#KnowYourLand: Dick King is here, but where is Ndongeni?

Published Sep 1, 2018


Durban - People walking on Durban’s Esplanade on Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment) cannot miss the statue of Dick King.

It has pride of place on the Esplanade with sweeping views of the harbour to the east and the rumble of a vibrant city centre to the west.

The statue is as imposing as the man it commemorates: A wartime hero who despite the great odds stacked against him - including illness -  saved a British colony from the hands of marauding Boer soldiers.

But the statue, much like South Africa’s colonial history, does not tell the full story and is missing a key figure: Ndongeni KaXoki.

When the Boer army besieged the British Garrison at their camp in 1842, it was left to Dick King and his 16-year-old helper, Ndongeni to get help.

They were ferried across the bay - not far from where the statue sits today - to the Bluff to begin their more than 1000km horse ride to Grahamstown for help.

The history books say that  Dick King reached Grahamstown in only 10 days despite being ill and unable to travel on two of the days.

Their efforts ensured that Port Natal was saved from a Boer invasion.

While Dick King’s part in the story became legend - even in Britain - Ndongeni’s role was a footnote.

Barend van Niekerk, in his book Durban at Your Feet, an Alternative Guide to a City, wrote that King “instantly became a hero”, but made no mention about Ndongeni’s life or death.

“The untold story of Ndongeni is tragic,” Sihawu Ngubane, a Professor of African Languages at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said.

“He played just as an important role as Dick King. Dick King got a statue and a road named after him but very little is said about Ndongeni. That's the tragedy that needs to be rectified," he said.

In 2015, the Dick King statue was one of several that was smeared with paint as part of a country-wide campaign by activists to have colonial- and apartheid-era statues removed after students at the University of Cape Town were successful in getting a statue of Cecil John Rhodes removed off campus.

Ngubane said history was not about removing one symbol and replacing it with another. He pointed to the fact that in Durban, a statue of King Dinizulu was placed near that of Louis Botha on the edge of the city centre a few years ago.

"What we should do is to place a statue of Ndongeni parallel to Dick King. That is what will make history come alive,” said Ngubane.

At the Durban City Hall, relics from South Africa's colonial past are being intertwined with statues and plaques of freedom fighters and Zulu monarchs.

The question many are starting to now raise, is, whether its time to give Ndongeni his rightful place on Durban's Esplanade?

Daily News

* This story forms part of the #HighSchoolsQuiz study material. Click  here for more #HighSchoolsQuiz stories.

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