PRESENTATION OF HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE ZULU NATION BY
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN
AND TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER OF THE KING
FROM THE TIME OF THE REIGN OF KING CYPRIAN BHEKUZULU NYANGAYEZIZWE KA SOLOMON AND OF THE ZULU NATION
AND PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Isandlwana: 20 January 2018
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 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.
In June of 1879, with the Anglo-Zulu War still raging, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli received news that the Prince Imperial of France had been killed on the battlefield in Zululand. Responding to this news, the Prime Minister lamented, “A remarkable people, the Zulu. They defeat our generals, they convert our bishops and they put an end to a mighty European dynasty.”
Events of the Anglo-Zulu War were shaking long-held perceptions about the great British Empire. What many had considered just another skirmish in Africa had become a closely followed war. It was evident that the defeat of the Zulu Kingdom would take the full might of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s army; a greater force that was used to conquer the whole of India. The courage, tenacity and strength of the Zulu nation had been badly underestimated.
But the fate of the Zulu Kingdom had been sealed at its first major battle with the British Empire, the Battle of Isandlwana. On 22 January 1879, the crushing defeat of Her Majesty’s soldiers laid an irrevocable path to the destruction of the Zulu Kingdom. It was a humiliating defeat for the British Red Coats, whose superior fire power gave no defence against the assegais, iklwa and cowhide shields of the Zulu Regiments.
News of Isandlwana only reached London on the 12th of February. But the British soldiers in Zululand were so shaken that Lord Chelmsford instituted a Court of Enquiry just days after the battle, in an attempt to determine what had gone wrong. He knew that he would need to account to the Secretary of State for War, and more so to the British public, who would be stunned by the overwhelming victory of King Cetshwayo’s warriors.
Indeed, the full report from the Court of Enquiry was eventually published in The London Gazette, along with page after page of the names of those who had perished. It contained accounts from the few survivors, one of whom was Captain Essex of the 75th Regiment. He described the events as follows –
“…the enemy, dashing forward in a most rapid manner, poured in at this part of the line. In a moment all was disorder, and few of the men… had time to fix bayonets before the enemy was among them using their assegais with fearful effect. I heard officers calling to their men to be steady; but in a few seconds the retreat became general…”
In the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Crealock, “…hardly a man could have escaped…with such an enemy”.
Over the years I have read many accounts of the Battle of Isandlwana, for historians have been fascinated by this Zulu victory. But I have also heard many first-hand accounts, because, while I was growing up at KwaDlamahlahla Royal Palace, Isandlwana was still recent in our nation’s psyche. It had happed just 49 years before my birth. Many of those who had fought in the Anglo-Zulu War were still alive and often spoke about their experiences. Isandlwana was far from ancient history.
Indeed, my own grandfather, Mkhandumba Buthelezi, was wounded at Isandlwana, while his brother, Mntumengana, laid down his life on the battlefield. Their father, Inkosi Mnyamana kaNqengelele Buthelezi, was Prime Minister to the King and served as Commander-in-Chief of the King’s regiments. Mnyamana was my paternal great grandfather, while King Cetshwayo, His Majesty’s great great grandfather, was my maternal great grandfather.
Mnyamana Buthelezi was also the maternal great grandfather of His Majesty’s mother, Queen Mother Thomozile Jezengani ka Thayiza Ndwandwe. She was the daughter of one of my aunts, Mcebile Buthelezi; the daughter of one of Mnyamana’s sons Ndulungo Buthelezi. I knew my aunt very well as I was growing up at my uncle’s Palace, KwaDlamahlahla Palace. She worshipped with us on Sundays at the Anglican Church building within the precincts of the Palace. Altogether 10 sons of Mnyamana Buthelezi died for King and country during the Anglo-Zulu war, and also during the civil wars between Usuthu and Mandlakazi factions of the Zulu Nation.
It will therefore not surprise you if I tell you about this background and the involvement of my families; both on my mother’s side and my father’s side, which prompted me in August 1978, in my capacity of the then Chief Minister of KwaZulu and of His Majesty the then late King Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe’s Traditional Prime Minister, to approach our King, who was reigning already, to ask him with my Cabinet if he could lead us as his people to celebrate the centenary of the Anglo-Zulu War which was going to follow on the 4th of July 1979. The King immediately instructed me to organise his people so that we could celebrate the centenary of the Anglo-Zulu war on the 4th of July 1979. That was going to be the first of many such commemoration ceremonies of these historic events.
Among other things I approached a friend of mine Mr Charles Fiddian-Green, who was the Chairman of the Safmarine Company, and was also in charge of the company that ran the Holiday Inns in South Africa, to build the Holiday Inn hotel. That is how the smallest Holiday Inn in the world, Ulundi Garden Court was built. I realise that we needed such a facility in what was then just thick bush. At first Mr Fiddian-Green laughed as he thought that I was joking. And he blushed when he realised that I was quite serious as it was almost just a few months from August 1978 to the 4th of July 1979, when that commemoration was to take place. My friend delivered the construction of the hotel in time.
I approached His Majesty because I felt that it was right that we remember the King’s Generals and warriors who went before us. The ancestors who died for King and country by walking the difficult paths of our past. Some of us are direct descendants of those brave warriors. Their victory at Isandlwana was a pivotal moment in our Nation’s history, and in our liberation struggle, which is often diminished when we talk of only the political struggle which my uncle Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme started when he and his fellow leaders founded the Africa’s longest movement, the African National Congress. We cannot talk of the liberation struggle which leaves out so many lives that were lost during wars such as the Anglo-Zulu war, the several so-called kaffir wars in the Eastern Cape, King Sekhukhuni’s outstanding bravery during the colonial wars in which he so distinguished himself to the great admiration of Your Majesty’s great great grandfather King Cetshwayo, my maternal great grandfather.
It inspired tremendous courage in our nation, confirming to us that victory is possible even under the direst circumstances. It lent to King Cetshwayo’s regiments the necessary strength for a war that would last another 6 months. Before each successive battle, the approaching Zulu regiments bolstered their courage with the cry, “Singabafana base Sandlwana thina”.
On July 4th 1879 the final battle of the Anglo-Zulu War was fought in Ulundi, and our mighty kingdom was finally reduced to ashes. But the Zulu Nation was never wholly defeated, and we rose again. We rose with the spirit of Isandlwana, for something had happened there on the 22nd January 1879 that planted an unconquerable spirit in the heart of the Zulu Nation.
That unconquerable spirit was seen even in a defeated King Cetshwayo. He had been on the throne for just five years when the British invaded Zululand. His people had suffered a brutal war by foreign invaders. He was deposed, and his kingdom was now to be split into 13 kinglets, while he himself was exiled to the Cape.
On September 11th 1879, The Cape Argus reported his arrival by boat from Durban. The report read as follows –
“Those who have desired to see the captive (Cetywayo) out of mere idle curiosity might be somewhat surprised to find the savage king possessed of a natural gentility and dignity of demeanour… Instead of a monster who could be looked upon as the sightseer would look at a caged lion, they would find a chief, having some of the real dignity of a king… While on board the steamer on his way down he was asked why he did not appear so cheerful as usual, and did not smile. ‘Smile!’ asked the king. ‘Did you ever see a dead man smile? I am dead when my country is taken away.’”
Many accounts of King Cetshwayo speak of his dignity and enduring hope, even in the face of defeat. One such account was written by Lady Florence Dixie, who came to South Arica as a special correspondent for The Daily News. Upon meeting the exiled King, she wrote –
“…Cetshwayo, who has been represented as a cruel bloodthirsty despot and tyrant, possesses that which many white men, with civilisation and education around them, entirely lack, and which they may well envy i.e. a nobility of soul, dignity, and courage in misfortune, which makes him in all he says, every inch a king.”
This dignity and courage that was so evident in King Cetshwayo has its roots in Isandlwana. It is part of the unconquerable spirit that was born that day, when our warriors cried “Usuthu!”
As I have often said, our 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.
Now, as we remember Isandlwana and the enduring might of the Zulu Nation, I am honoured to present His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation to deliver the address for today. He is the son of His Majesty King Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe, the son of His Majesty King Solomon Maphumzana, the son of His Majesty King Dinuzulu, the son of His Majesty King Cetshwayo around whose persona our people displayed such valour. I present the great great grandson of King Cetshwayo, who is today’s King of this great Nation.