I was a bit ambivalent about where to put this, so it's here (mods can move it if required).
Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 was for the most part orchestrated by four
men, none of whom were Zulu. These men were, in southern Africa, Sir
Theophilus Shepstone, Sir Bartle Frere and Lieutenat-General Sir
Frederic Thesiger (he became Lord Chelmsford on his fathers death)
the other man, in England, was the Colonial Secretary, Lord
Carnarvon. Although these men were the principal architects, the
British government as a whole must carry it's share of the blame –
it should have exercised far more control over it's representatives
was an “old Africa hand” who had been appointed as” Diplomatic
Agent to the Native Tribes” in 1845. in 1851 this was upgraded to
Secretary for Native Affairs. In 1877 he was responsible for the
annexation of the Transvaal. "Nothing but annexation,"
wrote Sir Theophilus to the Colonial Office, "will or can save
the state, and nothing else can save South Africa from the direst
consequences. All the thinking and intelligent people know this, and
will be thankful to be delivered from the thraldom of petty factions
by which they are perpetually kept in a state of excitement and
unrest because the government and everything connected with it is a
thorough sham" ( Life of Sir Bartle Frere, ch. 18). He
then moved on to the annexation of Zululand.
1877, Sir Bartle Frere was appointed to the position of Governor of
the Cape and High Commissioner of Native Affairs for South Africa.
When he arrived he was immeditaely swamped with accounts of
Cetshwayo's cruelty to his own people (especially converts to
Christianity). These accounts were mostly unfounded and had ben
propogated by missionaries and Natal newspapers in the hope of
provoking a British invasion of Zululand.
had extensive experience in India, but he was totally out of his
depth in Africa. In a communication to Shepstone in April 1877, he
said this;- “To maintain a standing army of 40,000 unmarried young
men, would task the resources of a country as rich & populous &
industrious as Belgium, & if Cetwayo can, manage it, without a
constant succession of conquests, he is fit to be War Minister to any
great military power in Europe”. This might have been true, if the
Zulu army had been a standing army. It wasn't.
Zulu army was reorganised by Shaka after he seized power in 1816.
Before he came to be King, tribal conflicts were, for the most part
ritualised with few casualties caused by the light throwing spears
used. Shaka introduced the short, heavy-bladed thrusting spear known
as the assegai pr iklwa, he also introduced the basic tactic used by all Zulu
armies – the horns of the buffalo (izimpondo zankomo). In
this, an enemy would be pinned by a frontal attack, then flanked and
army was known as an Impi, made up of several amabutho which
were age-grade regiments. Zulu boys from the age of fourteen lived in
an amakhanda (military kraal) where they herded cattle, tended
crops and received mandatory military training. This lasted for two
or three years, after which they were formed into their amabutho,
where they spent a further eight months before dispersing to their
home areas, where for three months of the year they served as both
police and enforcers. In essence, they were “a strong,
well-regulated militia”. A standing army they were not.
contrast to Shaka, Cetshwayo, while he bought guns from anywhere and
everywhere didn't give as much attention to the impis as they thought
he should (no change there), both British and Boers supplied him with
a variety of rifles of varying accuracy, range and calibre, but by
far the greatest contribution came from the dead at Isadlhwana....
was bending over backwards to avoid a war he didn't want and knew he
couldn't win. His efforts were in totally in vain. I don't propose to
go into detail on his efforts as Bartle Frere and Chelmsford were
intent on having their war. The process had been started by Shepstone
before he was recalled in 1878 for alienating
the Boers by his arrogant and high-handed treatment of them and their
male regiments, due to natural wastage (disease and accident),
warfare and varying birth-rates (which could be due to almost
anything), were not of a uniform size. One regiment which fought in
the Zulu centre at Isandlhwana, (the iNgobamakhosi) had a strenght of
6,000 men, the other two regiments of the centre were far smaller –
the uMonambi mustered 2,000 and the uVe (which was the
smallest regiment in the army) fielded only 1,000.
Political Landscape – Britain
When Frere arrived in
South Africa, he immediately came under the influence of Shepstone,
who had over a period of time, convinced himself that the natives
needed to be "civilised" and that that form of civilisation
should be administered by Britain.
Lord Carnarvon (another
of the dogs of war), who was Colonial Secretary at when both Frere
and Chelmsford were appointed, resigned from the Cabinet in February
1878 as a protest against the British manouvres regarding the
"Eastern Question" (basically Imperial Russia vs the
Ottoman Empire - Russia was winning). Carnarvon had been very
interested in the "African problem", but not to the extent
of starting wars.
He was replaced by Sir Michael Hicks Beach.
Hicks Beach knew very little about Africa and even less about
Carnarvons machinations. Additionally, he was faced with the second
Anglo-Afghan war and other problems arising from the Treaty of San
Stefano. In essence where Carnarvon was an acvtive player, Hicks
Beach was otherwise engaged...
Hicks Beach wrote, in a
letter to Frere "The Government are not prepared to comply with
the request for more troops. The fact is, that matters in Eastern
Europe & India, as you have by this time heard, wear so serious
an aspect that we cannot now have a Zulu war in addition to other
greater and too possible troubles...."
As an aside here, the
“Scarmble for Africa” is normally thought to begin in 1880's. I
disagree for a variety of reasons. Chief among them the fact that
European powers were already carving up the Continent – albeit in
the North. I suggest that the starting point for the scramble was
either the annexation of Griqualand West in 1871 (the Kimberley
diamond fields were discovered there in 1867) or the beginning of the
Voortrekker movement in 1848. My personal opinion involves diamonds.
Political Landscape – South Africa
principal players here were Chelmsford, Frere and, before he was
releived, Shepstone. Sir Garnet Wolseley, who for a short time, was
Lieutenant-Governor of Natal (1875-1876) was told by Shepstone that
“it would take only a thousand British soldiers to win over
Zululand because Cetshwayo was a murderous tyrant whom his subjects
could not wait to see the back of”. As Shepstone was the
acknowledged expert on matters African, this was accepted as fact. In
actuality, it was a total fabrication. Cetshwayo wasn't a tyrant, he
was a constitutional monarch as the Council of Chiefs (iziKhulu)
could and ocassionally did over-rule his decisions.
Unlike how he was
portrayed in official reports, Cetshwayo's actions from his
“coronation” by Shepstone in 1873, right up until the invasion
of Zululand, were aimed at keeping the peace. Frere, on the other
hand, was uninterested in peace. In 1876, there had been a border
“incursion” in which the Zulus had crossed the border to retrieve
some criminals. Frere and his cronies totally ingored this event. Two
years later things were different – three minor unrelated events
were blown up into a “clear and present danger” - which they
weren't. On one ocassion a party of Zulu in pursuit of an erring wife
or two crossed into Natal, captured the runaways and took them back
to face execution. The second incident involved a surveyor from the
colonial engineer's office, he and a assitant were caught by Zulus
whilst inspecting a ford near Fort Buckingham, they were questioned
for a couple of hours by the Zulus then turned loose minus the
contents of their pockets. The surveyor didn't bother reporting it as
he thought it meaningless (the assistant didn't). The third incident
occurred October when a quarrel between two groups of Swazis (one
living in Natal and one in Zululand) turned into a minor skirmish in
Frere, when referring
to these events described them as follows “not accidents, but
acts....to keep up the terror [Cetshwayo] believed he had inspired,
and to try how far he might go”.
the same time Cetshwayo was telling Sir Henry Bulwer (at the time
Lieutenant Governor of Natal) “I hear of troops
arriving in Natal, that they are coming to attack the Zulus, and to
seize me; in what have I done wrong that I should be seized like an
“Umtakata” (wrongdoer), the English are my fathers, I do
not wish to quarrel with them, but live as I have always done, at
peace with them”.