LETTER: Zumas are no traitors

JACOB Dlamini’s article (Collaborators and the riven truth behind Zuma’s Nkandla, July 27) is extraordinary in many respects. He seeks to mobilise a whole scholarship of history behind his intention to beat his contemporary political opponent with a stick of Amambuka or traitors or collaborators in the destruction of the Zulu kingdom.

From the onset, it’s important to accept that the Anglo-Zulu war was fought not only between the Zulu and the English, but it cut across many families and tribes. The British colonial army was constituted largely by the Natal Native Contingent, which was an auxiliary force of black soldiers. There was also the Natal Native Horse, which was a black cavalry force drawn largely from the amaNgwane tribe. Many other tribes fought on the side of the British colonial army, including the amaHlubi as well as some sections of the amaChunu under the leadership of Inkosi Gabangaye ka Phakade, who died fighting in the war. So large was the split over the war that even the Zulu royal family was not spared. The prominent roles played by Princes Zibhebhu ka Maphitha of the Mandlakazi and Hamu ka Nzibe of Ngenetsheni in the destruction of the Zulu kingdom is well recorded.

The collaboration of black people with white colonial power was certainly not a phenomenon that began with the Anglo-Zulu War. For instance, amaMfengu mostly fought on the side of white authorities during the Frontier Wars in the Cape, while amaSwazi assisted the British colonial army when it fought with King Sekhukhune of the BaPedi in the early 1880s. In the Battle of Maqongqo, King Mpande ka Senzangakhona fought against Dingane, his half-brother and the reigning Zulu king at the time, with the assistance of the Boer military force led by Andries Pretorius and Gert Rudolph. I mention these examples in order to demonstrate that the history of collaboration between black and white people in SA, far from exhaustive and certainly beyond Mr Dlamini’s single reference.

This is how Mr Dlamini puts it: “Among those who collaborated with the British against Cetshwayo were the ancestors of one (President) Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Far from helping build and protect the Zulu kingdom, the Zumas helped the British destroy it. For their exertions, the Zumas, like many other Africans who collaborated with the British, were rewarded with land that had belonged to the Zulu kingdom until 1879. As the historian Meghan Healy-Clancy and anthropologist Jason Hickel say in their 2014 book Ekhaya: The politics of home in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Nkandla is actually the spoil of collaboration, given to the Zuma’s for their role in the defeat of the Zulu kingdom.”

What an extraordinary claim to make and an astounding conclusion to draw, for that is the gist of his argument. The source of Dlamini’s claim is an informant by the name of Sipika kaVundisa ka Mtsholoza, who appears on page 157 of The James Stuart Archive Volume 5, a single source that both Healy-Clancy and historian Jeff Guy rely on. But the problem with Mr Dlamini is that he doesn’t even read the entire page, for in the notes at the bottom is this overlooked fact: “The informant’s grandfather, Msholoz(a)i, was the chief of the Zuma or Nxamalala people who lived near the confluence of the Thukela and Mooi (Mpofana) rivers in the time of Dingane.” The notes further say: “Mnyakanya (after whom a school was named in the present-day Nkandla not far from the President’s homestead) was chief of the Nxamalala in the Nkandhla division.” Therein lies the rub: the Zumas or Nxamalalas were long settled in Nkandla during the time of both King Shaka and his successors, King Dingane and King Mpande, the father of King Cetshwayo, who fought the Anglo-Zulu War, after which, according to Mr Dlamini, they were given the land to settle.

In fact, there is sufficient historical evidence even on the same page that Mr Dlamini quotes to prove that the settlement of the Zumas in question at Nkandla predates the reign of King Cetshwayo, much less the Anglo-Zulu Wars.

It therefore boggles the mind that Mr Dlamini would seek to paint a whole swathe of a people, the entire Zuma clan, with the pernicious brush of being Amambuka, without and, in fact, against historical evidence. Why would Mr Dlamini seek to rubbish the whole history of the Zuma clan, steeped in the anti-colonial wars of dispossession fought along Kings Dingane and Mpande, based on a single source, in a paragraph on one page of a book?

As a student of history, Mr Dlamini has a peculiar way of reading history such that facts are stood on their heads for the sole benefit of discrediting Mr Zuma.

Why would he do that? The answer lies in his willingness to become a pawn in the campaign against Mr Zuma in the hope that it will delegitimise the president in the eyes of the public, the very millions that voted him into the highest office in the land.

It is a doomed project.


This article first on Business Day -30 July 2015

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