ICE Case Studies
Number 154, May, 2006
Zulu and British Use of Environment in Conflict, by Jim Lee
The British used a series of border disputes with the Kingdom of Zululand to instigate a war against them in 1879. These border disputes were lands settled by Boers, used for ranching cattle, that were annexed by Britain. The war signaled the consolidation of British power in South Africa, particularly after the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1870s.
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). In 1828 he was assassinated at Dukuza by one of his inDunas and two of his half-brothers, one of whom,Dingane kaSenzangakhona, succeeded him as king.
The disputed land was given to the Boers originally in exchange for handing over Umtonga, a brother of Cetshwayo, whom he he fared would supplant him. When his brother fled back to Natal, he reneged on the deal and removed the boundary beacons.
On August 28, the king was captured and sent to Capetown and imprisoned oon Ribben;s Island (where Nelson Mandela was later jailed). The Zulu Kingdom was then broken up into 13 smaller pieces.
The 1867 discovery of diamonds in South Africa led to intense British interest in South Africa and controlling the region.
By about 1840, a British colony had sprung up after annexing the Boer Republic of Natal, along the southern borders of Zululand. Over the next 30 years, the British instituted a policy of inclusion. This meant the absorption of a number of independent entities until consolidated British control, including , existing British colonies, the Boer republics and the African kingdoms. The British had annexed Transvaal, another Boer republic, and there was an existing border dispute between it and the Zulu Kingdom.
A strong Zulu nation was a threat to inclusion, so in December 1878 the British High Commissioner in South Africa, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, instigated a war with King Cetewayo of the Zulus, ostensibly over a border dispute.
The British invasion began January 11, 1979 but started with disastrous results. At the battle of Isandhlwana, Zulu forces routed the British and subsequently laid siege to the garrison at Rorke’s Drift before finally withdrawing. Yet the Zulu’s did not take advantage of their victory and allowed the British forces to re-group. Superior British technology quickly overwhelmed the Zulu forces.
Shaka Zulu built the Zulu Empire. The first Zulu king, had, through war and conquest, built the small Zulu tribe into the Zulu Kingdom which by 1825 covered 30,000 km, or the size of Belgium.
THIS IS A QUOTE THAT NEEDS PARA-PHRASING
The Boer republic of Transvaal had been established to give the Afrikaners their own land away from British interference. But some of them had remained within the Natal borders, settling in the remote northwest, around Blood River (Ncome River). They were cattle owners and were attracted to the good grazing on the grassy uplands to the east, in Zululand. Mpande was king at that time and they sought his permission to use the area for their cattle. He was prepared to maintain good relations with the Boers and allowed them to move in. But there were no clearly defined bounderies so the Boers edged their way further and further into Zululand. When Cetshwayo came to the throne he wanted the Boers out of his country so the area (see Map), which stretched from Rorke’s Drift in the south to the Transvaal border in the north, became disputed territory. The Boers claimed that Mpande had given them the land and Cetshwayo claimed that it was merely a loan and that he wanted it back. The British, at first, gave their support to the Zulus in the argument, but when the Transvaal came under British control, they felt that it would be better to placate the potentially hostile Boer population by supporting their claim. This dismayed Cetshwayo and provided another reason for the British to confront the Zulus.The disputed land was given to the Boers originally in exchange for handing over Umtonga, a brother of Cetshwayo, whom he he fared would supplant him. When his brother fled back to Natal, he reneged on the deal and removed the boundary beacons.
On August 28, the king was captured and sent to Capetown and imprisoned on Robben’s Island (where Nelson Mandela was later jailed). The Zulu Kingdom was then broken up into 13 smaller pieces.
Early in 1883 Cetshwayo was reinstalled as king, but his powers had been severely reduced. He died later that year.
Region: South Africa
Country: South Africa
Casualties at Isandlwana:
52 British officers and 806 non-commissioned ranks were killed. Around 60 Europeans survived the battle. 471 Africans died fighting for the British. Zulu casualties have to be estimated and are set at around 2,000 dead either on the field or from wounds.
The border dispute was cited as a reason for conflict, but in terms of overall resources and interests was more of an excuse rather than a motivating factor.