Swing your hips, baby: The theatrics of Zulu Courtship and pick up lines

When a true Zulu warrior bumps into a beautiful woman, something in him awakens – he flourishes his best smile for her, becomes totally weak in the knees – though not too weak to tell her how he feels. His heart beats wildly, furiously. And following the physical effects of the encounter, comes explosive poetry:

Dudlu Ntombi!
[Hey Girl!]

Zala Abantu Ziyebantwini
[“They (girls) reject men, only to choose other men (not animals) … and because I’m a man you might as well save yourself some trouble and choose me”]

Nkosazane Emhlophe Efana Nezihlabathi Zolwandle
[Beautiful you are, as white and pure as the sands of the sea]

Mhlophe lo’dlilanga Wana Sikucoshe
[As bright as though you eat the sun itself … how I wish you’d fall right now so that I may pick you up]

Nkosazana Nami Kangizenzi;
Ngenziwa Luthando Olusha’mangqanqu Kuhle Komlilo Wothathe,
Ngithathwa Umsinga Wothando
Vuma Ngikwazise Ngomzwangedwa,
Ongidla Izibilini Imihla Namalanga
Ngivulele (Enhliziyweni) Ngingene
Ngifisa Ukuba Impukane, ‘ze Ungiphunge,
Sengibunamathe Obakho Ubuso Ngothando.
Ngifisa Ukuba Umoya, ‘ze Ngingene Ezibilini Zakho,
Ungiphefumule Ngize Ngiguqule Inhliziyo Yakho Emnene.

As in any culture, the language evolves, as do the people of that language. This is evidenced by the emergence of new Zulu pick-up lines evolved from those heard over the years:

1. Thambo lami lekhentakhi
2. Sthuthuthu sami sokujika emadilayini
3. Swidi lami lomkhuhlane
4. Umuhle ngathi ugeza ngobisi
5. Ngiyazi awuyena umakhi kodwa ngicela uzokwakha umuzi kababa

And of course my friend Erick had to coin his own courtship line, which cracks me up each time he puts it to use: “Awu kodwa ngangingafi ngani ngempi kaBhambatha?” or “Oh, how I wish I had died during the Bambatha rebellion” (because then I wouldn’t be tortured by your amazing beauty, as I am now). Mind you, that rebellion took place in 1906, 70 years before he was born.

What this creativity demonstrates, I think, is the ability of our people, whether framed as fierce warriors, or violent taxi drivers, notwithstanding, to be romantic lovers.

However, in the midst of such creativity there always has to be a “Ungom’uyayona” or “party pooper” and my cousin fitted that profile perfectly. His courtship lines were not only appalling; they worked so little magic that he would resort to insults when rejected. I remember once when he was trying his luck with a particular young lady, that, upon realizing that she was not interested, he had no option but to let her go, only to shout at her before she was even 50 metres away, exclaiming: “Hey, angiyigqokile i-anda” – or “Hey, by the way I’m not wearing underwear.” As if this would make her suddenly change her mind. I suppose he was trying to pull a Senzangakhona stunt, who, when Nandi played hard-to-get suggested that they partake in “amahlaya endlela” or fun on the roads, otherwise known as ukusome or sex without penetration.

I also knew an old man who was, as they say,” so into” a woman of a similar age as he. Now my assumption is that, not only did she take his breath away, but she made him speechless. What he did was remarkable! Somehow, the old man laid hands on her “skhaftini” or lunch box one day – opening it to tuck a R50 note inside. When the favoured lady opened her lunch box, voila, a surprise was waiting for her. What I could not comprehend was how a R50 note, accompanied by no letter expressing interest by someone named, would help him get “the girl.”

Maidens had their own creative ways of expressing their love acceptance or disapproval. They would even communicate in a more profound manner simply to prove they were just as capable of creativity!

During the courtship at the river, or any place for that matter, a man would often try all sorts of tricks to behave as though the girl had accepted his love proposal, and to prove this to his friends and the girl’s guardian, known as Iqhikiza. The would-be lover had to produce a proof, in the form of her beaded necklace, bracelet, or any wearable item that she possessed, for that matter. This would be the item she had supposedly proffered to him. If she wouldn’t voluntarily give it to him, the thwarted lover might simply wrest it off the hard-to-get maiden.

In instances where she had accepted his love, she would often still make him sweat a bit and confuse him as to where she had placed the “parcel” or beadwork for him to collect. The lines given below, uttered by maidens, became very common:

1. “Gibela esihlahleni uyothi mawufika egatsheni eliphezulu kunawo wonke impahla uyoyithola khona lapho.”
Climb a tree, and upon reaching the furthest branch, “the parcel” will be there waiting for you.

Of course she didn’t meant this literally … if the lover was not sufficiently alert, he would continue wooing his “girlfriend” without realizing that she had accepted him.
Because courtship happened at the river, this often meant that the beads were hidden in the water container the girl was carrying. To lay hands on the treasure, one had to snatch the water container from the maiden’s head. Alternatively, the beads could be hidden in the bundle of fire-wood the girl was carrying, amongst other tantalizing ploys.

2. Impahla oyifunayo ingale kwentaba
“This parcel (beads) you are looking for is on the other side of the mountain.”
Again, this statement was not to be taken literally.
It meant that the beads the lover was searching for are in a place so far away that it might take you a while to locate them – this often meant that the beads were around her waist; mountains could be figuratively referring to her buttocks or you know where:-)

There was also a Zulu love letter, often written by a maiden to her boyfriend. She would fashion him a necklace selecting the colours expressed the message of her choice. Below are some of the common colours used in Zulu love letters, together with their meanings:

White: My love for you is as pure and true as my heart.
Red: I’m bursting with love for you.
Blue: If I were a dove I’d fly the endless skies just to see you.
Black: My heart has turned as black as the rafters in the hut, as I hear you have another maiden.
Green: I am yearning for you day and night. Come back soon, if not, you will find me as thin as the grass that is blown away by the winds.

There was also provision for those who only wished to appreciate the sight of a beautiful a maiden. Their line was/is “Ngishikilele Ntombazane” or “Swing your hips, baby!”
Because she was so proud of her body, she would usually not mind showing it off.

Credits:
Photo: Val Adamson (for Zulu Fire Cultural Village)
Some Courtship lines taken from: M.A.J Blose 1960 Zulu drama; Uqomisa Mina Nje Uqomisa Iliba

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Velemu Khanyile … the better days of his life

In a world obsessed with classifying and assigning people to definitive groupings, sometimes we must wonder whether those described as ordinary are really ordinary after all. What is it that is ordinary about them?
Allow me to tell you about Velemu Khanyile.


Khanyile was a jockey in Zululand, a great orator, and a legend in his own right   ̶ a man with a great deal of passion for horses, and an unquenchable love for women with sizable posteriors. He would often say, “Yabona lowaya uhudula icaravan,” or “You see that woman hauls a caravan.”
At a time when discussing sexual encounters was considered taboo, Velemu Khanyile broke barriers, easily earning himself the title of sex expert. He was a self-acclaimed teacher of the matters of the heart, giving unsolicited advice at every opportunity which presented itself.

My first encounter with Khanyile came when I was between 11 and 12 years old. I was a Zulu dancer at a Zulu cultural village, a task I would fulfil daily after school. Khanyile was a horse groom, transporting tourists from their meeting point to the lodge by horseback as part of the guests’ experience. Our paths would cross again years later, when I was my 20s; at this stage I was old enough to hold any conversation with him, or with anyone at all, for that matter.

Khanyile must then have been about 50. For his age, he was as healthy as a stallion. Just like me, he was robbed of the gift of height, however, as the Zulu saying goes: Ingwe idla ngamabala, or “A leopard eats by means of its spots”. Indeed, Khanyile had other spots that people, both men and women, would marvel at.

Khanyile was passionate about grooming and training horses. His beasts, or those he looked after, were beautiful, with names just as fascinating: Vanessa, November, Gems, amongst others. For a man who had never set a foot in a school, these names were interesting. When Khanyile rode to horse, he was some kind of a comic King; women ululated both when he arrived and departed from Zulu beer-drinking venues, Zulu weddings, etc. Khanyile was both dramatic and elegant. The conversations that would take place once he had left, would go something like this: “Umbonile uKhanyile etelebhela ngehhashi lakhe?” Did you see Khanyile showing-off with his horse?” Then you knew that having a herd of cattle was not enough to draw attention from the maidens. A beautiful horse, with the ability to dance and trot, was the equivalent of a Porsche.

Women found Khanyile captivating. It was as though they reeled in disbelief that such a charmer and sweet man could ever exist. This often made me wonder whether they were angry at themselves for not having met him earlier. Youngsters looked up to him. With a horse like his, and exhibiting a personality larger than life, a man could get any girl he desired.

Men his age envied him. They were jealous, just as they are jealous of a certain man from Nkandla whose home upgrades cost South Africans R246 million. Ironically, Khanyile was also from eNkandla. It was there that he excelled at every horse-race, winning prizes such as goats, cattle, and cash. Given the right opportunity, Khanyile could easily have become a world-class jockey.

As brilliant as his horses were, Khanyile was never to be outdone by them. He had a way with words, being a charmer of note, and a great raconteur. He was a marvel to listen to; a storyteller who made his characters just as colourful and alive as he.

On one delightful afternoon, just after we had all finished our daily duties, Khanyile was to share with us a riveting narrative on the culture of ukungena umfazi, or taking over a wife of someone who had deceased; a role often assumed by one of the brothers of the deceased.

Summarized background to ukungena practice:
This was a practice whereby one of the brothers of the deceased would continue his brother’s legacy by taking over his wife in the full sense, a deal usually struck by elders. The widow had very little influence or say over this decision; she was always overruled. This custom of ukungena would be undertaken so that children would have a father figure and so that the widow would not feel lonely for long, perhaps then deciding to abandon the family. Once a union had been made with her brother-in-law (now her husband), she would continue bearing children; who would be taken as belonging to the deceased.

There would also be instances in which the bride was too young, had either no children, or a husband’s brother to “ngena” her. In that case, she could remarry outside the family. However, in-laws still had to approve of the match, and the lobolo cattle would be paid to the woman’s in-laws this time, for cattle had already been paid to her family. This practice is still very much alive in most parts of the Zulu Kingdom, however, it is a dying practice, concomitantly with a vast amount of transformation that has taken place in the lives of the Zulu people.

So Khanyile became our “go to” man when it came to the matters of the heart, especially the “taboo” side of Zulu culture. Khanyile was brave in sharing these stories with us, recounting them in a humorous and dramatic way, turning our understanding and preconceived ideas about women upside down.

Khanyile kept us captivated.

From him we learned how the lives of the Zulus had been transformed ̶ the traditional practices still relevant, and what no longer obtained; it turned out that the culture of ukungena umfazi was his favourite subject.

The lecture went something like this:
“You see boys, when a beautiful woman loses her husband and she happens to be young and attractive, the first thing you do is to show her that you care in the deepest possible way, that you are a generous man. And if at all possible, be present at her husband`s funeral. But whatever you do, do not go empty-handed. I repeat, do not go empty-handed.

“You must take with you some notes: money  ̶ a couple of R20s, R50s, or R100 notes. Be sure that she sees you while handing over umnikelo, the donation …”usuyothenga amakhandlela”. “Here’s a little change for you to buy some candles during this dark period,” Khanyile would suggest.

“Because it is money in notes, this is a modest way of saying to your intended, “Take this substantial` sum of money and buy a few things for yourself.” Calling the donation a few cents and candle-money will give the widow the impression that there is more money where that came from.” The narrative would continue:

“When the time is right, you must strike — persuading the woman the best way you know how…because widows also need some love, and there’s no way she could reject love forever.”

We were to witness Khanyile in action twice, with two women who had just lost their husbands. As painful as their ordeal was, I guess at some point that they longed to be treated as normal human beings, because that is what they were.

Now, like every player, Khanyile had his rival. Somehow, the two men often found themselves desiring the same woman. Masothosotho was no great catch, however, he had the gift of music, one so many of us could only dream of. Masothosotho sang Maskandi traditional Zulu music, using a 12-string guitar.

I remember the day that three ladies were hired to re-thatch the lodge. Khanyile, being his usual self, wasted no time in making his intentions known   ̶ he selected one of the women for his special treatment. Sadly, she was a widow, a coincidence, I might add. Masotho, on the other side, was also flirting outrageously. Somehow, neither of the men knew which woman the other was aiming to approach. In a generous display of hospitality, for which we Zulu people are known, Masotho bought the ladies a litre of Coke. Well! Khanyile discovered this in a matter of seconds. Before the fortunate ones could open their bottle, our hero shot like a bullet into the refreshment area, proclaiming “Ayilungile le drink!” or “This cold drink is not right for you.” Khanyile was referring to the myth that women should not ever imbibe this brand of cold drink.

Khanyile took the bottle back to the shop to exchange it for Sprite, buying a second litre of the favoured brand. Perhaps this was to show the women that he could also afford to spoil them, and that he was the more knowledgeable one when it came to women’s issues — what they should or should not drink.

When these ladies started singing for their evening prayers, Khanyile was in their midst, wearing a doctor’s white coat, despite that, prior to this, he had not adopted the Christian faith.

No rival stood in Khanyile’s way. He was capable of all sort of devious deeds to bad-mouth his rivals. I remember him saying, “Ungamuqomi lo, kade ngibhava naye, itolozi yakhe inezilonda”, or, “Don’t fall for him   ̶ I showered with him earlier, and noticed that his penis has sores”. Of course, this was a gross exaggeration, designed to gain his own ends.
I was often intrigued by the way in which Khanyile made it sound simple to make a woman happy   ̶ perhaps because it is. I often wondered how he managed to pull these stunts, approaching women of different generations, status, and backgrounds, always using the same approach — perhaps because the more we seek differences in one another, the more commonality we find.

What puzzled me even more was the seemingly easy way Khanyile got away with what I would call “crossing the line, preying on widows, and patronizing them”. Yet I doubt that they shared my sentiments. Women adored Khanyile, perhaps because he treated them as extraordinary, and made them feel wanted, regardless of their circumstances.

Photo Credit: Val Adamson (for Simunye Zulu Lodge)

The incredible Zulu Kingdom awaits!

For the traveller seeking community-based cultural tourism, however, not contrived, not manufactured, not illusory … a mix of nature and a true taste of Zulu heritage in an untainted and unpolluted natural environment; join me as I guide you on your journey of discovering the beauty of Zulu Culture and Heritage!

….And for who appreciate spectacular and vibrant Zulu dancing … the powerplay between Zulu warriors and maidens through song and dance!

Zulu reed dance

Kirstin Kramer Zulu Experience

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Kirstin Kramer Kirstin Kramer 2

Zululand, my beautiful home!

To many, Zululand is a place whose story does not mirror their own
To us it is a place we are proud and blessed to call home,
Despite all its challenges; poverty, disease and illiteracy.

We take comfort and pride in knowing that wisdom gleaned pre-colonial times has stood the test of time,
Our fields forever fertile
Our people just as beautiful and interesting beyond the colorful masaai beadwork
We need no photography, for our images are beyond beautiful
Nor theatres for our daily lives are theatrical;
Unrehearsed
Unscripted
Full of Tragedies—Personal and Collective
Disappointments
Achievements
Homour
Life
Love
Hope
It’s a place where a child is raised by a village,
For we are one people

Here we roam at will, and marvel at the history of our Kings,
Heroes and Heroines;
Jama,
Senzangakhona,
Shaka,
Cetshwayo,
Dingane,
Mpande,
Mkabayi,
Nandi,
Dinizulu,
Zwelithini,
Mkhosana ka Mvundlana Biyela,
Gala kaNodade,
Ndlela KaSompisi,
Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza,
The mighty Zulu regiments; Ingobamakhosi, Uve, Ukhandampevu,
and many others….

I’m yet to find a place that blesses and touches my soul like Zululand
A place whose drumbeat draws one into the pulse of Africa
Even if we have nothing
This place gives us everything!

With this, Happy 2015 and I hope you join us as we dance away https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQmRG0cUaJc

MY BOSS BARRY, THE BEST MENTOR I EVER HAD

Barry Leitch, known to the Zulus as uMkhomazi (Zulu Praises: Umkhomazi ogcwala ngomoya –“the Mkhomazi River that floods with wind”) is a renowned Zulu cultural expert and entrepreneur, who, together with Kingsley Holgate, created Shakaland, the cultural experience near Eshowe. Shakaland was originally created as a filmset for a movie series: Shaka Zulu…the movie documented the life of the Great King Shaka, the most influential leader of the Zulu empire, credited with uniting, through his military genius, many of the Northern Nguni people. Barry was a driving force behind the creation of that movie. His other interests, besides tourism, Zulu culture and heritage, included marketing & advertising, and Nguni cattle farming. He grew up with the Zulu people, learned to stick-fight, to Zulu dance, and about courtship at the river; just like a rural Zulu boy would do. There is nothing a rural Zulu boy did that he didn’t or couldn’t do. He ate, drank, and breathed Zulu culture.

Barry graduated from UCT with a degree in anthropology. I am told that, as a child, he had to repeat Grade One at school because he couldn’t speak proper English. Astonishing as it may sound for a white boy to be more fluent in Zulu than in his mother tongue, I’m afraid this is the truth. Barry is what I would call a living legend, a Zulu language and cultural expert who would at any time during a conversation surprise you with a Zulu proverb you’d never heard before. He did this often and without any effort. His Zulu is impeccable and he is a marvel to listen to. He is also the greatest marketer I’ve ever known —one insanely creative and funny; and he simply has a way with words. As a marketer, he never took consumers and clients for granted. One piece of marketing advice and consumer insight he shared with me when I worked at Simunye Zulu Lodge around 2007 was that guests were not there for the food, accommodation, Zulu cultural experience, etc. — all they bought and paid for was the “feeling”.

HOW I MET BARRY
In the months leading up to the democratisation of South Africa, Barry Leitch founded a lodge, building it right on a cliff face: Simunye Zulu Lodge. Simunye is tucked away in the magnificent Mfule River, deep in the heart of Zululand, in the area known as Melmoth. The lodge is coupled with a cultural village offering tourists the opportunity of spending the night with and amongst the Zulus; to partake in a cultural tour of the Zulu village, and to watch some traditional Zulu dancing. It is here that I was introduced to Barry when I was a boy, at the tender age of 11. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a long journey of mentoring.

It is in this very place that I was to meet famous people like Vanessa Williams and many others. Vanessa Williams taught me as a child, together with my fellow dancers, a song; “To Be Young, Gifted And Black” and she would sing this song every evening until she left the lodge. This was when she was at Simunye for the filming of “Woman Of Colour”. It is also here that the lotto slogan “Tata ma Chance Tata Ma Millions” originated, where Uthingo (the then lotto Management company) held their conference. I had great fun, from being a Zulu dancer to being a director of the very lodge where I had started as a dancer, earning R6 per show. In between, I had held the position of Front Office and Reservations Manager, General Manager, and Production Assistant for New York Times/Granada factual during the filming of “World Wedding Day”. Had I not met Barry or had the privilege of being mentored by him I would not have had all these opportunities and experiences.

Barry had an inexplicable faith in me. What he taught me has remained with me throughout my life. I remember working for him as a trainee at his below-the-line Communications Company, Ingwe Communications (which he later sold to FCB South Africa). Here I trained as receptionist; however, I was also involved in the exciting stuff. It was here that I learned “telephone etiquette”, to excel in typing, and how to use computers in general – I was a fast learner, although I made many mistakes in the process. I remember there were two gentlemen that used to call looking for Barry. Both of them were named Victor. When they asked to speak to Barry, my response would be something like this: “We have Victor from next door and we have Victor who is a Unilever client: which one are you?” That was my way of screening Barry’s calls: it was poor etiquette and rather rude. Barry didn’t shout at me – he found it funny. He allowed me to make those mistakes in the knowledge that I would learn from them. Luckily, the two Victors were not offended. There were many other mistakes that followed, which of course were forgiven.

It was also at Ingwe Communications that I met my “first” girlfriend, Nombuso. By any standards Nombuso was beautiful; there was nothing that gave me more joy than the feeling that she was beautiful and that she was mine. But I remember how Barry sat me down, (unexpectedly) to have that serious conversation, as a father would to his son. He called me in. The conversation went something like this: “I know that you’ve met a girl and that she’s a most beautiful girl; but my advice to you is to be careful not to let this distract you and destroy your life”. I came out of that “discussion” feeling worthless. However, that was tough love; it is a conversation along the same lines that I will have with my sons when the time is right!

Barry, throughout my career, was to play that fatherly role. Most of us referred to him as “ubaba”. Come to think of it, I never discussed father-son issues with my own father. The only serious discussion I remember having with my father was when I was about 24, a year before I was married. I was ready to pay ilobolo (a herd of cattle given to his parents-in-law by their son-in-law, as thanks for bearing him a wife, to cement the relationship between the two families. This is also, in paying for cattle, a way of proving that the man will be able to care for their daughter). When I told my father that I was preparing to pay ilobolo to the Biyelas, his first reaction was “Ungabe ulahla izinkomo njengobaba wakho omdala uDlawu” — loosely translated as: “I do hope you’re not wasting/ throwing away cattle like your uncle Dlawu did throughout his life”. That was the only serious conversation I remember having with my father; however, there were many conversations I had with Barry.

Another story about Barry that comes to mind is that he believed in people more than they believed in themselves. I remember his domestic worker, Manala, one of the most talented beaders I know. Manala couldn’t speak English at all, but one day Barry left his cellphone with her, requiring her to answer it for him. He told her what to say to people looking for him. The wording was quite simply: “Barry is sleeping in”. I happened to be the one calling. All I heard from Manala was “BARRY SLEEPING IN!”. As funny as it was at the time, it shows the confidence and the belief Barry had in people, taking them out of their comfort zone and making them see that they could do more!

Barry instilled humility amongst all his people. He is genuine; he is unassumingly engaging. During the construction of Sibaya Casino, a project in which he was very instrumental, I would accompany him to all his meetings, including those where the likes of Peter Bacon (ex CEO Sun International) would be present, as also many other important people. At no time did Barry ever introduce me as his PA. He always introduced me as his colleague. He never saw colour; he treated people the same, regardless of their age, colour of their skin, status, gender, etc. — come to think of it, I think he is also a feminist.

Barry is one of kindest, greatest mentors I’ve ever known. A force of nature who believes in people. I’m forever grateful for his guidance, and for using his resources in the advancement of my career, as he would have for his own son. Barry paid for my Business Management course, my Computer training, and my Marketing Management training. I have to add, however, that I didn’t copy his dress style:-).

I’m also grateful for his amazing and true stories, some of which formed part of my growing up. Right now, I’m chuckling as I remember “Ngema and the condom story”, in which Barry gave Ngema advice about wearing a condom to prevent STIs and HIV. Ngema wore the condom for 48 hours, only removing it to pee or to bath. On the third day Ngema came to tell Barry: “Mkhomazi, iyangilimaza lento — this thing you asked me to wear is hurting me”.

This is the man who understood the true meaning of mentorship, having mentored hundreds of other people from all backgrounds. He believed in transferring skills. This was his passion, and he offered his assistance without expecting anything in return. He is a legend and an absolute original who should be emulated by all…but whatever you do, do not copy his fashion style!

If this story about Barry’s great service to this country, particularly to rural communities fails to move and inspire you, it is not because Barry failed in changing lives, but because I have failed in the telling of his story.

By Soka Mthembu

MKHOSANA KAMVUNDLANA BIYELA -THE GREAT ZULU WARRIOR WHO SACRIFICED HIS OWN LIFE AT ISANDLWANA

The Zulu Kingdom has never had a void in selfless leadership. This was a time when traditional leaders also took to the battle to defend their land and their people. Their leadership style was beyond delegating – they led from the front! Shaka had instilled those values, because he too led his own army in tribal battles. This was a time when Amakhosi and warriors served their King, their country, and communities, with distinction. One unsung hero who comes to mind is Mkhosana Biyela of the Biyela clan, the son of Mvundlana Biyela. He lived at a crucial time in the history of the Zulu people during the Anglo-Zulu War. He died at Isandlwana, but he did not die in vain: I am here to tell his story.

When it became clear to King Cetshwayo and the Zulus that Lt General Lord Chelmsford’s ultimatum was untenable (which amongst other things demanded that the Zulus disarm, and Cetshwayo forsake his sovereignty), the king had no choice but to prepare his +/-20,000 warriors for what was to become the greatest defeat the British ever suffered at the hands of men armed with only shields and spears.

BACKGROUND: ANGLO-ZULU WAR
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, umtwana wakwaPhindangene, during the unveiling of Inkosi Mthiyaqhwa kaDidi of the Biyela Clan, described the battle of Isandlwana very succinctly when he said: “The resistance to colonial rule in Southern Africa reached a climax when the British colonial powers deployed a force larger than the force that they used to conquer the continent of India, in order to destroy the Zulu Kingdom. A full-scale war took place in order to destroy the old Zulu order, and to subjugate the Zulu nation. It was our ancestor, King Cetshwayo ka Mpande, whose regiments took on the British forces. The British at that time had the mightiest army in the world. King Cetshwayo’s regiments were only armed with their spears and their shields”.

It was on 22 January 1879 that the Zulu army, led by Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza, (a Senior General Commander and hereditary Chief of the Khoza in north-western Zululand, an old man in his 70s) were prepared to lay down their lives to defend their land, to fight the battle which they had never wanted in the first place. Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza, along with his men, had run all the way from Ulundi (about 92 km) to Isandlwana over 4 days, to lead his warriors against the invading the British. His high rank in the kingdom and his recognised abilities as a warrior made him a natural choice as a senior commander. Amongst the regiments which fought there were the mighty Ingoba Makhosi, Uthulwana, Udududu, Udloko, Indlondlo, Umcijo, Imbonambi, and Uve regiments, to name just a few.

Mkhosana kaMvundlana Biyela led the Ukhandampevu regiment (identifiable by their black-and-white shields). He did this against the request of the king, who had asked him to stay behind. His excuse was that “Ngeke ngilibheme igudu noKhandampevu uma ngingayanga eSandlwana, ngiyofela eSandlwana”: “I may never smoke the pipe again with my regiment, Ukhandampevu, if I don’t go with them to Isandlwana. I’d rather die at Isandlwana than stay behind.” The King gave him his blessing and he left for Isandlwana. What a remarkable and dedicated leader he was, determined to fight alongside his comrades!

When the British were firing their Martini-Henry rifles, the Zulu army became shaky, with most warriors already pinned down on their bellies to escape the bullets, almost as though they were ready to surrender. Something remarkable happed at that very moment! uMkhosana kaMvundlana stood up like a Colossus in front of his men. Turning his back on the British, he shouted “Yeyinina Laphaya Ningabaleki”, followed by the reciting of the king’s praises: “Isilo Uhlamvana Bhulumlilo Kashonga Njalo”—”Don’t Run, Don’t Run, The Little Branches of trees that extinguish the Great Fires gave us no such order”, He had barely uttered those words then the British shot him right through the head. He died instantly. As the brave warrior fell on the ground, after this selfless act, not a single warrior moved back an inch: they all rallied forward, more determined than ever to annihilate the British army. By sheer numbers and force of attack, the Zulu regiments won the Battle of Isandlwana. King Cetshwayo celebrated this victory. Had Mkhosana not intervened at the time he did, something could have gone seriously amiss, and today we would be living a different story!

Mkhosana was buried by his brother; weeks later his family went to Isandlwana to fetch his body so they could afford him a proper burial. However, the vultures had eaten his body, leaving only his traditional regalia —so the family buried his traditional regalia. He made the nation, the king, his commander, and his warriors proud. Ukhandampevu, (his regiment) was then known as “Ukhandampevu olwenqaka amatshe ezulu”, meaning the Ukhandampevu regiment which caught the hailstones…hailstones being the bullets!

How many of us today would be prepared to serve our country the way Mkhosana did? Would we expose ourselves to bullets like he did? Do we take the responsibility when our colleagues stumble, and try to inspire them? What kind of a man would abandon his own special occasion such as his wedding, choosing rather to go to battle? Mkhosana kaMvundlana Biyela was that man! I am eternally grateful to him and to many of his people for the respect which the Zulu people embrace today. It is the spirit of these warriors that kept the flames of our Zulu Culture burning. Ndabezitha! wena owadela uzimba emaNgisini Esandlwana!

By Soka Mthembu