InKosi Bhambatha kaMancinza at a wedding ceremony in 1905 (KZN Museum Service
UnCensored will from today, publish a series on historical events that changed our lives. We encourage, you, our reader, to also participate and send us events that you think had a significant impact in our lives. What better place to start than with an event that many regard as the beginning of the Struggle against Apartheid. The Bhambatha rebellion has been directly attributed to the formation of the African National Congress. Like all history, there are several variations to the events that led to what is called the Bhambatha Rebellion. We’ve used two sources only. In the next article on the Bhambatha Rebellion, we publish a statement made by a man who says he was there….You decide..
Thursday 8 February, 1906 – The Bhambatha Rebellion
Natal in the early years of the 20th century became the site of conflict between Colonial Administrators and autonomous African chiefdoms. The death of Cetshwayo in Eshowe in 1884, the last of the independent Zulu kings left the task of resistance to colonial rule to be pursued by minor chiefs. By 1906, one of the most formidable of these chiefs, was Inkosi Bambatha.
Bhambatha kaMancinza, also known as Mbata Bhambatha, was a Zulu chief of the amaZondi clan in the Colony of Natal and son of Mancinza.
He resisted colonial measures imposing a poll tax on his subjects in addition to the hut tax. The poll tax was raised from a tax per hut to per head (￡1 tax on all native men older than 18 – infamously called ukhandampondo) and thereby increasing hardship during severe economic depression.
This led to first a stand off between him and the colonial officials. Bambatha was determined to resist the 1 pound poll tax imposed by the colonial government.
The divisional magistrate in Bhambatha’s area, T. R. Bennet was equally determined to carry out the task of collecting taxes from Bhambatha’s subjects. When Bennet arrived in Bhambatha’s homestead he was threatened by Bambatha and the rebels he had mobilized. The next day the colonial government dispatched a party of fourteen policemen under the leadership of Sub Inspector Hunt to arrest Bhambatha and the rebels. Two policemen were killed and the rest were forced to retreat. It became clear that Bambatha was not to be intimidated. This marked the beginning of the Bhambatha Rebellion.
Bhambatha, sensing that the colonial government was most likely to mount reprisals against him, fled north and sought refuge and support from Zulu King, Dinizulu. Dinizulu gave tacit support to Bhambatha. He returned to Mpanza valley and discovered that he had been deposed by the colonial government. This led to open hostilities between Bhambatha and the colonial government that lasted until April. And in late April 1906 Colonel Duncan Mckenzie led an expedition of colonial troops against Bhambatha. In the ensuing uneven conflict, Bhambatha was defeated. Some historians say he was killed and others say he was beheaded. His supporters believe he escaped death at the hands of the British and lived the rest of his life in Mocambique. His wife it is said refused to go into mourning.
The outcome of the Bambatha rebellion has gone down in history as the last of the primary resistance movements that were superseded by the establishment of the African National Congress in 1912. Bambatha is still regarded as a hero in the literature on resistance too colonial rule.