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DateOriginal Topic
30th May 2004Ignorance or Isurrection?
By Rob Gerrard
Every now and then I read something that makes my hackles rise and whilst those near at hand say - 'relax, the guy's a lunatic, go with the flow' - I'm not at all sure that as one who is proud of his British heritage, I want to go with the flow.

The following passage appeared in the Chiswich Chatter and tell me why Britain discarded Enoch Powell !

Quote :

Blue Plaque should be dyed crimson.
Sir, I am pained and confused by the rather ghoulish commemoration of Fred Hitch VC who slaughtered many Zulu victims at Rorke's Drift. Hitch's spectre should be forgotten not celebrated.
Victorian vanities inevitably jar with this era of mobile phones, computers and the worldwide web. To echo Christ 'let the dead bury the dead'
The jingoistic march on Jan 25, had the unpleasant tones of an overdone movie, by DW Griffith - a sham pseudo-Hollywood event, with period costumes and old weapons, a royal regiment, the Royal British Legion, a cemetary, a church and ultimately a totally undeserved blue plaque. There was an ugly tinge of the black man as the villain, the foe, over whom the showy parade sould pitilessly trample.
Rorke's Drift, contrary to the paper's slanted report, was not a 'military triumph'. Instead it was the sequel to Isandhlwana, the British version of Custer's Little Big Horn.
Lt Gen 'Lord' Chelmsford the same as Custer was so anxious for the blood of natives that he became suicidally reckless.
Chelmsford's rabid men massacred thousands of Zulu freedom fighters before their own deaths, that arrogance greed and stupidity had made inevitable.
After Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift the British spread division and ruin across the reeling Zulu nation.
The Zulu monarchy was humiliated; the Zulu people lost their land and were sucked into the nightmare of Rhodes dark advance.
The blue plaque for Fred Hitch VC should be dyed a cruel crimson, with the gore of mangled Zulu corpses. Hitch was not a war hero but a war criminal, a ghoul.
I presume that this letter will not be published since Britain is the enemy of freedom of speech.

30th May 2004steve
those rising hackles must be catching bob,
ive got em now.........
its easy for revisionists to rewrite history for
there own political rant,and it shows they do
not know the great respect victorians held
for the zulu nation and its peoples.

today ive seen reference on this site to the
supply of computer equipment for schools
for zulu children,ive seen messages of
condolence in the forum a while back,to the
zulu royal family on the loss of a family
much of the investment in the area comes from tourism,tourism borne from people
who wish to know more,and i havent seen a
negative response to battlefield visits yet.

most zulu war veterans,english and zulu held
no animosity,only a great respect for each other,horace smith dorrien speaks in
glowing terms of the zulu people,and who am i
to argue.
people,generally left to their own devices,
get along just fine the world over,only on the
introduction of some insipid,misguided
vesuvious of venom,do problems occur.

ignore them bob,the zulus and the brits get
along just fine.

30th May 2004Mark
One question Mr Gerrard ??

I believe you work out of " Isandlwana Lodge " as a tour guide and I should think you make a lot of money out of relating the " Bravery & Heroism " of the likes of Fred Hitch and the others who fought at Rorke's Drift talk about the " Pot Calling The Kettle etc "

It was an honour to be present at Chiswick on
that day in January and I think you are now honour bound to with draw the remarks you made against one of the many brave soldiers who fought in that action so long ago.

Yours in disgust !!!!!!!!!!!!!

30th May 2004Mark
Mr Gerrard

I owe you a very quick apology as I have misread your article while over here in Iraq.
At first I thought this were your words.

Do you have a name for the " Pratt " who wrote this ????

Once again my sincerest apologies

31st May 2004Clive Dickens
It is best to ignore things like this we have the same sort of thing in the UK from the likes of the "Not in our Name " brigade just let it go we will always have clowns like this mores the pity.
31st May 2004Steven Sass
Mr. pained and confused,

Please note-it's cemetery, not cemetary. If you're going to rant, get it right!
31st May 2004Rosemary Dixon-Smith
I'm not sure that the lunatic fringe, which is undoubtedly what we're dealing with here (QUOTED, please note, NOT written by!, Rob Gerrard), deserves the dignity of attention. Unfortunately, like a poor review from a critic, the minute something like this gets into print or, worse still, online, its poison spreads to a wider audience and may do immense and serious harm. In my view it shouldn't have been published in the first place.

It does, however, remind us that there are a lot of scorpions lurking under rocks out there. This is one that should have been firmly stamped on before it could do any damage.

Ignorance and arrogance, always a dangerous combination, are so evident in each line of this vicious offering that its embarrassing to read it.

Those who have any sense of history at all know that every man who fought at Rorke's Drift, Zulu and British, was a hero - a word which the Oxford Dictionary defines as an "illustrious warrior", "one who fought for his country". (Hitch certainly qualifies.)

The heroes of Rorke's Drift had something worth fighting for - comments such as those quoted makes one wonder if there's anything of value left fighting for today.

The Philistines are upon us.


31st May 2004Mark

Well Said " The heroes of Rorke's Drift had something worth fighting for - comments such as those quoted makes one wonder if there's anything of value left fighting for today."

Why was such comments allowed on here
Fred Hitch was a Brave Soldier doing his duty
like other soldiers do today.

31st May 2004Maureen
I ask do these ones stand up and fight to save their fellow country men or they cowards that hide behind words.I am very proud of my gt gt grandfather Henry Hook who was one of the brave men who fought for their comraids
1st June 2004Michael Henry
A touch of the devil's advocacy at this point, if I may.
Where the writer of this letter in the Chiswick Chatter (!) goes wrong, in my view, is in vilifying Fred Hitch (and by extension all the "common soldiers") at RD. Hitch and his ilk were just that - ordinary soldiers simply doing their job - and, dare I say, doing it very well.
If the writer feels the need to vent his spleen, far better that he direct his anger towards Sir Bartle Frere for his unashamed, naked aggression towards the Zulu nation, or Lord Chelmsford for his military incompetence.

I really can't understand why he directs this tirade against a poor Private soldier who was simply doing what he was ordered to do - and who probably wished he was anywhere else bu RD at the time.
1st June 2004Rob
The writer of the article was named
Zakria Ibrahimi
2nd June 2004AMB
Rob et al,

It is a great shame that Mr Ibrahimi feels they way he does. In these liberal times one must simply smile and welcome his input.

2nd June 2004Andy Lee

In my opinion Mr or Ms Zakria Ibrahimi is just a total idiot using our hero Frederick Hitch VC as a tool for there anti-British feelings. If this sad individual lives in the UK such comments deserve deportation.

2nd June 2004Phil Pearce
I am the great grandson of Private Robert Jones V.C Rorkes Drift. How Dare the author of this trash insult my family !!!! to make such comments about Rorkes is unforgivable. Could you possibly furnish me with details of this publication as I think I would like to drop them a line reguarding this item & the person who wrote it. I also note that a certain Mr. S Sass,having read your article,found nothing more constructive to say than to criticize your spelling. What a sad little man he mut be. Best to ignor his sort as well. Best wishes Phil
2nd June 2004John Young
Zakria Ibrahimi might well have, unwittingly, hit on a good idea, let's have crimson plaques to denote places associated with those men awarded the Victoria Cross. Let the colour of plaque reflect the colour of their V.C. ribbon.

Andy (Lee),
As to deporting him/her, I imagine they were born in this country, reaping the benefit of a society which Fred Hitch and those who followed him in two World Wars sought to preserve.

Perhaps Zakria Ibrahimi should move to Chatham or Rochester, where on the same day that he/she is ranting about, Briton & Zulu stood together in peace and reconciliation, reflecting on the past, but looking to the future.
A friendship forged in war, but tempered in peace and mutual respect.

John Y.
2nd June 2004AMB
John et al,

Crimson plaques - Excellent idea!

3rd June 2004Phil Pearce
This is a different Phil Pearce from the one above.
No great Grandson of a VC awardee but a distant descendent of HM Stanley, another African Hero (or was he???)
I think it would be very unfair to be critical to a Victorian Soldier, having Victorian morals using modern values. The clashing of two worlds which are worlds apart there I think.
Blame lay at Frere's doorstep, for his blatant imperialism.
As for Chelmsford's military incompetence, it seems to me after reading 'the washing of the spears' for the third time that he didn't really do much wrong!
3rd June 2004Steven Sass
Dear Mr. Pearce (the first one, related to Private Jones VC),

I think you may have misconstrued my criticism. My commentary, certainly intended as sardonic, was directed at the original author, not Mr. Gerrard. My point was that Mr. Zakria's rant didn't deserve legitimization by a full response and was better served by a reply as trivial as his harangue. I think if you've ever read any of my past postings my admiration for the defenders of Rorke's Drift is not in doubt.

I am beginning to realize one must be extra careful before committing one's thoughts to print on the net, as the luxury of tone and other intangibles not being present, can considerably alter the meaning of one's words.



4th June 2004Robert Jones
Mr Pearce [distant descendant of H. M. Stanley]
He only split his forces at a critical time---have you ever heard the saying "Divide and Conquer"
4th June 2004Phil Pearce (decendent V.C R.Jones)
appologies for my error Mr Sass, (may I call you Steven ?) having re-read I see your point.Also if there are now 2 Phil Pearces' on this site to avoid confusion could we sign in with realatives name following as I've done above. Mind you as there is a Robert Jones here as well.......!
4th June 2004Grant Best
There was similar outcry some years ago, when a very innocuous plaque was placed on the grave of Driver Charles Robson RE (JRM Chard's RE groom and batman at Rorke's Drift) in Woolwich Cemetery.
It's tone and thrust were (ultimately) malicious in character, but represented a local effort by one individual to stir up "race issues".
Ultimately, at least in this country, Zakria Ibrahimi is as much entitled to his opinions as anybody. However, a bit of objectivity and fair-mindedness is also part of this same cultural tradition of ours.
4th June 2004Andy Lee

I do not agree - opinions such as those of that idiot Zakria Ibrahimi are insulting and he should be kicked out of our country for saying such things.

6th June 2004Brandon McHale
Andy Lee and others....
The fundamental bastion of democracy " I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it "

We can not pick and choose our freedoms, we are all free, or non of us are.

7th June 2004Phil Pearce (decendent V.C R. Jones )
I completly agree with Brandon McHale...We do ALL have freedom of speech in this country.We also have my great grand dad, various uncles of mine & countless other soildiers & civil right activists to thank for it.Only a few dissagree with this mans right to speak his mind and I am not one of them.
I do however advocate to Mr Ibrahimi that it is far better to keep you mouth shut & let people think he knows his topic than to speak and remove all doubt.
I was however dissappointed that someone choise to publish it.It is for this reason I tracked down the paper concerned and spoke to the young man in charge of the letters colum & have subsequently E.mailed him a letter .Itis not unlike what is written above I even defend Mr. Ibrahimis freedom of speech. I then ask would his freebe news paper publish a similar letter to Ibramhimis if it were aimed at second world war heros who are still alive to defend their honour.I then remind this paper that although the printed article was aimed at the dead ,the dead have decendents.
However when all is said and done we are talking about a letters column in a free, mainly advertising shoved through the door , want it or not paper.I was informed that Mr Ibrahimis letter had sparked "loads of complaint letters" He could not tell me if any were published.In fact he seemed a little exitidly supprised at the reaction the publishing of this letter has caused. I wonder if his giggles were of immature glee or just nerves.!! Ican be quite a formidable character when I wish. Its probably genetic!!! Anyway should any of you be interested 'The Chiswich' which incorperates the 'Chiswich Chatter' Is published by the Brentford , Chiswick & Islenworth Times & the E.mail of the person to whome I spoke is [email protected]
Thank you for reading regards Phil
7th June 2004Phil Pearce
Just read my comments. I appologise for my spelling etc. Thank fully used spell check on my letter!
9th June 2004Peter Ewart
Mr Ibrahimi's letter is, indeed, intemperate, contains a number of controversial remarks, is rather lacking in cogency and, to many, would prove distasteful and to some even offensive. The above description of "rant" is not far off the mark.

If the paper had, indeed, received a number of letters in response, then hopefully their letters policy allowed them to publish a number of them in direct proportion to the balance of opinions offered, which I think would be the policy in most newspapers. A local "freebie" paper may not have the space to do this or may not have thought out such a policy in advance - after all, it's not The Times. They would certainly have to consider "racial incitement" and possibly should have carefully considered whether to publish the original letter in the first place on those grounda alone. Perhaps they did.

If an editor allows a controversial letter to be published, that's one thing. If he/she knows it may seriously offend readers, that's another. Again, editorial policy (and sometimes the law) will probably influence matters.

Mr Ibrahimi clearly disagreed with the erection of the plaque and apparently with the accompanying ceremonial, which - rightly or wrongly - evoked in him the image of subjugation of the black man by imperial forces. Now, we can disagree strongly with his view if we wish - and many of us who empathise readily with our history, heritage and military traditions will certainly do so - and we can make our disagreement known by saying so.

However, that doesn't alter the fact that in a free, democratic country such as ours, Mr Ibrahimi is perfectly entitled to publish his opinions (provided that doesn't overstep the law) and surely it would be far better to engage in debate with him, even if only in the column of a freesheet paper. As JY said, he enjoys the freedom of speech and many other advanatages of living in this country and should realise that there are many places around the world where such basic rights are denied.

But just trying to get him to shut up or to prevent him from saying what he thinks (as long as it is within the law) is hardly commensurate with the values we presumably all espouse today. As for kicking him out of the country simply because you or I are insulted - well, we don't live in a police state yet, surely? Kick him out to where? He may be as British as you or me. Do we want to descend to the levels of a dictatorship? That's what the men whom we saw returning to Normandy last weekend were fighting AGAINST.

Rise above it. Our confidence in our heritage and democracy is surely strong enough to withstand a few strident accusations? Debate, humour and the ability to see another point of view go a long way.

Most of the contributors to this forum are no doubt proud, generally, of this country's history and its worldwide legacy. By the same token, I'm sure we all realise that that history and its legacy is - and was - by no means perfect, whether by the standards of Victorian times or today. It would be remarkable if it were.

It may help to try sometimes to see matters from the other side, as it were. The British may have brought order, enlightenment, education, communications, material and structural benefits to much of the world - but we'd be rather short-sighted if we believed that was the whole story.

As Burns said (my Anglicised version!):

Oh, that God the gift would give us
To see ourselves as others see us.

There are two sides to most stories & it might help to try to understand where Mr Ibrahimi is - to use the modern slang - "coming from." In between his unreasonable accusations (for example, piling responsibility onto Hitch for matters over which he had no control) there are a number of perfectly factual statements about which there is little argument. If he has chosen to make his point by ranting it is up to you or me or us, confident in our beliefs, to try to change his mind by persuasion. Or ignore him. Or, dare I say it, to ask ourselves whether there just might be something in what he says, albeit intemperately put?

9th June 2004Sheldon Hall

Hear hear. An admirable response, eloquently expressed.

10th June 2004Steven Sass

As long as you've "left it out there," what might you think there is in what he says?

10th June 2004Brandon McHale
I'm pleased to read the latest posts in this thread. I think Peter encapsulated it all very well.
The British Empire was the catalyst for a number of events in world history. Some moments of inspirational courage and bravery, and some episodes of cruelty and shame. It has not escaped my attention that when the Empire was at its greatest ( about the time of RD ) there was immense poverty and suffering here in the UK.
As a national consience that has moved on from those times, we should be able to discuss our history, and accept critisism however it may come packaged.
It is ironic that in a true Democracy, that democracy is sworn to protect the rights of those who would destroy it. One hopes that in a true Democracy, where true justice and freedom prevail, the mind set of the destroyers will have no reason to take root.

10th June 2004Peter Ewart

Notwithstanding the tone of most of his diatribe, three points are incontestable:

1. "After [the AZW] the British spread division and ruin across the reeling Zulu nation."

2. "The Zulu monarchy was humiliated."

3. "The Zulu people lost their land ..."

These three statements can be discussed further, argued about or elaborated upon (an interesting debate might ensue) but the bare bones of his claim cannot be gainsaid. The man is not exaggerating; he is speaking the absolute historic truth by reciting three simple, well known facts and the pattern of events between 1878 & 1910 bear him out.

Now, we can put forward all sorts of arguments to explain why these three things happened, by trying to explain British political, colonial or military policy from the point of view of British interests in the region at that time, and we would be quite justified in trying to do so. However, by trying to see his point of view - or, more importantly, by trying to understand how these policies meant irreversible tragedy for the Zulu nation - we can probably guess what he was getting at in the first place and what clearly triggered his rant at the Hitch plaque ceremony.

Where he damaged his cause was in his nonsensical description of Hitch as a ghoul and in his description of this country as the enemy of freedom of speech, a claim which was disproved by the publication of his letter - although one or two of the comments in this thread would, paradoxically, then seem to support that same claim, which is a shame.

10th June 2004Steven Sass

Thank you for your reply. I knew an excellent response would be forthcoming and would hold your methods of illustrating a point up to all as an example of how to persuade and educate. If only Mr. Ibrahimi had origninally followed such a model he may have invited constructive dialogue instead of making himself the target of deserved attacks.

All the best,

11th June 2004steve
i think the zulu were pretty divided and self ruinous prior to british intervention,after all it was a zulu army massacreing another zulu army at ndondakusuka.

prior to that shaka and his mfecane......and the tens of thousands of black men murdered by black men................without help from white men..........
the zulu monarchy humiliated ........perhaps,
but chetshwayo did plead his case in london,
was popular in london society,was received by the queen,as a monarch,not a prisoner....
and none of it in chains........
he was returned to zululand,but because the reimental sytem was broken,he was unable to enforce his will on he did at ndondakasuka............wasnt this one of the main objects of the war? to remove a highly mobile threat of 40000 warriors from the close proximity of the colony.

the zulu nation was divided into 13 areas,the zulus were still there........
zibhebhu (a zulu)later defeated cetshwayo,
zulu against zulu........
with the first boer war and the tactical victory
by the boers,the fate of the land of the zulu was sealed

11th June 2004James Garland
I feel Mr. Ibrahimi has missed a very English trait.
Traditionally the Britain the Army as an institution has always been excluded from from political debate, and soldiers have always been expected to fight regardless of their personal views on the rights or wrongs of a war.
This has made it possible for British people to be against a war but still support their army. I for example object to the war in Iraq but still got involved in sending parcels to the troops.
Once you allow soldiers to decide which wars they will or will not fight they become the makers of foreign policy and therefore fair game.
It is this same tradition that allows many members of this site admire the soldiers who fought in the AZW but aknowledge that the war was wrong.
In the Vietnam War many American anti war protesters failed to make that distinction and villified ordinary soldiers for fighting. I think many of those soldiers are still bitter today.

P.S. I know individual officers were also M.P.'s but they sat as individuals, not as representatives of the Army.
11th June 2004Rob Oats
The diatribe coming out of Mr Ibrahimi is consistent with the political outlook of African nationalist organisations (quote "freedom fighter" ) He totally ignores history as Rhodes was not involved in politics at the time and had not even formed de Beers. (I should know the Oats side of my family worked the diamond fields). The British policy of the time was to spread and bring wealth to not only Britain but to the people of the region. He is not correct as to the occupation of Zululand. Zululand as the kingdom was never and has never been occupied by white europeans. Its was declared a Zulu homeland by the British and Bantustan by the subsequent nationalist governments. If one has to bring up barbarism and oppression in this context one must look first to the Zulu nation itself. (I personally have the very deepest admiration for the Zulu people and their nation). The Zulu clan itself was very small when Shaka came to power. This admirable and highly skilled General welded his forces into one of the finest fighting machines ever to walk this planet and with total ruthlessness plundered and pilaged and raped his way through the whole of this region. He was on his way south against the Xhosa when he started bumping into European forces.
One must always judge people by the time and the policies they lived under. Africa in the last half of the 19th century was no place for the faint of heart.
13th June 2004Peter Ewart


Spot on.


Yes, Rhodes and his ambitions were still in the future - but what about Carnarvon & Frere?

"Zululand as the kingdom was never and has never been occupied by white Europeans" ????? Do you mean before the end of Cetshwayo's reign, or the end of Dinizulu's life and reign? Do you mean the kingdom of the 1878 borders? Or the post-1879 settlement borders? Or after the annexation in '87? Or the assimilation into Natal in '97? Before or after the lifting of the white settlement embargo?

The policies of Dartnell (yes, the same man) ensured officially that the best land was allocated to European settlers and the Zulu population living in these areas was forced into the Reserve or reduced to being squatters on their own land. Those who weren't 200 miles away in the mines, that is). The whites were encouraged to flood in from 1904 onwards but the green light had been shown them well before that. I don't think I'm splitting hairs by asserting that "white European occupation of the kingdom of Zululand" which had been invaded in 1879 was all but complete long before Botha's government came to power and certainly long before the Nationalist government's day. The area set aside for the Zulu population who chose not to be tenants/serfs/squatters on land which was simply handed over to Boer and British farmers was less than a third of the kingdom as it stood in Jan 1879. In other words, the Reserve was not the kingdom!


Both you and Rob have brought up the fact that the recent history of Zululand and her neighbours had been extremely violent during a 60-year period of political and military ruthlessness. Absolutely right. Incontestable facts.

And so are the three points made by Mr Ibrahimi. Cast iron facts. I don't think the mfecane under Shaka or Cetshwayo's ruthless securing of his power base at Ndondakasuka serve as "mitigating circumstances" to explain the three above factual statements in any way, but I do, of course, acknowledge that in some ways the subjugation of the Zulu nation simply continued the pattern of violent upheaval and "regime change" (topical expression!) already experienced in that region during the 19th century, and that this time the Zulu were simply the outright losers.

I rather fancy there is no "perhaps" about the humiliation of the Zulu monarchy, both its royal personages and its constitutional status. Its power wasn't simply reduced and then removed, it was done in a very humiliating way over a number of years. Cetshwayo was indeed humiliated (20 minutes at Osborne with his opposite number who had no power to assist him anyway? To say nothing of the prevarication and fudges of the following few months). Dinizulu and his whole family were most certainly humiliated, in exile and out.

Widespead predictions that Wolseley's "settlement" would prove disastrous and lead to inevitable civil war (as a direct result of the 1879 invasion, the removal of the king and his 13 kinglets policy) were ignored. The predictions - from many quarters & all sides - proved deadly accurate. The colonial adminstration stood aside and watched them destroy themselves under its very nose.

If imperial policy ever sought annexation of its conquered peoples, here was the time to annex. 1887 was too late. The Boers once more helped themselves to a huge chunk of the kingdom, partly through Dinizulu's desperation and naivete. (Where is the umlaut & acute accent on my keyboard?) And his appeal to his masters, who had, after all, originally upheld Zulu sovereignty over a much smaller disputed area in 1878, was met (in so many words) with: "Kingdom? What kingdom? King? What king? Royal authority? What royal authority? Oh, didn't we tell you? You haven't a shred of that now."

You mention a threat. What threat was that? Surely Cetshwayo's overall interests were to keep on the best of terms with the Natal government and the evidence suggests that he knew this. (Damian O'Connor's recent work on Frere suggests the Russians were the real threat in Frere's mind & that the neutralisation of the Zulus was an essential defence against Russian aggression, but, to my surprise, I've yet to see this fascinating work discussed on this forum).

I, too, believe there is a huge amount to admire in Britain's imperial period - always have done - and do try very hard to refrain from seeing it through 21st century eyes, but not all was sweet and light, particularly from the other side of the fence. Wishing history could be re-written is a waste of time but now and again one experiences that "if only" feeling, and the development of events in Zululand from the beginning of Cetshwayo's reign to the creation of the Union is one of those for me.


P.S. Note that I haven't blamed us for the drought, the locusts or the rinderpest!!! (But the poll tax, the hut tax and the land grab? Mr Ibrahimi had probably hardly started. As Steven said, his bellicose approach was his undoing.
13th June 2004Alan Critchley

accents on mine are
0ption+u - u =
Option+e - e =
Option+` - e =
Option+c - c =
Option+i - e =

Knowing my luck I'll have to delete this when they don't show.

14th June 2004Rob Oats
Peter - the following is very complex and does require basic understanding of the social structures and philosophy of the peoples of sub-saharan Africa but may be educational in many ways. I agree that the pre 1879 Xulu boundaries were not totally observed and that land amounting to a 20 mile coastal strip was taken and allocated to farming and settlement by white Europeans (mainly British). The central corridor running from Durban through Pietermaritzburg and up to what is now Harrismith was already in the hands of the British Crown. Now the controversial side.
We always hear this story about how the settlers took all the most arrable land and left the poor land to the local population. This is absolute nonsense. In terms of the coastal strip taken it was only good for one thing and that was sugar cane. The whole strip is battered by heavy surf which makes the land very brakish and prevents the growing of normal crops possible.
To fully understand why the Zulu nation and most other nationstates were like they were one must first understand the philosophy of the people that inhabited them. All the people of the region were nomadic herdsmen. They had spent the last 2000 years wandering down Africa grazing their cattle and growing maize (corn) on a subsistence level. When the land became too poor they moved on, mainly southward. Within their societal structure the local warlord or Chief or in the Zulu context the Nkozi (King) owned all the land in which they currently lived. He maintained his authority and taxation systems via his subordinates or Ndunas (Senators). The wealth of the people lay in their cattle. The wealthiest person was the Nkozi who owned the greatest number. All forms of trade were done in cattle and this still exists today despite having money. When a Zulu man marries he buys his bride with a certain number of cattle and oddities like blankets. The price is determined by the bride's father.
The conflicts of the 18th and 19th century were triggered by this philosophy and way of life. The Zulu nation were not the leaders. The front line was held by the Xhosa. The Dutch had settled the Cape and had expanded slowly northward. The acquisition of the Cape by the British in 1814 with the defeat of Napoleon meant the British were now responsible. The Xhosa now bumped into the Europeans. The 1820 settlers were put into the buffer zone in the Eastern Cape to protect the borders.
This triggered the major African conficts. The whole situation was forming a concertina effect. As they overgrazed the land they were unable to move forward as their way was now blocked. As they were unable or unwilling to give up their traditional ways they started waging war to gain territory and wealth in the form of cattle.
The fact is that they did not change their way of life and still haven't. This is clearly indicated by the numbers of people starving in subsaharan Africa. The difference is that the European cultures have learned to farm crops commercially and are aware of the need to rotate crops, fertilise and feed land in order to keep it productive. The peoples of sub-saharan Africa had not reached that point in evolution.
The socialistic societal structure has prevented many competent African farmers persuing commercial farming. To explain what I mean. In the African culture a sub-group under an Nduna is required to share his good fortune with his fellows. A successful man using good farming methods would end up feeding many people. The end result was that he would then not have surplus to sell. The end result is quite obvious. He just stops as he feels that he is wasting his time.
I saw this at first hand. In what was Rhodesia the government set aside land for Black commercial farmers. The farmers who took up these small holdings were from the other side of the country which made it very difficult for the "family" to come and stay with them and share their wealth.
In terms of de-masculating the Zulu nation. This was and probably still is standard practise in war. If you wage a war against a regime then you need to destroy or neutralise the people that lead and orchestrate the operation.
14th June 2004Peter Ewart

Thanks for that - looks complicated! Glancing down at my keyboard, I realise that I've probably never noticed at least half of the keys!

Many thanks for your detailed explanation. I like to think I'm reasonably well read on matters demographic and agricultural in that part of the world but I suspect your knowledge is from more direct experience, and I've learnt from it.

If we take your point about the different farming traditions of the Zulu (or other Bantu, Xhosa etc) and stick to the period in question, I agree wholeheartedly that the Zulu was not a commercial farmer and you have shown how and why he would not have performed successfully in a commercial manner, especially in comparison to Boer or British farmers.

As you have intimated, the Zulu rural way of life (in its arable farming) was short term, strictly annual and dictated strictly by the seasons - with little way of carrying forward wealth in the way that his cattle represented - which made it extremely vulnerable. And even within Zululand before 1879 there was a measure of nomadic existence, with "clans" or related communities packing up and moving their homestead from time to time, although often retaining a placename.

Without adverse demographic pressures, this served them well and would have continued to do so. Most of the land was ideal for it. But long before 1879 the Boers, for all sorts of well established reasons, had had their eye on the western reaches, and had encroached further and further.

After the 1879 AZW, the Zulus "came in" on Wolseleys promise that they would keep their land, notwithstanding the instructions laid down to the kinglets and, later, Cetshwayo. By and large the British supported Zibhebu & his Mandlakazi in the 1880s, but held back any support when he needed it after the Usuthu had their revenge over him. Similarly, when Dinizulu realised the full impact of the Boers' demands in 1887, he naturally appealed to the British, shocked at the Boers' claim to most of Zululand outside the Reserve. Although this claim was eventually reduced, Havelock's infamous clarification of Dinizulu's position left him & his people helpless. The New Republic was not the first land grab by the white Europeans but was by far the biggest by that time, hacking off a huge tract of country - prime farming land which the Boers had been eying up for generations, and reducing the Zulu population there to tenants at best. And we all know how the Boers treated their black "employees" ( if not, I'll dig out a few first hand accounts from the period).

The indignant king - who is now told he is no king at all - is sent across the ocean to exile with some of his family, his war-racked kingdom now decimated and largely occupied by white European farmers (many miles from the coastal strip). Yes, it may have been usual for conquering armies to strip the defeated of its head and his power base, but this wasn't "in the brochure" in Sep 1879, when the indunas came in. But, of course, the Boers hadn't been part of that agreement. (I admit that the humiliation of Dinizulu & family did not extend to his physical comforts, which were apparently available and more than adequate on St Helena, according to Magema Fuze, who must be considered the oracle on this. (I have, however, seen letters from missionaries on the island at this time which made fun of "Dinizulu's grannie" at her own christening, ridiculing her funny hat).

Belatedly Zululand is annexed. The Reserve becomes more crowded with the dispossessed who leave their homelands around Vryheid. Then Zululand is assimilated into Natal in 1897. But don't worry, the British won't allow the Natal farmers to move in to the rich farming land they've also coveted for so long - well, not for five years, anyway. Nor - despite now having now brought Zululand into the fold and removed all danger from across its borders - will the Zulus in Zululand be able to come across the Tugela or Buffalo without a pass from the magistrate.

The five years was up in 1902 at the conclusion of the 2nd ABW. The white settlers embargo was duly lifted and the Zululand Land Delimitation Commission sat between 1902 and 1904 and opened the doors to the flood. What sort of lands were they allowed to occupy? Well, the commission was keen that they should have the best available, and that the land set aside for "native location" should NOT be on land desired by whites for their new farming enterprises. In other words, the best.

More than two fifths of what remained of the post-1879 Zululand was now set aside for white occupation. Much of the coastal strip was included in this allocation, but large tracts of land in the interior were also lost - parts of Entonjaneni, Mahlabathini, Lower Mfolosi (well up river) as well as up at Hlabisa and the admittedly very malarial districts in the north, to the east of the Lebombo mountains. Even in the old buffer zone, the original Reserve, a few lands were opened up to colonist farmers. Native families who were not required as employees by the new occupants were reduced to squatters on land which had been theirs - and were encouraged to seek refuge in the Reserve.

There is not the slightest doubt that the new farmers were more efficient commercially. Of course they were. But the previous occupants hadn't been commercial farmers anyway - they had subsisted, usually successfully , sometimes not, and even the missionaries sometimes lost patience with their farming methods long before their new employers dismissed them as lazy and stupid, unaccustomed and reluctant wage labourers that they were (and still are, perhaps?)

Well, they lost the war, ruined themselves by civil war, finally lost the ability to play Briton off against Boer and no doubt had it coming to them. The young men disappeared to the mines, their family and rural life ruined, respect among the young for Zulu tradition battered, their values changed. Of course, it was all a lot more complicated than this (read Laband, or Guy, or plenty of others) but I come back again to the three specific points made by our excitable friend Mr Ibrahimi - was he right, or was he right?

But at least it wasn't Hitch's fault.

15th June 2004Rob Oats
Mr Ibrahimi's diatribe, ignoring the liberal terminolgy, can be broken down into 3 parts.
Celebration of the extreme heroism of a few brave men in an action which they shouldn't have survived following a monumentous victory for the very brave Zulu army at Isandlawana.
The humiliation of the Zulu Royal family and the Zulu people following their defeat in the war.
The annexation and imposition of British sovereignity over the Zulu people and forced servitude.

In analysing these points one by one must also look at their long term effects in history and whether these have been positive or not. in doing so one must also compare these results with possible scenarios as though they had not occured to determine if whether Mr Ibrahimi is correct.

Looking firstly at Isandlawana and Rorke's drift;
From a political standpoint the British were intent on colonisation. Whether this was a good or bad thing is moot but will figure later in the discussion. The fact is that once again the commanding officers of this unit had displayed poor military skills and the defeat of the force at Isandlawana was very humiliating for the British Government. This in no way lessens the bravery of the Zulu impis that confronted a force which was vastly superior to them in terms of capability. The rear guard action of the survivors and support troops at Rorkes drift displays a grit and determination that inspires awe and admiration. This scenario must also be carefully analysed because the politicians of the time applied a lot of "spin" to this in order to get off the hook with regard to the defeat at Isandlawana. I believe that in light of this "spin" one must examine this carefully because a lot of emphasis has been deliberately placed on Rorkes drift to avoid the issue of Isandlawana. The courage of the men at Rorkes drift is awe inspiring and rightly has generated immense admiration despite spin.
One of the bones of contention has been how British troops subsequently deliberately killed wounded Zulu soldiers not only at Rorkes Drift but at subsequent engagements. Here is where a misunderstanding of each others cultures and human nature comes into play. British troops at Rorkes drift would have had two emmotions running through them at this point. Firstly immense relief and joy at having survived (with huge amounts of associated adrenaline) and revulsion at how their own dead and wounded were treated by the Zulu. Looking at the cultural differences. The Zulu in disembowling the dead British soldiers saw this as a mark of respect and a freeing of the spirit of the dead. To the British this was a sign of deep disrespect. The Zulu impis did not take prisoners on the battlefield. The revulsion and adrenaline caused the British troops to overcome their normal required respect for their enemy dead and wounded.
While there have been re-enactments of Isandlwana no one has ever had the bravery to consider making a film about it. I hope someone does as I personally would like to follow the events more closely than the dry broken up accounts one sees in the history books.

Moving to the humiliation of the Zulu Royal family and people. I am not going to repeat what I said above. The fact remains that Britain was intent on colonisation and a devastating defeat of the pride of Britain was not what had been expected or desired. Revenge for this from the political masters was bound to happen. Again, decisions born out of frustration, not out of cold hard analysis of the situation. The British were arrogant at the time. They were the world's super power and were not impressed with having suffered such a defeat.
The colonisation of Africa meant several things to British governments of the time; the introductions of christian religion, morals and behaviour and more importantly the building of successful economic entities to feed the burgeoning home economy.

Looking back did the invasion of Natal have a positive or negative effect on the indigenous people of Natal? When the invasion started Natal had been wracked by wars for 100 years. Shaka alone is infamously recorded as the third most prolific killer in human history with 2 500 000 to his name and is only beaten by Hitler with 6 000 000 and Stalin with 47 000 000. Subjugation is relative in this context. It was relatively fine if you were Zulu (providing you did not smile or cry inappropriately) but if you were not Zulu things weren't too good for people within a 500 mile radius of Ulundi.
Natal does not have much to offer anyone and apart from the coastal plain and is still sparsely populated. The terrain is rugged, the soil poor and natural resources in terms of minerals almost non-existent with the exception of coal in the north west at Newcastle. It will support small herds of cattle and in the midlands there are a number of dairy farms.
Colonisation had several positive effects. It ended a hundred years of destructive warfare. It introduced a christian based system of support for the people which included health care and education. The eventual subjugation of the whole of South Africa by the British resulted in the people of Natal benefiting from the wealth of the Transvaal.
The Zulu people of today number 8 000 000 and are the most populous ethnic group(16%) in South Africa and given that Natal is relatively poor have prospered since the British invasion. The fact that Natal has poor resources has meant that many Zulus have had to migrate to urban areas to find work. Again cultural traditions have made this a very difficult transition for Zulu males. Traditionally Zulu males have only had two roles, fighting and tending their cattle (their wealth). They do not work in the fields as this is perceived to be women's work.
The fact still remains that the battle for Natal was inevitable. Whether it was conducted by the British or the Boers it was going to happen. The one thing that is unstoppable is progress. How a people adapt to change and prosper is up to them and their leaders. The Zulu nation has had a diificult transition and they are still in transition and hanker after their glory years but history will tell how whether they succeed as a people or whether they become part of bigger homogenous society. Right now they are still a proud nation.
15th June 2004steve
their is a repot from a zulu that a boer fighter was captured,he was taken to an induna where he was torn limb from limb,while alive,soup was then made of his remains which was used to annoint the zulu warriors, to impart something of his courage.
imagine you are a resident to the area,and aware of the above,then remember that 4oooo of these warriors are within just a few days march,they would be seen as bloodthirsty heathen,and a reckoning required.
saying "it was their culture" in the light of 2004 is fine,but in the light of 1879 and victorian sensibility...?

i personally prefer victorian sensibility over
"twentieth century horse trading", eg
the west deals with saudi arabia even though it publically beheads,flogs,brands people,
the taliban stoned adultress women,and excluded them from the learning process, in ruwanda childrens limbs were hacked off and thousands killed.............
yes the west produced hitler and stalin,but doesnt this prove the point,that todays political rant is tomorrows state philosophy for someone,somewhere...................

give an extremist a platform,and one day he may hang you from it....................

would the world have been a better place for no british involvement in empire..........
somehow i dont think it would have been

15th June 2004Phil Pearce
Out of the alleged hundreds of letters to the Chiswick Chatter over the past months ,which allegedly,so I'm told ,prints 70 + letters a week....... apprximatly 8 were published. Info via a young lady on the letters column. She had to be pushed for this info.
If you have any questions phone 020 8940 6030 & ask for Chiswick Chatter letters. I Know her name but will be careful not to print.
Additionally may I say that it's all well & good to pontificate military stratergy & advise ,albeit in a dozen flowery words, to take the moral high ground .However to be an academic on a subject & to be a family member are 2 different things. We were insulted .
Many of you may have a dozen or so books to reference,I also have my gt grandads journals circa 1876 > 1898. About time that this site focused on people not military.
I'm not trying to take anything away from your interest or historical qualifications. However many of you do seem to waffle on trying to score grammatic points. Yet so many of you have any no real connection with Rorkes ,save your interest. Don't get me wrong I'd never condem anyone with an interest in this subject. I point out hower that there are a few academic peacocks on this site ,who need to realise there are some of the genuine article who visit here who see right through you.

16th June 2004Rick Masters
Here here Phil
16th June 2004Rick Masters
Further to my last comment without ' academic peacocks' this site would probably not exist .However Phil , I see exactly where you are coming from....Sir Humphry is alive and kicking! At least here you can click the off button.(ha ha )
when it comes to research versus relative I fully understand. However you must see the complement in others wishing to study a part of your family history. (although it is to an extreme , then examined & ripped to the bone )
even if they seem to hijack it. You must show patients to these people , who at the end of the day probably envy the hell out of you for your genuine connection.
However when it comes to people indicatting that it is better to take the moral highground ,as you put it,I completly agree with you. Easy enough to suggest when it's not really any of your families personal concern. I also agree that there should be a greater emphisis on the man behind the medal.
The family backgrounds, reasons for joining up, long term side effects etc. The bare bones of this are already on this site, maybe its time for family to claim Rorkes back and put meat on these bones by posting what they know.
16th June 2004Phil Pearce
Thank you for your understanding & constructive comments Rick, much appreciated. May start another thread entitled calling all decendents...or has this already been done?
16th June 2004steve
this site in itself is testament to the vc winners of rorkes drift,your ancestor included.

i have seen other sites(azwhs)that do not appear to include a forum for people to exchange information or discuss ideas.

in defence of this site it ,does not censor opinion,neither does it take sides,surely this can only be good for those who have a desire to know more...............myself included,and you have only to check out the visitors book to see the amount of people worldwide who derive pleasure from reading such stirring tales,here.
sure ,their are military historians and serving military who regularly contribute,i know ,because they have shot a couple of my theories full of holes in the past,
but i would rather it like that than for me to cling to "a dog that dont hunt".............

have your gt grandads journals ever been published or scrutinised,if not,then would not this be the best way of answering mr ibrahimi

best regards

16th June 2004Alan Critchley


as most people who visit the site know that we welcome discussion points from anyone the only qualification being an interest in the subject. It's not exclusively for academics or for descendants. I understand your particular interest and irritation because of your family connections. Some of our 'experts' also have family connections which are not widely known. Despite my not having family connections to Rorke's Drift, (in answer to your recent question to me), I was sufficiently interested in the subject to start this website so (Rick) it would exist. It's the diversity of contributors which make this site so interesting and varied in the topics covered and the depth of knowledge shown. Long may that continue.
As to claiming Rorke's Drift back, no one has that right, but if that's a goal then it could only be achieved on a different website. This one is for anyone, Peacocks, Sparrows and even Cuckoos.

16th June 2004Melvin Hunt
Just curious.
What is a "grammatic point"?
What exactly are you "waffling on" about?
Are you also Rick Masters?
17th June 2004steve
mail for rick goes to john. kingdon
mail for phil goes to philip k 2000