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Improve roads to historic battle sites such as Isandlwana, says mayor

A Zulu warrior pretends to stab a British soldier in a mock war demonstration during the 144th commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

A Zulu warrior pretends to stab a British soldier in a mock war demonstration during the 144th commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

Published Jan 23, 2023


Durban — The mayor of uMzinyathi District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal has called for the resurfacing of some of the roads leading to attractions such as the Battle of Isandlwana site to boost tourism and create jobs.

On Friday, a re-enactment of the battle took place to honour and remember one of the pivotal events of the Anglo-Zulu War, where the British were defeated by the Zulus on January 22, 1879.

Mayor Petros Ngubane said the commemoration reminded Zulus of the painful past when many of their warriors died, and it was important to turn this and others similar events into tourism initiatives. Ngubane said other war memorial sites not receiving much recognition were those of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift (also 1879) and the Battle of Blood River (1838).

Ngubane proposed a week-long commemoration of Isandlwana.

Ngubane said the 30km road leading to the site needed to be resurfaced to attract local and foreign tourists.

He added that SA National Road Agency (Sanral) has pledged R200 million to fix and tar the road leading to the battlefield. Ngubane said the road agency had initially committed R180m which had not materialised. In 2021, the Daily News reported that the road agency under the Transport Department had been asked by the late king Goodwill Zwelithini to fix the road. Deputy Minister Cindy Chikunga was quoted as saying the project would attract national and international tourists thus creating job opportunities.

Currently the gravel road leading to this historic site is in a bad state.

British army soldiers demonstrating how they fought Zulus in the battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. Photos by Willem Phungula.

KwaZulu-Natal official Prince Thulani Zulu said officials realised that focusing on Isandlwana would diminish the importance of other battles that should be given equal recognition.

Zulu said that he himself knew very little about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift aside from the fact that it was here that Zulu regiments attacked a British army base.

He said because of the distance many warriors had arrived late at Isandlwana, only to find that the British had been defeated. Because they were still eager to fight, Prince Dabulamanzi, who was king Cetshwayo’s brother, led amabutho (Zulu regiments) the following day across the uMzinyathi river to attack the British army base at Rorke’s Drift, but they were defeated.

“No commemoration had been organised at the site. Our next generation needs to know the importance of this site, too,” said Zulu.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi raising an stick while the king seated watching the demostration of a mock Anglo-Zulu war at Isandlwana memorial site on Saturday. Photo by Willem Phungula

King Misuzulu also spoke about the importance of Rorke’s Drift, saying the reason for the Zulus’ defeat could be that the amabutho had ignored King Cetshwayo’s orders not to enter Natal, but rather wait for the British to enter Zululand and then attack them.

After annexing Natal and declaring it their colony, the British made the river the border between KwaZulu and Natal, placing towns such as Dundee and Newcastle in Natal under their rule.

King Misuzulu warned the Zulu nation not to allow religion and politics to divide them.

He called for unity among Africans, arguing that King Cetshwayo’s resistance against British colonial rule was not for the benefit of only the Zulus but for all Africans, adding the commemoration of the victory in this Anglo-Zulu battle should be attended by various African tribes.

During the dramatic re-enactment, more than 1 000 people, including a sizable number of amabutho, gathered at the foot of the mountain, braving the scorching heat to mark the 144th anniversary of the battle.

Before the official start of the event, amabutho had climbed the mountain to seek blessings, like their forefathers did before they defeated the British troops.

Daily News