James Stuart.

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

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The powers of endurance of the army when on the
march were remarkable. Although Uving on scanty
suppHes of food, the men could, on emergency, travel
forty miles in the course of a night and forthwith engage
in battle. The provision-bearers and herds could not,
of course, keep up with the column after the first day,
with the result that each warrior was obHged to carry his
own food and equipment. Men frequently rolled up their
shields when marching, as they then became easier to
carry. Those whose feet became sore and swollen were
laughed at, including men who resorted to using sandals
of ox-hide.

Let us conclude with a few customs formerly and still
observed by individuals in war-time.

No warrior ever goes off to war without visiting his


home, in order to " take the spirit " along with him, as it
is called. The home is the shrine at which he worships,
and where the friendly aid and protection of departed
spirits are sought. When about to leave, two or three
enter the cattle enclosure and, at the upper end thereof,
invoke their ancestral spirits. In the meantime, an old
woman has taken her stand at, though outside, the gate
awaiting the men's departure. She holds in her hand an
ordinary hand-broom of grass. With this she flicks the
calf of each warrior as he goes forth, thereby metaphori-
cally warding off the dangers towards which he is moving,
but says nothing. The custom is general, though not
invariably practised.

After the men leave, various customs are observed by
the women. The huts just vacated by the men are care-
fully swept. A fire is forthwith kindled in each, so as to
make everything there bright and cheery. This is done
to encourage the return of the soldier and avert his
remaining eternally away. With the same object, his
mat is carefully shaken and roUed up, an ear of millet
being put inside it. It is then stood upright at the
end of the hut (the usual position in normal times is
horizontal). And in such position it remains until the
owner's return. If he is injured, it is taken down.

QuarreUing of all kinds is studiously refrained from,
as such is supposed to draw the absent ones into danger.
Not only women and girls, but the whole estabhshment,
including Httle children, observe the most orderly and
quiet behaviour, crying infants being hushed as speedily
as possible.

Wives and mothers mark their faces by rubbing with
a specially-prepared black paste of ashes, earth, etc.
The marks are of various designs, the most general being
a semi-circle over each eye, the two meeting at the top of
the nose, or a 1 J inch diameter circle on each cheek. The
tops of their leather skirts, too, are reversed, i.e. the nap
thereon is turned outwards.

Occasionally bitter-apple (solarium) berries are rolled
slowly along that side of the hut on which the warrior was


in the habit of sleeping, the berry being aimed to go
out by the doorway and so carry all possibilities of
harm along with it.

The same berries, two or three of them, may be threaded
on to a cord, as also a rabbit tail, the whole being tied as
a necklace round the throat to ward off evil.

Other customs, not less quaint, are observed by mothers-

A sprig of wild asparagus is often stuck in the thatch
over the doorway of a hut to safeguard the home.

The black markings on the face and the wearing of the
berries represent formal suppression of ordinary personal
feehng or the deUberate assumption of an ugly, callous, and
unsympathetic disposition.

When husbands or sons are killed, various other, customs
are conformed to by women.

Turning to the soldiers themselves, we find that when
any of the enemy are killed in battle, those responsible
for the deaths proceed to rip open the deceased's stomach.
This is done as it is feared the deceased's unreleased
spirit will invest the one who slew him and turn him into
a raving lunatic. He must also strip or, at least, partly
strip the corpse of its clothing and wear it himself until,
having cleansed himself in accordance with various
formahties, he can resume his own.

Those who have killed others, eat and Uve entirely
apart from the main body. This seclusion continues for
many days. During this time, they observe other for-
malities before being finally washed with drugs and allowed
to associate with their comrades. They are treated with
great respect, the best and fattest portions of meat are
served out to them, and they are entitled to wear the
decorations previously referred to.

A coward, on the other hand, is subjected to the greatest
indignities. His meat is handed to him after having been
dipped in cold water. This causes girls to laugh at him.
Not infrequently his fiancee will break off the engagement,
on the ground that he has so far unmanned himself as to
have become a woman. Being a woman, he naturally must


not look to another woman to become his wife ! To such
extent is this carried, that one hears of cases where girls
actually uncover themselves in his presence by way of
shaming him.

And so one could go on describing the inner Ufe of this
remarkable race, but sufficient has been said to enable
the reader to understand those with whom the Natal
Government was, in 1906, called on to deal. The character
of their tactics and miUtary habits and customs has been
roughly outhned in the foregoing sketch, which, as every-
one who Hves in the country knows, is descriptive not of
a system of life gone by, but of one that was largely revived
and practised by those who took part in the fighting,
rebels as well as loyalists. The present is understood by
studying the past, or, as a Zulu would say : Inyati i
buzwa kwa ha pambili (news of the buffalo is sought of
those who are ahead). Thus the chapter which, at first,
seemed to deal only with old bones is found, on examina-
tion, to be a picture of the people as they were at the
beginning of the campaign.


State of affairs among the tribes. — On assuming the government
of Natal, England found many disconnected tribes. This state
of affairs has continued to exist to the present day, with the
result that any attempts of Natives to organize among themselves
have been confined chiefly to the limits of individual tribes. When
Zululand was conquered, the principle of dissevering politically-
connected tribes was followed, first by Sir Garnet Wolseley, later,
and to greater extent, when the magistracies were established.

Although the policy of divide et impera has failed to destroy
much of the natural affinity between tribes, there is no doubt it
has also helped to drive others still further apart. The ani-
mosities between many of them are proverbial. The efforts of any
Chief at organization have, moreover, been checked by a provision
in the Code which prescribes penalties for " summoning an armed
assembly of his tribe " or " classing or causing to be classed, the


raen of his tribe into companies or regiments," without the
permission of the Supreme Chief. Notwithstanding this, various
Chiefs have, for many years, divided their men into regiments and
companies. In some cases, this has been done innocently by loyal
men, in others by men not so loyal. No harm, however, arose
out of the practice until the Insurrection took place, and even then
the Government gained more, perhaps, from loyal Chiefs who
happened to be semi-organized, e.g. Sibindi, MveH, Sitshitshili and
Mfungelwa, than it suffered from those who were openly disloyal,
e.g. Bambata and Sigananda.

The Poll Tax Act was, of course, a powerful agent in breaking
down the long-standing differences referred to, whilst the order
to kill off pigs and white fowls further influenced large numbers
to unite and rebel. It was never possible to determine in any
satisfactory way how many were prepared to join those actually
in the field, even though approximate estimates of the latter
could always be arrived at. It is enough, at this stage, to say
that about 150 men struck the first decisive blow and that,
although probably 1,000 adherents were gained at Nkandhla
within the next two or tiiree weeks, further accessions were
determined rather by the successes met with than by a feeling
that the methods adopted were the best available for securing
the end in view. As these successes were insignificant, the rebels
that joined did so in small lots at a time. Had the troops met
with two or three reverses, especially at the beginning, it is
probable thousands would have gone over, only to be followed
by thousands of others if the efforts of these again had proved

Leaders. — Suitable and experienced leaders were wanting ; not
that capable men could not be found, but the most capable were
the ones who best realized the difficulties of the undertaking and
the poor chances of success. There is no doubt that many Chiefs
espoused the cause whilst pretending to be personally loyal, and
this when many members of their tribes had deserted to join the

Arms and ammunition. — As there was no law forbidding the
keeping of assegais and shields, it may be assumed nearly every
Native in the Colony was fully armed, though many would not
have been in possession of war shields.

The law was strict in regard to firearms. Natives in general
on the south-west side of the Tugela possessed no more than 200
registered guns, if so many. In Zululand, there were as many
as 5,105 in 1897 ; ^ by 1904, they had not increased beyond 5,126
— all of them registered. Of the latter, about 90 per cent, were
of the old Tower musket, smooth-bore, and other obsolete types.

^ Nearly all these were obtained prior to the Imperial Government's
assumption of control in Zululand (May, 1887).


Apart from legally held guns, Dinuzulu was in possession of
a number which he had failed to register, some of them obtained
at the time of the Boer War. He also had large quantities of
ammunition of various kinds, obtained at the same time and in
other ways. How many other guns were owned by his late tribe
or other tribes associated therewith, as well as other Zululand and
Natal tribes, it is quite impossible to say.

These facts are given to show what would have been available
had the Insurrection become universal. How far the foregoing
arms were used against the troops it is difficult to judge. The
majority of those that were used were of the Martini -Henry,
Snider, Lee-Metford and Mauser types.

Food supplies. — But for the premature outbreak at " Trewirgie,"
the Rebellion would probably not have begun until after all the
crops had been reaped, i.e. about May. To have waited until
all the grain was in would have been but to act in accordance
with custom. The rebels, therefore, were somewhat at a dis-
advantage in regard to grain supplies. Although the cattle
disease, known as East Coast Fever, had already invaded Zululand
in the north, it had not up to that time made its way across the
Umhlatuze, consequently, abundant meat supplies (cattle as well
as goats) were always obtainable in the vicinity of Nkandhla.
The ways in which supplies were procured whilst fighting was going
on at Nkandhla, will be set forth later.


About the year 1895 South Africa was invaded from the
north by a plague of locusts. A succession of several
abnormally dry seasons, peculiarly favourable for hatching
the young, resulted in the swarms increasing to alarming
proportions. Immense clouds of them swept over the land
in all directions, sometimes so vast as to render dimmer the
light of the sim. Natal, euphemistically though not untruly
styled the Garden Colony, suffered, if anji^hing, more than
other parts, and this owing to the very abimdance of her
crops and almost tropical vegetation. Recmrent devasta-
tions of crops lasted until 1903 or 1904 when, through
determined and systematic co-operation among Europeans
in the several colonies, involving heavy outlays of public
monies, the pest was successfully counteracted and stamped
out. The Natives of Natal and Zululand, accustomed as they
are to cultivating but small patches of maize and com,
barely sufficient for their wants even in plenteous seasons,
suffered most. In connection with this " invasion " came a
year of scarcity among them (1896), necessitating distribu-
tion by the Government, for their relief, of large supplies
of grain at cost price and under, — in some cases, free of

In 1897 a new cattle disease, known as rinderpest, began
to make its appearance, and this, whilst the older and weU-
nigh endemic one, called lungsickness, was still afflicting the


cattle of white and black alike. It, too, had gradually come
down from the north. More virulent in form than lung-
sickness, it soon spread to all parts of Natal and Zululand,
destroying large percentages of the herds wherever permitted
to enter. Again did the scourge press more heavily on
Natives than on Europeans, especially in Zululand, for the
reason that, being a pastoral people, they were pecuharly
dependent in many ways on cattle. It will, for instance, be
recollected that cattle are used as an essential constituent in
every marriage contract. Milk, moreover, is extensively
used for feeding infants and children. The price of stock
advanced 500% and more ; even where sufficient money
was earned by hard labour, the necessary lohola cattle could
not be purchased. It, therefore, became difficult for the
young men to obtain wives. That a certain spirit of restless-
ness and discontent gradually grew up in them cannot be
wondered at. Indeed, it is generally admitted these mis-
fortunes, coming one on top of the other and closely affecting
the life of the people, were, on the whole, met by them with
singular fortitude and forbearance.

But more was to follow. About the end of the late War,
through importation at Beira, it has been supposed, of fresh
blood in the shape of cattle from AustraMa to re-stock
Rhodesia, a fresh disease — even more disastrous than rinder-
pest — also previously unknown in South Africa, made its
appearance among such stock as remained in that part,
and thereafter slowly but surely spread in different direc-
tions. Rinderpest had, Uke a hurricane, swept through
South Africa (leaving patches here and there unaffected), and
eventually spent itself at the sea at Cape Town. The new
disease, known as East Coast Fever, or Tick Fever, by reason
of infection being carried by a species of tick, common
almost to the whole of South Africa, was much more search-
ing and destructive in its effects. It crept steadily south-
ward, affecting European and Native cattle ahke. After
causing vast and widespread losses, it is still unconquered at
time of writing, though, especially since the Union Govern-
ment assumed control, the possibilities of its spreading have
been greatly reduced.


Entering the Colony on the eastern section of its northern
boundary, it moved from place to place, striking down herds
wherever it appeared with a suddenness that hardly seemed
possible from the slowness of its march. The Natives of
Zululand were the first to feel the blow, but the still more
numerous black and white population of Natal, though
having greater time to organize resistance, did not suffer
less. A fiuidamental characteristic of human nature showed
itself in the complacency with which the disease was viewed
whilst at a distance, and alarm and even panic when it
actually uivaded the Colony. Every precaution which
science or quackery could suggest was adopted. Thousands
of pounds were spent on a device, only a few weeks later to
be displaced by another, even more expensive. ParUament
passed one law after another, whose aggregate effect scarcely
abated the evil, whilst the inconvenience to Natives through
enforcement of regulations amounted, in some instances, to
actual provocation. That they were unable to see eye-to-
eye with the Veterinary Department or other controUing
authority iu the restrictions imposed within infected or
supposed infected areas was due not to fictitious, but to
genuine, behef . However, it was clear from the outset that
European cattle were no more immune than their own. If
their race suffered, so also did that of the white man. Irri-
tating though the precautions were, the fact remained that
Natives' cattle were being swept off wholesale, leaving the
people in a greatly impoverished condition.

But there was another matter, and one of long standing,
regarded by them as a still greater affliction. To this we
must now turn.

Ever since farms were laid off in Natal for European
occupation, rents had been collected from the Native
tenants. There were many reasons, sentimental as weU as
arising out of actual necessity, to account for the presence
of Natives on such farms. First, there was the kraal, and its
family (with numerous old local associations) already in
situ when the farm was laid off ; secondly, the farmer, who
had no tenants, had, by the offer of mducements, obtained
them ; thirdly, Natives ejected for some reason from


adjoining or other lands, who had come to apply for per-
mission "to squat." There was variety, again, when the
character of the tenancy is examined. One landlord had,
as the basis of his contract, service in Men of rent ; another
required certain service with a small rent ; another, service
for which he paid the market wage, leaving the tenant free
for six months of the year, but charged rent ; another
wanted nothing but the rent. Without going too deeply into
this exceedingly complex question, it is sufficient to remark
that " service in Heu of rent " was generally demanded by
the Dutch farmers, in many ways fairer and more sjrmpa-
thetic to their tenants than other landlords, whilst cash was
generally required by British farmers. Where rents were
charged, they were felt by many Natives to be burdensome.
With a number of tenants on his farm, a landlord, of course,
felt that where one man could raise the rent, all must be
required to do so, otherwise chaos would result. Rents
naturally varied in different parts, some places being more
productive than others. The lowest amount was about £1
per hut, whilst the highest was as much as £12. The
average, however, stood between £2 and £3. As the sizes
of Native estabHshments varied, or facilities for cultivation
or grazing and disposing of produce or stock were unequal,
so the difficulties of a tenant obtaining the amount of his
rent varied. None of the farmers, Boer or British, intended
to be oppressive. Many of them were remarkably patient
and considerate. The fact, however, remains, that for some
time before the RebeUion, some were oppressive, although
unintentionally so. This mercenary spirit, however, was
exhibited not only by the farmers of Natal. Anyone who
takes the trouble to read the official pubhcations will find
it prevailing in other parts of South Africa. It is, indeed, a
characteristic of Western Civilization. Even where Natives
themselves are in possession of farms, they, aping their
masters, follow a poHcy not less exacting in regard to men of
their own colour.

For several years prior to the Rebellion, the high rate of
rents was generally felt as a burden. It was talked about,
and talked about loudly. Every report on Native Affairs


showed that such was the case. On the other hand, one heard
not a word in regard to the hut tax imposed by the Govern-
ment.^ The justice of it was approved and its amount
considered reasonable. As a matter of fact, the complaint
that made itself heard, was not against the European farmers,
but against the system which had initiated freehold, lease-
hold, or any other tenure, as distinct from the purely
communal. Because the Natal Government did not abolish
landlordism, or at least prohibit landlords from charging
tenants more than, say £1 per hut, and ejectment on failure
to pay. Natives considered they had just ground for com-
plaint against the Government. In their ignorance of the
history of freehold, they looked on the colonists as having
initiated, and as being responsible for, a system that
flourished in Europe long before Vasco da Gama sailed up
the coast of South Africa to set eyes on and name the
country occupied by their artless ancestors.

Associated with this question were those of usury and
cruelly extortionate charges by certain members of the legal
profession, notably such as practised in the " country dis-
tricts." In consequence of many tenants being unable to
meet their obHgations, largely through loss of cattle from
disease, they were driven to borrowing money. For many
years past, it had been the practice for them to draw on their
cattle to overcome temporary embarrassment: In the
absence of a law regulating the interest chargeable on loans,
a few of the lenders demanded and received fabulous rates.
It would, however, be unfair to hold the administration
responsible for not providing a law, practically unknown in
civihzed communities, imtil necessity therefor had actually
revealed itself. However that may be, the position must be
looked at as it was. Here was a people compelled in the
main to meet their financial obHgations, pubHc and private,
with no better means than the earnings of their sons. These
sons, aware that their fathers were depending largely on
them, instead of vice versa, began to assume an unusually

* This tax of 14s. per hut had, of course, to be paid in respect of huts
on private lands, regardless of the rent charged by the farmer or land-


independent attitude in respect, not only of their parents,
but of everyone else. The parents complained to the Govern-
ment and pressed for the apphcation of correctives. What
one of the correctives was wiU presently appear.^

This independence, indeed, was but a symptom charac-
teristic of the age. Its growth had, for many years, been
observable, though, in former days, not nearly so aggravated
as it became in later ones. To such an extent did it develop
by 1906, that contempt for authority, particularly Native
authority, began to manifest itself in numerous ways,
quickened and accentuated by the evil influences of Eiu-opean

The principal means available to a kraal-head for obtain-
ing money had, for years, been the sending of his sons to
work in European towns and elsewhere. With the dis-
covery of the Barberton and Johannesburg gold-fields, con-
siderable inducements were offered in the higher wages there
obtainable. It, therefore, followed that many accustomed
up tiU then to find employment in Natal, went off to the new
centres of industry. The more these centres developed, the
greater became their attractions. The result was that,
before long, many thousands repaired thither year after
year. So large did the number of Natal and Zululand
labourers become, that it became necessary to estabHsh a
Government Agent at Johannesburg, whose principal duty
was to receive and remit to their respective homes the earn-
ings of the workers. Had there been no such considerate
provision, much of the money, urgently required as it was
by the parents, must have been squandered, stolen or lost.^

At these gold-mining centres, however, especially Johan-
nesburg, youths of Natal came into contact with thousands
of Natives from aU parts of South Africa. They there became
acquainted with that insidious American Negro propaganda

1 An important Act, regulating claims against Natives for interest,
was passed by the Natal Legislature in 1908. It has proved very-
beneficial to the Natives.

2 As the contracts were never for less than six months, and labourers
had not acquired the habit of banking their earnings, it can be seen
that losses from theft or otherwise at a mining centre must have been



called Ethiopiaiiism, as well as with unscrupulous, low-class
Europeans of various nationalities. In such environment, it
is not surprising that the already growing spirit of independ-
ence was developed, as weU as vice of the worst possible
types. These retrograde tendencies were not long in reacting
on Natives in the locations and farms of Natal. Indeed, in
conjunction with the local influences referred to above, they
speedily became the most potent agents for setting at
naught that wonderful tribaHsm of some of whose features

Online LibraryJames StuartA history of the Zulu Rebellion, 1906 : and of Dinuzulu's arrest, trial, and expatriation → online text (page 9 of 52)