Much is said about King Shaka and the other Zulu kings’ cunning strategies, bravery and cruelty. King Shaka is said to have killed any soldier showing signs of weakness. He is also said to have gutted any person who did not show sufficient grief when his mother passed away. Other Zulu kings lured British and Boer generals with dancing women and tricked them with false promises.
Yet what touches me most about the stories of the Ango-Zulu War in the Midlands Battlefields Tour from Isibindi Zulu Lodge, as told by our guide Mike Nel who is passionate about Zulu culture and life, is the subtler story of the diplomacy of the Zulu kings. When the British soldiers first crossed the river into Zululand, King Mpande is said to have made several efforts to prevent war, including presenting gifts of ivory and cattle to the invaders. The great King Cetswayo is also recorded to have said “I send these animals to appease you.” One exasperated warrior chieftan is said to have called out from a hilltop before one battle “What do you white people even want in Zululand?”
However, as John Dunn explained to King Cetswayo, the Westerners were “as numerous as the stars”, and kept coming, even creating spurious laws to force Zulu kings into war until the extent of the losses were as great as they have been recorded in history. The Zulu Kingdom was gradually parcelled out to both British and Boer, until only a small portion remained in the North, where it still exists as “Zululand” today. One cannot help wondering how very different the history of this country might have been if the early efforts at diplomacy had been received with the dignity and respect with which they were presented.
Review by Characterstays (www.characterstay.blogspot.com)