The Castle of Good Hope proudly unveiled the statues of four heroic historical icons on 9 December 2016, who gallantly fought armed colonial conquests and oppression during their lifetime. Find below more information on these Royal Warriors…
King Cetshwayo of AmaZulu (1826 – 1884)
As the British expanded their rule beyond the Cape and into Natal in the middle of the 19th century, they had a grand vision of a confederation of Southern African states as part of the Empire. Two obstacles stood in the way of their ambition. First, the Afrikaners embarked on a great trek from the Cape to escape British rule and found their own republics in the north of the country. Second, indigenous African tribes from the Eastern Cape right up to what is now the Limpopo province were determined to fight against any attempts by the British or Boers to take their land and subjugate them.
Arguably the most formidable of these tribes were the Zulus who had settled in what is now called Zululand in the KwaZulu-Natal province. King Cetshwayo, who ascended to the throne in 1872, did so at a time when there was an aggressive push by the British and Boers to annex as much African land as they could. The Zulu kingdom faced border disputes with the Boers in the West and the British in the South. Cetshwayo was under intense pressure by the British to disarm his troops as a prelude to the annexation of Zululand.
The Zulu king’s refusal led to the outbreak of the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879. It was the first major battle between the Zulus and the British. A Zulu force of about 20 000 men mainly armed with assegais attacked a colony of 1 800 British and native troops. Despite the superiority of British weapons, they lost an historic battle at a cost of about 1 300 troops. This was a remarkable victory for the Zulu nation which Cetshwayo had to rebuild following its decline under his father Mpande and his predecessor Dingane. Internecine fighting among brothers for the Zulu throne was the main cause of the military decline of the Zulu nation during the reigns of Dingane and Mpande. Six months later in July 1879 Cetshwayo’ s army was defeated at the battle of Ulundi. His homestead was razed to the ground. The Zulu king escaped but was captured in the Ngome forest.
The British decided to detain him as a prisoner of war at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. Later he was transferred to Oude Molen on a farm near where the Cape Flats are today. Surprisingly in 1882 Cet-shwayo was allowed to travel to England where he petitioned for the restoration of his kingdom. His request was acceded to but on terms that diminished his stature as king. He was not allowed to have an army and was forced to accept the rule of his rival Zibhebhu Ka Maphitha in north Zululand.
War broke out between Cetshwayo’s uSuthu and Zibhebhu’s army which the former lost. He had to abandon his capital Ndini and hide in the Nkandla forest. King Cetshwayo died on 8 February 1884. There was dispute about the cause of death which was officially a heart attack. There was suspicion that he might have been poisoned.
Cetshwayo will be remembered in history as the Warrior-King who won a battle against the might of a major Imperial power.
Doman of Goring-haiqua (1618 – 1663)
The Netherlands – based Dutch-East India Company (VOC) sent Jan van Riebeeck to set up a settlement on the Cape peninsula to supply fresh food and water to explorers destined for India and the Far East. He arrived at what was called the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652. A few days after his arrival, to signal their intentions the settlers built a fort – Forte de Goede Hoop – to protect themselves from indigenous KhoiKhoi and San who inhabited the southern tip of the African continent. A Khoi man, Doman of Goring-haiqua of the Gorochougua clan (also called Nommoa) was employed by the VOC as an interpreter.
In 1657 he was sent to Batavia (now Jakarta capital city of Indonesia) as part of his training as an interpreter. It was there that he observed how the Dutch ill-treated the native population. In the same year that Doman went to Batavia a development of great significance took place in the Cape peninsula. The VOC allowed a number of its employees to settle as free burghers in the peninsula.
Their mission was to be farmers to reduce their dependence on the Khoi for livestock and on rice imports from the Far East for food. The seeds for the growth of a settler farming community had been planted.
Upon his return to the Cape in 1658, Doman was politicised and infused with a determination to fight Dutch settlers he was certain, from his observations in Batavia, wanted to conquer his people and take their land and possessions. He enlisted the support of young Goring-haiqua and Gorachouqua leaders to attack the settlers. He failed, however, to win the support of the Chochqua clan which lived outside the peninsula. His inability to win the support of all KhoiKhoi groups to attack the settlers was to prove a fatal weakness. This did not deter Doman from attacking settlers with the objective of taking their livestock and destroying their crops.
Doman’s attack led to the first KhoiKhoi – Dutch war in 1659 in which the Khoi used guerrilla tactics against the settlers. This forced Van Riebeeck to move the “free burghers” to the fort and to arm slaves to protect their masters’ livestock. A peace treaty was signed in 1660. Its terms did not require the Khoi to return livestock they had taken during the war. The price for this concession was acceptance by the Khoi of the establishment of Dutch settlements in the Cape peninsula.
Doman was seriously wounded before the treaty was signed. When he died in 1663 Governor Wagenaar said: “This evening the company’s interpreter Doman died outside a Hottentot hut. Nobody will bemoan his death because in many respects he was a damaging and evil man to the company.” This comment bears ample testimony to the fear Doman instilled in the minds and hearts of the settlers.
His death did not herald a new era of peace between the KhoiKhoi and Dutch settlers. Two more Khoikhoi – Dutch wars broke out in 1673 and 1674 over land and livestock. The third war ended in 1677 when the Cochoqua were defeated. The Dutch were able to grab more land inland and levy an annual tribute of 30 head of cattle. A base had been established in the Cape from which expansion to the east and north of the country could be launched.
King Langalibalele of AmaHlubi (1814 – 1889)
At the time of Amahlubi King Langalibalele’s birth in 1814 European settlements were largely confined to the Cape Colony. But that was about to change. In 1834 the Great Trek by Voortrekkers (Boers) began in ernest. In 1837 they crossed the Drakensberg into KwaZulu-Natal where battles with Zulus in particular shaped the course of the history of what eventually became South Africa. On their trek to the north the Boers fought numerous battles with Xhosa tribes
that were collectively called the Frontier Wars (1779 – 1878). Emigration from Great Britain to Natal led to the establishment of representative government by the British in 1856. Thirty-five years later in 1895 ‘responsible’ government was granted to British settlers in Natal. This was the world the young Langalibalele had to confront when he became King of AmaHlubi in 1836. It was a period of colonial expansion and consolidation by both British and Boer settlers who were also in conflict. A fraught relationship with the Zulu nation under both Kings Dingane and Mpande meant that the Hlubis were being squeezed from all sides.
The AmaHlubi settled in the area around Escourt in Kwazulu-Natal under constant threat from the Boers, British and the Zulu Kingdom. The discovery of gold in Kimberley in 1861 changed the political economy of the Hlubis as young men went to work on the mines. Some were paid in guns rather than money with unforeseen dire consequences. Guns in the hands of “natives” were a threat to the colonial administration in Natal. In 1873 the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, Sir Benjamin Pine, ordered King Langalibalele to surrender guns in the possession of his people. King Langalibalele’s refusal to obey the order resulted in a warrant of arrest being issued. The King fled to Basotholand (now Lesotho). An extensive military operation was mounted by the colonial government. The local Basotho King Molapo who had initially given refuge to Langalibalele and his sons handed them over to the colonialists in December 1873.
The King’s trial began on 16 January 1874. He was convicted of murder, treason and rebellion in a trial that was widely condemned in British liberal circles as a not fair. He was banished for life. King Langalibalele was imprisoned on Robben Island after a short stay at The Castle of Good Hope. The debate about the fairness or lack thereof of his trial raged on in the Cape, Natal and Britain. After much acrimonious debate on the matter a Bill in the Cape legislature was passed in August 1875 to release him from Robben Island. He was not, however, a free man. He was detained at Uitvlugt near Pinelands in the Cape for 12 years. He was allowed to return to Natal in 1887 where he remained under house arrest until his death in 1889. Robben Island’s most famous inmate Nelson Mandela visited King Langalibalele’s grave in KwaZulu-Natal more than a century after his death. Mandela’s visit was a poignant reminder of the link between the struggle that he waged and those waged over a century ago by Warrior-Kings like Langalibalele. In an earlier tribute the township of KwaLanga in Cape Town was named after Langalibalele in 1923.
King Sekhukhune (1814 – 1882)
The intention of the Voortrekkers when they left the Cape Colony in 1834 was to establish Boer Republics free from the British. A major hurdle they had to surmount to establish Transvaal as a Boer Republic were the Bapedi people whose empire covered high areas between the Limpopo and Vaal Rivers to the north and south, and the Komati and Kgalagadi Rivers to the east and west. When the Boers first made contact with the Bapedi in 1837 it was during the period of King Sekwati’s reign. The Voortrekkers were under the command of Louis Trichardt. In 1845 Hendrik Potgieter settled on Bapedi land which led to a number of skirmishes. It was during these skirmishes that one of King Sekwati’s sons called Matsebe demonstrated his bravery and cunning by breaching enemy lines under the cover of darkness to fetch water and food. He got the nickname of Sekhukhune which stuck.
Eager to subdue the Bapedi Potgieter attacked the tribe’s headquarters in Thaba Mosega in 1852. A peace treaty was signed in 1857which had the Steelpoort River as the eastern boundary of the Bapedi empire. It was in the same year that the Transvaal Boer Republic was proclaimed.
King Sekwati died in 1861 and was succeeded by his son Sekhukhune. The young king realized that the ultimate aim of the Boers was to destroy the Bapedi Empire. To prepare for war he sent young men to work in diamond mines and on white-owned farms. The money they received was used to buy guns from the Portuguese in Delagoa Bay in present day Mozambique. War was inevitable and it came in 1876 when Boers attacked Bapedi ostensibly for the alleged theft of cattle. A force of 2 000 men was sent to deal once and for all with Sekhukhune who they considered stubborn and dangerous. The Boers were supported by Swazis who were traditional foes of the Bapedi. Sekhukhune defeated the Boers. Undeterred they launched another attack with the support of mercenaries which was also repulsed.
A peace treaty was signed in 1877 but danger still lurked for the Bapedi this time from a new source – the British. The British annexed the Transvaal in 1877 on the pretext that the inability of the Boers to defeat Sekhukhune threatened their interests in the Cape and Natal colonies. In 1878 the British sent a force to defeat Sekhukhune. The mission failed after the Bapedi King skillfully exploited the Boers’ resentment of annexation of the Transvaal. The discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in 1871 had strengthened the resolve of the British to establish their rule over both the Boers and all indigenous people. Sekhukhune, who had proven to be the most difficult to defeat had to be crushed at all costs.
A force of British infantry supported by a colonial Volunteers Corp and 10 000 Swazi troops, stormed Thaba Mosega in 1879. Sekhukhune was defeated and captured on 2 December 1879. The Bapedi King was briefly detained at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town before being returned to Pretoria. After the signing of the Pretoria Convention in 1881 which ended the first Anglo-Boer War, Sekhukhune was freed. He was not, however, allowed to return to Thaba Mosega. He settled in nearby Manoge where on 13 August 1882 his half-brother Mampuru assassinated him.
Such was the impact Sekhukhune made as a warrior that the Times of London newspaper paid this tribute:
“There is yet no sign of permanent peace among native races of South Africa. We hear this morning from Durban of the death of one of the bravest of our former enemies, Chief Sekhukhune. He with his son and fourteen followers, have been killed. The news carries us some years back to the time when the name of Sekhukhune was a name of dread, first to the Dutch, and then to the English colonists of the Transvaal and Natal. It was indeed, to a great extent the danger caused by the neighborhood of this formidable chief that led to the annexation of the Transvaal by England”.