Isandlwana: 22 January 2012
His Majesty the King and members of the Royal Family; His
Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa Mr
Jacob Zuma and Honourable Ministers present; the Honourable
Premier of our Province and his Honourable Ministers; Her
Excellency Her Britannic Majesty’s High Commissioner in South
Africa and Representatives of the British government; Their
Excellencies members of the Diplomatic Corps and Honourable
Consul-Generals; Amakhosi; Honourable Members of the National
Parliament and Honourable Members of the KwaZulu Natal
Legislature; Their Worships the Mayors, Indunas and Councillors,
distinguished visitors and honoured guests.
There is a sense of history and continuity as we gather at
Isandlwana today. On this very soil, on this very day, the
strength of the Zulu nation was proven. The Battle of
Isandlwana, fought on the 22nd of January 1879, was
the first major battle between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom;
and the British suffered a crushing defeat.
History records that the rifles and artillery of the British Red
Coats were far superior to the assegais,
iklwa and cowhide
shields of the Zulu Impis. But the British had underestimated
King Cetshwayo’s people. By sheer numbers and force of attack,
the Zulu regiments won the Battle of Isandlwana. King Cetshwayo
celebrated this victory.
On that day 2 300 people died, 1
000 of them the King’s warriors,
including my grand
uncle Mntumengana ka Mnyamana, and at his side was his brother
Mkhandumba ka Mnyamana - the father of
Inkosi Mathole, my father.
Many King’s nobles died on that day, including Mkhosana Biyela
and other nobles too numerous to list here.
Ntshingwayo ka Mahole led the attack.
They died for the King and country.
The same night the King’s brother Prince Dabulamanzi ka
Mpande was to distinguish himself in leading the attack on
But the Battle of Isandlwana did not end the war.
Instead, it ignited the British Empire’s determination to defeat
and subjugate the
Kingdom. The Anglo-Zulu
War was waged for 6 months and thousands more died. By the 4th
of July 1879, when the war ended at the Battle of Ulundi, the
British had been forced to employ the full might of their army
to defeat the Zulu; a greater force than was used to conquer the
whole of India.
I recall this history as a Zulu of royal blood. I recall it as a
man who was raised on the telling and retelling of my nation’s
history, as my mother, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, the sister of
King Solomon kaDinuzulu, knew the intricacies of Zulu history as
intimately as she knew her own family. I recall the past because
I am part of it. King Cetshwayo, our King’s great great
grandfather, who was my maternal great grandfather and his Prime
Minister Mnyamana Buthelezi, who was the commander of all the
King Cetshwayo, was
my maternal great grandfather and his Prime Minister, Inkosi
Mnyamana Buthelezi, was my paternal great grandfather.
I therefore speak with the pride of the Zulu nation beating in
my breast. I am honoured to have followed the destiny of Inkosi
Mnyamana Buthelezi, and that of his grandson Mathole, my father.
For several decades I served as traditional Prime Minister to
King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, who was my first cousin. For
the past forty years, it has been my privilege to serve as the
traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Monarch and the Zulu
Nation under our present King, His Majesty King Goodwill
Among the responsibilities and privileges of my position, has
been the privilege of presenting His Majesty the King when he
addresses us as his subjects. When we gather at events like
this, when we remember our past and when we celebrate our
heritage, I rise to present the King of the Zulu Nation.
Whenever I do so, I am reminded of the kings and warriors who
went before us, the ancestors who walked the difficult paths of
I am reminded of King Dinuzulu who was exiled on the Island of St Helena
and pleaded the case for our nation before Her Majesty Queen
Victoria. I am reminded of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona who united
diverse people through military strategy, building one mighty
nation. I am reminded of King Cetshwayo who celebrated one of
our nation’s finest hours at the Battle of Isandlwana. I am
reminded of Kings and warriors, of Princes and Amakhosi. I am
reminded of my maternal uncle, King Solomon Maphumzana ka
Dinuzulu in whose palace I grew up.
I am reminded of my first cousin, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu
Nyangayezizwe ka Solomon, our present King’s father, with whom I
grew up in his father’s Palace KwaDlamahlahla.
The Zulu nation has no shortage of heroes and heroines. We boast
men like Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, King Dinuzulu’s son-in-law,
the husband of Princess Phikisile ka Dinuzulu, King Dinuzulu’s
first born, who founded Africa’s oldest liberation movement and
Inkosi Albert Luthuli, my mentor, Africa’s first recipient of
the Nobel Peace Prize.
We boast women like my mother, Princess Magogo ka
Dinuzulu, whose life was recalled in the first African opera
ever composed. We have reason to be proud of our heritage and
fiercely possessive over our identity. There have been many
challenges to both, but we have not been defeated.
The victory at the Battle of Isandlwana was not erased by the
defeat at Ulundi. It was not diminished by the subsequent years
of subjugation and artificial splits. The victory at Isandlwana
lives on in our collective consciousness because it was a
physical manifestation of the spirit of our nation. That spirit
lives on. Although we live in a time of relative stability and
peace, the spirit of the Zulu nation has not faded. Although our
traditional structures and ways of life are marginalized, we
have not forgotten who we are and what we are capable of when we
rise, united in purpose.
Commemorating events like the Battle of Isandlwana offers us a
reminder of the value of unity. We no longer have a common enemy
made of flesh and blood. But we do share common challenges,
which can only be met if we are united in purpose. Our present
challenges are poverty, unemployment and disease. They are
social evils like criminality, violence against women and
children, and substance abuse. We face insecurity over our
economic circumstances and our future prospects.
But none of these are challenges that should defeat our spirit.
Instead, they should ignite our sense of partnership as we
realize that our own wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of
others. There is no more opportune moment than now for the
spirit of ubuntu botho
to unite our nation. Perhaps we need to teach good citizenship
in our schools again, as we did in the erstwhile Government of
KwaZulu, so that we might prepare a new generation to overcome
the challenges of tomorrow. Perhaps we need to take a dramatic
step in a new direction, relying on the lessons we receive from
We are proud that this past year was the celebration of our
King’s 40th anniversary on the throne.
King Dinuzulu ka Cetshwayo passed away at a young age of
45 years. King Solomon ka Dinuzulu passed away at the same
youthful age of 40 years.
King Bhekuzulu ka Solomon passed away at a young age of
48 years. We thank
the Almighty for preserving the life of our King to the ripe age
that he has reached after being preceded by Kings who died so
young. Our King has
revived some of our important cultural events, some of which
were banned by the imperial government after our defeat.
Last year we were all excited to see our King receive the
future King of the United Kingdom, His Royal Highness Prince
of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in his
Palace in Ulundi.
That further cemented the good relations that have developed
over the years between the British people and the Zulu nation.
Two years ago, I had the privilege of being the Guest of
Honour in Wales at the invitation of the Royal Welsh Regiment,
whose predecessors participated in the Anglo-Zulu war.
The previous Guest of Honour had been Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II, the patron of that Regiment.
As we commemorate one of our nation’s greatest victories, it is
my privilege to present His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation. So pray silence for His
Majesty our King as he addresses us.