Towards the end of 1878, the British colonial government in South Africa, had
fears of the the Zulu nation posing as a threat to further colonial expansion.
The British presented Zulu King Cetshwayo with an ultimatum, which demanded that
he disband the Zulu army and the age regiment system, as well as a list of other
various demands. Although under order from the colonial office in London to use
good judgment, King Cetshwayo refused to comply, and the British governor felt
that he was justified in ordering an invasion. In January 1879 a British force
entered Zululand under the command of Lt.Gen. Lord Chelmsford.
After suffering heavy losses at the battles of Kambula and Gingingdlovu in April
and May of 1879, King Cetshwayo set messengers to the British, requesting that
they withdraw from Zululand. It was made clear by Chelmsford, that before any
negotiations took place, Cetshwayo would have to surrender the royal cattle
herd, and any Zulu firearms. Once again messengers were sent to the British by
Cetshwayo, this time bearing ivory as a peace offering to inform Chelmsford that
his demands could not be met.
Keen for redemption after the embarrassing and shocking defeats at Isandlwana,
iNtombi Drift and Hlobane, Chelmsford and his troops advanced on the Zulu
capital, Ondini. On the morning of 4 July 1879 British forces crossed the
Mfolozi river at Nolela Drift. The force carried with them twelve artillery guns
and two gatling guns, and consisted of five thousand one hundred and twenty four
troops, including nine hundred and fifty eight black volunteers. They marched in
the form of a hollow square and came to a stop on a low hill about three
kilometers west of Ondini.
An estimated Zulu force of fifteen thousand warriors approached the British
square. The encircling Zulu force was cut down by artillery and rifle fire, and
the intended Zulu counter attack never got much closer than seventy meters.
After fighting in vain for half an hour, the Zulu impis were finally forced to
The Zulus suffered a loss far worse than defeat when their symbol of nationhood
was destroyed. A troop of Dragoon guards was ordered to one of the royal kraals
a short distance from Umgungundlovu where one of the ancient kraals was located.
At this kraal the Zulu national coil, known as the Inkata, was kept. The Inkata
was a coil consisting of grass, magic substances and body parts of deceased
kings, all bound with a python skin. The Inkata represented the power of the
Zulu nation, and was brought out only on very special occasions.
The destruction of the Inkata was a definite indication to the Zulu people that
their kingdom and their existence as a nation had come to an end. King Cetshwayo
sought refuge in the Ngome forest near the present day town of Nongoma. Two
months later he was captured there and exiled to the Cape. The battle of Ulundi
saw the final defeat of the Zulu army and the crushing of the Zulu state, thus
marking the end of the old Zulu order.
Those who were killed in the Battle of Ulundi are buried in a garden of brigth
red aloes, and today white stones mark the position of the British square on the
Ulundi battlefield. A picturesque domed memorial constructed of stone bears the
inscription: "In memory of the brave warriors who fell here in 1879 in defense
of the old Zulu order".
Nearby, visitors will find a recreation of King Cetshwayo's residence at Ondini,
which was built on the exact site of the Royal capital following extensive
archaeological excavation, and the discovery of the original mud and dung floors
of the huts which were preserved by the fire which was set by the British.
The area also features an interpretative centre which has an interesting and
informative display on the size and structure of Ondini during the reign of King
Cetshwayo. Due to the immensity of the original capital only the the Royal
enclosure, or isigodlo has been rebuilt. Particularly impressive is Cetshwayo's
indlunkulu (the Great Hut) and from the low entrance it was possible to look
half a kilometre downhill to the main entrance of the capital. The Ondini
Heritage Site also houses the KwaZulu Cultural Museum with exhibits of the
history and arts of the Zulu people.
, Richards Bay
Nearby Points Of Interest:Piet Retief's Grave
, KwaZulu Cultural Museum
, eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park
, The Battle of KwaGqokli
, Ongoye Forest Reserve
, The Mthonjaneni Spring
, The KwaZulu Handcraft Centre
, uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead
, KwaMagwaza Mission Station
, The Mtonjaneni Zulu Historical Museum
, The Nkandla Forest
, Ntendeka Wilderness - Vryheid
, Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve
, Ubizane Wildlife Reserve
, The Big 5 Game