Zululand #15 (1894)

Zululand - Scott #15 (1894)
Zululand – Scott #15 (1894)

The Kingdom of Zulu, sometimes referred to as the Zulu Empire or the Kingdom of Zululand, was a monarchy in Southern Africa that extended along the coast of the Indian Ocean from the Tugela River in the south to Pongola River in the north. The Zulu Kingdom was defeated by Britain in the Anglo-Zulu War and was annexed as a British territory in 1887. For a brief period, it operated its own postal system and issued its own postage stamps between 1888 and 1896, resulting in a total of 24 face-different stamps eleven of which were overprinted stamps of Great Britain and three were overprinted Natal stamps.

The kingdom grew to dominate much of what is today KwaZulu-Natal and Southern Africa and was subsequently absorbed into the Colony of Natal and later became part of the Union of South Africa.

Map of southern Africa, published in July 1885.
Map of southern Africa, published in July 1885.
Map of Zululand, 1879.
Map of Zululand, 1879.

Shaka Zulu, the first Zulu king, had, through war and conquest, built the small Zulu tribe into the Zulu Kingdom which by 1825 encompassed an area of around 11,500 square miles (30,000 km²). He was born around 1787, the illegitimate son of a warrior king named Senzangakona. He and his mother, Nandi, were exiled by Senzangakona, and found refuge with the Mthethwa. Shaka fought as a warrior under Jobe, and then under Jobe’s successor, Dingiswayo, leader of the Mthethwa Paramountcy. When Senzangakona died, Dingiswayo helped Shaka become chief of the Zulu Kingdom. After Dingiswayo’s death at the hands of Zwide, king of the Ndwandwe, around 1818, Shaka assumed leadership of the entire Mthethwa alliance.

Shaka initiated many military, social, cultural and political reforms, forming a well-organized and centralized Zulu state. The most important reforms involved the transformation of the army, through the innovative tactics and weapons he conceived, and a showdown with the spiritual leadership, witchdoctors, effectively ensuring the subservience of the “Zulu church” to the state.
Another important reform integrated defeated clans into the Zulu, on a basis of full equality, with promotions in the army and civil service becoming a matter of merit rather than due to circumstances of birth.

The alliance under his leadership survived Zwide’s first assault at the Battle of Gqokli Hill in 1818. Within two years, Shaka had defeated Zwide at the Battle of Mhlatuze River (1820) and broken up the Ndwandwe alliance, some of whom in turn began a murderous campaign against other Nguni tribes and clans, setting in motion what became known as Defecane or Mfecane, a mass-migration of tribes fleeing the remnants of the Ndwandwe fleeing the Zulu. The death toll has never been satisfactorily determined, but the whole region became nearly depopulated. Normal estimates for the death toll during this period range from 1 million to 2 million people. These numbers are however controversial. By 1825, Shaka had conquered an empire covering an area of around 11,500 square miles (30,000 km²).

Sketch of King Shaka, 1824. Attributed to James King, it appeared in Nathanial Isaacs’
Sketch of King Shaka, 1824. Attributed to James King, it appeared in Nathanial Isaacs’ “Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa”, published in 1836.

An offshoot of the Zulu, the amaNdebele, better known to history as the Matabele created an even larger empire under their king Mzilikazi, including large parts of the highveld and modern-day Zimbabwe.

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated at Dukuza by Mbopa (one of his inDunas) who conspired with two of his half-brothers, Mhlangana and Dingane kaSenzangakhona. Following this assassination, Dingane murdered Mhlangana, and took over the throne. One of his first royal acts was to execute all of his royal kin. In the years that followed, he also executed many past supporters of Shaka in order to secure his position. One exception to these purges was Mpande, another half-brother, who was considered too weak to be a threat at the time.

By the 1830s, migrating Boers came into conflict with the Zulu Kingdom, then ruled by Dingane. In an attempt to form their own state as a protection against the British, the Boers began moving across the Orange River northwards. While travelling they first collided with the Ndebele kingdom, and then with Dingane’s Zulu kingdom. In October 1837, the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief visited Dingane at his royal kraal to negotiate a land deal for the voortrekkers. In November, about 1,000 Voortrekker wagons began descending the Drakensberg mountains from the Orange Free State into what is now KwaZulu-Natal.

Dingane asked that Retief and his party retrieve some cattle stolen from him by a local chief as part of the treaty for land for the Boers. This Retief and his men did, returning on February 3, 1838. The next day, a treaty was signed, wherein Dingane ceded all the land south of the Tugela River to the Mzimvubu River to the Voortrekkers. Celebrations followed. On February 6, at the end of the celebrations, Retief’s party were invited to a dance, and asked to leave their weapons behind. At the peak of the dance, Dingane leapt to his feet and yelled “Bambani abathakathi!” (isiZulu for “Seize the wizards”). Retief and his men were overpowered, taken to the nearby hill kwaMatiwane, and executed. Some believe that they were killed for withholding some of the cattle they recovered, but it is likely that the deal was a plot to overpower the Voortrekkers. Dingane’s army then attacked and massacred a group of 250 Voortrekker men, women and children camped nearby. The site of this massacre is today called Weenen, (Afrikaans for “to weep”).

The remaining Voortrekkers elected a new leader, Andries Pretorius, and he led an attack. Dingane suffered a crushing defeat on December 16, 1838, when 15,000 Zulu impis (warriors) attacked a group of 470 Voortrekker settlers led by Pretorius at the Battle of Blood River. Following his defeat, Dingane burned his royal household and fled north.

Dingane’s half-brother who had been spared in the purges, Mpande kaSenzangakhona, then defected with some 17,000 followers and allied with the Boers against Dingane. Dingane was assassinated near the modern Swaziland border. Mpande then took over rulership of the Zulu nation.

King Mpande
King Mpande

In 1839, the Boer Voortrekkers under Pretorius formed the Boer Republic of Natalia, south of the Tugela and west of the British settlement of Port Natal (now Durban). Mpande and Pretorius maintained peaceful relations. However, in 1842, war broke out between the British and the Boers, resulting in the British annexation of Natalia. Mpande shifted his allegiance to the British, and remained on good terms with them.

In 1843, Mpande ordered a purge of perceived dissidents within his kingdom. This resulted in numerous deaths, and the fleeing of thousands of refugees into neighboring areas, including the British-controlled Natal. Many of these refugees fled with cattle, the main measure of the Zulu wealth. Mpande began raiding the surrounding areas, culminating in the invasion of Swaziland in 1852. However, the British pressured him into withdrawing, which he did shortly. At this time, a battle for the succession broke out between two of Mpande’s sons, Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi. This culminated in 1856 with the Battle of Ndondakusuka, which left Mbuyazi dead. Cetshwayo then set about usurping his father’s authority.

By the 1850s, the British Empire had colonies in southern Africa bordering on various Boer settlements, native African kingdoms such as the Zulus, and numerous indigenous tribal areas and states. Various interactions with these followed an expansionist policy. Cape Colony had been formed after the Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1814 permanently ceded the Dutch colony of Cape Town to Britain, and its territory expanded very substantially through the 1800s. The Colony of Natal was a British colony in south-eastern Africa that had been proclaimed a British colony on May 4, 1843, after the British government had annexed the Boer Republic of Natalia. Matters were brought to a head when three sons and a brother of the Zulu chief Sirayo organized a raid into Natal and carried off two women who were under British protection.

In 1861, Umtonga, a brother of Cetshwayo, and another son of Zulu king Mpande, fled to the Utrecht district, and Cetshwayo assembled an army on that frontier. According to claims later brought forward by the Boers, Cetshwayo offered the farmers a strip of land along the border if they would surrender his brother. The Boers complied on the condition that Umtonga’s life was spared, and in 1861 Mpande signed a deed transferring this land to the Boers. The south boundary of the land added to Utrecht ran from Rorke’s Drift on the Buffalo to a point on the Pongola River.

Illustration by George F. Angas of a Zulu village. Zulu women are shown brewing beer. They also made the earthenware which they are using. Originally appeared in Angas' The Kafirs Illustrated, 1849.
Illustration by George F. Angas of a Zulu village. Zulu women are shown brewing beer. They also made the earthenware which they are using. Originally appeared in Angas’ The Kafirs Illustrated, 1849.

The boundary was beaconed in 1864, but when in 1865 Umtonga fled from Zululand to Natal, Cetshwayo, seeing that he had lost his part of the bargain (for he feared that Umtonga might be used to supplant him, as Mpande had been used to supplant Dingane), caused the beacon to be removed, and also claimed the land ceded by the Swazis to Lydenburg. The Zulus asserted that the Swazis were their vassals and therefore had no right to part with this territory. During the year, a Boer commando under Paul Kruger and an army under Cetshwayo were posted to defend the newly acquired Utrecht border. The Zulu forces took back their land north of the Pongola. Questions were also raised as to the validity of the documents signed by the Zulus concerning the Utrecht strip; in 1869 the services of the lieutenant-governor of Natal, then Robert William Keate, were accepted by both parties as arbitrator, but the attempt then made to settle disagreements proved unsuccessful.

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 near the Vaal River, some 550 miles (890 km) northeast of Cape Town, ended the isolation of the Boers in the interior and changed South African history. The discovery triggered a diamond rush that attracted people from all over the world, which turned Kimberley into a town of 50,000 within five years and drew the attention of British imperial interests. In the 1870s, the British annexed West Griqualand, site of the Kimberley diamond discoveries.

Cetshwayo permitted European missionaries in Zululand. However, the activities of the missionaries were unwelcome to Cetshwayo. Though he did not harm or persecute the missionaries themselves, several converts were killed. The missionaries, for their part, were a source of hostile reports. While numerous Zulus of rival factions fled into Natal and some of the surrounding areas, Cetshwayo continued and maintained the peaceful relations with the Natal colonists that had prevailed for decades. Such was the political background when Cetshwayo became absolute ruler of the Zulus upon his father’s death in 1872.

Photographic image of Cetewayo from a Victorian glass magic lantern slide, circa 1875.
Photographic image of Cetshwayo from a Victorian glass magic lantern slide, circa 1875.

As ruler, Cetshwayo set about reviving the military methods of his uncle Shaka as far as possible. He formed new age-set regiments and even succeeded in equipping his regiments with a few antiquated muskets and other outdated firearms. Most Zulu warriors were armed with an iklwa (the Zulu refinement of the assegai thrusting spear) and a shield made of cowhide. The Zulu army drilled in the personal and tactical use and coordination of this weapons system. While some Zulus also had firearms, their marksmanship training was poor and the quality and supply of powder and shot dreadful. The Zulu attitude towards firearms was that: “The generality of Zulu warriors, however, would not have firearms – the arms of a coward, as they said, for they enable the poltroon to kill the brave without awaiting his attack.”

In 1874 Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had successfully brought about federation in Canada in 1867, thought that a similar scheme might work in South Africa. The South African plan called for a ruling white minority over a subjugated black majority, which would provide a large pool of cheap labor for the British sugar plantations and mines. Carnarvon, in an attempt to extend British influence in 1875, approached the Boer states of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic and tried to organize a federation of the British and Boer territories, but the Boer leaders turned him down.

In 1877, Sir Bartle Frere was made High Commissioner for Southern Africa by Lord Carnarvon. Carnarvon appointed Frere to the position on the understanding that he would work to enforce Carnarvon’s confederation plan and, in return, Frere could then become the first British governor of a federated southern African dominion. Frere was sent to South Africa as High Commissioner to bring it about. One of the obstacles to such a scheme was the presence of the independent states of the South African Republic, informally known as the Transvaal Republic, and the Kingdom of Zululand. Bartle Frere wasted no time in putting the scheme forward and manufacturing a casus belli against the Zulu by exaggerating the significance of a number of recent incidents.

By 1877, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, the British Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal, annexed the Transvaal Republic for Britain using a special warrant. The Transvaal Boers objected but as long as the Zulu threat remained, found themselves between two threats; they feared that if they took up arms to resist the British annexation actively, King Cetshwayo and the Zulus would take the opportunity to attack. The successive British annexations, and in particular the annexation of West Griqualand, however caused a climate of simmering unease for the Boer republics.

Theophilus Shepstone
Theophilus Shepstone

Shepstone, in his capacity as British governor of Natal, had expressed concerns about the Zulu army under King Cetshwayo and the potential threat to Natal — especially given the adoption by some of the Zulus of old muskets and other out of date firearms. In his new role of Administrator of the Transvaal, he was now responsible for protecting the Transvaal and had direct involvement in the Zulu border dispute from the side of the Transvaal. Persistent Boer representations and Paul Kruger’s diplomatic maneuverings added to the pressure. There were incidents involving Zulu paramilitary actions on either side of the Transvaal/Natal border, and Shepstone increasingly began to regard King Cetshwayo, as having permitted such “outrages,” and to be in a “defiant mood”. King Cetshwayo now found no defender in Natal save the bishop of Natal, John Colenso.

Colenso advocated for native Africans in Natal and Zululand who had been unjustly treated by the colonial regime in Natal. Bishop Colenso’s concern about the misleading information that was being provided to the Colonial Secretary in London by Shepstone and the Governor of Natal prompted him to champion the cause of the Zulus against Boer oppression and official encroachments. He was a prominent critic of Sir Bartle Frere’s efforts to depict the Zulu kingdom as a threat to Natal. Colenso’s campaigns revealed the dark, racist foundation underpinning the colonial regime in Natal and made him enemies among the colonists.

British Prime Minister Disraeli’s Tory administration in London did not want a war with the Zulus. “The fact is,” wrote Sir Michael Hicks Beach, who would replace Carnarvon as Secretary of State for the Colonies, in November 1878, “that matters in Eastern Europe and India … wore so serious an aspect that we cannot have a Zulu war in addition to other greater and too possible troubles”. However, Sir Bartle Frere had already been into the Cape Colony as governor and high commissioner since 1877 with the brief of creating a Confederation of South Africa from the various British colonies, Boer Republics and native states and his plans were well advanced. He had concluded that the powerful Zulu kingdom stood in the way of this, and so was receptive to Shepstone’s arguments that King Cetshwayo and his Zulu army posed a threat to the peace of the region. Preparations for a British invasion of the Zulu kingdom had been underway for months. In December 1878, notwithstanding the reluctance of the British government to start yet another colonial war, Frere presented Cetshwayo with an ultimatum that the Zulu army be disbanded and the Zulus accept a British resident. This was unacceptable to the Zulus as it effectively meant that Cetshwayo, had he agreed, would have lost his throne.

Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Baronet
Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Baronet

The pretext for the war had its origins in border disputes between the Zulu leader, Cetshwayo, and the Boers in the Transvaal region. Following a commission enquiry on the border dispute which reported in favor of the Zulu nation in July 1878, On December 11, 1878, with the intent of instigating a war with the Zulu, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, acting on his own initiative and without the approval of the British government, presented an ultimatum, much to the surprise of the Zulu representatives. It was then relayed to Cetshwayo in terms that he could not possibly comply. British forces under Lieutenant General Frederick Augustus Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, crossed the Tugela River at the end of December 1878.

Lord Chelmsford, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the war, initially planned a five-pronged invasion of Zululand composed of over 15,000 troops in five columns and designed to encircle the Zulu army and force it to fight as he was concerned that the Zulus would avoid battle. In the event, Chelmsford settled on three invading columns with the main center column, now consisting of some 7,800 men comprising the previously called No. 3 Column and Durnford’s No. 2 Column, under his direct command. He moved his troops from Pietermaritzburg to a forward camp at Helpmekaar, past Greytown. On January 9, 1879, they moved to Rorke’s Drift, and early on January 11 commenced crossing the Buffalo River into Zululand. Three columns were to invade Zululand, from the Lower Tugela, Rorke’s Drift, and Utrecht respectively, their objective being Ulundi, the royal capital.

While Cetshwayo’ s army numbered perhaps 35,000 men, it was essentially a militia force which could be called out in time of national danger. It had a very limited logistical capacity and could only stay in the field a few weeks before the troops would be obliged to return to their civilian duties. Zulu warriors were armed primarily with assegai thrusting spears, known in Zulu as iklwa, clubs, some throwing spears and shields made of cowhide.

The initial entry of all three columns was unopposed. On January 22, the center column, which had advanced from Rorke’s Drift, was encamped near Isandlwana; on the morning of that day Lord Chelmsford split his forces and moved out to support a reconnoitering party, leaving the camp in charge of Colonel Pulleine. The British were outmaneuvered by the main Zulu army nearly 20,000 strong led by Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza. Chelmsford was lured eastward with much of his center column by a Zulu diversionary force while the main Impi attacked his camp. Chelmsford’s decision not to set up the British camp defensively, contrary to established doctrine, and ignoring information that the Zulus were close at hand were decisions that the British were soon to regret.

Battle of Isandhlwana, January 1879.
Battle of Isandhlwana, January 1879.

The ensuing Battle of Isandlwana was the greatest victory that the Zulu kingdom would enjoy during the war. The British center column was wrecked and its camp annihilated with heavy casualties as well as the loss of all its supplies, ammunition and transport. The defeat left Chelmsford no choice but to hastily retreat out of Zululand. In the battle’s aftermath, a party of some 4,000 Zulu reserves mounted an unauthorised raid on the nearby British army border post of Rorke’s Drift and were driven off after 10 hours of ferocious fighting.

While the British central column under Chelmsford’s command was thus engaged, the right flank column on the coast, under Colonel Charles Pearson, crossed the Tugela River, skirmished with a Zulu impi that was attempting to set up an ambush at the Inyezane River, and advanced as far as the deserted missionary station of Eshowe, which he set about fortifying. On learning of the disaster at Isandlwana, Pearson made plans to withdraw back beyond the Tugela River. However, before he had decided whether or not to put these plans into effect, the Zulu army managed to cut off his supply lines, and the Siege of Eshowe had begun.

Meanwhile, the left flank column at Utrecht, under Colonel Evelyn Wood, had originally been charged with occupying the Zulu tribes of north-west Zululand and preventing them from interfering with the British central column’s advance on Ulundi. To this end Wood set up camp at Tinta’s Kraal, just 10 miles south of Hlobane Mountain, where a force of 4,000 Zulus had been spotted. He planned to attack them on January 24, but on learning of the disaster at Isandlwana, he decided to withdraw back to the Kraal. Thus one month after the British invasion, only their left flank column remained militarily effective, and it was too weak to conduct a campaign alone. The first invasion of Zululand had been a failure.

It had never been Cetshwayo’s intention to invade Natal, but to simply fight within the boundaries of the Zulu kingdom. Chelmsford used the next two months to regroup and build a fresh invading force with the initial intention of relieving Pearson at Eshowe. The British government rushed seven regiments of reinforcements to Natal, along with two artillery batteries.

Zulu warriors, 1879
Zulu warriors, 1879

On March 12, an armed escort of stores marching to Luneberg, was defeated by about 500 Zulus at the Battle of Intombe; the British force suffered 80 killed and all the stores were lost. The first troops arrived at Durban on March 7. On the 29th a column, under Lord Chelmsford, consisting of 3,400 British and 2,300 African soldiers, marched to the relief of Eshowe, entrenched camps being formed each night.

Chelmsford ordered Sir Evelyn Wood’s troops to attack the abaQulusi Zulu stronghold in Hlobane. Lieutenant Colonel Redvers Buller, led the attack on Hlobane on 28 March. However, as the Zulu main army of 20,000 men approached to help their besieged tribesmen, the British force began a retreat which turned into a rout and were pursued by 1,000 Zulus of the abaQulusi who inflicted some 225 casualties on the British force.

The next day, 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked Wood’s 2,068 men in a well-fortified camp at Kambula, apparently without Cetshwayo’s permission. The British held them off in the Battle of Kambula and after five hours of heavy attacks the Zulus withdrew with heavy losses but were pursued by British mounted troops, who killed many more fleeing and wounded warriors. British losses amounted to 83 (28 killed and 55 wounded), while the Zulus lost up to 2,000 killed. The effect of the battle of Kambula on the Zulu army was severe. Their commander Mnyamana tried to get the regiments to return to Ulundi but many demoralized warriors simply went home.

While Woods was thus engaged, Chelmsford’s column was marching on Eshowe. On April 2, this force was attacked en route at Gingindlovu, the Zulu being repulsed. Their losses were heavy, estimated at 1,200 while the British only suffered two dead and 52 wounded. The next day, they relieved Pearson’s men. They evacuated Eshowe on April 5, after which the Zulu forces burned it down.

The new start of the larger, heavily reinforced second invasion[p] was not promising for the British. Despite their successes at Kambula, Gingindlovu and Eshowe, they were right back where they had started from at the beginning of January. Nevertheless, Chelmsford had a pressing reason to proceed with haste – Sir Garnet Wolseley was being sent to replace him, and he wanted to inflict a decisive defeat on Cetshwayo’s forces before then. With yet more reinforcements arriving, soon to total 16,000 British and 7,000 Native troops, Chelmsford reorganized his forces and again advanced into Zululand in June, this time with extreme caution building fortified camps all along the way to prevent any repeat of Isandlwana.

One of the early British casualties was the exiled heir to the French throne, Imperial Prince Napoleon Eugene, who had volunteered to serve in the British army and was killed on June 1 while out with a reconnoitering party.

Cetshwayo, knowing that the newly reinforced British would be a formidable opponent, attempted to negotiate a peace treaty. Chelmsford was not open to negotiations, as he wished to restore his reputation before Wolseley relieved him of command, and he proceeded to the royal kraal of Ulundi, intending to defeat the main Zulu army. On July 4, the armies clashed at the Battle of Ulundi, and Cetshwayo’s forces were decisively defeated.

The burning of Ulundi, July 1879.
The burning of Ulundi, July 1879.

After the battle of Ulundi the Zulu army dispersed, most of the leading chiefs tendered their submission, and Cetshwayo became a fugitive. Wolseley, having relieved Chelmsford after Ulundi, took over the final operations. On August 28, the king was captured and sent to Cape Town. It is said that scouts spotted the water-carriers of the king, distinctive because the water was carried above, not upon, their heads. His deposition was formally announced to the Zulu.

Wolseley wasted no time in discarding Bartle Frere’s confederation scheme and drew up a new scheme which divided Zululand into thirteen chiefdoms headed by compliant chiefs which ensured that the Zulus would no longer unite under a single king and made internal divisions and civil wars inevitable. The dynasty of Shaka was deposed, and the Zulu country portioned among eleven Zulu chiefs, including Usibepu, John Dunn, a white adventurer, and Hlubi, a Basuto chief allied to the British in the war.

Chelmsford received a Knight Grand Cross of Bath, largely because of Ulundi, however, he was severely criticized by the Horse Guards investigation and he would never serve in the field again. Bartle Frere was relegated to a minor post in Cape Town.

Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War, Bishop Colenso interceded on behalf of Cetshwayo with the British government and succeeded in getting him released from Robben Island and returned to Zululand in 1883.

Zulu warriors
Zulu warriors

A Resident (Melmoth Osborn) was appointed to be the channel of communication between the chiefs and the British government. This arrangement led to much bloodshed and disturbance, and in 1882 the British government determined to restore Cetshwayo to power. In the meantime, however, blood feuds had been engendered between the chiefs Usibepu (Zibebu) and Hamu on the one side and the tribes who supported the ex-king and his family on the other. Cetshwayo’s party (who now became known as the Usuthu) suffered severely at the hands of the two chiefs, who were aided by a band of white freebooters.

When Cetshwayo was restored Usibepu was left in possession of his territory, while Dunn’s land and that of the Basuto chief (the country between the Tugela River and the Umhlatuzi, i.e., adjoining Natal) was constituted a reserve, in which locations were to be provided for Zulu unwilling to serve the restored king. This new arrangement proved as futile as had Wolseley’s. Usibepu, having created a formidable force of well-armed and trained warriors, and being left in independence on the borders of Cetshwayo’s territory, viewed with displeasure the re-installation of his former king, and Cetshwayo was desirous of humbling his relative.

A collision very soon took place; Usibepu’s forces were victorious, and on July 22, 1883, led by a troop of mounted Boer mercenary troops, he made a sudden descent upon Cetshwayo’s kraal at Ulundi, which he destroyed, massacring such of the inmates of both sexes as could not save themselves by flight. The king escaped, though wounded, into Nkandla forest. After appeals to Melmoth Osborn he moved to Eshowe. Cetshwayo died in February 1884, possibly poisoned. His son, Dinuzulu, then 15, inherited the throne.

King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, circa 1883.
King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, circa 1883.

Dinuzulu made a pact with the Boers of his own, promising them land in return for their aid. The Boers were led by Louis Botha. Dinuzulu and the Boers defeated Zibhebhu in 1884. They were granted about half of Zululand individually as farms, and formed the independent Republic of Vryheid. This alarmed the British who wanted to prevent the Boers access to a harbor. The British then annexed Zululand in 1887. It was made a Crown Colony on May 19, 1887.

The first European postal service was operated by a Natal postal agency which was established at Eshowe in 1876. It cancelled Natal postage stamps with  “No. 56 P.O. Natal” postmark. The agency closed during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 and did not reopen until 1885 at which time a Eshowe postmark was provided. ZULULAND was added to this cancellation in 1887 and stamps of Natal continued to be used until a postal service for Zululand was established the following year.

An official postal system was not started until May 1, 1888, at which time both Zululand and Natal became members of the Universal Postal Union. At first, the territory used postage stamps of Great Britain (Zululand Scott #1-11) and Natal (Zululand Scott #12-14) overprinted ZULULAND, released between 1888 and 1894. The British overprints were applied by Thomas de la Rue Co. Ltd. in London while the Natal overprints were added at Pietermartizburg. Scott #12 was, apparently, originally supplied in 1889 for fiscal purposes; it’s earliest known use is November 29, 1893. Scott #13 was a Natal revenue stamp overprinted ZULULAND that was authorized for use as a postage stamp according to a proclamation published in the Natal Government Gazette on June 27, 1891. It is clear from the wording that such a use had already commenced; it’s earliest known use is May 5, 1891.

The first nine stamps in an eventual series of ten definitive issues in the key plate style with a profile of Queen Victoria, inscribed ZULULAND were issued on April 18, 1894; the 2 shilling 6 pence value was released in February 1896. These were typographed by Thomas de la Rue Co. Ltd. and ranged in denomination from ½ penny to five pounds. Dangerous forgeries exist of the £1 and £5 stamps. Fourteen of the 17 post offices and agencies in Zululand used violet as well as black ink in their postal cancellations so purple or violet postmarks are not necessarily postal cancellations.

Zululand was annexed by Natal on December 31, 1897, and separate stamps were discontinued on June 30, 1898.

War movements in the Zulu Empire of Shaka, early 19th century.
War movements in the Zulu Empire of Shaka, early 19th century.

Dinuzulu became involved in later conflicts with rivals. In 1906, Dinuzulu was accused of being behind the Bambatha Rebellion. He was arrested and put on trial by the British for “high treason and public violence”. In 1909, he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on St. Helena island. When the Union of South Africa was formed, Louis Botha became its first prime minister, and he arranged for his old ally Dinuzulu to return to South Africa and live in exile on a farm in the Transvaal, where he died in 1913.

Dinuzulu’s son Solomon kaDinuzulu was never recognized by South African authorities as the Zulu king, only as a local chief, but he was increasingly regarded as king by chiefs, by political intellectuals such as John Langalibalele Dube and by ordinary Zulu people. In 1923, Solomon founded the organization Inkatha YaKwaZulu to promote his royal claims, which became moribund and then was revived in the 1970s by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, chief minister of the KwaZulu bantustan. In December 1951, Solomon’s son Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon was officially recognized as the Paramount Chief of the Zulu people, but real power over ordinary Zulu people lay with South African government officials working through local chiefs who could be removed from office for failure to cooperate.

KwaZulu was a bantustan in South Africa, intended by the apartheid government as a semi-independent homeland for the Zulu people. The capital was moved from Nongoma to Ulundi in 1980. It was led until its abolition in 1994 by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Zulu royal family and head of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). It was merged with the surrounding South African province of Natal to form the new province of KwaZulu-Natal. The name kwaZulu translates roughly as Place of Zulus, or more formally Zululand.

Scott #15 is a ½-pence lilac & green key-plate definitive, issued by Zululand on April 18, 1894. It was printed using typography by Thomas de la Rue Co. Ltd. in London, England, on paper watermarked with a Crown CA, perforated 14. The Scott catalogue doesn’t list an inverted watermark variety.

Conjectured Zululand flag of 1884-1897
Conjectured Zululand flag of 1884-1897
KwaZulu-Natal coat of arms
KwaZulu-Natal coat of arms

 

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