History of the Zulu War Annotated Evaluation

History Of Africa

The Zulus, Xhosa, Tswana, Swati, Bantu and Tsonga are considered to be South Africa’s first inhabitants. They arrived in the region from Nigeria, Cameroon and the Congo in the 9th century. What makes them so special is the unique culture and language, which helped them to become some of the nation’s largest ethnic groups. In 1818, they formed their own series of states. They controlled vast amounts of land and united the various tribes into several nations.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Francis Colenso, History of the Zulu War (London: Chapman and Hall, 1881), 256 — 399.]

Until 1879, they were considered to be a major threat to the British military and their colonies throughout South Africa. This was a part of an effort, which began in 1814 when the British took control of the Dutch Colony of Cape Town. As more people immigrated to the region from Europe, a host of colonies were expanded in with the Colony of Natal (in South Eastern Africa). This is because farmers of Dutch decent (i.e. Afrikaners) began to expand in different areas to exploit numerous parts for agricultural purposes. [footnoteRef:3] [3: Francis Colenso, History of the Zulu War (London: Chapman and Hall, 1881), 256 — 399.]

However, in1867 diamonds were discovered in the Vaal River. This is 550 miles northeast of Cape Town. It triggered a massive diamond rush which attracted people from all over the world. To maintain control of the region, the British continued to annex numerous parts and expand its colony. The most notable was: West Griqualand. [footnoteRef:4] [4: Francis Colenso, History of the Zulu War (London: Chapman and Hall, 1881), 256 — 399.]

These changes led to the creation of a confederation. The basic idea was to implement a program which called for the ruling white minority to control and subjugate the black majority. This is the basic strategy of apartheid, as the Europeans would control access to different natural resources. To achieve these objectives hey established a host of plantations and mines. The local population was expected to become a major source of cheap labor in sustaining this system. [footnoteRef:5] [5: Francis Colenso, History of the Zulu War (London: Chapman and Hall, 1881), 256 — 399.]

In the mid 1870s, conflicts began between the natives and the colonists over who controlled specific areas of land. The two sides continued to negotiate and support their position for controlling certain regions. The Europeans believed that they had territorial rights to it for agricultural and mining related purposes. While the Africans, felt that they were encroaching on their traditional boundaries. [footnoteRef:6] [6: Alexander Wilmont, History of the Zulu War (London: Richardson and Best, 1880), 1- 57.]

In response, the Africans began to make incursions into areas that were claimed by the British. This created a contention about who controlled specific parcels of land. At first, the British attempted to negotiate with them. The basic idea was to create a strategy for peacefully bringing them under colonial rule and ensuring that settlers were able to gain access to the areas they wanted. After negotiations broke down, the British gave them a series of ultimatums. They demanded that these tribes submit to: their rule, pull back from areas they had been aggressively moving into and start paying taxes to the Crown. [footnoteRef:7] [7: Francis Colenso, History of the Zulu War (London: Chapman and Hall, 1881), 256 — 399.]

The Africans felt that the British deceived them and rejected their demands on issues such as: payment for the losses settlers incurred, they did not disband their army and allow British agents / missionaries to operate inside areas controlled by them. The result is that a state of war existed between the British and them in 1879. These events are significant, in demonstrating how the destiny of South Africa was influenced by events between the two sides. The result is that these changes led to the development of apartheid. To fully understand what occurs requires focusing on a speech from the Union of South Africa Government (during a speech to the London Rotary in 1953). Together, the different elements will highlight the how it is supporting this system of government and the mindset of the people behind it.

The Speech and it Views about Apartheid

In the speech, there is a focus on showing how apartheid is a form of partnership. This is occurring with the white Europeans claiming that they are equalizing the use of natural resources. These beliefs are based upon the fact that no one is the true inhabitants of South Africa. On the contrary, the region had immigration from different parts of Africa and Europe. The differences are in the timeframe when they arrived. To make matters worse, the existing tribes were known for their brutality and were not united as a single nation. Instead, there were different racial groups fighting over who controlled specific regions. Once the Europeans arrived, is when they competed with them and prevailed.

Moreover, the arrival of the Europeans led to the modernization of Africa. This supports the ideas of self-determination and equality, by forging an alliance between different social groups. Over the course of time, the separation from apartheid gave them their own spheres of influence and the capacity to control the resources in it. This goes directly against the claims made by Africans about how they were cheated out of the most fertile lands and areas which have proven reserves. Instead, they need have their own areas in order to effectively introduce their products in the marketplace for sale. In this case, the Europeans will argue that apartheid is not discriminating against certain segments of society.

Furthermore, the speech outlines how a similar policy is the primary objectives of other groups. For example, the majority of the Bantu are supporting this position with them saying in a statement, “There must one day be black domination, in the sense that power must pass to the immense African majority. Need I say more to show that this policy of Partnership could, in South Africa, only mean the eventual disappearance of the white South African nation? And will you be greatly surprised if I tell you that this white nation is not prepared to commit national suicide, not even by slow poisoning? The only alternative is a policy of apartheid, the policy of separate development. The germ of this policy is inherent in almost all of our history, implanted there by the force of circumstances…. Apartheid is a policy of self-preservation. We make no apology for possessing that very natural urge. But it is more than that. It is an attempt at self-preservation in a manner that will enable the Bantu to develop fully as a separate people. We believe that, for a long time to come, political power will have to remain with the whites, also in the interest of our still very immature Bantu. But we believe also, in the words of a statement by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1950, a Church that favors apartheid, that ‘no people in the world worth their salt, would be content indefinitely with no say or only indirect say in the affairs of the State or in the country’s socioeconomic organization in which decisions are taken about their interests and their future.” [footnoteRef:8] This is illustrating how the native Africans are in support of apartheid. The only difference is they want specific regions where they have greater amounts of autonomy. Once this occurs, is the point they will be able to have greater amounts control over their future and can align with their cultural practices. The speech argues that this is a benefit of apartheid and it is illustrating how it is not favoring one specific group over the others. [8: Bruce Vandervot, “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 975.]

Analysis and How Past Events Shaped Apartheid

The fact that the British were successful in winning different wars against various tribes is underscoring how they established an economic and political system which benefited them. This meant that they controlled those regions with the most amounts of resources and used Africans as a cheap form of labor. According to Vandervot (2004), the numerous wars reshaped the social structure of South Africa. This occurred with the white settlers effectively turning them from farmers and herdsman into agricultural laborers. Evidence of this can be seen with him saying, how the final stage of African resistance to white encroachment occurred through their capacity to change them from herders and farmers into basic workers and laborers.[footnoteRef:9] [9: Bruce Vandervot, “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 975.]

These insights are showing how the different wars destroyed a number of tribal nations. This occurred with the demolishing their capitals, military and in the way various leaders were used to humiliate them. Moreover, they used a number of chiefs who were supportive of British polices and willing to look the other way. As their people; were forced off the land, lost their wealth, heritage and sense of belonging. Instead, they had to become laborers in the agricultural and mining sectors for British / Afrikaner interests. In many ways, one could argue, that these events set the stage for Apartheid with the white minority ruling over the majority of native Africans.[footnoteRef:10] [10: Bruce Vandervot, “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 975.]

The British and Afrikaners were focused on creating an environment where the Africans were subservient to them. This meant destroying their heritage and forcing them to become their servant in the agricultural / mining sector and everyday society. In many cases, they placed excessive taxes on them (such as: the hut tax). This added to their burden by forcing them to submit to their new roles. Moreover, the Africans were kicked off of their land and forced to live in crowded ghettos. These conditions were horrible and often involved various restrictions on free speech, movement and the ability to organize. The result is that between 1879 and 1912, they effectively became second class citizens inside South African society.[footnoteRef:11] [11: Brian Du Toit, “Consciousness, Identification and Resistance,” Journal of Modern African Studies 21, no.3 (1983), 377 — 380.]

The tribal leadership wanted to maintain their culture traditions, self-determination and way of life. The problem was that they did not understand the tactics utilized by the British / Afrikaners and they failed to see the long-term implications of the war on them. Over the course of time, this short sidedness, resulted in many become servant to whites. As a result, their political agenda wanted to ensure peaceful coexistence. The problem is that the discovery of diamonds, gold and agricultural resources are what led to them becoming slaves to the Afrikaners.[footnoteRef:12] [12: Bruce Vandervot, “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 975.]

The victories of the British meant that they could impose their own laws and systems upon the natives from the region. In the longer term, this was a seen as the final act of capitulation through demonstrating how they were able to create clear divisions using racial lines. A good example of this occurred with the passage of the Franchise Ballot Act of 1892. This increased the requirements in determining who was eligible to vote based upon the amount of land they possessed from £25 to £75. As a result, the majority of non-white people could not meet these standards and were effectively relegated to the role of second class citizens. This led to the implementation of other laws, which required anyone who was not of European decent to have greater controls on their movements and activities. The most notable include: the General Pass Regulations Act, Asiatic Registration Act and the South Africa Act. The combination of them gave whites control over anyone, who was not the same as them and it relegated native Africans to the position of servants in this new society. [footnoteRef:13] [13: Bruce Vandervot, “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 975.]


Du Toit, Brian.”Consciousness, Identification and Resistance.” Journal of Modern African Studies 21, no.3 (1983), 365-395.

Colenso, Francis. History of the Zulu War. London: Chapman and Hall, 1881.

Vandervot, Bruce “A Historical Atlas,” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 3, (2004), 974 — 982.

Wilmont, Alexander. History of the Zulu War. London: Richardson and Best, 1880.

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