Commemoration Of The Anglo-Zulu War’s

Battle Of Isandlwana

Presentation Of His Majesty The King Of The Zulu Nation

To His Subjects Before Delivering His Address

By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP

Inkosi Of The Buthelezi Clan

Chairman: Zululand District Local House Of Traditional Leaders

Traditional Prime Minister To The Zulu Monarch And Zulu Nation And

 President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party


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 Rorke’s drift.  But the Battle of Isandlwana did not end the war. Instead, it ignited the British Empire’s determination to defeat and subjugate the Zulu 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 Regiments under 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 Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu.

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 our past.

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 the past.

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 Charles, the 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.