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Subject: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:17 pm
The reason I ask this question is from when Shaka formed the Zulu nation into the fighting force that evolved to what the British Army fought against in 1879, every Zulu king ruled against a background of envy and plots - especially from close family members. Even Shaka was assassinated by his kin.
Far from the myth of the Tyrant King, who would dispense death to any who chose to disobey him, Zulu history is littered with examples of disobedience with impunity. During Cetewayo's rule, several minor chieftains withdrew to their kraals with their impis, rather than answer his call to arms, and escaped punishment. Cetewayo's half-brother, Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande, led his impis in the attack on Rorke's Drift - in direct contravention of Cetewayo's order forbidding such an action. Had Cetewayo been all-powerful, as was supposed, it would seem that Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande's fate was sealed - it was not as if he could justify his actions with news of a victory. However, Cetewayo did not put him to death, and indeed Dabulamanzi outlived his half-brother by two years, dying in 1886.
During the course of the Zulu war, apart from Ulundi, it would seem that there had been no overall chain of command from Cetewayo to his army, and as a result there was no real coordination in the Zulu response to the invasion. Had Cetewayo deliberately left decisions to individual Indunas, or had he lost control of his armies?
Was his 'despotic' rule another myth put about by the Dutch settlers and the British to exaggerate the threat posed by the Zulus to justify the siezure of Zulu lands for farming and the Zulus themselves for labour in the gold and diamond mines?
Posts : 131 Join date : 2010-07-04 Location : Gloucester, UK
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:14 pm
Zulu politics are a complex business but, in a nutshell, I think it fair to say that a feature of Cetshwayo's reign WAS to try and restore the authority of the Zulu royal house similar to that which existed in Shaka's time. But in saying that I believe it would be wrong to imagine that the King ruled with an iron fist and was as "despotic" as some would have us believe.
The fact is that by the time Cetshwayo came to power in 1873 the Zulu Grand Council - the ibandla - had long since been established and comprised some powerful people that the King, alone, could not overthrow. In " The Last Zulu King", C T Binns writes, " Now that Cetshwayo was firmly seated upon his throne it became obvious that he was determined to consolidate his position from a military point of view, and in this he was strongly backed by his Great Council, for it must be remembered that without this support he would have been almost powerless. This fact is often overlooked, but it is undoubtedly true that many of his great indunas were as powerful as the feudal barons in early English history. They wielded enormous influence, governing their subjects with a rod of iron ...........". However, Cetshwayo was astute enough to win the confidence of his Council and carry their support. When coming to the throne, the KIng had appointed the much respected and influential Mnyamana kaNgqengele Buthelezi as head of the Council - induna'nkhulu - who subsequently assumed the role of commander in chief of the Zulu army at the time of the British invasion in 1879.
You mentioned Dabulamanzi's failure at Rorke's Drift. C T Binns also writes that, "when news of this assault [at Rorke's Drift] reached Cetshwayo, Dabulamanzi would have been executed for his disobedience had he not been of Royal blood .......and had not other high-ranking officers in the Zulu army pleaded on his behalf".
I hope this is helpful - it is a difficult question to answer in just a few short paragraphs. But help is at hand! It is my understanding that Ian Knight's new book, " Zulu Rising", due to be released shortly, will look in great depth at the Zulu perspective in the story of iSandlwana and RD and will consider both the internal and external politics of the Zulu (on both sides of the Mzinyathi), and how it all came to a head and influenced the events of 22 January 1879. Fascinating stuff! Can't wait!
Posts : 2558 Join date : 2009-04-06 Age : 59 Location : UK
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:40 pm
Well at the wave of his hand, He could have a warrior killed. (Now that's powerfull) Power over life and death.
Posts : 15 Join date : 2010-08-15 Age : 68
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:34 pm
Thanks for the response, Umbiki. Very informative and surprising. Political complexity is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of the Zulu nation. Considering that the equivalent of the baronial system had developed by that time it makes the political development of Britain look positively sluggish. I look forward to that book.
P.S. I've just had this surreal vision of Cetewayo going head-to-head with the Zulu equivalent of Sir Humphrey Appleby! :lol!:
Posts : 2594 Join date : 2009-04-24
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:02 pm
In 1872 Mpande dies having proclaimed Cetshwayo as the successor and Chief of the Zulu nation.Cetshwayo asserts his new authority by killing thousands of the followers of his half-brother Mboyazi, including the murder of Nomantshali, whose only crime is that she is the mother of Mthonga, a potential rival to the new Zulu King. By so doing, Cetshwayo ensures that his authority is not challenged from within the Zulu nation.
Posts : 7077 Join date : 2009-04-24 Age : 53 Location : Down South.
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:11 pm
Just out of interest. Cetshwayo kaMpande ceremony was led by Sir Theophilus Shepstone.
Posts : 131 Join date : 2010-07-04 Location : Gloucester, UK
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:57 pm
Mpande did indeed die in 1872 but Cetshwayo had been identified as the heir to the throne as far back as 1839 in the company of Mpande and the Boers who took a small piece out of the young Prince's ear to prove the point. In subsequent years Mpande cooled on the idea of Cetshwayo and began to show signs of favouring Mbuyazi. To cut a long story short, Cetshwayo's followers, the uSuthu, saw off and defeated Mbuyazi and his followers, the iziGqoza, at Ndondakusuka on the banks of the Thukela in December 1856. Granted it was a terrible slaughter - chillingly known thereafter as the place, or stream, of bones. Several other princes died along with Mbuyazi that day and it was here that Cetshwayo all but secured succession to the Zulu throne; although Mpande kept him guessing until his demise in 1872.
In 1873 Cetshwayo invited the Natal authorities (in the shape of Shepstone et al) to his coronation in a misguided attempt to bolster his position on the Zulu throne. The traditional Zulu ceremonies had already been completed by the time Shepstone arrived to place, as Ian Knight puts it in his Who's Who in the Zulu War of 1879 Vol II entry, "a theatrical crown on Cetshwayo's head and delivering an ambiguous lecture on good government". In truth, all that the King's invitation had achieved was to effectively open the door for Natal to interfere in Zulu affairs; which would come back to haunt the Zulu when they were shafted by the now infamous Ultimatum in December 1878.
Posts : 10482 Join date : 2009-04-07 Age : 66 Location : Melbourne, Australia
Subject: how powerful was the king of the zulu's Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:33 am
hi Tom. Ceteswayo wasnt present at the battle of Ulundi , he had decided to go before the outcome of the battle was known . Seems he knew the writing was on the wall . cheers 90th.
Posts : 45 Join date : 2010-08-18 Age : 67 Location : Perth Westen Australia
Subject: Re: exactly how powerful was the King of the Zulus Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:27 am
it appears he had little control over the army by the time of the advance on Ulundi - most relevant part:
On the same day the first cable was received, Cetshwayo’s representatives again appeared. A previous reply to Chelmsford’s demands had apparently never reached the British force, but now these envoys bore some of what the British commander had demanded – oxen, a promise of guns and gift of elephant tusks. The peace was rejected as the terms had not been fully met and Chelmsford turned the envoys away without accepting the elephant tusks and informed them that the advance would only be delayed one day to allow the Zulus to surrender one regiment of their army. The redcoats were now visible from the Royal Kraal and a dismayed Cetshwayo was desperate to end the hostilities. With the invading enemy in sight, he knew no Zulu regiment would surrender so Cetshwayo sent a further hundred white oxen from his own herd along with Prince Napoleon’s sword, which the Zulu had taken 1 June, 1879 in the skirmish in which the Prince was killed. The Zulu umCijo regiment, guarding the approaches to the White Mfolozi river where the British were camped, refused to let the oxen pass deeming it a useless gesture, saying, as it was impossible to meet all Chelmsford's demands, fighting was inevitable.