The Bhambatha Rebellion

Last week we wrote about the old Durban Central Prison boundary wall, and this week’s our focus is on another wall and another prison. Located at Addington Beach on the Point is a Prisoner of War wall that was built by men captured during the Bhambatha Rebellion of 1906.

1906 Prisoner of War Wall

1906 Prisoner of War Wall

In the years following the Anglo-Boer War employers in Natal had a difficult time recruiting black farm workers as a result of increased competition from the gold mines in Johannesburg. In an effort to coerce Zulu men to enter the labour market a hut tax was introduced. Police officers were sent to collect the tax from recalcitrant districts, and in February 1906 two British officers were killed near Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. In the resulting introduction of martial law, Bhambatha kaMancinza, leader of the amaZondi clan of the Zulu people, fled north to consult King Dinizulu, who invited him and his family to stay at the royal homestead. On his return to the Mpanza Valley Bhambatha discovered that the Natal government had deposed him as chief. Together with a small group of supporters, Bhambatha launched a series of attacks against the British. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulus were killed during the revolt, with more than 7,000 men imprisoned. The campaign, which came to be known as the Bhambatha Rebellion, culminated in a battle at Mome Gorge, where Bambatha and his followers were finally defeated.

Bhambatha kaMancinza at a wedding ceremony in 1905

Bhambatha kaMancinza at a wedding ceremony in 1905

Interestingly a number of Bhambatha’s supporters believed that he was still alive, including his wife who refused to go into mourning. Even today there are those who will tell you that Bhambatha escaped death at the hands of the British, continuing to live out his days in Mozambique. After the fall of the apartheid government, a DNA test was carried out on what was purported to be the body of Bhambatha kaMancinza, but the results were inconclusive.

In 2006, on the the hundredth anniversary of the rebellion, Chief Bhambatha was declared a national hero, with a postage stamp produced in his honour and and a street in Umlazi named after him.

Image of Bhambatha kaMancinza courtesy of samilitaryhistory.org

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