Bhambatha and the Zulu Rebellion 1906.
Thompson, Paul S.
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In 1906 there occurred a rebellion among a part of the indigenous people against the settler government of the British colony of Natal, ostensibly against the collection of a poll (capitation) tax on adult males. It is very often called the Zulu Rebellion, but it has many names, and it is commonly called “Bhambatha’s rebellion” or “the Bhambatha rebellion”, after the most famous of its leaders. The centenary of the rebellion was marked by public celebrations of a political character which however shed very little light on the actual historic events. These celebrations were sponsored by the provincial government, usually in collaboration with ad hoc local bodies. They commenced when the provincial premier announced that Bhambatha would be posthumously reinstalled as a chief. There followed the laying of wreaths at memorials at Mpanza, near Greytown on 8 April 2006, followed by a cleansing ceremony and the dedication of a memorial wall to the “Richmond Twelve” on 22 April. They culminated in the laying of more wreaths and the reinstatement of Bhambatha to his chieftaincy at Mpanza on 11 June. The latter affair also engaged the national government, and the crowded programme included speeches by the president and deputy president, as well as provincial premier, the chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders and the king of the Zulu nation. A special postage stamp was issued to mark the occasion. Almost a week later, on 16 June or Youth Day, a Bhambatha Memorial Concert took place at Lake Merthley, also near Greytown. On 27 September Bhambatha was awarded the national Order of Mendi in Gold for Bravery. Outside the government sphere there was very little to mark the centenary. Two plays, which did not enjoy government support, hardly got off the ground. A third, which did, was the musical 1906 Bhambada–The Freedom Fighter, which ran for a fortnight in Pietermaritzburg, and was touted to go on to Pretoria, but did not, probably for political as well as aesthetic reasons. A government-funded Indigenous Knowledge Systems project by local university academics produced a book entitled Freedom Sown in Blood: Memories of the Impi Yamakhanda, which contained practically nothing about the rebellion itself. Another book, Remembering the Rebellion: The Zulu Uprising of 1906, comprised a series of twelve commemorative supplements previously published in the The Witness and related newspapers in partnership with the provincial department of education. Beautifully illustrated and pitched at schools, it necessarily simplified scholarship on the rebellion for its readers.