ON THE OCCASION OF
THE 350TH COMMEMORATION OF THE CASTLE OF GOOD HOPE
UNVEILING OF A STATUE OF HIS MAJESTY KING CETSHWAYO
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
GREAT GRANDSON OF HIS MAJESTY KING CETSHWAYO AND
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
His Excellency the President of South Africa, Mr JG Zuma;
Her Excellency the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula MP;
Members of the Royal Families of the amaZulu, the amaHlubi and BaPedi;
Leaders of the Khoisan;
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers and officials of the Government of South Africa;
Kings and Traditional Leaders;
And all the descendants of our country’s brave warriors.
As the great grandson of His Majesty King Cetshwayo ka Mpande, I am humbled to witness the unveiling of a statue memorialising his part in our nation’s history.
Today I am leading the delegation of our present King, His Majesty King Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu. As the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, I lead this delegation on the instruction of the King, even though the Honourable Minister of Defence and Military Veterans invited me in my own right as one of the great grandsons of King Cetshwayo.
We have amongst this delegation some of the cousins of the present King, who are King Cetshwayo’s great great grandchildren. We also have the present King’s children, who are the descendants of King Cetshwayo, since our present King is King Cetshwayo’s great great grandson and sits on his throne. The King’s sons who are in the King’s delegation are Prince Nhlanganiso, Prince Misuzulu and Prince Buza. Also present are the King’s brother, Prince Mbonisi, and Prince Sam, Prince Nsikayezwe Cebekhulu.
The Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Pathisiswe Chiliza, and other amakhosi, as well as the King’s Indunas are also with us in this delegation.
In 1963, I had the honour to play the role of King Cetshwayo in the film “Zulu”, which today is regarded as one of the 500 greatest films that have ever been made. I believe it is important that we relate history in a way that is accessible to this generation.
It is fitting, therefore, as we commemorate 350 years of the Castle of Good Hope, that we honour the kings, traditional leaders and warriors who fought against colonialism throughout our nation’s history. The struggle for liberation in South Africa could not have been won but for their contribution. Their role has not yet been fully appreciated or documented, but today we strike a victory for the record of history.
Today, I pay homage to Inkosi Langalibalele ka Mthimkulu of the amaHlubi, to Kgosi Sekhukhune of the BaPedi, and to Doman, the Khoisan fighter for freedom. But my deepest gratitude is for the honouring of King Cetshwayo of the amaZulu.
I was born to the daughter of King Dinuzulu ka Cetshwayo, and to the son of the King’s Prime Minister. On both sides of my family, I trace my lineage back to those who fought at Isandlwana, and to those who struggled for liberation.
I grew up surrounded by the memories of Isandlwana, for the men who visited my uncle’s palace at KwaDlamahlahla spoke often about the victories and defeats of past generations. I felt connected even then to this rich history, for I knew that the Commander-in-Chief of the King’s regiments during the Anglo-Zulu War, Mnyamana Buthelezi, was my paternal great grandfather, while King Cetshwayo himself was my great grandfather on my mother’s side.
Thus the story of King Cetshwayo is one I know well.
Born in 1827 at the Mlambongwenya umuzi near present-day Ulundi, Prince Cetshwayo was the eldest son of King Mpande kaSenzangakhona and his first wife, Ngqumbazi, a member of the prominent Zungu clan. After his father’s death in 1872, Prince Cetshwayo became king. He was officially recognised by Lord Shepstone in 1873.
At that time, Great Britain sought to create a confederation of the two southern African colonies, the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, and this was pursued by Her Majesty’s High Commissioner in South Africa, Sir Bartle Frere.
In 1877 the Secretary for Native Affairs in the Colony of Natal, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, annexed the Transvaal, landing Britain in a war with Kgosi Sekhukhune. Frere was convinced that the only obstacle to confederation and the subjugation of the Zulu nation, was King Cetshwayo kaMpande. Sir Frere actually said, “The Zulu power must be broken once and for all.” Thus the British planned to attack the Zulu Kingdom.
But their first battle proved the mettle of King Cetshwayo’s regiments. When the sun set on the Battle of Isandlwana on the 22nd of January 1879, the British Empire had sustained the most profound defeat in its long history; a victory had been etched in the psyche of the Zulu nation; and the fate of King Cetshwayo had been undeniably sealed.
It was Isandlwana that led British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to say, “A remarkable people the Zulu. They defeat our generals, they convert our bishops and they put an end to a mighty European dynasty.”
Isandlwana was a watershed moment in the history of South Africa. It is a milestone along the journey for liberation, which was taken up 33 years later by the African National Native Congress, founded by my uncle Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Dr Seme married King Dinuzulu’s eldest daughter, Princess Phikisile Harriet.
My grandfather, Inkosi Mkhandumba Buthelezi, and his brother, Mtumengana, fought at Isandlwana. Mtumengana laid down his life. But my grandfather, Mkhandumba, was among the warriors who cried “Usuthu!” on that glorious day. Some of King Mpande’s children were present at Rorke’s Drift, such as Prince Dabulamanzi ka Mpande.
Tragically, though, the Battle of Isandlwana prompted the Anglo-Zulu War, which ended on 4 July 1879 with the Battle of Ulundi. When King Cetshwayo received news of his army’s defeat, he sent his young son and heir, Prince Dinuzulu, to safety, and he himself went to stay with Inkosi Mnyamana Buthelezi at ekuShumayeleni, before fleeing to Ngome Forest. It was there that the British finally found him, as Shodo Mbuyisa led the British soldiers to his kraal where the King was hiding. The King was then made to surrender.
King Cetshwayo was taken to kwaZondela at Ondini, where he was deposed. He was then transported to Port Durnford, where he boarded a transport ship to Cape Town. Here, he was imprisoned in the Castle of Good Hope, together with the wives who accompanied him.
Frere’s replacement later transferred the King to Oude Moulen farm, where his visitors included British royalty. In July 1882, King Cetshwayo travelled to London to plead our nation’s case before Queen Victoria. She received him with great dignity and he held discussions with Her Majesty’s Secretary for Colonies, Lord Kimberley. Yet he returned without success. It was a most unsatisfactory settlement.
The King’s power had been broken and he had no influence over what remained of his kingdom. It was dismembered by British colonialists who artificially created 13 kinglets, installing new kings. Naturally, war ensued among the Zulu.
King Cetshwayo’s own son, King Dinuzulu, became embroiled in civil wars, which saw him exiled to the Island of St Helena.
When King Cetshwayo returned in 1883, the Mandlakazi section of the Zulu nation attacked the temporary structures in Ulundi, and one of them stabbed the King in the thigh. A number of amakhosi who had come to greet the King were all killed by them.
Eventually, King Cetshwayo was relocated to Eshowe, where he died on 8 February 1884. Those close to him were convinced that he had been poisoned. His remains were taken to the edge of the Nkandla forest, where he was finally laid to rest.
As we set the record straight today, I feel I must draw a distinction between European people who settled in South Africa and became part of our Kingdom, seeing their future in this land, and those whose mind and allegiance remained engulfed in the logics of colonialism.
Driven by King Shaka's original inspiration, our Kingdom sought harmonious relations with increasing numbers of European settlers and missionaries. King Cetshwayo extended his friendship to the colonial authorities which came into our region, just as his uncle King Shaka had done. However, the agenda of colonialism was substantially different from that of settlers and missionaries, and conflict was inevitable.
Professor Herbert Vilakazi explained it well in 2013 when he delivered the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture. He said –
“African people’s outrage in their encounter with Europeans, and all the wars waged by Africans against Europeans in Southern Africa, were over European civilization’s intention and practice of dispossessing Africans of their land, their freedom and independence, and the destruction of UBUNTU.”
It was these things that our kings, amakhosi and warriors fought for. King Cetshwayo admired the courage of Kgosi Sekhukhune, as they worked together to resist colonisation. The leaders of our past drew strength from one another, just as we should do today.
Let us remember their courage, and let us be inspired by those who maintain the fight – even now – for freedom and unity within the nation of South Africa.
On behalf of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, I thank you.