Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Voortrekkers - Zulu King Dingane and the 'umlungus'

Dingane had been warned of the white man ('umlungu') by Shaka and traders and was exceedingly suspicious of their motives.

Zulu King Dingane and the 'umlungus'

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Dingane`s reign of terror was every bit as vicious as that of his predecessor. Dingane was also fearful of the white man.

Durban had been occupied by a couple of dozen white men for more than twelve years and the area around the bay had been a magnet for those fleeing from his depredations so that there were several thousand refugees in that area.

Dingane is Warned

With his dying breath, Shaka had told Dingane that he would not rule long but that the white men would come and take his kingdom away. That was nine years ago and Dingane had become deeply distrustful of the white man.

An epileptic refugee from the south had also told Dingane that the white man would invade his territory and, even worse, news had recently arrived of the Matabele's defeat by the Boers - something Dingane`s armies had been unable to achieve. And now they were on his borders and coming to see him.

The Dilemma

Dingane was in a very awkward situation. He realized that by granting them their wishes that their demands would not be satisfied until his kingdom had been taken away.

Further, he did not want such a powerful adversary on his Southern border. He had heard of the sticks that spat fiery pebbles and of the hornless animals (horses) that made the Boers so powerful.

At this time, his relations with the white men at the port were also at a low ebb to the point that they had to evacuate the port three times when he sent his army to clear the area. Dingane determined that his only course would be to wipe the white man from his kingdom by whatever means possible.

Still, he was fascinated with the trinkets they brought. He would amuse himself by burning a hole in an uncomplaining subject's arm with a magnifying glass and would use a telescope to spy on his subjects. He would also spend hours reviewing his herds of cattle - some of which had been trained to move in military formation.

Dingane Dithers as Retief Arrives

Dingane intended to impress Retief and called in many thousands of cattle from outlying areas. On Retief's arrival, he kept him waiting for two days with tribal dancing displays while he deliberated on his response to the inevitable request for land. His indunas Ndlela and Dambuza who wielded great influence were all for killing the party there and then.

He had expected to meet Uys, the commander of the Natal Commissie Trek and was surprised when Retief appeared, whom he called too small to be a commander. He set about accusing the Boers of rustling Zulu livestock near the Drakensberg but Retief replied that it was Sikyonela's Wild Cat people who were known to wear European clothing.

Dingane and Retief Strike a Deal

Dingane then asked that such livestock be recovered by the Boers as a sign of their good intentions whereupon he would cede them the land between the Tugela River in the north and the Umzimvubu River in the South.

Retief agreed to recover the cattle and sent messengers back to the Voortrekkers informing them that the land was theirs. Thus by the 14th November 1837, the first trekker wagons stood at the foot of the Drakensberg. To improve their prospects, the trek wagons of the much-respected Gert Maritz had arrived.

By the time Retief returned from Umgungundlovu, there were one thousand wagons camped in the area around modern day Estcourt. At the very time that Retief was seeing Dingane, Potgieter was finishing his attack on the Matabele at Kapain.

Next: Sikyonela Duped

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