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The ZulusText by IAN KNIGHT

Colour plates by ANGUS McBRIDE


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Published in 1989 byOsprey Publishing Ltd59 Grosvenor Street. London WiX 9DA© Copyright 1989 Osprey Publishing Ltd

This book is copyrighted under the BerneConvention. All rights reserved. Apart from any fairdealing for the purpose of private study, research,criticism or review, as permitted under the CopyrightAct, 1956, no part of this publication may bereproduced, stored in a retrieval system, ortransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical,photocopying, recording or otherwise, without theprior permission of the copyright owner. Enquiriesshould be addressed to the Publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataKnight, Ian

The Zulus—(Elite series 21)1. Zulu military forces, to 1939I. TitleII. McBride. Angus III. Series355'.009684

ISBN 0-85045-864-1

Filmset in Great BritainPrinted through Bookbuilders Ltd. Hong Kong

Artist's NoteReaders may care to note that the original paintingsfrom which the colour plates in this book wereprepared are available for private sale. Allreproduction copyright whatsoever is retained by thepublisher. All enquiries should be addressed to:

Scorpio Gallery50 High Street,Battle,Sussex TN33 oEN

The publishers regret that they can enter into nocorrespondence upon this matter.

AcknowledgementsMy principal debt is to that great Natal expert onZulu history and custom Mr. Sighart Bourquin. Overthe years 'SB' has been unfailingly generous with histime, knowledge and hospitality. Without his help thisbook would not have been written. Ngiyabonga baba!My thanks also to Ms. J. F. Duggan and the staff atthe Killie Campbell Library for their help and co-operation; to Brian Maggs and Keith Reeves forallowing me to use material from their collections; tomy parents for their support and encouragement; toDr David Rycroft for his advice on matters oftranslation; and finally to Claire Colbert for herpriceless help with the photographic work.This book is dedicated to Felicity.

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The Zulus

The People'A very remarkable people, the Zulu", the BritishPrime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, said on hearingof a fresh disaster in the war of 1879. 'They defeatour generals; they convert our bishops; they havesettled the fate of a great European dynasty'.Remarkable, indeed, to have taken on the fullmight of the British Empire at its height, and won, ifnot the war, at least some of the battles. Who werethe Zulus, and how did they achieve the fame aswarriors which they enjoy to this day?

The area now known as Zululand lies on thesouth-eastern coast of Africa, between the Drakens-berg Mountains and the Indian Ocean. It is steeprolling grassland, dropping from cool inland heightsto a sub-tropical coastal strip, and intersected bymany river systems which have, in places, cut deep,wide gorges. In the valleys thornbush grewluxuriantly, and many of the heights were thickly-forested. Until decimated by 19th century hunters,both black and white, the countryside teemed withgame—antelope, wildebeest, elephant and lion.Above all, the area was covered with a wide mix ofgrasses which, with the comparative absence oftsetse fly, made it some of the best cattle country insouthern Africa.

Cattle played a crucial role in the Zulu scheme ofthings, not just as a practical asset—a source of foodand hides—but also as a means of assessing statusand worth. Although African Iron Age depositshave been found across Zululand dating back to the6th century, the Nguni people, the cultural andracial group to which the Zulu belong, wanderedinto the area in search of new pastures some time inthe 17th century. They spread out over thecountryside, slowly peopling it with clan groupswho traced their origins to a common ancestor.Oral tradition has it that a man named Zuluestablished his homestead on the southern bank ofthe White Mfolozi River in about 1670. The name

Zulu man in everyday dress, carrying both a throwing and astabbing spear, and—in his right hand—a round-headedknobkerry club of polished wood. His loin-covering is of stripsof twisted fur. (Brian Maggs)

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GlossaryThis is a glossary of Zulu military terms; somewords have alternative non-military uses, but forclarity we have used only the translation relevantto this book. Proper names are not included here,

nor are they italicised in the body of the text.(Source: James Stuart Archive, ed. J. B. Wrightand C. de B. Webb.)

amasi thick curdled milkibandla tribal councilibheshu cowskin buttock flapibutho.

pl. amabutho age-group guild, thusregiment

ikhanda.pl. amakhanda military garrison base

iklwa large stabbing spearimpi (1) body of armed men

(2) wari'mpondozankhomo 'beast's horns'

formation (see uphondo)induna,

pl. izinduna senior military or civilleader

ingxotha brass forearm bandinyanga,

pl. izinyanga doctoriphovela,

pl. amaphovela headdress of stiffcowhide

isangoma diviner, 'witch-smeller'ishoba,

pl. amashoba tufted ends of cow tailsisicoco ornamental headringisifuba centre ('chest') of Zulu

army formationisigaba group of associated

amaviyo companieswithin regiment

isigodlo royal or commandresidence within agarrison

isihlangu large war shieldisijula long-bladed throwing

spearisiphapha broad-bladed throwing


pl. amaviyo company within aregiment

iwisa knobkerrie, war clubizikhulu.

sing. isikhulu elders, councillorska son ofpalane outsize regimentudibi teenage boys who

acted as warriors'servants

umbhumbuluzo reduced-size war shieldumkhonto spearumkhumbi circle of warriors

gathered for ordersumncedo genital sheathumqhele fur headbandumthakathi,

pl. abathakathi wizard, witchumutsha fur groin flapumuzi,

pl. imizi homestead, villageuphondo.

pl. izimpondo of Zulu armycrescent formation

utshwala Zulu beer


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Zulu means 'The heavens', and his followers took thename amaZulu, 'the people of the heavens'.

At this time the Zulus were no different from theirneighbours. They lived in a series of villagehomesteads (umuzi; plural imizi) which werebasically family units. Each village consisted of anumber of huts built in a circle around a centralcattle enclosure, and surrounded by a stockade.They were usually built on a slope facing east. Thehuts themselves were dome-shaped, like old-fashioned beehives. They were made by thatchinggrass to a wooden framework; the floor inside wasmade of polished clay, and a raised lip marked outthe central fireplace. There was no chimney—thesmoke escaped as best it could through the thatch.The layout of an umuzi reflected social relationships.The Nguni were polygamous, and a man mighthave as many wives as his wealth and status wouldallow. He himself lived at the top of the homesteadfacing the entrance with the wives and children ofhis senior house to the right, and those of thesubordinate house to the left. Any dependants livedat the bottom, near the gate.

Daily life for the men consisted of tending thecattle and performing the heavier tasks around thehomestead. Cultivation of cereal crops, and allhousehold duties, fell to the women. Since beastswere too precious to slaughter merely for food, meatwas only eaten on special occasions; the staple dietwas curdled milk—amasi—and maize, augmentedsometimes with pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

These vegetables were grown in small plots neareach homestead. The grain was stored for use allyear round in large wicker baskets raised on stilts tokeep them away from the damp and rats, or in anunderground pit sealed with a large stone. Fordiversion the Zulus had utshwala, a thick, rathersour beer; and tobacco, which was dried, crushedand taken as snuff. In general the people lived ahealthy, outdoor life—they were neither asmarkedly tall or short as other African peoples, andin complexion they were, on average, rather lightskinned.

Their utensils, the Zulus made of wood, bone,clay, basket-weave and iron. Iron ore was scatteredin easily accessible surface deposits across thecountry, and particular clans gained high re-putations as smiths—notably the Mbonambi nearthe coast, and the Chube in the dark Nkhandlaforest overlooking the spectacular Tugela River. Itis no coincidence that both these areas are rich inore and fuel. The smith smelted the ore in a shallowpit. over which a fire was lit. Bellows made ofcowhide sacks pumped by hand were used to feed inair via clay nozzles. Once the ore was melted, it wasextracted and hammered into shape. Like manyAfrican peoples, the Nguni regarded this processwith superstitious awe, the more so because the best

Characteristic 19th-century domed 'beehive' huts, typical ofboth amakhanda—garrisons—and ordinary homesteads.These examples have been built by archaeologists over thesurviving clay floors of King Cetshwayo's isigodlo at Ulundi.

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Zulu blacksmiths at work: a famous sketch from the 1840s byGeorge French Angas. The smith works the bellows while hisassistants retrieve the ore from the furnace and hammer itinto shape. (British Museum)

smiths were said to temper their products withhuman fat. The smiths made hoes and, of course,spears.

Weapons and CostumeEarly spears had a small, leaf-shaped blade with aJong shank or tang. Having forged his blade, thesmith turned it over to another specialist, the spear-maker. He selected appropriate wood for the shaft,and drilled out the end with an awl. Strongvegetable glues were used to fix the blade in place,and this was bound with a wet fibre. When this wasdry, the join was sealed with either split cane, orwith a tube of hide cut from a calf's tail. The Zuluword for a spear is umkhonto, although there areseveral different spears, each with its own particularfunction. The isiphapha, for example, was a broad-bladed spear and was used for hunting game; theisijula was used in warfare.

For his everyday protection in a wild country, aman would carry a spear and iwisa, a knobkerriemade of hardwood with a large polished head. Hewould also carry a small oval shield made of

cowhide, reinforced with a stick held in place by adouble row of hide lacing. The top of the stick wasusually decorated with a strip of civet or genet fur,wound round.

A man would remain at his father's homesteaduntil he married, when he would establish an umuziof his own. The change in status was considerableand indicated by means of the headring, or isicoco,donned by men immediately prior to their firstmarriage. The isicoco was a fibre sewn into the hair,plastered with gum and polished with beeswax. Inthe 19th century it was fashionable to shave thecrown and back of the head, leaving just the hairaround the ring. Occasionally the ring was raisedup on a pad of hair. Young unmarried men wouldsometimes tease out their hair and build it up intobizarre shapes with clay and tallow.

Ordinary costume was minimal. A man wasrequired to wear an umncedo, a sheath of plaitedgrass and leaves; with this, he would be consideredadequately dressed in all company. However it wasusual to wear a loin covering over this: a thin strip ofhide around the hips, with an oblong of soft dressedcowskin low on the buttocks (ibheshu), and strips offur (umutsha) at the front. Fur from the civet, genetand samango (green) monkey were the mostpopular types, but sheepskin and antelope were

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sometimes used. Often two or more skins would betwisted together to resemble tails. Samangomonkey tails were sometimes worn either side of theibheshu. Only chiefs were allowed to wear a cloak ofleopard skin, with leopard claws as a necklace.Chiefs often carried sticks with carved woodenheads as staffs of office.

Clothing for married women consisted of a largepleated leather skirt. The hair was also worn in adistinctive fashion: a small circular patch was teasedout, coloured with red ochre and the head shavedround it. This is the origin of some of theextravagant headdresses which can be seen amongmarried women in Zululand today. Unmarriedgirls wore a fringe of brown strings low on their hips,or a small leather skirt. Minimal as this was, italways seemed to protect their modesty, as severalBritish officers commented to their chagrin.

Most Zulus loved to ornament themselves. Beforethe 1840s beads were the prerogative of animportant few, but with the arrival of Europeantraders they became very common. Both men andwomen wore them, particularly unmarried girls,who wore them in strings around the arms and legsand slung around the body. Ingots of brass, perhapstraded from the Portuguese in the north, wereworked to produce highly-prized heavy rings, wornaround the neck and arms. Both sexes pierced theirears and wore large plugs in the lobes. These weremade of ivory, bone, clay and later of sugar-cane.Men often carried snuff-spoons in their ears, ortucked into their headrings. Such spoons weredished at one end and tapered to a point at theother—sometimes two or three such points—whichwere used to scratch the head. The snuff itself wascarried in gourds, horns, or wooden containers froma thong around the neck.

Witchcraft and WarfareThe Nguni lived in great dread of the evil effect ofwitchcraft, and often wore magical charms —necklaces with special blocks of wood and poucheswith magical medicine—to ward off evil. Ifsomeone had an accident, or was injured by a wildanimal or in war, they would turn to the inyanga, amedical doctor who carried a wide range of herbal

A Zulu man carrying a knobkerry; note the twisted-fur loinflap, and the headring marking his status as a married man.(Radio Times Hulton Picture Library)

remedies and poultices which were often effective.If, however, the problem was beyond the skill of theinyanga, it was thought to be the work ofabathakathi—wizards—who could only be identifiedby the isangoma, or diviner.

The Nguni believed that ancestral spiritswatched over their everyday lives, and thatmisfortunes were either the result of spirits beingoffended, or of witchcraft. The isangoma was able to

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decide these matters. Ancestral spirits could usuallybe propitiated by sacrificing a beast, but wizardswould have to be "smelt out" in a grim ceremony.Both men and women could be isangomas, butwomen were thought to have particularly acutepowers. They wore their hair in braids, and weredressed in bizarre costumes, slung around withmagical charms; they carried gnus' tails as thebadge of their profession. At a smelling-out

A Zulu man dressing a friend's hair. Both wear the isicocoheadring of married men; the one on the left has shaved hishead all round the ring, the one on the right has grown the hairbelow the ring but shaved the crown—both common 19th-century styles. This picture may date from c.1865. (KillieCampbell Africana Library)

ceremony the suspects would sit chanting in a circlewhilst the isangoma danced and capered aroundthem. At last, she would strike one with the gnu'stail. This was an accusation which brooked nodefence, since even an innocent man might bepossessed by abathakathi without his knowledge; andthe penalty was a gruesome death. A sharpenedstick about 18 in. long was driven into the victim'sanus. This was the Nguni judicial sanction extreme;ordinary criminal cases were tried before a chief,and a fine in cattle was the usual penalty, althoughserious offenders might be clubbed to death.

Until the 19th century warfare in Zululand wasinfrequent and largely bloodless. When disputes did

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arise, often over grazing rights, the combatantswould meet at an appointed time and place, withthe women and children turning out to watch.Individual warriors would step out and challengerivals from the opposing forces to individualcombat. Amidst much jeering and cheering, spearswould be thrown, and a few casualties sustained.One side would eventually withdraw. It seemslikely that, with plenty of unclaimed pasture, adefeated clan could simply move on to find newlands. However, by the late 18th century the

Two married women, probably of King Mpande's court,sketched by Angas; they wear the traditional marriedwoman's long skirt, but not the top-knot of hair alsoassociated with this status. The baskets and gourds are typicalZulu utensils. (British Museum)

population was such that Zululand was becomingcongested, and it was no longer possible for clans tohave access to good grazing all the year round.Historians still argue the point today, but it seemslikely that this competition for natural resourceswas the cause of the shattering violence which wasto follow.

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Shaka and'The Crushing'

The Zulus played little part in this early conflict;they were a minor clan living between two morepowerful neighbours, the Mthethwa of KingDingiswayo to the south-east, and the Ndwandweof King Zwide to the north. Oral tradition has itthat Dingiswayo was a wise and just ruler andZwide a treacherous despot; this may be a case ofhistory being interpreted by the victors, but Zwidedoes seem to have been the more ruthless, attackingand subduing his northern neighbours.

Then history introduced a new factor, with all

the elements of a dark fairy-story. Sometime in 1786Chief Senzangakhona of the Zulu met a maiden ofthe eLangeni clan named Nandi, when she wasfetching water by a pool. They became lovers; but,when Nandi became pregnant, the Zulu chiefsadvisors sent her away, saying she was harbouringan i-shaka, an intestinal parasite. When she wassubsequently delivered of a son Nandi called himShaka. Senzangakhona was resentful of theresponsibility forced upon him, and soon found areason to drive Nandi and her son away. Theyended up among the Mthethwa, where Shaka grewto manhood, and duly enlisted in the Mthethwaarmy.

It was customary for youths of about 17 to bebanded together into guilds, called amabutho (sing.ibutho), for the ceremonies attendant upon the onsetof manhood. The amabutho were required to performduties for the chief, and Dingiswayo used these agegroup guilds as a basis for military units. Shakajoined the Mthethwa iziCwe ibutho, and seems tohave found an outlet for his personal frustrations inbattlefield aggression. He was not, however,impressed by the style of warfare then practised—hepreferred to charge down upon his enemy andengage him in hand-to-hand combat. He found thelight throwing spears too flimsy for this purpose,and designed his own broad-bladed spear for closecombat. It had a blade about 18 in. long by 1½ in.wide, set into a stout haft 30 in. long. With typicalgallows humour, he called it iklwa—the sound it wassaid to make on being withdrawn from a deep bodythrust.

Shaka's reputation as a ferocious warrior drewhim to Dingiswayo's attention, so much so thatwhen Senzangakhona died in 1816 the Mthethwachief put Shaka forward as his candidate for theZulu throne. The legitimate heir was discreetlydisposed of.

Shaka called up all the available fighting men—atotal of perhaps 400—whom he organised into fourregiments grouped according to age, thus complet-ing the militarisation of the amabutho system. Theywere armed with copies of the iklwa, and given new,large war shields, called isihlangu, which covered

A young Zulu man with his hair shaped into a fantastic crestwith clay and tallow—an extreme example of a commonpractice. He also wears a snuff-spoon through his piercedearlobe, and snuff containers round his neck. S. Bourquin,

1 0

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them from shoulder to ankle. It had been customaryfor men to wear hide sandals: Shaka consideredthese awkward and ordered his men to discardthem; to harden their feet they were required tostamp flat heaps of thorn-bush.

The warriors were trained in a new tacticalformation, the i'mpondo zankhomo, or 'beast's horns'.One body, the isifuba or 'chest', rushed down on theenemy in a frontal assault, whilst flanking parties,the izimpondo or 'horns', rushed out on either side tosurround them. A further body, the "loins', was keptin reserve. When they reached the enemy thewarriors were supposed to hook the left edge of theirshield over the edge of their opponent's, and wrenchto the left. This dragged the opponent's shield acrosshis own body, throwing him off balance, andpreventing him from using his own spear arm; italso exposed the left side of his body to the Zuluiklwa.

Shaka tried out his new army on his neighbour-ing clans. It was brutally effective. The Zulus hadbegun their rapid and ruthless rise, a period stillknown as mfecane—'the crushing'.

Gqokli HillThe sudden emergence of a new power allied to theMthethwa on his very border was a problem forZwide of the Ndwandwe. In 1818 he collected anarmy and moved against Shaka. In less than twoyears Shaka's army had grown to perhaps 4,000; itwas heavily outnumbered by a Ndwandwe host of8,000 to 10,000, but the Zulu had superior trainingand weapons.

Shaka took up a position on a rocky knoll knownas kwaGqokli, which crested a spur running downto the White Mfolozi River. A jumble of bouldersand coarse grass, Gqokli is a tough climb; and aslight shoulder on the summit provides a depression,out of sight from the lower slopes, in which Shakacould hide his reserves. The battle took place sometime in April 1818, and began with Shakaattempting to reduce the odds. Small parties ofZulus defended the river crossing, disrupting theNdwandwe approach, and a large herd of cattle wasused to lure further enemy troops away fromGqokli. The Ndwandwe commander then triedrepeated frontal attacks on Shaka's warriors, whowere drawn up in lines around the summit ofGqokli. These were unsuccessful; the Ndwandwe,

still wearing sandals, still throwing their spears,were taken aback by the fierce close-quartercombat of the Zulus. Finally, the Ndwandweformed up into a column and attempted to punch ahole through the Zulu lines. With perfect timing,Shaka unleashed his hidden reserves, who streamedout to surround the Ndwandwe column, smashingit in a few minutes' brutal mélée. The Ndwandwearmy began to disintegrate and, although a runningfight developed which lasted most of the day, theNdwandwe finally withdrew.

An inyanga, or practitioner of traditional medicine. He carrieshis remedies in an assortment of horns, gourds and othercontainers slung around his neck and in the bag in his hand.Izinyanga used natural medicines with a degree of success,aided by the faith of their patients. (Brian Maggs)


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An isangoma or diviner of supernatural phenomena. Althoughthere are suggestions of European influence in her dress, thispicture does convey something of the isangoma's intimidatingappearance. The braided hair, inflated bladders in theheaddress, and above all the gnu's tail in her right hand are alltraditional badges of her calling. (Royal Engineers Museum)

Gqokli hill was the supreme vindication of thenew Zulu tactics; and in the immediate aftermathShaka consolidated his position by snapping upfurther clans. A prize plum fell into his lap whenDingiswayo mounted his own campaign against theNdwandwe, only to fall into Zwide's hands and beput to death. In an ironic reversal of the tacticwhich had brought him to power, Shaka quicklyput forward his own candidate for the Mthethwathrone, and absorbed Dingiswayo's former empire.This was too much for Zwide, who reorganised histroops along Zulu lines, and made an all-out bid tocrush the Zulu upstart.

The Second Zulu Ndwandwe War of 1819 was a

turning point in the history of Zululand and,indeed, of black South Africa. The Zulu were oncemore heavily outnumbered, and Shaka chose toretire before the Ndwandwe advance, taking hiscattle with him and emptying grain stores. Since allNguni armies lived off the land, this caused seriousproblems for the Ndwandwe. After a week offruitlessly chasing the Zulus through some of themost rugged parts of the country, the Ndwandwebegan to retire. As they crossed the fords of the.Umhlatuze River, Shaka launched his attack. Thefighting raged over a wide area, and at the end of itthe Ndwandwe were smashed. His kingdomshattered, Zwide himself escaped with part of theclan and settled in the eastern Transvaal district.Those who remained behind were killed by Shaka,or incorporated into the Zulu state; sections of theNdwandwe army which survived in cohesive unitsfled to the north, where their commanders wereable to cane out small empires of their own.

The destruction of the Ndwandwe removed thelargest obstacle to Shaka's power. He turned hisattention to clans living on his western and southernborders. In a series of campaigns between 1819 and1824 he dislodged powerful groups living in theDrakensberg foothills and south of the TugelaRiver. Many were completely wiped out; otherswere driven over the mountains into the interior, orto the south. Some, chiefs like Mzilikazi of theKhumalo, and Matiwane of the Hlubi, becamerootless marauders on the high veld, attacking allthey came across. Others ended up as refugeesamongst the Mpondo and Xhosa tribes on thefringes of the British Cape Colony. Large tracts ofland were completely depopulated.

At the centre of it all, the new Zulu state went farbeyond anything Zwide or Dingiswayo hadenvisaged. The clans incorporated into the Zulustate retained their identity but their chiefs weresubordinate to Shaka, who often killed off thelegitimate ruler and raised up a junior member ofhis family, who therefore owed his position directlyto Shaka. Nguni chiefs were traditionally advisedby a council called the ibandla, consisting of theizikhulu, or 'great ones' of the nation. Importantclans within the Zulu state had representativeswithin the ibandla, but visitors to Shaka's court werehorrified at the regularity with which Shaka had hisadvisers killed: they may not always have been men


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of the highest rank, but it was a brave man on thetbandla who would question the king's policies. Theeffect was to take power out of the hands of thetraditional chiefs and invest it in the state. Militaryand civil state officials were called izinduna (sing.induna), and were appointed by Shaka himself.There was an element of meritocracy in this—evencommoners could become izinduna if, for example,their skill in war brought them to Shaka's notice.

Army OrganisationI he army was a crucial element in the system. It isdifficult to arrive at reliable figures for the strengthof Shaka's army, but if it was 400 in 1816, 4,000 in1818, and a maximum of about 15,000 when thegreat phase of expansion ended in 1824, its rapidgrowth is evident. The amabutho continued to beorganised on an age basis, with youths of the sameage being recruited from all the clans across thecountry. This reduced the risk, in such aconglomerate kingdom, of too many men from thesame clan dominating a regiment, and being apotential source of dissent. Each ibutho was between600 and 1,500 strong, and they were quartered inbarracks known as amakhanda (sing, ikhanda),literally 'heads', which were strategically placedabout the kingdom to act as centres for thedistribution of royal authority. The amakhandathemselves were civilian homesteads writ large:there was a circle of huts around a central openspace which served both to contain the regiment'scattle and as a parade ground. They weresurrounded by a stockade, sometimes a formidablebarrier consisting of two rows of stakes leaninginwards so as to cross at the top, with the gap inbetween filled with thorn-bush. At the top of eachikhanda was a fenced-off section known as theisigodlo, where the king or his representatives wouldlive when in residence. Each regiment had its owninduna appointed by the king. In some cases femalemembers of the king's family were placed in chargeof amakhanda.

In Shaka's time the vast majority of warriorswere unmarried. This had less to do withchannelling warriors' frustrated sexual energies intomilitary aggression (as the Victorians suggested)than with maintaining control over military-resources. Whilst unmarried the warriors were, ineffect, subject to whatever national service the king

might dictate: when they married they wereallowed to disperse, establish their own homesteads,and give their first allegiance to their families andclan chiefs. By prolonging bachelorhood artificially,Shaka kept his army at full strength. This was not asuncomfortable for the warriors as it may seem, asZulu moral codes provided perfectly acceptableoutlets for sex outside marriage.

As unmarried men with no resources of theirown, the warriors were dependent on the king'sbounty. The vast numbers of cattle looted in Zuluraids were the property of the state, but the kingquartered them with his regiments, who wereallowed to use their milk products. Morale withinthe Zulu army was extremely high: the common ageof the warriors, their extremely successful record,and the terror this inspired among neighbouring

The only contemporary portrait of King ShakakaSenzangakhona, sketched by one of the Europeans who firstvisited his court. His appearance has been somewhatromanticised—note the size of the spear, and its elaboratehead—but does tally in basic particulars with otherdescriptions. (Killie Campbell Africana Library)

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In a scene reconstructed with some accuracy for the TV dramaseries 'Shaka Zulu', Shaka trains members of ChiefDingiswayo's iziCwe regiment in the use of his newly-inventedstabbing spear; note the combined use of the shield with anunder-arm spear thrust. (SABC/Emil Wessels)

peoples, combined with the material benefits—interms of gifts of cattle—which proceeded from asuccessful expedition, all led to a high esprit de corps.Since the amabutho looked to the king for patronage,this further strengthened the position of Shakahimself.

Organisationally each ibutho was divided into twowings, led by izinduna, and sub-divided intocompanies, amaviyo. Each iviyo numbered roughly50 men. In addition, some regiments were partiallydivided into isigaba—groups of amaviyo who wereparticularly associated with each other for onereason or another. When the king established a newibutho and granted it a herd of cattle, he would selectbeasts with a particular uniformity of hides. Fromthese would be made the war shields, and eachregiment therefore had its own distinctive shieldcolour. War shields were the property of the state,not the individual; kept in raised stores in eachikhanda, they were issued at the start of eachcampaign. The isihlangu shield might be as much as50 in. long and 30 in. wide, individual warriorspicking out shields which suited their personalheight. In Shaka's time the shield colours weremeticulously adhered to, the difference betweenparticular colours often being quite subtle: e.g., anihwanqa shield was black with white patches all over

it. while the impunga shield was the same, but thepatches were less clearly distinct. In general themost senior regiments carried white shields, and theyoungest black, with all grades for regiments inbetween, although dun-coloured, red and grey(black and white hairs intermixed) were alsocarried.

War regaliaEach regiment also had its own uniform of feathersand furs. The bushy parts of cows' tails (amashoba)were worn in such profusion as to almost cover thebody completely. They were worn in densebunches, suspended from a necklace, falling to the

Shaka's 'tactical edge': the Zulu stabbing spear, iklwa. Theexact specifications varied, although these are typical. Thetang fitted into the bored haft and was secured by glue andbindings. (Author's collection)

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waist at the front and the knees at the back. Theywere worn around the elbows and knees, andsometimes from the wrists and ankles. A kilt made ofgolden civet and green samango monkey pelts,carefully twisted together to resemble tails, wasworn over the ordinary umutsha by some seniorregiments. A headband called umqhele was worn:made of leopardskin for junior regiments, andotterskin for senior ones, it was stitched into a tube,stuffed, and neatly tied at the back of the head.Oblong earflaps of samango skin for most warriorsbut occasionally of leopardskin, hung down eitherover the cheeks, or sometimes on either side of theback of the head. On to this basis were fixed theplumes granted to each individual ibutho.

There is very little direct surviving evidencerelating to specific Shakan regiments, but certainconventions were followed. Young regiments, forexample, usually wore the long grey tail feathers ofthe sakabuli bird. These were either worn in a densebunch, attached to a plaited grass framework whichfitted on to the top of the head; or in plumes oneither side of the head, tied to quills and tuckedinside the headband, so that the plumes pointed outand back. Blue crane feathers were a sign ofseniority, worn either at the front of the head, or inones and twos on either side. The young regimentsoften wore amaphovela, a grotesque headdressconsisting of two stiff horns of cowhide standingupright above the temples, the bottoms sticking outbelow the headband, and with either small tufts or

King Dingane's residence, emGungundhlovu, partially recon-structed as a set for lShaka Zulu'. The original complex had alarger circumference and an inner palisade, but this does givea fair impression of the appearance of an ikhanda.

whole cowtails attached to the tips, the latter fallingback down the head. Ostrich plumes were worn ingreat profusion at the front, back or sides,sometimes sticking out at all angles. Theblack/white imagery was continued, young regi-ments having more black ostrich feathers, seniorones more white. In addition, the king might grantparticular plumes to regiments who distinguishedthemselves, and small bunches of the scarlet feathersof the lourie bird were given as rewards for braveryto individual warriors. Other similar symbols ofbravery were a necklace of interlocking woodenbeads, and ingxotha—a brass armband, rather likethe cuff of a gauntlet, worn around the rightforearm.

Theoretically, each warrior was supposed toprovide his own uniform, and if it was not up toscratch he was likely to be mocked and thrashed byhis fellows. In practice, however, the hugeexpansion of the army during the mfecane faroutstripped the capacity of Zululand's wildlife tocostume it, and feathers and pelts were obtainedeither as tribute or by trading with other parts ofsouthern Africa, notably Thongaland in the north-east. There is a certain amount of evidence tosuggest that in Shaka's time a good deal of thiscostume was worn into battle; the more expensive

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and fragile items would probably have been left athome in the ikhanda. however.

Shaka's personal war dress is said to haveconsisted of a kilt of civet and monkey skins, with acollar of the same material, and white cow tailsaround the elbows and knees. Around his headringhe wore a headband of otterskin into which weretucked bunches of lourie feathers tied to thorns. Atthe front he wore a single long crane feather. Hisshield was white, with one black spot on the centreright face.

A young Zulu warrior, photographed in the 19th century; thebulk of Shaka's warriors were unmarried men such as this.This man is probably not a member of the Zulu king's army,and wears no regimental regalia, although his shield is aboutthe right size and is appropriately coloured black. (S.Bourquin)

The army on campaignBefore a regiment set out on campaign it wasdoctored by an isangoma who specialised inpreparations for war. The warriors would besprinkled with magic potions, and required to chewa piece of meat which had been specially prepared.Often they had to drink a potion which made themvomit. The intention was to bind them together andmake them invulnerable to enemy weapons. Theking might call up two regiments, and order them tochallenge one another to see who would excel in thecoming fight. Warriors would step out from theranks and giya—proclaim their own virtues, act outtheir past deeds of valour, and challenge warriorsknown to them in the rival regiment; bets wouldeven be laid. After the fight, Shaka would call upthe same regiments, and the challenges would berecalled, though the bets were not called in. Thosewho had particularly distinguished themselveswould be rewarded, and those accused of cowardiceexecuted.

When an army set out on campaign it began in asingle column, but then split into several columns.As it neared enemy territory it sent out an advanceguard of men from each regiment, who made noattempt to conceal themselves but acted asaggressively as possible, hoping to convince theenemy that they were the main body. They werepreceded by a screen of scouts who did concealthemselves, and who were expected to note everydetail of the enemy's movements. Shaka's militaryintelligence system was renowned for its efficiency.Once the enemy was spotted, the army (or impi, thename for any body of armed men) was formed intoan umkhumbi, or circle, and given final instructionsfor the attack. For most of his reign Shakaaccompanied his armies in person, and wasundoubtedly the most able commander of hisgeneration. Once the attack had been launched theZulu commanders watched the battle, from highground, issuing orders by runner or hand signals; bythis stage, however, it was usually very difficult torecall an attacking force.

After the battle was over there were certainceremonies to perform. Any man who killedanother in battle was required to disembowel thecorpse of his victim. This was not gratuitousmutilation: it was believed that the spirit of a deadwarrior was in his stomach, and if it was not released


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he would haunt his slayer, visiting all manner ofmisfortune upon him until he eventually drove himmad. It must be admitted, however, that thetension of combat was sometimes vented on enemydead. The victorious warrior was also supposed todress himself in the clothing of his fallen opponent,and wear it until he had performed certaincleansing ceremonies at his personal umuzi- For thisreason Zulu armies often disbanded after asuccessful battle, and there was a limit to theprolonged campaigning which even Shaka couldmake them endure.

Provisioning the army was another problem. Atthe start of the campaign the warriors wereaccompanied by udibi—boys too young to fight—who were allocated to individual warriors, oftenrelatives, as personal servants to carry sleeping matsand food. These boys only accompanied the armyon the first day of march, however, returning totheir homes after that. In Shaka's day this was

An induna or military commander, painted by Angas. Hisshield is smaller than that of the warrior in the backgroundand is probably for dancing rather than for war. He wearsbunches of scarlet and green lourie feathers on either side ofhis head, a badge of rank or distinction. The beads around hisneck suggest a festive occasion. (British Museum)

enough to see the impi beyond the Zulu borders,since Shaka expected his troops to cover up to 50miles a day, and beyond that the impi had to foragefor its own supplies. If Shaka rationalised thissituation at all, he no doubt believed that it wasanother incentive for his amabutho to be successful intheir raiding.

Both the Zulu state and the army were highly-centralised, and needed a dynamic personality attheir head to keep them functioning—especially inthe early years, when there was no inherited weightof tradition. Shaka was certainly dynamic. Thoughmany accounts of his bloodshed have beengrotesquely exaggerated, there is no question thatthe lives of his individual subjects meant nothing tohim, and that he drew no distinction between theinterests of the state and his own personal wishes. Hewaged war to the death; and at his court a flick of hiswrist would consign a man to the executioners forno more weighty crime than making him laughwhen he wanted to be serious, or interrupting hisspeech with a sneeze. He maintained an iron grip onhis empire, and as a general he was unsurpassed;only towards the end of his life did his judgementfalter and his behaviour become increasinglypsychotic.

The Coming of theWhites

On Christmas Day 1497 the Portuguese explorerVasco de Gama noted in his log the existence of astretch of African coastline which he named TerraNatalis in honour of the birth of the Lord; it was tobe over 300 years before there was any furtherEuropean interest in the area, but the area south ofZululand was to remain known as Natal.

The first whites to play a role in Zulu historyarrived at the bay of Port Natal—later Durban—in1824. They were a party of traders, hunters andadventurers led by two ex-Royal Navy lieutenants,James Saunders King and Francis George Farewell;their aims were to explore the commercial potentialof links with the Zulu state. To reach Shaka'skingdom they had to travel through miles ofdepopulated countryside, and when they arrivedthe Zulu king took pains to impress them with the

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One of a remarkable trio of photographs of Chief Ngoza kaLudaba, taken in about 1865. Ngoza was chief of the Majozi, asection of the Chube clan, who broke away during the reign ofKing Mpande and settled in Natal. In this view he wears simpleeveryday costume limited to the umutsha groin-flap. (Af-ricana Museum, Johannesburg)


power and wealth of his kingdom. It is true that thewhites probably played only a very minor role inShaka's affairs; none the less the Zulu king doesseem to have been intrigued by them, grantingthem title to the land around the Port, andquestioning them closely about the British coloniesbeyond the fringes of his own sphere.

Shaka was particularly interested in the Euro-pean way of making war. He was fascinated by the'Brown Bess' muskets carried by the party, andinsisted on a demonstration; when a lucky shot firedby one of the sailors dropped an elephant, he wassuitably impressed. He constantly demanded thatthe whites join him on his expeditions, and onseveral occasions they did so.

They also had the opportunity to witness Shaka'slast clash with the Ndwandwe. In 1826 Zwide'ssuccessor moved down from the Transvaal in anattempt to regain his old lands. Shaka mustered hisarmy and marched north-west, confronting theNdwandwe at Ndolowane Hill. One of the whites'servants was ordered to fire several times into theNdwandwe ranks, after which the Zulus charged.Twice they were repulsed; but at last theNdwandwe gave way, and the Zulus slaughteredthem.

In general, however, Shaka's policy lookedincreasingly southward. He moved his personalcapital from kwaBulawayo ('the place of killing') toDukuza in Natal, and established an ikhanda not farnorth of the Port. In 1828, much to theembarrassment of the whites, he sent a diplomaticmission to the Cape Colony. At the same time hesent his army on a raid which harried the Mpondoon the very fringe of British territory. His exactpurpose is not clear; in any event the mission wascoolly received, and Shaka was angry at its failure.When the army returned he sent it straightaway ona raid to the north.

It was a move that showed uncharacteristic lackof judgement. The army was exhausted, and Shakawas alienating his power-base. The majority of theZulu people were weary of Shaka's increasinglyerratic behaviour and the frequent summarykillings. In September Shaka's half-brothers Din-gane and Mhlangana seized their moment, andpounced on the king as he sat largely unattended,receiving a delegation from another tribe. Theystabbed him to death with the spears of his own

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invention. Dingane immediately seized the throne.When the army returned—defeated for once—itwas relieved to escape Shaka's wrath.

DinganeKing Dingane was very different in character fromhis predecessor, and had different problems tocontend with. He lacked Shaka's zest for militaryexpansion, and his reign was characterised by aneed to keep together the state system which, underShaka, had not had time to mature. The firstproblem was securing his own position. Personalfavourites of Shaka were killed, and Dingane re-organised the army. Several of Shaka's amabuthowere allowed to marry and disperse, and theremnants of others were re-organised into newregiments. Dingane then called up youths of an

appropriate age and started enrolling new regi-ments dependent on his personal patronage.Initially he did not send his army on campaign; butthe defection of a large section of the nation, theQwabe clan of Chief Nqetho, who simply crossedthe Tugela and fled to the south of Natal, persuadedhim to adopt a more aggressive policy towards hisneighbours. The Ndebele (Matabele)—an em-bryonic state under construction in the Transvaalunder the leadership of Mzilikazi, a refugee fromShaka—particularly attracted Dingane's attention,although fighting was inconclusive.

Natal was another problem. The originalEuropean settlers had either died or moved on, but

Ngoza in full regalia, with young warriors. Although not theuniform of an ibutho of the Zulu king's army, since the clanhad split away, this does show many characteristic items ofZulu 'full dress'—note the amaphovela and isakabuli feathersin the young warriors' headdresses. The size of the largerisihlangu shields is very evident here. (Africana Museum,Johannesburg)


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they had been replaced by an increasing group—mostly elephant hunters—who proved quarrelsomeand scheming. Dingane wished to remain on goodterms with whites, but watched with apprehensionas once-empty Natal began to fill up with blacks—survivors of Shaka's raids returning to their lands,and political refugees fleeing from Zululand. Thesepeople placed themselves under white protection,and formed the nucleus of a black population hostileto Zululand on its very borders. This was a situationwhich ultimately undermined the absolute auth-ority of the Zulu monarch, since it sapped his army'sstrength and gave a safe refuge for dissidents.

Indeed, it was from Natal that the threat toDingane's kingdom was to come, but it came froman unexpected source: the arrival of a new group ofwhites—the Boers.

The Boers, or Afrikaners, were descendants ofDutch, French and German settlers at the Capewho, in the 30 years following the Britishoccupation in 1805, had become so disgruntledunder British rule that they were prepared to leave.In 1834 a reconnaissance party had reported that

Ngoza in war dress, with members of a senior ibutho; note theheadrings, padded otterskin headbands, and single cranefeathers worn by these middle-aged warriors. These photosare probably virtually unique as a record of the appearance ofauthentic Zulu regimental costume of the period. (RadioTimes Hulton Picture Library)

Natal was excellent cattle country and largelyunder-populated; in the mid-1830s Boer familiespacked their possessions into ox-wagons and beganthe movement known as the Great Trek. In 1836they did what Dingane had failed to do—theydrove Mzilikazi out of the Transvaal. In 1837 someof them crossed the Drakensberg and set uptemporary camps in the Natal foothills.

Their arrival disturbed Dingane. There is littledoubt that he felt their huge herds, military skill inAfrican warfare, and lack of respect for native chiefswere a serious threat to the stability of his kingdom.Dingane entered into negotiations with the Trekkerleader Piet Retief, and finally agreed to cede himpart of Natal. But when Retief and 70 of hisunarmed followers attended Dingane's residence atemGungundhlovu on 6 February 1838 for acelebratory dance, Dingane suddenly leapt to hisfeet and cried out 'Slay the wizards!' The Trekkerswere overpowered and dragged to Dingane's placeof execution, where they were clubbed andimpaled.

The next day Dingane mustered his army anddespatched it against the Boer encampments inNatal under the command of Ndlela kaSompisi ofthe Ntuli clan, one of the men who had risenthrough the ranks of Shaka's army. The subsequentcampaign was a crucial test for the Zulu army: for

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A fascinating photograph, apparently taken early in the 20th uniform. The two on the outside have bunches of isakabulicentury; the original caption unfortunately does not record the feathers on top of their heads; the rest have large bunches ofoccasion, but this may well be a group of surviving veterans of lourie feathers on either side. The man in the centre is clearly aKing Cetshwayo's army. The warriors in the centre have chief, and carries a staff, as well as a small bag of magicalsimilar headdresses and shields, suggesting an old ibutho charms with his shield. (Brian Maggs)

the first time it would have to face firearms in largequantities. The Boers had perfected offensive tacticsinvolving firing from horseback, and the defensivecircle of wagons known as the laager. The Zulus,however, consistently refused to be overawed byguns, and commanders such as Ndlela showed greattactical ingenuity in countering Trekker tactics.

The Zulu attack fell upon the foremostencampments on the Bushmans and BloukranzRivers on the night of 16/17 February. Dawn wasthe traditional time for a Zulu attack—it caught theenemy unawares, when the spirits are lowest, yetgave sufficient light to direct the attack. On thisOccasion it is probable that this practice wasabandoned in the hope of catching the Boersunprepared, when they could not use their gunseffectively. The night attacks were partiallysuccessful: the leading Boer parties were wiped out.but survivors escaped in the confusion and wereable to warn camps further back. Several put up a

spirited defence and drove the Zulus off. Even so,the Boers lost nearly 300 of their men, women andchildren dead, and a further 200 of their servants.The Zulus also took most of their cattle.

Yet the attack had failed in its purpose of drivingout the Trekkers, and Dingane no doubt realised acounter-attack was inevitable. When it came,however, it proved surprisingly easy to repulse. On6 April a party of 347 mounted men led by PietUys and Hendrick Potgeiter set out towardsemGungundhlovu; four days later they spotted ahuge herd of cattle near eThaleni Mountain, andadvanced to round it up. It was a trap: as many as6,000 Zulus, concealed in long grass and on nearbyheights, swept down, scattering the Boer forces andkilling Uys himself.

For the British traders at Port Natal the warproved a dilemma. Dingane had sent themmessages assuring them he meant no harm, but theyfelt morally obliged to side with fellow whites. They

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Young warriors step out from the ranks of their regiment togiya—proclaim their own praises, and boast of the feats theywill perform in the coming battle—part of the ceremony ofmustering the Zulu army for war. (Author's collection)

were also tempted by the possibility of looting someof Dingane's cattle. In April, therefore, 18 of thesettlers raised an army of around 4,000 Natalblacks, and crossed into Zululand in support of theTrekkers. They got as far as the ikhanda of'Ndondakasuka on the Zulu side of the Tugelawhen, on 10 April, they ran into a Zulu impi. Manyof the Natal levies were armed with rifles, and thebattle raged back and forth: but at last one flank ofthe settler army collapsed, and the Zulus were ableto complete their encircling movement and drivethe settlers back, pinning them against the river.Only four settlers escaped, and hundreds of theirlevies were killed. The Zulus followed up theirsuccess with a raid which swept through Natal,destroying the whites' huts at the Port. So far, intheir first conflict with whites, the Zulus werewinning hands down.

The tide turned in August. Dingane made onemore attempt to exterminate the Boer camps in theDrakensberg foothills. By now most of the Trekkerfamilies had collected in a large laager of over 200wagons on the Bushmans River. Between 13 and 15August as many as 10,000 Zulus repeatedlyattacked the position. On one occasion they usedthe cover of a donga, a dry watercourse, to advance

within a few yards and fling throwing spears overthe wagons into the laager. Shaka had outlawedthrowing spears, but Dingane had re-introducedthem apparently in an attempt to counter Boerfirepower. Since a spear could be thrown with someaccuracy for up to 50 yards, while an average rifle ofthe time was not very effective beyond 100 yards,there was some logic in this. On another occasionthe Zulus tried to set fire to the wagons with spearswrapped in burning straw. These attempts wereuniformly unsuccessful, however, and the Zuluswere eventually forced to retreat.

Blood RiverIn November 1838 a new leader, Andries Pretorius,joined the Boer laagers, and the Trekkers went on tothe offensive. Pretorius organised a commando" ofaround 470 whites and 340 black or Colouredservants, accompanied by 64 wagons and at leasttwo small cannon, and set out on 3 December. Onthe 14th they ran into a Zulu advanced guard; onthe 15th they drew up in a laager on the banks of theNcome River. The site of the laager was carefullychosen, so that one side was protected by the riverand another by a donga which flowed into it.Wooden gates were used to block the gaps betweeneach wagon, and the horses and oxen were broughtwithin the circle. Lanterns were tied to whip-stocksand raised over the wagons to hinder any Zuluattack under cover of darkness.


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They attacked at dawn. In fact, daylight caughtNdlela with his force divided. He had to cross theNcome to attack the laager, but while his left hornwas in position, the chest and right horn were stilldrawn up on the hills overlooking the Zulu bank.The left horn was supposed to remain out of musketrange until the rest of the army had crossed, but assoon as the light was clear they rose to their feet andcharged. A few yards from the wagons they weremet with a heavy volley, and forced to retire. Theytried the same manoeuvre several times withoutsuccess. Bodies of warriors then broke away tooccupy the deep donga, where they could mass onlya few yards from the wagons. Pretorius ordered asally, which lined the lip of the donga and fired downinto the Zulus, who were too cramped to reply withtheir spears. Ndlela finally managed to get his chestand right horn across the river; but it was impossibleto control them, and the regiments fritteredthemselves away in unco-ordinated attacks. At lastthe Boers rode out and chased them from the field.The Zulu reserve tried to restore the situation, butthe Boers caught them as they crossed the drifts. Somany Zulus were forced into the river that itbecame choked with corpses and stained blood-red.The Ncome has been known as Blood River ever

since.The defeat at Blood River was a catastrophe for

Dingane, but it did not destroy the Zulu state.Pretorius advanced to emGungundhlovu and

A selection of throwing spears. Outlawed by Shaka, these werere-introduced during the reign of Dingane, perhaps becausethey offered a potential counter—however inadequate—toBoer musketry. The three in the centre date from the 1879 war.(Author's collection)

found it in flames, the king fled. The bodies ofRetief's men still lay on the hill of execution, and thetreaty ceding Natal was found in Retief's wallet.When a party from the commando tried to roundup cattle beyond the White Mfolozi on 27December it walked into a repetition of theeThaleni trap, and only just escaped.

The Voortrekkers withdrew, and opened ne-gotiations with Dingane to end the war. TheTrekker terms were that Dingane should abandonsouthern Zululand and move north. This he agreedto do, and even sent his eMbelebele regiment to


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build a new homestead in what is now southernSwaziland: the Swazi, however, resisted, andDingane's plan was frustrated. His final downfallcame about when his half-brother Mpandedefected to the Boers with a large section of thearmy. Mpande had been thought a harmlesssimpleton, but this facade hid a shrewd politicalmind. The Trekkers agreed to acknowledgeMpande king of the Zulus, and to provide militarysupport, in return for peace and land in Natal.

In fact, the Boers took little part in thesubsequent fighting. Mpande's army confrontedDingane in the Maqongqo Hills in northernZululand. Though the Boers were hardly engaged,their presence was enough to give Mpande theedge, and Dingane was defeated. He fled with a fewloyal retainers to the territory of Chief Sambane ofthe small Nyawo clan. In a fit of rage, he had Ndlelakilled for losing the battle. Dingane did not long

The arrival of the Boers in the 1830s brought a technologicalchallenge which the Zulus were not equipped to meet. Thecombined use of horse and gun, and the defensive wagonlaager, proved difficult to overcome. This is the reconstructedlaager on the battlefield of Blood River. (Author's collection)

survive him—Sambane conspired with the Swazisto have him killed. The exact details of his death areuncertain, but one story has it that he was set uponone morning as he crawled out of his hut. This wasin March 1840; on 10 February Pretorious hadalready proclaimed Mpande king of the Zulus.

Mpande andCetshwayo, 1840-1878Both the personality and reign of King Mpandehave been much misunderstood. It is true that hewas vain, and enjoyed the pleasures of his court life,but Mpande's apparent indolence concealed thedeep political perception of a born survivor. Hehad, after all, remained alive under both Shaka andDingane, when so many of his family had beenassassinated as potential rivals. He was to rule forover 30 years—longer than the other kings puttogether—and to die a natural death. He not onlymanaged to hold the kingdom together in the

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King Mpande kaSenzangakhona: a famous portrait by Angaswhich captures the king's deceptively indolent appearance. Onhot days his attendants would hold a shield to protect him

from the sun. Note the ingxotha on Mpande's right arm.British Museum)


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A group of warriors photographed at King Cetshwayo's'coronation' in 1873. Several regiments are represented, andthe men seem to be wearing war dress—a simplified form ofceremonial regalia—and carrying the umbhumbhuluzoshield. (Killie Campbell Africana Library)

aftermath of the Trekker and civil wars, butconsolidated its position during years of menacefrom growing European colonies on its borders.

The two years of conflict between 1838 and 1840were a disaster for the Zulu kingdom. The dead andwounded amounted to several thousands, and thearmy was shattered by the civil war. Individualchiefs had exacted a high price in personal power inexchange for supporting Mpande, and many whowere dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Zululandmoved to Natal. In addition, the Boers took 30,000head of cattle as the price of their help in defeatingDingane, and laid claim to land as far as the BlackMfolozi—two-thirds of the kingdom itself. For-tunately, in 1842 Britain decided to exercise itsclaim to Natal; after a sharp fight at Port Natal theTrekkers withdrew for the most part to theTransvaal, and their claims to Zulu territorylapsed. The southern borders of the kingdombecame accepted as the Tugela and Buffalo Rivers.

Nevertheless, the reign of Mpande. and to someextent that of his son Cetshwayo, were marked byan attempt to re-establish the central authority ofthe Zulu state. Mpande's position was precarious,since he needed the support of the izikhulu, the greatchiefs who made up the ibandla council, and couldno longer afford to intimidate them as Shaka haddone. Although the king continued to exercise thepower of life and death over his subjects, the more


despotic elements of Zulu kingship were gone forgood.

Natal posed an ever-increasing threat to Zulusecurity. From the depopulated wastelands wit-nessed by Farewell in Shaka's day, the blackpopulation of Natal had grown to 100,000 by 184.5,and 305,000 by 1872. In the 1850s as many as 4,000a year were leaving Zululand. When, in 1843,Mpande tried to consolidate his position byattacking rival members of his own household, anaunt, Mawa, simply fled to Natal with 3,000 of herfollowers. Why were they leaving? Some, likeMawa, were fleeing the king's justice; but manywent because, with the increase in the numbers ofwhites in Natal seeking workers, life there offeredmore potential for cattle and wives than the Zuluarmy. In the 1850s one estimate put the totalstrength of Mpande's amabutho as low as 6,000.Nevertheless, the king patiently revised the statesystem and gradually rebuilt his authority.

This process suffered a set-back in the 1850s.Mpande, unlike his predecessors, had a number ofsons, but was unwilling to weaken his own positionby naming his successor. His eldest son, Cetshwayo.had considerable support amongst the izikhulu, butthe king himself favoured his next eldest, Mbuyazi.Both princes had military experience, and werepopular within their respective regiments. Eachbegan courting chiefs and izinduna, and eachdeveloped a faction—the iziGqoza of Mbuyazi, andthe uSuthu of Cetshwayo. The king tried to avoidconflict by keeping the princes at opposite ends ofthe country, but in November 1856 the iziGqoza.

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fled to the Tugela River and Mbuyazi tried toappeal to the Natal authorities for support. It wasnot forthcoming, but the white hunter and traderJohn Dunn offered support in a private capacity.Cetshwayo called together his own supporters and,on 2 December 1856, attacked the iziGqoza at'Ndondakasuka on the banks of the Tugela, not farfrom where the Port Natal settlers had beenmassacred in 1838. John Dunn's party fired volleysat the attacking uSuthu, and Mbuyazi's regimentsput up a stiff fight; but the uSuthu numbersprevailed, and the iziGqoza were pinned againstthe river bank. When the fighting finished thevictorious uSuthu massacred the iziGqoza; as manyas 20,000 were slaughtered. Mbuyazi and several ofMpande's other sons were killed.

The victory at 'Ndondakasuka establishedCetshwayo's claim to the throne beyond doubt.Mpande continued to rule, however, and the nextdecade and a half was marked by shifting internalallegiances. In September or October 1872Mpande finally died and was buried at his royalikhanda at Nodwengu on the Mahlabatini plain.

Cetshwayo persuaded the Colony of Natal torecognise his coronation the following August—support which would cost him dear in due course—but once enthroned he felt able to adopt a morerigorous policy than his father. He refused tonegotiate with the Transvaal Boers over a borderdispute which had been smouldering for ten years,and he tightened his control over the amabutho. Theizikhulu remained powerful, however, and resistedattempts to re-centralise state power; it could, anddid, veto the king's decisions, and the king's

authority over several very powerful chiefs, like hishalf-brother Prince Hamu kaNzibe. and ZibhebhukaMapitha of the Mandhlakazi section, remainedtenuous. These divisions would come to the fore inthe subsequent war of 1879.

The army had changed noticeably since Shaka'sday. The majority of the warriors were no longerrecruited from newly subject clans as in the days ofmilitary expansion, but through natural means. Atthe age of 14 or so each boy was expected to serve asan udibi; and at the age of 17 or 18 they would reportto an ikhanda and kleza—drink milk direct from theudders of the king's cattle—accepting his bounty,and in return offering service to the state. Theyunderwent a period of cadetship, looking after theking's herds and the royal homesteads. When therewere sufficient numbers of them around thekingdom the king would call them together andform them into a new ibutho, ordering them to goand build their own ikhanda at a specified location.Occasionally a new regiment would be in-corporated with an old one, or assigned to anexisting barracks. The warriors were not, however,permanently mustered as they had been in Shaka'stime: once the units had been established, warriorswere allowed to spend long periods at home withtheir families while the amakhanda would be caredfor by a skeleton staff. The king would call up aparticular ibutho when he had need of it.

It is important to note that the duties of the

A watercolour by African artist Gerard Bhengu of one of theceremonies of the umkhosi or 'first fruits' festival: the killingof a black bull by warriors of a young ibutho. (Killie CampbellAfricana Library)

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regiments were not, and never had been, purelymilitary, although in Shaka's day there was morethan enough campaigning to keep them busy. Theywere also the state workforce, and were required towork the king's fields, build new homesteads,organise hunts, and partake in the nationalceremonies. The greatest of these was the umkhosi,the 'first fruits' or harvest festival, which took placeevery year in December or January. The kingwould give the order for his army to muster, and theizinduna at the various military centres wouldsummon the warriors in their local areas. If an ibuthohad its headquarters near the king's homestead—Cetshwayo established himself at oNdini, orUlundi. on the other side of the plain from

A shield, white with red spots, from the Thulwana ibutho,taken from King Cetshwayo's residence at Ulundi after thebattle of 1879. (Africana Museum, Johannesburg)

The two types of shield carried by the Zulu army from the1850s: (left) the umbhumbhuluzo (here, 39½ x 19½ in.) and theisihlangu (here, 54 in. x 29 in.); the former lacks its fur crest,which has also been cropped off the edge of the photograph ofthe isihlangu. Both these examples date from 1879. (Author'scollection)


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Nodwengu—it would be expected to muster within24 hours. If not, the warriors would march to thecapital by regimental companies from each district,and form up when there. The king would appointthem a place to camp. The ceremonies themselvesincluded a binding together of the army, in whichwarriors of the youngest regiment present wouldhave to kill a bull with their bare hands. The meatfrom the bull was then butchered and distributedamongst the amabutho.

Mpande had found it impractical to keep hisyoung men unmarried for too long—they weretempted by the easy availability of wives in Natal—so the regiments married earlier. The prized whiteshields, once a symbol of elite unmarried regiments,became synonymous with married men. Indeed,both Mpande and Cetshwayo maintained ama-bandhla amhlope, 'white assemblies', who appear tohave been a compromise between old and newsystems, intended to prolong the active service ofmarried men. These were married men per-manently available to the king but who wereallowed to live with their wives in an ikhanda,though even they were allowed to return to personalhomesteads almost at will. The famous Thulwanaregiment, Mpande's favourite—which had so manymen of rank that it had a section known as theinhlabamasoka, 'the select ones'—was such a regi-ment in Cetshwayo's time, and lived at Ulundiitself.

Cetshwayo had some success in revitalising theamabutho, particularly the youngest regiments whoowed him the greatest personal allegiance. TheiNgobamakhosi, Cetshawyo's favourite, was apalane regiment of unusual size—perhaps as many as6,000 strong. The uVe, formed shortly before thewar in 1879, was 4,000 strong, and incorporatedinto the iNgobamakhosi. The flood of refugees haddwindled, and Cetshwayo cut down on the numberof exceptions allowed to military service; he wastherefore able to increase his army to about 40,000.

Tensions within the army sometimes reflecteddivisions within the state. At the first fruitsceremony in 1878 the Thulwana andiNgobamakhosi clashed, and some 60 warriors werekilled. The fight had been sparked off by grievancesover women taken as wives by a young section of theThulwana, but it is no coincidence that theThulwana were commanded by Hamu kaNzibe,who was widely thought to have resentedCetshwayo's ascendancy.

Another source of military manpower came fromthe abaQulusi, who were unusual in that they wereessentially a regional, rather than age-graderegiment. They were descendants of an ikhanda,emaQulusini, established by Shaka near HlobaneMountain in northern Zululand. who had settled in

A powder horn, apparently taken from a dead Zulu afterRorke's Drift; and (foreground) a wooden snuff container.(Keith Reeves)

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A remarkable pair of photographs, probably taken in 1873,showing a warrior in full regimental regalia. It is not possibleto identify the ibutho, since sources for this period areincomplete and often contradictory. However, the com-ponents of full dress uniform are clearly visible: the extensiveuse of cow tails around the body, the earflaps and headband ofleopardskin, and various plumes of the headdress. The shieldis of the large isihlangu type. (S. Bourquin)

the same area when they dispersed and married.They mustered and fought as a state regiment, andwere fiercely loyal to the king. There are referencesto an ikhanda still in use in the area in 1879.

There were differences, too, in the warriors'armament. In the 1850s Cetshwayo had introduceda new type of war shield amongst the uSuthu.Called umbhumbuluzo, it was about 3½ft long by lessthan 2ft wide. Cetshwayo considered that this waslighter and easier to wield than the isihlangu type.Both types were carried, however, even within thesame regiment. It is possible that the umbhumbuluzotype was more popular with the younger warriors.The colour-coding of the shields, so precise inShaka's time, had become less so by the 1870s. The

overall equation of black with youth and white withexperience remained the same, but the positioningof patches and spots was less exact, and there werefewer variations of type. Although our knowledge ofshield colours in the 1870s is imprecise, there seemto have been no grey or dun colours, and someamabutho seem to have had different shield colourswithin the same regiment—these may havereflected particular sections or companies.

Guns, too, were available to the Zulu army inlarge quantities by Cetshwayo's reign. They hadfirst been taken from the Voortrekkers in the 1830s,and Mpande had tried to obtain them to strengthenhis position against Dingane. When he later becameking he demanded guns from white traders in anattempt to compensate for the weakness of his army.Gun-running from Natal was officially frownedupon, but did take place. It was a common practicefor European powers to dump obsolete arms on theunsophisticated native market, and Africa had aninexhaustible demand. In the aftermath of the

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Napoleonic Wars thousands of old 'Brown Bess'muskets bearing the Tower mark were sold cheaplyin Africa, and with each new weapon that came intoservice the old makes would be sold off. The Zuluswell appreciated their significance: after 'Ndonda-kasuka, John Dunn made his peace withCetshwayo, who adopted him as his agent whendealing with whites. Cetshwayo wanted guns tosecure his position within the kingdom, and Dunnpurchased hundreds. Other important chiefs alsohad white traders who advised them, and who werea further source of supply. In addition, thousands ofguns came into the Portuguese port of DelagoaBay—as many as 20,000 in the 1870s alone. Most ofthese found their way into Zululand. Even riflessuch as the Enfield, standard British issue in the1850s and '60s, could be traded for as little as asheep in the 1870s. If the quantity was sufficient,however, the quality was sadly lacking. Many of theguns were in poor condition, and the tradersprovided little back-up in terms of spare parts oreven ammunition. Powder was of poor quality,percussion caps were in short supply, and pebbleswere sometimes used in place of bullets. Nor wasthere anyone to train the warriors: individuals likePrince Dabulamanzi kaMpande and Chief Zib-hebhu kaMaphita were recognised as good shots.but most warriors believed that the higher a gunwas pointed, the further it would shoot, and manyheld the butt away from their shoulder to avoid therecoil. Battlefield accounts suggest the volume, notthe accuracy, of Zulu fire.

The War of 1879Lurid British accounts justifying the invasion ofZululand in 1879 portrayed it as a preventativecampaign waged against a cruel and bloodthirstydespot and his army, a 'celibate man-destroyingmachine'. Most historians now accept this view asthe propaganda it was, and suggest that the causesof the war lay rather in a British desire to simplifythe complex political situation in southern Africa by-joining the disparate British and Boer statestogether in a federation; a large independent Zulustate was seen as a threat to this scheme. Inaddition, many in the growing colony of Natal

wanted to see Zululand opened to free trading andlabour-recruitment, neither of which were possiblewhen the king (in theory at least) controlled tradeand Zulu manpower was fully utilised by theamabutho system. Minor border incidents which tookplace in 1878 were seized upon, and the Britishpresented a stiff ultimatum to King Cetshwayowhich demanded, among other things, the disband-ment of the amabutho. The king himself and anumber of his izikhulu were aware of the gravity ofthe situation; but feeling ran high within the armythat the national honour was at stake, and theyoung regiments in particular refused to considerBritish demands. On 11 January 1879 the Britishcrossed the border in three columns1.

The king and his council considered theirstrategy carefully. It was not a war waged at theirinitiative, and Cetshwayo hoped to win politicaladvantages by keeping the Zulu army within hisborders: it would, therefore, be a defensivecampaign. The British Centre Column, accom-panied by Lt.Gen. Lord Chelmsford himself, wascorrectly identified as the most serious threat: thebulk of the army would be directed against this.Those men from the amabutho who lived in thecoastal strip would report to the amakhanda there,and would be used to contest the progress of Col.Pearson's Right Column; the abaQulusi would try tocheck Col. Evelyn Wood's Left Column. Themajority of the regiments were already at Ulundi,where they had gathered for the first fruitsceremony. They were doctored for war in thetraditional way. A Sotho doctor from beyond theDrakensberg, renowned for his skill, was employed:he paid particular attention to guns. He burntvarious medicines over a shard of pottery, and thewarriors held their guns down so that the smokewafted into the barrels, thus ensuring that theywould fire straight and true. In the giya ceremonies,first the Khandempemvu (umCijo) andiNgobamakhosi amabutho vied against each other,then the Nokhenkhe and Mbonambi. Altogetherthis main striking arm totalled in excess of 20,000warriors. Probably on 17 January, it marched off toconfront Lord Chelmsford's army; and it en-countered the British camped beneath a rockyoutcrop known as Isandlwana.

'For a fuller account of the battles of 1879 see MAA 57. The Zulu War.


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Isandlwana and Rorke's DriftThe king himself had not accompanied the army,which was entrusted to Chief NtshingwayokaMahole Khoza, who had a great reputation as ageneral, and Chief Mavumengwana, the son ofDingane's commander Ndlela. The army was ingood spirits, but it should be noted that neither theizinduna nor the warriors had much combatexperience, and there were few who rememberedBlood River 40 years earlier. Nevertheless, thecommanders managed to lead the army undetectedto within a few miles of the British camp where, on22 January, it was discovered by a British patrol.The young regiments, particularly the Khandem-pemvu, immediately launched an attack withoutwaiting for instructions. The battle which followed

Zulu smiths do not seem to have manufactured battle-axes,but they were acquired from tribes renowned for makingthem by trade, like the Pedi of north-eastern Transvaal. Thesetypical examples are decorated with metal wire, introduced byEuropean traders in the mid-19th century. (Author's col-lection)

took place with very little direction from the Zuluhigh command.

The battle caught Chelmsford's force divided.Early that morning, in response to the increase inZulu activity in the area, the general had takenroughly half his forces away from the camp atIsandlwana to search for the impi. He had leftbehind six companies of the 24th Regt., two guns,and a number of mounted volunteers and levies.The Zulu advance developed from some hills to theleft of the camp, and caught the defenders scatteredover a wide plain in front of the camp. The 24thopened up a heavy fire, and the Zulus facing themwere pinned down; but as the traditional 'chest andhorns' attack developed, the British were out-flanked. They began to fall back on the camp and,encouraged by the shouts of their izinduna, the Zulusrose and charged after them. The fighting raged atclose quarters among the tents and transportwagons and on towards the Natal border, theBritish standing back to back while their ammu-

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nition held out, until at last they were overcome.Elements of the Zulu reserve pursued the fewsurvivors; and about 4,000 men of the Thulwana,Dhloko, iNdhlondhlo and inDlu-yengwe amabutho,led by Prince Dabulamanzi, crossed into Natal andwent on to attack the supply depot at Rorke's Drift.

The garrison there—B Company, 2/24th—hadbeen warned of the Zulu approach by survivors ofIsandlwana, and were able to barricade the twomission buildings with biscuit boxes and mealiebags from the supplies. Dabulamanzi's menassaulted the post from five in the afternoon untilafter midnight but, although they stormed one ofthe buildings, they could not dislodge the defenders.At dawn on the 23rd they called the attack off.

Isandlwana was a disaster of the greatestmagnitude for Chelmsford, killing 850 of his whitetroops and 400 Natal blacks who had been recruitedto fight their traditional enemy, and scotching hisinvasion plan. Hundreds of rifles fell into Zuluhands, with thousands of rounds of ammunition.Yet it had been a costly victory for the amabutho.Over 1,000 warriors lay dead around Isandlwana,with a further 400 at Rorke's Drift. The survivorstried to bury the bodies in dongas, ant-bear holes, orin the grain pits of nearby homesteads, but thenumbers were so great that many had to be left onthe field with just a shield to cover them. Warriorstook rifles from the men they had killed, andstripped and disembowelled the dead. They thendispersed to their homes, taking their wounded withthem—hundreds of men suffering injuries fromheavy calibre bullets, which were beyond the skillsof the izinyanga. The king was angry that many ofthe warriors did not report to Ulundi for thepurification ceremonies, and appalled by news ofthe casualties. 'An assegai has been thrust into thebelly of the nation,' he said; there are not enoughtears to mourn for the dead'.

There was other fighting on the 22nd; an impi ofbetween 4,000 and 6,000 warriors attacked Col.Pearson's coastal column on the march at Nyezane.The Zulu attack was premature however, anddespite the vulnerability of the British columnswhen on the march, the warriors were unable topress home their attack. Over 300 Zulu bodies werefound on the field. Pearson's column continued itsadvance to the deserted mission station at Eshowe,where it received news of Isandlwana and

King Cetshwayo kaMpande, photographed during his visit toBritain.

entrenched itself. The local amabutho contingentsbeseiged it.

The first phase of the war had gone Cetshwayo'sway, although his inability to keep his army in thefield made it difficult for him to exploit hisadvantage. It was March by the t ime he was able tocollect together his army at Ulundi and, aftercareful discussion with his izinduna, decided tolaunch an attack against Evelyn Wood's LeftColumn. Since it had crossed into Zululand this hadbeen engaged in constant cattle-raiding andskirmishing with the abaQulusi, and the followers ofa renegade Swazi prince named Mbiline. It wasundoubtedly the most dangerous of Chelmsford'ssurviving columns.

Hlobane, Khambula and GingindhlovuThe new Zulu offensive coincided with fresh Britishactivity. On 28 March Chelmsford had crossed theTugela with a column intending to relieve Eshowe.


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Artist's impression of the defence of the mission station atRorke's Drift by B Co., 2/24th Foot on the night of 22/23 January1879: engraving after Wollen. A sound defensive position andreadily available ammunition negated superior Zulu num-bers. (Author's collection)

A trophy of Zulu weapons and regalia taken by the 91stHighlanders from the field of Gingindhlovu, 1879. Note cow tailnecklaces either side of the shield; the full kilt of different fursbeneath it; and the percussion rifles. It seems likely that thewarriors defending the coastal sector wore more regalia intobattle than did the main impi directed from Ulundi. (NationalArmy Museum)

He gave orders to other British commanders alongthe frontier to make demonstrations to draw off theZulus. On the same day Wood tried to clear theabaQulusi from their stronghold on HlobaneMountain. Several parties of mounted volunteersscaled the summit, where a running fight ensued. Atthe height of the action, however, the main Zuluarmy from Ulundi came into sight. Such bad luck


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was appalling timing for the British, and it turnedHlobane into a debacle as Wood struggled toextricate his troops. Those on the summit couldonly escape via a steep rocky staircase known as theDevil's Pass—over a hundred were killed. Wood fellback on his fortified base at Khambula Hill: theZulus camped a few miles away that night, and thenext morning advanced to attack Khambula.

The battle of Khambula was the most decisive ofthe war. Cetshwayo had learned from the stories ofIsandlwana, and issued strict instructions that theamabutho were not to attack fortified positions, but totry to draw the British out from their earthworks. Inthe event, the Zulu right horn was in position beforethe chest and left, and a mounted British sortie wasable to goad them into attacking. Wood's positionconsisted of a wagon laager and an earthworkredoubt; for over four hours the Zulus launched

Members of the Natal Native Contingent 'mopping up' afterthe battle of Ulundi. The artist has captured the appearance ofthe different African groups well: the man on the left is aSwazi, who seem to have worn full regalia into battle. In thecentre is a Natal African, wearing some items of Europeanclothing and with a distinguishing red rag just visible tiedround his head. The Zulu wears no regimental regalia.(Author's collection)

fierce but unco-ordinated attacks which severaltimes penetrated the defences, but were unable tooverrun them. At last they were chased from thefield by mounted volunteers in a particularly savagepursuit.

Zulu losses at Khambula were comparable tothose at Isandlwana, probably considerablygreater. British burial parties noted that the youngamabutho had suffered particularly heavily, andmany izinduna and chiefs had died because they hadexposed themselves to encourage their men. Borderpatrols noted the lamentations from homesteadsacross the river as word of the casualties spread tothe civilian population. And there was more badnews for Cetshwayo: on 2 April Chelmsford'sEshowe Relief Column had been attacked by12,000 warriors at Gingindhlovu.

Local elements of most of the main amabutho madeup the impi, which was led by Somopho kaSikhalaand accompanied by veterans of Isandlwana likePrince Dabulamanzi and SigcwelegcwelekaMhlekehleke, fiery commander of theiNgobamakhosi regiment. Chelmsford had drawnhis forces up in a square, protected by a ditch and


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earth rampart, and the combined volley, cannonand Gatling fire cut the warriors down before theircharges could strike home. The impi was scattered.Chelmsford relieved Eshowe and retired to Natal toprepare a new invasion.

UlundiThe twin blows of Khambula and Gingindhlovushattered Cetshwayo's strategic plans. The moraleof the army was shaken, and it was clear thatmilitary victory was impossible. As Chelmsfordbegan his new invasion in June the Zulu kingstepped up his attempts to reach a diplomaticsolution. It was hopeless: the British were masters ofthe field, and were interested in peace only afterIsandlwana had been avenged. Not that the Zulushad lost the will to resist: on one occasion a youngibutho refused to allow Cetshwayo"s peace emissariesto pass, and Chelmsford's advance was accom-plished in the face of constant skirmishing. Amongthe casualties was the young Prince Imperial ofFrance, exiled heir to the Bonapartist throne; inZululand as an observer, he was out on patrol oneday when ambushed by a Zulu scouting party.

At last, however, Chelmsford reached the vicinityof Ulundi and the complex of amakhanda on theMahlabatini plain. Cetshwayo once more sum-moned his army, and the warriors dutifullymustered. The king and his izinduna made carefulplans to attack the British. On the morning of 4 JulyChelmsford crossed the White Mfolozi. and formedhis troops up in a large rectangle opposite Ulundi.The amabutho appeared on the surrounding heightsand advanced slowly to attack, greeted by the roll ofvolley fire, the boom of the guns, and the chatter ofthe Gatlings. For nearly an hour the Zulucommanders tried to direct their men against theBritish weak points; one charge, on the rear face ofthe rectangle, was sustained to within a few yards ofthe line. But the 'beast's horns' were of no useagainst an unbroken wall of defenders, and theZulus faltered. Lord Chelmsford ordered the 17thLancers to charge the broken enemy, and the Zuluswere driven from the field.

The war was a calamity for the Zulus: battlefieldcasualties amounted to about 6,000 dead, andmany more injured. Thousands of cattle were takenby the British, and not only the amakhanda buthundreds of civilian homesteads were destroyed.

King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, photographed at about the timeof the rebellion in 1888. He wears European clothes, but also avariation of the "bravery bead' necklace. (Author's collection)

The political, military, social and economicstructure of the greater Zulu state was shattered.The king was a fugitive; on 28 August he was run toground, captured by a British patrol, and began thelong road to exile in Cape Town.

The army had gone to war in the traditional way,infused with the spirit of Shaka. True, many hadnot worn their ceremonial regalia; the evidence ispatchy, but it seems that the majority of the mainimpi left behind the more complex and constrictingitems, and wore only loin coverings and perhaps aheadband and a few cow tails—the youngeramabutho seem to have worn very little. The impi


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A sketch by Baden-Powell—who fought against Dinuzulu in1888—of a warrior wearing the ubushokobezi badge, thesymbol of the uSuthu faction in the 1880s, later adopted by therebels in 1906. (Author's collection)

which fought in the coastal region did not muster atUlundi; it operated closer to the individualwarriors' homes, and so seems to have retainedmore regalia in action. Yet the army remainedcommitted to the old tactics of frontal assault, anddid not exploit the full potential of its firepower;only towards the end of the campaign was there anyreluctance to face the British in the open, andsniping increased. On at least two occasions—Isandlwana and Khambula—the young amabuthoshowed a serious lack of discipline by allowingthemselves to be goaded into an attack against thewishes of their izinduna. This in turn reflected a lackof strong direction and control at the top. Weddedto an inappropriate tactical outlook which con-demned them to waste their lives in open assault,the Zulus had taken to the field time and again,even when it became clear that there was no hope ofvictory. In the end, desperate courage was notenough: but the nation could ask no more of them.


The Ruin of ZululandThe pacification and post-war settlement ofZululand was left to Lord Chelmsford's successor,Sir Garnet Wolseley. He tackled it with muchvigour and little insight. The country was dividedup into 13 small kingdoms. There was some attemptto dismantle the Zulu state—pre-Shakan clans werereturned to prominence—and to exploit thedivisions within the kingdom which had becomeapparent in 1879. Prince Hamu kaNzibe, who haddefected to the British during the war—the onlymember of the royal house to do so—was given akingdom, as was John Dunn, who had abandonedhis protector Cetshwayo to serve as a scout forChelmsford. Also honoured was ZibhebhukaMaphita of the Mandhlakazi section. He wasknown to be a shrewd and ambitious leader, andfavourable to the whites; he was no friend ofCetshwayo's, but had loyally fought in the war as anable commander. He was given a tract in northernZululand which contained many of the clans mostloyal to Cetshwayo.

Trouble started almost as soon as the Britishtroops withdrew. Hamu, Zibhebhu and Dunnraided Cetshwayo's supporters—who called them-selves the uSuthu, after the king's faction in 1856—in a deliberate attempt to destroy their authority.They retaliated, and appealed to Britain to restorethe king.

Cetshwayo was imprisoned in reasonable com-fort at Cape Town, where he petitioned to beallowed to return to his kingdom. The British hadlong since abandoned the Confederation scheme,and watched glumly as Zululand slid towards civilwar. In September 1881 the king was allowed tovisit London to state his case: he dined with QueenVictoria at Osborne House, and was a great successwith the British public. The Foreign Officecautiously gave him permission to return home. InJanuary 1883 he landed on the coast of Zululand

He was given a small tract of land and no realpower. Zibhebhu and Dunn were allowed to keeptheir lands and, though the king built a newhomestead at Ulundi and formed new age-regiments, they were shorn of their militaryfunction and regalia and allowed to give ceremonialservice only. It was made quite clear that no revival

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of the old state system would be tolerated. TheuSuthu leaders greeted him with delight, butCetshwayo could neither succour them nor controlthem. He was powerless when the uSuthu inZibhebhu's district rose up and attacked theirtormenter. But Zibhebhu was too good a general forthem; he abandoned his homestead to them and fellback to the Msebe valley, where he positioned hiswarriors in long grass in ambush. On 30 March theywalked into the trap; the Mandhlakazi chargeddown on them, and in the subsequent rout as manyas 4,000 uSuthu warriors were killed.

Cetshwayo watched in helpless misery as violenceerupted across the country. The British blamed himfor provoking it, but did nothing to stop it.Zibhebhu took matters into his own hands. On themorning of 21 July Cetshwayo awoke to find aMandhlakazi impi bearing down on Ulundi. He stillhad amabutho at his disposal, but any weapons theycarried were their own and they were hopelesslyoutclassed. The uSuthu were smashed and Zib-hebhu sacked Ulundi, killing the izinduna he foundthere, the majority being izikhulu from the old days.Fifty-nine of them were killed in a slaughter whichmarked the real end of the old Zulu state.

The king himself was wounded in his flight fromUlundi, and took refuge in the remote MhomeGorge, in the territory of Chief Sigananda of the

Redcoats in Zululand, 1883: the garrison of Fort Northampton,on the Zulu bank at Rorke's Drift. (Brian Maggs)

Chube clan in the rugged hill country above theTugela. When he had recovered he went to theBritish magistracy at Eshowe, from where he triedto salvage something of the uSuthu fortunes. Here,on 8 February 1884, he died suddenly, officially ofheart disease, though it was rumoured that he hadbeen poisoned. His supporters took him back to theChube territory, far away from the Mandhlakaziand British, and buried him.

DinuzuluHis heir as leader of the luckless uSuthu and rightfulking was his son Dinuzulu, who was not yet ateenager. Cetshwayo's full brother Prince NdabukokaMpande, and Chief Mnyamana of the Butheleziclan, formerly head of Cetshwayo's ibandla, acted asregents. They turned to the British for help, andwhen that was not forthcoming accepted an offerfrom the Transvaal Boers, who promised militarysupport against the Mandhlakazi. On 21 May 1884the Boers proclaimed Dinuzulu king—a title theBritish refused to acknowledge—and then set out toattack Zibhebhu. They caught up with him on 5June in a natural amphitheatre formed between theGaza and Etshaneni mountains. As at Msebe,Zibhebhu prepared an elaborate ambush, but the

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trap sprung prematurely, and his warriors had tomove into the open to attack. The Boers, firing fromthe saddle over the heads of the attacking uSuthu,cut the Mandhlakazi warriors down. Zibhebhu fledto Natal, and the Boers presented the bill: theyclaimed farms from Dinuzulu stretched across mostof Zululand.

This was not what the uSuthu leaders had had inmind, and once more they appealed to Britain. Thistime the British listened, if only because the prospectof a Boer route to the sea, which would opencommunication with Germany, was held to be adirect challenge to British strategic interests insouthern Africa. Negotiations with the Boers forced

Chief Bhambatha kaMancinza of the Zondi clan, the leader ofthe 1906 rebellion. (Africana Museum, Johannesburg)

them to restrict their claims, and on 9 May 1887Zululand was finally annexed by Britain.

The annexation brought Zululand under thecontrol of Natal's Native Law, and magistracieswere established across the country. Dinuzulu,however, free of the Mandhlakazi challenge, setabout restoring his authority. When he tried to havea man executed for witchcraft the magistratesummoned him to explain himself. He refused toattend and was promptly fined, and told thatZibhebhu would be allowed to return to his oldlands. This was intended as a check to balanceDinuzulu's power, but it provoked a violentexplosion. When Zibhebhu and a number of hisadherents turned up to claim their old lands theyfound the uSuthu in possession. The localmagistrate used his small force of native police (theNongqayi) to evict the uSuthu; but in March 1888 anuSuthu chief refused to vacate his homestead, andcalled out his warriors. Dinuzulu was blamed forinciting rebellion, but when a party of soldiers wentto arrest him they found him entrenched in a rockyoutcrop known as Ceza Mountain, accompaniedby 1.800 armed warriors recruited from the loyaluSuthu clans. A sharp fight ensued, and the troopshad to withdraw leaving two dead on the field. Allover the country the jubilant uSuthu rose up,raiding the homesteads of their enemies.

The magistracy at Nongoma in the centre of thecountry was seriously threatened. A refuge for whitetraders and farmers, it was defended by a smallparty of Nongqayi. Orders were sent to Zibhebhuasking him to reinforce the post, and he arrived withabout 800 warriors and camped on a nearby hill.On the morning of 23 June about 4,000 uSuthu, ledby Dinuzulu himself, attacked the post. The uSuthuimpi divided in two, one portion attacking themagistracy, the greater portion falling on theMandhlakazi. The Nongqayi drove their attackersoff, but the uSuthu onslaught broke the Mand-hlakazi, and once more Zibhebhu fled. It was to behis last military campaign—he lived quietly nearEshowe for a while before returning to hishereditary lands, where he died in 1905.

The attack on Nongoma was the uSuthu high-water mark. The British collected together a largerforce, and on 2 July defeated the uSuthu atHlopekulu Mountain, near Ulundi. Dinuzulu,Ndabuko and Prince Shingana kaMpande

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attempted to flee to the Transvaal, but they wereturned away and went instead to Natal, where theysurrendered. They were tried for treason andsentenced to exile on St. Helena.

The 1888 rebellion proved to be the last time theZulu royal house went to war—a ghost of 1879,with Zulus once more meeting British soldiers in thefield. There was to be one last tragic uprising; but,though the rebels tried to draw on the prestige of theold military system and the Zulu kings, its causesand supporters lay, for the most part, outside thetraditions of the old Zulu state.

Rebel dead on the battlefield, July 1906. The amount ofEuropean clothing suggests that they are Natal rebels. Note thesmall size of the shield, typical of this period. (AfricanaMuseum, Johannesburg)

BhambathaWith the exile of Dinuzulu, Zululand becamepeaceful at last. In 1897 Britain handed it over tothe Colony of Natal, and areas were opened up forEuropean settlement. Dinuzulu was allowed toreturn to his old homestead, though the Govern-ment recognised him as a chief and not a king.Despite the heavy fighting in Natal the Boer Wardid not affect Zululand much—although one Boercommando angered the abaQulusi, as aggressive asever, and was attacked one night at Holkranz,losing 56 of 59 of their number.

Nevertheless, the 1890s were not kind to theAfrican population of Natal and Zululand. The

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The entrance to Mhome Gorge, the site of the decisive battle ofthe 1906 rebellion. The rebel overnight camp was where thehomestead now stands, at centre right. The Colonial forcesringed the surrounding heights. (Author's collection)

land reserved for them was cramped, and over-grazing brought about soil erosion. Cattle herdswere decimated by rinderpest, and locusts ate theircrops. When the Natal authorities, seeking tobalance their budget in the post-Boer Warrecession, imposed a poll tax, it was the last straw.Many chiefs refused to pay; others sent to Dinuzulu,whom they still regarded as their king, for advice.He advised them to pay. Still some would not, andparties of police sent to collect the tax were drivenoff.

The country seemed to be ripe for rebellion; anda leader emerged in Bhambatha kaMancinza of theZondi clan, who lived in the spectacular Mpanzavalley on the Natal side of the Tugela. Bhambathawas in his mid-forties, a chief of no great rank, whohad a reputation for faction fights. When he refusedto pay the tax and police were sent to arrest him, heslipped across the border to consult Dinuzulu.


Privately Dinuzulu may have sympathised withBhambatha, but he would not countenancerebellion: he did, however, allow Bhambatha toleave his family at his homestead. Buoyed up bywhat he took as tacit approval, Bhambathareturned to Natal, gathered his fighting men and,on the night of 4 April 1906 attacked a police patrol.In a stiff fight four whites were killed, and the bodyof one was used by Bhambatha's war-doctor tomake medicine. He and his warriors then crossedinto Zululand and made for the territory of ChiefSigananda of the Chube. Sigananda was in hisnineties, and had served under Shaka as an udibi. Hewas steadfastly loyal to the Zulu royal house, andasked Dinuzulu whether he should join the rebels.Dinuzulu was evasive and Sigananda threw in hislot with Bhambatha.

In Natal, meanwhile, a state of emergency hadbeen declared, and the militia called out. A forcewas put together under the command of Col. (laterSir) Duncan McKenzie, and marched out fromEshowe into the jumble of steep ridges and bushchoked valleys which comprised the Chube district.

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The rebels had made the grave of King Cetshwayotheir rallying point, and towards this the Colonialforces advanced. On 5 May they were descending asteep ridge known as Bope, when about 1,000 rebelsburst from the bush and charged on them. Therebels were wearing a distinctive badge known asthe uboshokobezi, a stiff piece of white cowhide or cow-tail worn upright on the headdress; this was adeliberate identification with the Zulu kings, as theuSuthu had adopted this badge in the 1880s.Several had guns, but most carried spears and smallshields which they held up before their faces as theyran—Bhambatha's doctors had told him that thewhite man's bullets would turn to water. They didnot: and the rebels were driven off with heavy losses.

Mhome GorgeThe light at Bope ushered in several weeks of sweepsand skirmishes. Bhambatha at least, had learntsomething from the past: his men did not try themassed assaults of old, but tried to lure the whites on

to disadvantageous ground to ambush them.Several times they gave McKenzie a run for hismoney. Then, on the night of 9—10 June 1906,McKenzie received an intelligence report thatseveral rebel impis—including Bhambatha's—hadconverged on Sigananda's stronghold, the MhomeGorge, and were camped at the entrance.McKenzie issued orders for his own scattered forcesto advance upon the gorge.

The gorge itself is narrow and steep, the sidesfalling almost sheer for 1,000 feet in places. At thefar end was a waterfall, a spot so inaccessible thatCetshwayo had hidden there after his defeat byZibhebhu. The rebels believed that once they hadentered the gorge they would be impregnable. Thishad made them careless: they spent the night at the

Chief Sigananda of the Chube (with bandaged ankles)photographed with Col. McKenzie (second from right) afterhis surrender. The old chief had been an udibi servant inShaka's army, and was the most important Zulu leader tosupport Bhambatha in 1906; his career thus spanned the riseand fall of the Zulu nation. (Killie Campbell Library)


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A detail from a famous study by Angas of a warrior of theamaShishi (isaNqu) regiment in the 1840s, showing theconstruction of the headdress. This man is not wearing aheadband, so the shape of the amaphovela, and the way the'earflaps' of this example fall down each side of the back of thehead, are clearly shown. Note how the isakabuli feathers aretied to quills and thrust into the sides of the headdress.(Author's collection)

entrance and their sentries failed to noticeMcKenzie's approach. This had been a remarkablefeat in itself, co-ordinating an advance over suchimpossible ground in the dark; but as dawn brokethe rebels found themselves surrounded by troopson all the overlooking heights. The rebels' strengthwas estimated at about 20 amaviyo, or companies—perhaps 1,500 men. The Colonial force included15pdr. artillery and Colt machine-guns.

As soon as the rebels realised their predicament,they formed a circle to receive instructions; seeingthis, the Colonial troops opened fire. It was amassacre. Shot and shell rained down on the rebelsfrom all sides. They broke, and fled back into thegorge. This proved to be no more than a trap, andfor several hours the troops shot them down atleisure. At last they descended from the heights andswept the bush, flushing out survivors. The official


report spoke of 600 rebel dead, but the real total wasmuch higher. Among them was Bhambatha. Hehad been killed in a mélée with Natal levies in thebottom of the gorge, but it was several days beforehe was recognised. It was imperative that proof ofhis death be made known; since it was impossible torecover his body, his head was cut off and taken toNatal for identification.

The battle at Mhome Gorge ended the rebellionin Zululand. Sigananda surrendered, and died laterin prison. There was to be a further uprising in Juneacross the Tugela in the Natal district ofMapumulo. Several battles occurred in the ruggedcountry around the trading station of Thring's Post,but in the end machine guns prevailed over assegais.Nearly 5,000 rebels were brought to trial, theringleaders exiled and the rest imprisoned. Amongthem was Dinuzulu kaMpande, who many believedwas behind the uprising. That he had shelteredBhambatha's wife told against him; he wasconvicted and sentenced to four years" imprison-ment. He was not allowed to return to Zululand,and died in 1913 in the Transvaal, the last of theZulu warrior kings. His followers took his body backto Zululand. and buried him in the heart of Zulucountry, not far from where Shaka had begun hisconquests.

Today there are over six million Zulus in SouthAfrica, and they acknowledge Dinuzulu's great-grandson, Goodwill Zwelithini. as their hereditaryking. Their principal political leader, ChiefMangosutho Buthelezi, is internationally re-nowned, and the memories of the warrior past area significant source of national pride. Archae-ologists have reconstructed part of KingCetshwayo's Ulundi homestead: it stands oppositethe Legislative Assembly of modern KwaZulu onMahlabatini plain.

The PlatesA: The youth of ShakaA1: Nandi bids farewell to her son as he sets off to jointhe Mthethwa army in about 1805. The dress of amarried woman at that time was very simple: thecharacteristic top-knot coloured with red ochre

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and a leather skirt. Nandi was renowned for herbeauty and her fiery temperament, and so wouldprobably have liked to wear beads (then scarce, andsomething of a luxury) and brass bangles.

A2: Shaka. This reconstruction is largely specu-lative; he is shown wearing the typical dress of ayoung warrior of the period—a leopardskinheadband and sakabuli feathers. The cords aroundthe body were made of twisted strips of lambskin,and were worn on festive occasions. At this stage thewar shields were small and probably not uniform incolour. Sandals would have been worn.

A3: Mthethwa chief. He wears a leopardskin collar, towhich only men of rank were entitled; the necklaceof leopard claws and the bunch of lourie feathers inthe headdress are also marks of distinction. He has atypical snuff-spoon tucked into his isicoco (headring)and carries a wooden staff, which also seems to have

been a symbol of chiefs rank. All of these items wereessentially 'civilian' in their significance, but wereoften carried over into the military sphere.

B/C: The Battle of Gqokli Hill, 1818B/C 1: Warrior of the Isipezi ibutho or age groupregiment. There is very little direct evidencerelating to the uniforms of Shaka's regiments, sothese tentative reconstructions are necessarily basedon comparisons of fragmentary Zulu and Europeansources. The Isipezi seem to have carried whiteshields patterned across the middle with black spots,and to have worn crane feathers in their headdress.

B/C 2: Ndwandwe commander, based on a descriptionby a British naval officer who encountered a party

A modern reconstruction—ignore the metal buckles—of apair of cow tail leg ornaments, basically similar in appearanceto the 19th-century originals. (Africana Museum, Johan-nesburg,;


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A modern reconstruction of the umqhele or leopardskinheadband; the earflaps—amabheqe—appear considerablylarger in early sketches and photographs. (Africana Museum,Johannesburg)

of Ndwandwe wandering north after their defeat byShaka in 1819. He wears a single crane feather in hisheaddress, and a kilt of civet and samango tailsaround his waist and body. Like the Zulus, theNdwandwe would also have used cow tails as part oftheir war dress. At the time of Gqokli Hill theNdwandwe would have been carrying small shieldsand throwing-spears, and wearing sandals.

B/C 3: King Shaka kaSenzangakhona. We have adetailed description of Shaka's war dress from TheDiary of Henry Francis Fynn, one of the British traderswho visited his court. He wore a collar and kilt oftwisted tails, cow tails around his arms and legs, anda headdress with bunches of lourie feathers and onecrane feather. His shield was white with one blackspot.

B/C 4: Warrior of the Fasimba, Shaka"s favouriteregiment, who carried white shields and probablywore sakabuli feathers in the headdress. This manwears the marks of distinction of a brave veteran: abunch of lourie feathers in the headdress, a brassingxotha armband, and bravery beads around the


body. There is evidence to suggest that in this earlyperiod strips of civet or monkey skin were sewn intoold spear-slits in the shield to draw attention to thewarrior's prowess.

B/C 5: Young Ndwandwe warrior. There is even lessinformation on the Ndwandwe than on the Zulus ofthis period; but a number of Zulu-style featuresremained in the dress of the Ndwandwe splintergroups—the Ngoni and Shangane—which pre-sumably originated in Zululand. and whichconfirm what one would expect: that Ndwandweand Zulu dress were similar. This warrior wears aheaddress of sakabuli feathers, typical of a youngman's costume.

A bunch of isakabuli feathers, as worn by young warriors, heremounted on a base for wearing on top of the head. Note too theumqhele at bottom right, here of cheetah fur. (Natal Museum,Pietermaritzburg)

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B/C 6: Warrior of the Ndabezibona. a section of theFasimba, who carried black shields with a whitespot in the centre. The full dress of the Fasimba isnot known, but would have included all theelements usual for a young ibutho. This man has aporcupine quill in his headband, which was notpurely decorative—it was used for removing thornsfrom the feet.

B/C 7: Senior Ndwandwe warrior, wearing a singleostrich feather in his headdress. The names ofseveral of Chief Zwide's amabutho survive, suggest-ing that his army was well organised, albeit not tothe Zulu standard. This may well have been aregimental uniform, although it seems unlikely thatthe shield colour was consistent or significant.

D: The first meeting between Europeans and King Shaka,1824

D1: Lt. Francis Farewell had served in the RoyalNavy until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Hewore at least part of his uniform on his first meetingwith the king, and we show him here with an 1815lieutenant's coat. Since he rode part of the way toBulawayo, we have shown him in civilian ridingbreeches and boots.

D2: Imbongi, or praise-singer ( pl. izimbongi). Afeature of the Zulu court, such men wore fantasticcostumes of their own devising, and danced and

A necklace of interlocking wooden beads, worn as a symbol ofbravery by warriors throughout the period of the independentZulu kingdom. (Killie Campbell Africana Library)

capered before the king calling out the praise-poemswhich recalled his heroic deeds. This man is shownwearing items recorded as typical of an imbongi—long braided hair coloured with ochre, a headring,antelope horns as a headdress, and cow tails andleopardskin around the body.

D3: King Shaka. There is some dispute as to whetherShaka was married; however, there are a number ofreferences to his barber trimming his hair aroundhis isicoco, so we have shown him wearing theheadring. He would, of course, have worn differentcostumes for different occasions, but this seems tohave been his most frequent 'official' dress. At thistime the king was about 38 years old.

D4: Shaka's interpreter. A Xhosa from the easternCape frontier, captured by the British in one of themany 'Kaffir' Wars, he accompanied one of theexploratory missions to Natal, where he escapedand made his way to kwaBulawayo. The king wasquick to appreciate the value of his talents. HisXhosa name was Msimbiti, but the whites calledhim Jacob or Jakot, and the Zulus,Hlambamanzi—'the swimmer'—since he hadswum ashore from a boat to escape. He wears ablanket in the Xhosa fashion.


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E: The court of Dingane, 1830sE1: Youth in dancing dress. Dancing was a veryimportant social activity, both as part of nationalfestivals and simply for pleasure. Kings Dinganeand Mpande were particularly fond of organisingand taking part in dances in which hundreds oreven thousands participated. This youth in festivedress is based on a sketch by George French Angas;the coloured fringes are of beadwork.

E2: King Dingane in dancing dress, based on sketchesfrom life by the missionary Capt. Allen Gardiner.Dingane took a great personal interest in his owndancing costume and that of his female attendants,and liked to experiment with different com-binations of beads, bangles and feathers. His chair,carved from a single block of wood, still exists. Hisshield was black with one white spot.

E3: Ndlela kaSompisi, Dingane's chief induna andmost talented general, carries his war shield andwears the full kilt. The brass rings would have beengiven to him by the king, who distributed them tohis favourites. In battle he would probably have

A pair of izingxotha, the brass armbands distributed by Zulukings to warriors who had shown particular daring in battle;the exact design varied slightly over the years—these datefrom Cetshwayo's reign. (RRW Museum, Brecon)

worn an otter-skin headband, a crane feather, andperhaps lourie feathers.

F: Skirmish between Boers and Zulus, December 1838F1: Boer Voortrekker '"those who trek to the fore').The Boers fought in their everyday clothes, which atthis time included short jackets or waistcoats, wide-brimmed hats and veldschoen—light home-madeshoes of hide. Their weapons were flintlock orpercussion muskets; ammunition was carried inleather bags slung over the shoulder, thoughpowderhorns were sometimes attached to thewaistbelt.

F2: Warrior, probably of the Mbelebele, Dingane'sfavourite regiment, based on a sketch by Gardiner.There is surprisingly little information on Dingane'samabutho. Gardiner's original sketch describes thewarrior as 'partly panoplied', presumably meaningwar dress. The cow tail necklace is a lighter variantof the full-dress type. The Mbelebele werequartered at King Dingane's personal residence,emGungundhlovu.

F3: Warrior of the Kokoti regiment in war dress. TheKokoti were ordered by the king to carry onlyknobkerries, and these were apparently slung—bizarrely enough—down the back, from a neckthong. This unusual dictate was reportedly apunishment for the regiment having mocked otheramabutho for having failed to defeat the Boers andboasting that they could do so even without spears.

G: The Battle of 'Ndondakasuka, December 1856G1: Warrior of the uDhloko regiment. This ibuthoapparently wore most of their ceremonial regaliainto action at this battle, where they formed part ofthe uSuthu forces. At this date they wereunmarried, and wore a spectacular headdress ofblack and white ostrich feathers intermixed. Thesame regiment later took part in the Zulu War of1879, wearing a costume modified to reflect theirmore senior status. Note the smaller umbhumbuluzoshield.

G2: Prince Cetshwayo kaMpande, in the costume hewore at this battle; he took an active part in theengagement, leading the centre of the uSuthuforces. He is wearing an umutsha of black lambskin,


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and an ibeshu of samango monkey skin. He carriesthe shield of the Thulwana regiment—at this dateunmarried—and wears a single crane featherreflecting his royal status, despite his lack of theheadring. He is also wearing a necklace of magicalcharms, and carrying a civilian percussion shotgun.

G3: Warrior of the Impisi regiment, which formed partof Prince Mbuyazi's iziGqoza faction. TheiziGqoza apparently adopted a headdress similar tothe amaphovela as its badge.

H: Warriors on their way to muster, 1870SH1: Zulu girls. Unmarried girls were also organisedinto age group guilds, but they were not required tolive barracked together like the youths. They hadno military function, but particular age groupswould be allocated to male regiments, and thewarriors would choose their brides from amongthem. Basic dress consisted of nothing more than ashort skirt, though beads were extremely popular asornamentation.

A particularly fine example of a charm necklace, consisting ofsnake- and animal-skin pouches of magical medicine, teeth,and various selected blocks of wood, some of them rituallyburnt at the edges. This example was acquired from one ofCetshwayo's war doctors by Lt.Col. A. W. Durnford, who waslater killed at Isandlwana. (Royal Engineers Museum)

H2: Warrior of the Mtuyisazwe, a regiment in-corporated into the outsize corps nameduKhandempemvu or umCijo. The Mtuyisazwewore amaphovela headdress, and carried black shieldswith a white spot across the centre; they also wore awide cowhide waist belt.

H3: Warrior of the uKhandempemvu; his costume isquite distinct from that of H2, even though theywere considered to be part of the same unit. Hewears a bunch of sakabuli feathers on top of hishead, and carries a red shield; other companies ofthe same regiment carried black shields. Both H2and H3 are of the same age group. TheuKhandempemvu played a significant part in thebattle of Isandlwana; the full regalia shown herewould not, however, have been worn in action.

H4: Udibi boy. These were boys of pre-cadet age whoacted as servants for individual warriors, carryingtheir food or, as here, sleeping mats and otherpossessions.

I: The court of Mpande. 1870SI1: King Mpande kaSenzangakhona dancing with hiswarriors at an umkhosi ceremony, c.1870. Althoughobese, the king was said to have been a graceful


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The beautifully carved head of King Cetshwayo's staff. (S.Bourquin)

dancer even at the end of his life. His festive costumewas extremely lavish: his body was covered withmonkey skin and cow tails, and his headdressconsisted of black ostrich feathers, large bunches oflourie feathers, and a crane feather. His shield waswhite with a small mark, and he carried a black-wood dancing stick.

I2: Warrior of the umXapho regiment. In the 1870sdifferences between full ceremonial uniforms wereslight. The umXapho wore ostrich feathers all overtheir heads, and carried black shields.

I3: Warrior of the iNdlu-yengwe regiment; note thesimilarity with the costume of I2. The differences liemainly in the arrangement of the ostrich feathers,and the fact that the iNdlu-yengwe have sakabulifeathers. They also have white spots low down ontheir shields. On festive occasions the warriorswould not have carried spears.

J: An impi being doctored for war, 1870SJ1: Isangoma. Braided hair and a plethora ofmagical charms distinguish the dress of the diviner;he also wears rattles made from insect cocoonsaround his ankles. As part of the ceremony theisangoma cut strips of meat from a slaughtered bull,treated them with magical potions, and threw themto the warriors, who were each expected to take abite.

J2: Warrior of the iNgobamakhosi regiment in full dress.He wears an amaphovela headdress with feathers ofthe black-tailed finch (isakabuli); and an ingxothaarmlet of the type favoured by King Cetshwayo on


his right arm. His shield is red and white, althoughother companies of the regiment almost certainly-carried black, or black and white shields. TheiNgobamakhosi was a very large regiment, and afavourite of the king's.

J3: Warrior of the Thulwana regiment. Compare withPlate G2. The Thulwana had many men of highstatus within their ranks, and their uniform wascorrespondingly lavish. They wore the full kilt, andseveral brass bands on the right arm. Theirshields—here an isihlangu, but both types werecarried—were white with small red or black marks.Both the iNgobamakhosi and the Thulwana weremembers of the Undi corps—quartered atUlundi—but there was a fierce rivalry betweenthem, and they could not in fact live together. Bothregiments played a prominent part in the fighting of1879.

A": The aftermath of Isandlwana, 22 January 1879K1: Warrior of the Mbonambi regiment. He moves withhis comrades through the wreckage of the camp atIsandlwana, looting, stripping and disembowellingthe enemy dead in accordance with custom. Thisregiment seems to have been formed and re-formedseveral times, but in 1879 it comprised unmarriedmen in their early thirties. There are conflictingdescriptions of the headdress, but little of this wasworn into action beyond, perhaps, a headband andbunch of lourie feathers. This man has a charmnecklace, which were very popular at this time. Itseems to have been up to individuals how much oftheir costume they retained on campaign.

K2: Warrior of the iNdlondlo regiment, a 900-strongunit incorporated into the Thulwana. The full dressuniform was similar to that of the Thulwana, butnothing so lavish would have been worn into action.

K3: Warrior of the iNgobamakhosi regiment. The youngregiments in 1879 seem to have worn very littleregalia into action: perhaps the umqhele, a charmnecklace, and sometimes cow tails around the armsand legs, but little else apart from the loin covering.He has put on the tunic of a soldier of the 24thRegiment whom he killed, in accordance withritual. Large numbers of breach-loading rifles fellinto Zulu hands after the battle.

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L: The Battle of Mhome Gorge, 10 June 1906L1: Zulu rebel, wearing the ubushokobezi badge andcast-off European clothing, and carrying a smallshield typical of the period. Eyewitness accountsmention that some rebels still wore the workingoveralls of the Castle brewery.

L2: Private, Durban Light Infantry, the principalColonial infantry unit to see action in the 1906rebellion. The DLI wore khaki tropical field serviceuniforms similar to those of the British regulars inthe Boer War, although the sun helmet was of aslightly different shape. Equipment was of theSlade-Wallace pattern.

L3: Constable of the Nongqayi, the Zululand NativePolice. The Nongqayi were raised in the 1880s;despite the distinguished service they renderedduring the 1888 uprising they were disbandedshortly afterwards in deference to the fears of many-Colonists about arming Africans. They were,however, re-formed at the outbreak of Bhambatha'srebellion in 1906, and proved tenacious fighters.Their uniform consisted of a blue jacket with breastpockets, and blue trousers cut off below the knee.They carried Martini-Henry rifles and had blackSlade-Wallace equipment. At Mhome Gorge theyseem to have worn blue jerseys.

The present king of the Zulus, HM King Goodwill ZwelithinikaCyprian, dressed in ceremonial regalia which has changedonly slightly since King Shaka's day. (Author's collection)

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VANGUARDIn the same format as Men-at-Arms, some 35titles in print—key units and weapons systems of20th century warfare, with a strong emphasis onarmoured vehicles. ;

E1 The Paras: British Airborne Forces1940-84

E2 The US Marine Corps since 1945E3 The VikingsE4 US Army Special Forces 1952-84E5 Soviet Bloc Elite ForcesE6 French Foreign Legion ParatroopsE7 The Ancient GreeksE8 Israeli Defense Forces since 1973E9 The NormansE10 Warsaw Pact Ground Forces

E11 Ardennes 1944: Peiper and SkorzenyE12 Inside the Soviet Army TodayE13 US Army Rangers 1942-87E14 The British Army in the 1980sE15 The Armada Campaign 1588E16 NATO Armies TodayE17 Knights at TournamentE18 Israeli Elite Units since 1948E19 The CrusadesE20 Inside the U.S. Army TodayE21 The Zulus

IAN KNIGHT was born in 1956. He was afreelance writer on military history for ten yearsbefore studying Afro-Caribbean history at theUniversity of Kent. He has written widely onZulu history and travelled extensively in

Zululand. Editor of the Victorian MilitarySociety Journal for many years, he has alsoworked as a researcher for several televisionprogrammes featuring the Zulu war. This is hisfirst book for the Osprey Elite series.

ISBN 0 - 8 5 0 4 5 - 8 6 4 - 1

9 780850 458640