave and daring — they
became the property of the warriors. The cutting of
shields was the work of experts.

In all affairs of State, civil and military, the King was
assisted by a small privy council as well as a national
non-elective assembly. There was a recognized com-
mander-general of the forces properly equipped with an
efficient staff.



ZULU MILITARY SYSTEM 75

One of the leading features, especially in Tshaka's day,
was the system of espionage. Skilled and intrepid
observers were frequently sent out, before the beginning
of a campaign, to collect all the intelligence they could



Online LibraryJames StuartA history of the Zulu Rebellion, 1906 : and of Dinuzulu's arrest, trial, and expatriation → online text (page 7 of 52)