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Dingane: A Reappraisal

  • Felix N. C. Okoye
Extract

Dingane was ruler of Zululand and Natal for over a decade (1828–40) and incurred, by the murder of Piet Retief and his followers, the seemingly undying hatred of historians. Almost every commentator on this period of Zulu history has portrayed him as a man with hardly a redeeming quality: blood-thirsty, capricious, treacherous, self-indulgent, an absolute despot, an ingrate and an inveterate liar. What is remarkable about this consensus among historians is that Dingane, as will be shown subsequently, lacked all these unflattering attributes. Many reasons could be given for this grievous error on the part of scholars. Among these must be included their failure to resolve the glaring contradictions between the promises and actions of the Zulu king, and an inability to understand the dynamics of an alien society.

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1 For example, Becker, Peter, Rule of Fear: The Life and Times of Dingane, King of the Zulu (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1964), a most disappointing biography of Dingane. The least one can say against Becker is that he seemed more anxious to impress the reader with his smattering of the Zulu language than with understanding of his subject. He portrayed Dingane as a liar and as a dissembler. Most of the ‘facts’ in the primary sources were faithfully recorded without any textual criticism.George, E. Cory (ed.), The Diary of the Rev. Francis Owen (Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1926), also harped on the treachery theme (p. iii). See pages 87–98 for important role played by ‘runaway Zulus’ in bringing about disruption of relations between Dingane and the British traders.Gardiner, Allen F., Narrative of a Journey to the Zoolu Country in South Africa (London: William Crofts, 1836)–this book is a must for those who wish to have an insight into Dingane's utilitarian attitude towards Europeans. Gardiner characterized the Zulu monarch as mischievous–see page 65 of Diary of the Rev. Francis Owen.Herrman, Louis (ed.), Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, 2 vols. (Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1936 and 1937), the second volume is by far the best source for the early years of Dingane's reign; Nathaniel Isaacs, the author, labelled the Zulu king ‘a complete dissembler’ (ii, pp. 200–4).Mackeurtan, Graham, The Cradle Days of Natal 1497–1845 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930), portrayed Dingane as capricious (esp. p. 168).Morris, Donald R., The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation under Shaka and its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879 (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1965) argued that the king's only interest was ‘self-indulgence’ and that he was merely treacherous'; he failed to recognize the importance of Zulu escapees (see esp. pp. 116–41).Stuart, James and Malcolm., D. Mck. (eds.), The Diary of Henry Francis Fynn (Pietermaritizburg: Shuter and Shooter, 1950): this is a must for those who are interested in the maliciousness of the black wards of the Europeans.

2 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 193.

3 Stuart, and Malcolm, (eds.) Diary of Fynn, 174.

4 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 2336.

5 Ibid, II, 229.

6 Ibid. 21; Stuart and Malcolm, Diary of Fynn, 162–3, 221, 241. The exceptions were Jacob, Meika and Sotobe. The last mentioned was appointed the principal chief on the Natal side of the Tugela.

7 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 214, 221;Gardiner, , p. 44–6;Schapera, I., Governinent and Politics in Tribal Societies (London: Watts, 1956), 158. A notable exception here was Mpande.

8 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 164–73, 257–60.

9 Ibid 208, 210–11, 232, 165–73; Gardiner, Journey, 44–6; Owen, Diary, 93.

10 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 209–15.

11 Ibid. 241.

12 Ibid. 232; Isaacs, Travels, 1, 156–7, 271, II, 247; Gardiner, Journey 44–6; Owen, Diary, 87–8.

13 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 232.

14 Ibid., 65–74; John, Bird, The Annals of Natal, 1495–1845, 2 vols. (Pietermaritzburg: P. Davis and Sons, 1888), I, 150.

15 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 167.

16 Ibid. 209; Bird, , Annals, I, 125.

17 Gardiner, , Journey, 44–7;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 241.

18 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 257–9.

19 Ibid. 192–3, 199–203, 213; Isaacs, , Travels, II, 203, 217–18, 227–8;Owen, , Diary, 91, 98, 112, 122.

20 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 27–8, 31–2.

21 Ibid. 28, 188.

22 Ibid. 63–8, 78, 173, 18.

23 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 238; Gardiner, Journey, 68.

24 Isaacs, , Travels, 30, 108.

25 Ibid. 180; Bird, , Annals, i, 196;Percival, R. Kirby (ed.), Andrew Smith and Natal (Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1955), 70.

26 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 181–9;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 188.

27 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 188.

28 Ibid. 200; Stuart and Malcolm, Diary of Fynn, 290.

29 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 190–4;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 297–203. The Ilovu River is about 20 miles from Port Natal.

30 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 206–15;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 594–5.

31 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 595–6;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 219. The king actually obtained twelve musket boys. Military assistance was also given Dingane by the Portuguese at Delagoa Bay. See Stuart and Malcolm, 198.

32 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 196;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 259. Dingane readily believed Fynn's excuse for failure to give him more muskets. He indicated a willingness to exchange, in the future, his ivory for any trumpery Fynn might present to him.

33 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 196–7;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 239–20.

34 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 197, 398.

35 Ibid. 197–9.

36 Ibid, 199–207.; Isaacs, , Travels, II, 222–7. Ogle also seems not to have left Natal.

37 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 223, 227;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 207.

38 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 205–6.

39 Ibid. 226.

40 Ibid. 51, 175.

41 Ibid. 179–80.

42 Msika for having been one of Tshaka's favourites, Lukilimba for having virtually disavowed his allegiance to the Zulu monarch.

43 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 204–5;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 228.

44 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 209, 217;Isaacs, , Travels, II, 227–30.

45 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 209–15.

46 Ibid, 216–17.

47 Ibid, 210.

48 Bird, , Annals, i, 263.

49 Stuart, and Nalcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 214. So completely had Fynn been duped by his African adherents that not even the assurances of James Cawood, just returned from the king's capital, that the Zulu were about to attack not the settlement but Mzilikazi had any effect on him. See Ibid, 253.

50 Ibid. 220–9.

51 Ibid. 230.

52 Gardiner, , Journey, 2371;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 237–8. The fact that Dambuza and Mdlela had to be consulted on all weighty matters of state would seem to suggest that Dingane's despotism was not as absolute as that of his predecessor. See also Owen, , Diary, 49, 52.

53 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 219–20; Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 196–7.

54 Gardiner, , Journey, 37–8, I 39;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 240.

55 Owen, , Diary, 110–11;Bird, , Annals, 1, 214.

56 Gardiner, , Journey, 162;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 240.

57 Gardiner, , Journey, 532.

58 Ibid., 108; Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 239.

59 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 232.

60 Ibid. 245.

61 Ibid. 242, 250; Isaacs, , Travels, II, 40–1, 52–4, 86;Gardiner, , Journey, 111–13.

62 Gardiner, , Journey, 31. It should be pointed out that Dingane's concept of the missionary was that of either a Jack-of-all-trades or a walking encyclopedia. See Isaacs, , Travels, II, 233;Owen, , Diary, 72.

63 Gardiner, , Journey, 108.

64 Ibid. 126–7.

65 Ibid. 129–33, 137.

66 Ibid. 146–72.

67 Ibid. 162.

68 Ibid. 192–214.

69 Ibid. 213–21.

70 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 262.

71 Gardiner, , Journey, 228.

72 Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 249–51.

73 Ibid. 255.

74 Ibid. 255–6.

75 Ibid. 255.

76 Cradle Days of Natal, 195.

77 Owen, , Diary, 65, i.e. on his return to Natal in 1837 as Justice of the Peace.

78 Ibid. 110. Shortly after the murder of Piet Retief and his followers, the American missionary Venable was asked by Ndlela whether he could not teach the Zulu ‘to shoot, or to ride’.

79 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 45–6.

80 Ibid. 172.

81 Ibid. 59–60, 78, 80; Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 218–19.

82 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 51, 183, 193, 202, 207.

83 Gardiner, , Journey, 68.

84 Owen, , Diary, 71–3.

85 Owen, , Diary, 100–5.

86 Ibid. 98.

87 In 1837 they rejected the treaty and began to offer sanctuary to all Zulu refugees. Finally they stopped the sale of gunpowder to him. See Owen, , Diary, 67–8, 71–3, 98,111;Stuart, and Malcolm, , Diary of Fynn, 259–60;Bird, , Annals, I, 322.

88 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 46.

89 Owen, , Diary, 101.

90 Ibid. He now made the granting of land to the Voortrekkers conditional upon their handing over the guns and horses.

91 Isaacs, , Travels, II, 186.

92 Owen, , Diary, 110.

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