Historical overview of KwaZulu-Natal cont.....part 2


Historical overview of KwaZulu-Natal cont.....part 2


A New Problem Looms

No sooner had the British seemingly dealt with this particular threat, when rivalry among the 13 chiefdoms of Zululand escalated to the point of another potential civil war. London grew so concerned with the deteriorating situation that King Cetshwayo was brought to England from his Cape Town prison. His arrival on 5 August 1882 aroused enormous public interest, as did his audiences with Queen Victoria and numerous dignitaries. Having vowed to keep the peace and make no attempt to revive the military, Cetshwayo was allowed to return to Zululand, where he'd 'rule' alongside a British Resident over a much-diminished territory to be known as The Reserve.

Tables are Turned

King Cetshwayo arrived back in Zululand during January 1883, but within six months was again in hiding from would-be assassins, and on 8 February died by a poisoner's hand. His teenage heir Dinizulu, who had remained secluded in Zululand throughout his father's travails, was declared successor to the throne. It was time to switch allegiances again, and as the British had dismantled the Zulu Kingdom, Dinizulu now sought Boer protection. In exchange for a tract of land large enough to establish an independent state, the renewed alliance partners duly proclaimed him 'King of the Zulus and of All Zululand' and swore to keep Dinizulu's enemies at bay. The British were angered and dismissed the new king as merely 'a nominal ruler in the hands of the Boer invaders'. And when the latter laid yet further territorial claims, British ire was raised to the point where they annexed Zululand in May 1887. Dinizulu's objections were countered with the now famous rebuttal: 'The rule of the House of Shaka is a thing of the past...dead...like water spilt on the ground. The Queen who conquered Cetshwayo now rules in Zululand - and no one else!' Within two years, Dinizulu was convicted for 'high treason and public violence' and sentenced to ten years' in jail on St Helena Island off West Africa.

Building a Home

The settlers in Durban and immediate vicinity were meanwhile attempting to forge a society with a future, while turbulence and uncertainty reigned all around. A growing need for housing timber inspired further unlocking of the South Coast, which by now had begun to compete in sugar production with the pioneering Dolphin Coast. Transporting these goods was problematic, for the South Coast river mouths were difficult to navigate and exacted a heavy toll on shipping. Port Shepstone had been dredged and proclaimed a town in 1882, but despite the assembling of a now historic lighthouse shipped out from England, wrecks were all too commonplace. Most 'visited' of these is of the Nebo, which in 1884 struck and sank alongside the fossilised Aliwal Shoal off Umkomaas. She was destined to be joined almost a century later by the Produce, and together they today add a fascinating dimension to one of the world's most renowned diving locations. This rash of shipwrecks inspired southbound dreams among our railway pioneers, already proud architects of a vital link with the hinterland.

Life-Changing Journey

Armed with the promise of a first-class ticket aboard that train to the interior, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stepped ashore in Durban on 23 May 1893, a 24-year-old London-trained barrister eager to kick-start his stalled career as an advocate of Bombay and Rajkot. The future Mahatma - Great Soul - had been contracted to assist in a case being heard in the Transvaal, and his train journey from Durban Station on 7 June was interrupted by an infamous incident that changed not only his own life, but consequently the course of world history. Our History of Indian Settlement covers Gandhi's 'South African Experience' in greater detail, while cosmopolitan Durban Metro, the rolling Midlands and atmosphere- charged Battlefields contain a wealth of opportunities for the visitor to absorb Gandhi-ji's omnipresence. Here lie the exact places where he lived, worked and worshipped, faced racist authorities of the day and witnessed the horrors of war.

Anglo-Boer Carnage

By 1899, the northern triangle of Natal sat precariously between two Boer republics - the Orange Free State and already-mentioned Transvaal (ZAR) involved in the First War of Independence. Dissatisfaction with the Pretoria Convention signed at the end of that year-long conflict peaked on 11 October 1899, when Boer soldiers invaded Natal and took the town of Newcastle four days later. The Anglo-Boer War was consequently declared, and our Battlefields history chronicles these events and details the sites that increasingly attract visitors and documentary makers to annual commemorative events. Prominent among these is a re-enactment of the war's first engagement, on 20 October 1899, at Talana near Dundee. The British drove Boer forces off Talana Hill, but suffered heavy losses, including commanding officer General Penn Symons. They exacted revenge the following day at Elandslaagte, opening an escape route for the Dundee regiments to pull back to Ladysmith. The resulting build-up of British troops there inspired Boer leaders to lay siege to the town, a bold initiative that soon hit world headlines. Instrumental in disseminating this news was 25-year-old cavalryman and correspondent for the London Morning Post, Winston Churchill, whose exploits are also recounted in our Battlefields overview. The 'Siege of Ladysmith' lasted 118 days, finally turning in Britain's favour after a series of battles known as Thukela Heights. By this time, though, anti- English sentiment had been rekindled in historically hostile countries all over the globe, and volunteers for the Boer cause arrived from as far afield as France, Germany, Russia and America.

Angels of Mercy

Many have wondered why the Indians brought to Natal never absconded to join forces with these 'Anti-loyalists' - England was, after all, held largely responsible for ruining India's domestic self- sufficiency by turning its agriculture into 'London's bread-basket' and thereby making indentured contracts in far-flung colonies a necessary alternative to starvation. Furthermore, what little rights the Indians enjoyed in Natal were being inexorably legislated into oblivion. Nonetheless, visible throughout the brutality that hallmarked the Anglo-Boer War, and the Ladysmith saga in particular, was the volunteer Indian Ambulance Corps, created by the visionary, budding saintliness of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Burn and Inter

Following the relief of Ladysmith and Dundee, the war spread from northern Natal to include the Cape Colony and both Boer republics. Their resources now spread over an ever-widening arena, British leaders called for reinforcements from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, before devising the scorched-earth policy and concentration camps that would shock world opinion. These tactics proved highly effective, though, and despite a second invasion of Natal by Commandant-General Louis Botha towards the close of 1901, the Boers' was a lost cause. By the cessation of hostilities in 1902, an estimated 28 000 civilians - black and white - had died in the concentration camps. Of these, 4 000 were women and 22 000 children. In comparison, the total number of Boer and British soldiers killed in battle was around 12 000. Devastation lay everywhere, including of the economy.

Post-War Depression

A subsequent feature of Natal became directionless wrangling by Colonial politicians over the 'Native Problem' and 'Indian Question'. Numerous commissions and conferences produced little more than personal point-scoring among their participants - the Zulu people were still without effective 'national' leadership and thus in a constant state of uncertainty, while the Indians were trying desperately to persuade white authorities to listen to their representations. Members of white civil society, on the other hand, attempted to console themselves with the post-war rationale that even though King Dinizulu had been pardoned and brought back from St Helena Island, he'd at least not set his people on the war-path against them. The events of 1906 served to prove them wrong - to a degree at least.

Levy and Revolt

That year, Colonial authorities imposed a Poll Tax on Zulu people inhabiting an area close to the Midlands battlefield towns. This was the culmination of a series of incidents that led to Chief Bambatha of the Zondi clan declaring a rebellion. His stance attracted the support of other local leaders, and when a column of police was sent to the district to rescue fearful white families, the uniformed men were ambushed and killed. Retribution was swift and lethal, the British army killing Bambatha and all his followers. King Dinizulu was subsequently charged, found guilty and sentenced to four years imprisonment for 'inciting and harbouring rebels'.

Free in Word

Dinizulu never served out his full sentence, for the Union of South Africa came into being on 31 May 1910, and its first Prime Minister was Boer leader and the Zulu king's former ally - Commandant-General Louis Botha. The man who'd headed the second invasion of Natal set Dinizulu free to spend the last three years of his life on a farm in the Transvaal. In the now Province of Natal, Dinizulu's son Mshiyeni and grandson Bhekuzulu became Paramount Chiefs in title, but salaried officials of the white government in practice.

A third member of the royal family, uMntwana Pika Zulu, would be inexorably linked to a Durban 'institution' responsible for pioneering urban racial segregation and creating a blueprint for the entire country. This was the Durban Municipality-funded Native Administration Department, and its legacy - the 'Durban System'.

White Fears

The port settlement was by now South Africa s third-largest 'city', with a white population of around 26 000 and non-whites totalling in excess of 30 000. Finally outnumbered, the whites now believed they faced a crisis of alarming proportions, for the combined non-white figures had near trebled in a single decade. The perceived threat was double-pronged, but not equally ominous, for of the two dangers they sensed, one appeared to far outweigh the other in terms of menacing their emergent society.

Although Indians comprised less than half of the non-white population, European and British merchants and tradesmen feared the competition born of Indian enterprise and skill. Even more, though, did the whites fear what Colonial authorities called 'the vast number of barbarous, lawless natives who've come to look upon Durban as their own happy hunting ground'. Events in Zululand and the port city's economic boom had inevitably drawn Africans to the urban centre, and seen their numbers multiply 14-fold in just over a quarter of a century.

White captains of industry demanded 'a cheap and docile labour pool not social pests of criminal intent to demoralise white citizenry through social integration.Blacks do not belong in the white man's towns, except as labour-providing visitors with no right to any privileges'.

Funding their Oppressors

These black workers were already subject to a large degree of social control by Municipal authorities and Colonial government and, ironically, paid the wages of those who policed them. Fines gathered from contravening vagrancy, curfew and liquor laws funded the Durban Borough Police, with the Municipality collecting further revenue by legally demanding that day-labourers pay a registration fee. This 'casual' labour force was seen as the reason Durban 'showed signs of overflowing with slums inhabited by shiftless, unsupervised and criminally-inclined shack-dwellers'. Public opinion of this nature compelled lawmakers to set about formulating even tighter controls for Africans, and gave birth to influx control and black townships.

Neither city fathers nor ratepayers showed any willingness to shoulder the added financial burden implicit in these new regulations. The impasse was resolved when yet another scheme was devised whereby Africans would have to pay for something which they most definitely deemed objectionable.

Buy Back Your Culture

Traditional Zulu beer was the key, and policy-makers believed they d struck the mother-lode. A minimally-alcoholic sorghum brew, Zulu beer was both a staple food and centuries-old cultural symbol - why not then, the administrators calculated, deprive the black man of this integral part of daily life, then make him pay the white man to get it back? In 1916, the 'cost-effective' Durban Borough Police handed over control of Africans to the newly formed Native Administration Department, which immediately refined and exploited conditions of the Native Beer Act to finance their new scheme - the Durban System.

By declaring a legal limit on 'home-brew' and exercising a monopoly over the production, distribution and sale of Zulu beer throughout Durban, the Native Administration Department was more than adequately funded in its quest for total dominion over the lives of black people. Here lay the blueprints of South Africa's institutionalised 'apartheid'.

Centre of Iniquity

The department's move from the Old Court House - today the highly informative Local History Museum - to a new, purpose-built head office in the late 1920s, opened the way for the Durban System to really come into its own. Erected alongside the main sorghum brewery, the new seat of authority known in Zulu as 'KwaMuhle' further tightened its grip, and Africans were soon paying for increased control of their own freedom of movement. 

The name KwaMuhle - Place of the Good One - originated with the Native Administration department's first manager, J.S. Marwick, who earned the title 'Good One' at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, when he marched home to safety some seven thousand Zulu labourers from the Transvaal gold mines. While many Africans found 'KwaMuhle' a less-than-appropriate name for this centre of race-based power, the moniker endured even beyond apartheid's demise, and the building is today downtown Durban's fascinating and much visited KwaMuhle Museum. Not all were as tolerant. The African National Congress (ANC) had come into being during the first month of 1912, with an American- educated son of Zululand soil - John Dube - elected its first president. Anger at KwaMuhle's role saw members of the ANC target the institution for their first-ever sabotage of a symbol of racist authority. Those involved later conceded their 'inexperience at the time', for the explosive device caused so little damage they returned with a Molotov-cocktail in order to save face. The fire brigade was required to extinguish the resulting flames, and the white authorities knew a point had been made.

The System In Action

All work-seekers entering Durban had first to register their arrival at KwaMuhle, where officials held lists of current vacancies and projected labour requirements - the latter estimate aimed at keeping numbers of unemployed at manageable levels. Newcomers to Durban not fitting either category were declared 'out of town' and given 72 hours to literally get themselves beyond city limits. To police this and other prohibitions, KwaMuhle handpicked a force of African 'constables' with the brawn and willingness to uphold white dominance. Beer paid the wages of these much-reviled 'Blackjacks', as they were called, along with that of a member of the Zulu royal house, whose Monday-to-Friday presence at KwaMuhle contributed, unintentionally perhaps, to a policy of 'divide and rule'. Influx control was a bureaucratic marathon of paperwork bewildering to uneducated rural folk in particular, and the earlier mentioned Umntwana Pika Zulu served as 'ambassador' between the Zulu nation and white authorities. Often called upon to explain away seemingly irrational decisions to unsuccessful and unhappy would-be workers, Pika Zulu was, among politicised Africans, viewed with deep suspicion as an 'Uncle Tom' and collaborator.

Blueprint Of Resistance

KwaMuhle's 'beer account' began funding the construction of townships aimed at keeping black workers at arm's length while still within convenient commuting distance. These townships would house 'settled' Africans, now that influx control had allegedly stamped out slum growth - a claim belied by the appalling conditions obvious to any observer at the time. The resulting Beer Boycotts and Riots of 1929 were blamed on the rapidly emerging Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, whose leader, A.W.G. Champion, had already raised Municipal ire by successfully challenging discriminatory by-laws in open court. Laying the 1929 riots at his door finally allowed authorities to banish Champion from Durban boundaries. More upheaval was destined to follow, despite completion of the first township in 1934.

Pause For War Abroad

Matters of 'Native Administration' were more or less put on hold between 1939 and 1945, when South Africa joined the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany - despite attempts by radical Afikaaner nationalists to side this country with Adolf Hitler against Great Britain. Durban had during the Great War of 1914-18 witnessed a fair amount of troop-ship movement, but during the Second World War became a major staging-point and shore-leave playground for thousands of British, American and other visiting soldiers. It was during this time that laws were passed compelling 'bare-breasted Zulu maidens' to cover their upper torsos within Durban precincts.

The 'moral majority' of the time felt that although local white men had grown accustomed to the sight, their counterparts from abroad would be 'unwholesomely aroused and driven to salacious acts'. These laws were never repealed.

Struggle Resumes At Home

Durban's second township was completed with a year of war's end, but trouble was brewing within the ever-growing Cato Manor 'informal settlement'. African and Indian lived side-by-side here - with one marked difference. Indians were allowed to own land, and allegations of exorbitant rent-hikes and forced overcrowding were soon levelled against them by their African tenants. In addition to these 'slum- lord tactics', Indian shopkeepers and transport owners were accused of financially exploiting the monopolies they enjoyed. White entrepreneurs and certain elements within the Durban Municipality help foster this resentment, partly in the name of 'divide-and-rule' but also due to their jealousy of Indian advancement. Migration from the subcontinent was by now a thing of the past, thanks both to Gandhi's agitation upon returning home and local white claims that 'enough is enough'.

African-Indian hatred reached boiling point on 13 January 1949, and a two-day orgy of murder, looting and arson centred around the Cato Manor slum-land made world headlines. A year later, South Africa's political rulers, the Afrikaaner-dominated Nationalists, declared the infamous Group Areas Act - the influx control system pioneered by the Durban Municipality had come home to roost in dramatic fashion, because forced removals now became order of the day.

Peaceful And Violent Opposition

In 1952, another son of KwaZulu soil ascended to presidency of the ANC, in the form of Chief Albert Luthuli. Both a committed pacifist and supporter of the ANC's armed struggle against apartheid, it's unlikely Chief Luthuli had any influence over events that would once again thrust Cato Manor into the global spotlight. In June 1959, a 'beer-hall blockade' there led to further loss of life and massive destruction of property, followed six months later by the hacking to death of four white and five black policemen. This sparked unrest and the atrocities of government reprisal in other parts of South Africa, and a National State of Emergency existed in major urban areas between April and August of 1960. Still later the same year, Chief Albert Luthuli would become the first South African recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. His home and burial place in Groutville are today highlights of our Dolphin Coast experience.

The End Is Nigh

President-to-be Nelson Mandela was arrested on the outskirts of Howick in our Midlands region in 1962 and eventually sentenced to life in prison. This and other events intensified the armed struggle against apartheid, and Durban, the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg and other Natal towns witnessed their share of Umkhonto weSizwe's acts of sabotage. The minority racist regime was starting to unravel, though, and among its first attempts to appease the majority without actually handing over power, was the 1986 abolition of Influx Control. Now redundant, Durban's KwaMuhle premises first fell vacant then became derelict - the course of history had come full circle. Negotiations during the early 1990s saw the ruling National Party first rescind banning orders on the Liberation Movement's constituent bodies, then release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. This was followed by an agreement leading to the 1993 adoption of an interim constitution based on universal principles of human rights and justice. South Africa's first democratic elections were held on 27 April 1994, with the African National Congress winning the majority national vote, but a province called KwaZulu-Natal controlled by the predominantly Zulu-supported Inkatha Freedom Party - its named derived from a traditional potion that ensures loyalty.

Planning The Future

With a name enhancing more than our reputation as 'Last Outpost of the British Empire', KwaZulu-Natal's guiding lights embarked on reconciling our somewhat fractious history, and assimilating previously disadvantaged communities into the benefits of conserving our legacies and natural splendour. For the visitor to these picture- perfect shores, this visionary approach means a warm welcome to meticulously maintained culture and landmarks of worldwide import and interest.

Between lofty
Berg and sun-drenched Beach, amid Battlefields, Bush and the cosmopolitan Buzz of our cities and towns, lie opportunities to immerse oneself in the reminders of an epic saga that captured global attention on more than one occasion. Players from all points of the atlas appear in the annals of KwaZulu-Natal, and we look forward to sharing with you this most fascinating of true-life stories. Welcome to the province of KwaZulu-Natal, our Zulu Kingdom!