Unveiling of a Tombstone in Commemmoration of Inkosi Phalane ka Mdinwa Who Fought in the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana


University of Zululand Sports Grounds: 15 September 2018

His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, all Members of the Royal family, the Honourable Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr TW Mchunu; Amakhosi, Members of Parliament, Members of Legislature, their Worships the Mayors, Amabutho, Izinduna, Councillors and the distinguished guests.

It is my privilege as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, to introduce His Majesty our King. This morning His Majesty will speak to us about one of the seminal moments in history, when the fate of Zulu Nation was sealed.

The Battle of Isandlwana thrust into prominence the strength, courage and ferocity of our nation’s warriors. But it also sparked a deadly determination in the heart of our enemy to conquer, divide and subjugate. It was our victory at Isandlwana that cast in stone the certainty of loss at the hands of Imperial Britain.

We still carry the scars of the Anglo-Zulu War which saw our King imprisoned and our kingdom divided. But so too do we carry the memory of Isandlwana. On 22 January 1879, our grandfathers and great grandfathers birthed an unconquerable spirit of overcoming when they faced the British Redcoats at Isandlwana, and won.

It was the first time throughout Africa that Queen Victoria’s soldiers had been defeated by the regiments of those they sought to conquer. It sent a shockwave throughout Europe. In response, the British mounted a massive assault on Zululand. Ultimately, the defeat of King Cetshwayo’s regiments required a force greater than that used to conquer the whole of India.

But the spirit of Isandlwana remained. From generation to generation, the story of our victory was passed on, so that every child born into the Zulu nation would know their heritage. The spirit of Isandlwana has inspired our nation to survive and to forge greater unity and strength. Despite more than a century of war, colonial conquest, oppression and even apartheid, the Zulu nation still thrives. We were defeated, but not destroyed.

That is a heritage worth remembering. I wish to thank the Heritage Division in the Office of the Premier for arranging this commemoration. Today we honour one of the many unsung heroes of Isandlwana, Inkosi Phalane kaMdinwa of the Hlangezwa. Through the unveiling of his tombstone, we are remembering not only Inkosi kaMdinwa’s bravery, but the bravery of so many who remain uncelebrated.

For me, Isandlwana lives on at the core of my identity. It is part of my own history. My paternal grandfather, Mkhandumba, and his brother, Mtumengana, fought at Isandlwana. Mtumengana fell alongside some 2 000 Zulu warriors. But my grandfather stood among the survivors to cry “Usuthu!”

Their father, Prime Minister Mnyamana Nqengelele Buthelezi, was the Prime Minister to King Cetshwayo. Thus, when the Anglo-Zulu War began, Inkosi Mnyamana was appointed by the King as his Commander-in-Chief of all the King’s regiments. On that fateful day when his sons fought at Isandlwana, my paternal great grandfather, Inkosi Mnyamana, was fighting at Khambule.

Today it is impossible to mark the grave of every warrior who lost their life at Isandlwana. Bones lie scattered across the battlefield as the mortal remains of so many were never interred as they should have been. Among the warriors who fell that day were the heads of many families and clans, but their final resting places remain unmarked.

It is thus all the more significant that this tombstone for Inkosi kaMdinwa be unveiled. It is also fitting that His Majesty our King, who sits on the throne of King Cetshwayo, should speak to us today as we honour our unsung heroes.

Inkosi Phalane kaMdinwa survived the Battle of Isandlwana and continued to fight throughout the Anglo-Zulu War. On 2 July 1879, when King Cetshwayo held his final Imbizo, Inkosi kaMdinwa was present among our nation’s most influential commanders.

He sat alongside the Commander of all the King’s regiments, Mnyamana Buthelezi, and other Nobles such as the following: Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza, Zibhebhu kaMapitha of the Mandlakazi, Sihayo kaXongo of the Ngobese, Mavumengwana kaNdlela of the Ntuli, his brother Godide kaNdlela, Sigananda kaSofuka Shezi of the Ncube, Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande and Prince Ziwedu kaMpande.

They following day, more than 20 000 warriors converged on the plain of Ulundi, preparing for the coming battle. Within 24 hours the Battle of Ulundi was fought and our kingdom was conquered.

I was deeply touched on my 90th birthday last month when I was presented with a spear which had been used by Magxisa Mlungwana at the Battle of Isandlwana, together with the military necklace he was awarded for bravery; the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

I believe that the spirit of Isandlwana still has a place in our society. That spirit of overcoming is worth cultivating and calling out in our people, particularly in our youth. Faced with all the challenges of the present, from unemployment to recession to the ongoing fight for social justice, our youth need a spirit of overcoming.

Almost 140 years after Isandlwana, there is still a rich heritage for this generation. It is right that we remember. It therefore gives me great pleasure to introduce His Majesty the King as he speaks to us on this important occasion.