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The King is Dead
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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What's really known about the death of Ceteshwayo kaMpande? There are several books I've yet to acquire and read, but it seems he either died of a heart attack or he was poisoned. The local "medical examiner", a military medical officer by the name of Scott expressed his thoughts, but did he actually see the body? Apparently no autopsy was performed as per the wishes of his "Brothers", but did the body even get a cursory look by someone who left any documentation? After all, the man was a king albeit a king without a kingdom.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Saw

Certain aspects are known, others – the actual facts – seem to be disputed or, at the very least, differing accounts survive of the events and of the conversations in the hut which don’t quite match with each other.

Yes, he was either (a) poisoned, or (b) died from natural causes, which may have included a heart attack or other heart problem, or a medical problem associated with his recent assegai wound and the desperate circumstances of his flight, concealment, living conditions and, of course, exhaustion and stress.

It would be true to acknowledge that several generations of Zulu have believed or assumed he was murdered in the traditional way, but it would also be true to say that generations of Zulu simply don’t know – supposed oral traditions notwithstanding. Just as many have been convinced of the escape & survival of Bambatha kaMacinza – but they don’t really know.

The body was seen – if not necessarily examined – by Europeans in his hut soon after death, with – apparently – the conclusion being made there and then that poison was likely. One account maintains his retinue immediately denied the possibility as only his supporters were present. Other accounts describe his beginning to eat a meal of meat and collapsing in pain after the first mouthful, dying moments later in the presence of his wives and friends. The doctor present suggested a post mortem but was prevented from doing so – “if you cut up our King, we’ll cut you up” etc etc. So a p.m. never took place before burial. (Traditional Zulu custom, of course, contained a very strong aversion to being cut up or even undergoing any live amputation – although sometimes you wouldn’t think so!) Another account records his being unwell that morning anyway and that he had arranged for an enema to be administered later that day. Harriette Colenso didn’t initially go for the poison theory, simply because she knew that the usual security arrangements of his (Zulu) retinue followed a strict procedure, especially on food tasting. However, when Theo Binns – in his biography of Dinuzulu – added to the account he’d already given in the biography of Dinuzulu’s father five years earlier, he stated that in 1962 he had interviewed Princess Magogo, daughter of Dinuzulu and grand-daughter of Cetshwayo. The Princess’s grandmother had been in the hut when Cetshwayo died and categorically said it was poison and described the scene. This was passed on to Princess Magogo’s mother, who passed it on to her: “The dinner was brought in by his servants but had been prepared by those hostile to him, for his own people had been forbidden by Osborn to supply him with food.” He felt ill after a mouthful, died after some convulsions, they did what they could for him but without avail. Dinuzulu certainly believed his father had been poisoned. Mnyamana also survived at least one poisoning attempt at this time.

The chaos of the King’s last few weeks certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of his enemies getting access to him, and obviously Zibhebhu kaMapita’s Mandlakazi were the suspects. The heart had been examined by sphygmographic means in Aug 1882 in London and found to be sound, whereas problems were apparently suspected during his Cape Town captivity.

You probably have some of the following works, which discuss the circumstances of the death and which I’ve just skimmed through only hurriedly:

CT Binns: The Last Zulu King – The Life & Death of Cetshwayo (1963)
CT Binns: Dinuzulu: The Death of the House of Shaka (1968)
J Guy: The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom (1982)
J Laband: Rope of Sand – the Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation (1995)

Binns’ work and family definitely allowed him access to those who might "know" – but so did others, and as usual we get conflicting accounts. He says that Bryant (Olden Times in Z & N) and Lugg (Historic N & Z) go for the heart theory, whereas Haggard (C & his White Neighbours) and Gibson (The Story of the Zulus) support the poison account. All four of these men also had considerable access to those who might “know” and although I do have all of these works as well, I haven’t included them in my quick skim this morning. I dare say the five vols of the JSA also contain recorded views on this topic by various Zulu, perhaps taken down even earlier than those above, but I haven’t looked them up this morning. Of the ones I have looked at, Binns took by far the closest interest.

Peter
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rich


Joined: 01 May 2008
Posts: 897
Location: Long Island NY USA
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Fascinatng....I'm just wondering if there's anything to the suggestion that Britain had anything to do Cetshwayo's death. Can it be considered a possibility that say Wolseley was complicit in some activity along that line? Wolseley, ever the realist, had to know that having Cetshwayo imprisoned didn't solve all problems when it came to Anglo-Zulu political concerns at that time.

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Rich
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Rich

I did see in my quick skim the other day that someone had indirectly blamed the British - it might have been Harriette Colenso or possiby one of the King's retinue but I can't be sure now. As for being directly or intentionally involved, I can't see that. Wolseley himself hurriedly made the post-war settlement and returned to England. The Resident certainly ignored the Usuthu faction's pleas and always seemed to favour the Mandlakazi, so in that way the King's death may have been seen to fall into his lap as it were, but it solved little in the long term. They didn't want to annexe Zululand but had to in the end, always turning their back on the Usuthu, as Dinuzulu was to discover more than once during the rest of his life.

Just had a very brief look at the other four works mentioned towards the very end of my post. Bryant doesn't enter into a discussion at all, merely mentioning the fatty degeneration of the heart as the official cause. It wasn't really his subject, and I certainly wouldn't say he "came down on the side of" heart disease. Lugg is also very brief indeed - mentions the King's death in two places, once saying he died from fatty degeneration of the heart, and elsewhere repeating this, adding "and not of wounds received a few months before when oNdini was burnt by Zibebu, as is generally believed by most natives." I haven't seen this claim before, as it was more of a flesh wound I understood, although his subsequent flight & struggles etc were certainly stressful. No mention of the poison theory by Lugg at all!

Gibson only mentions the poison theory briefly and in describing his death gives only the words of the official telegrams involving Scott, Osborn, Bulwer & London (fatty disease of the heart). So it is not really accurate of Binns to say these authors "came down" on one side or the other. And Haggard published his work in 1882 so I can't see how he can have included anything on it, except in a later work! I've checked (no index) but he goes up only to 1882 as far as I can see, so someone will have to put me right and let us know where he gave an opinion. He was the sort of person who would have had an opinion one way or the other.

I have the five JSA vols but haven't looked at them on this point yet.

Peter
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Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 39
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Here's an extract from H. Rider Haggard's Diary of an African Journey which chronicles his visit to southern Africa in 1914. Once his official duties as a member of the Dominions Royal Commission were over he went on a tour of Zululand with James Stuart. Their starting point was in Eshowe where Haggard visited the site of Cetshwayo's death and recorded his thoughts on the matter.

Monday, 20 April
"This morning Stuart and I walked through the heat to the kraal not far away that is (or was) called Jazi, which means, they told us, ‘Finished’, or ‘Finished with joy’.20 Two or three huts and in front of them a patch of kaffir corn. In the centre of this patch, whither I was led by a native who once inhabited Jazi, the corn grows weakly. Once there was a large hut here and in that hut at the very spot on which I stood to the left of the entrance died our old enemy (or friend?) Cetywayo, the last King of Zululand – poisoned. (I have Osborn’s letter written to me just after he had viewed the body). We tried to extract details of his end from one of the men who guided us who is named Umnikwa, but he would not speak of the matter freely, especially in the presence of Mazooku. He said, however, that he thought the king was killed with strychnine and that he was ill three days – which suggests some native poison rather than strychnine; also that there was nothing in the tale of the water being doctored. Who did the deed? Dabuko his brother, who was with him when he died, or Usibepu his enemy, or one of his women, or some witch-doctor? No one knows or will ever know (at least no one will tell, least of all that quiet, secret-faced native. He had become useless and was put out of the way – by someone). The rest is darkness. Well may that kraal have been named ‘Finished’ (because a chief named Umfokaki or ‘Stranger’ who married Cetywayo’s sister, was killed here by his brother Gundane, which means ‘The Rat’). The situation of this ruined kraal is very beautiful, commanding a fine view of many surrounding hills and of the wide plain stretching towards the sea. Once it numbered about 50 huts."

Mazooku is Haggard's servant. The Osborn referred to is Melmoth Osborn who Haggard had known since the 1870s. Osborn’s letter to Haggard appears to be no longer extant. Haggard gives an account of Cetshwayo’s death based on Osborn’s testimony in the Introduction to the 1888 edition of Cetywayo (pp. 28–9). He concludes: ‘Altogether it is my firm belief, gathered from information which I have received, that Cetywayo died by poison, a fact which I believe is not now disputed by those who are in the best position to know the truth.’

The English translation of Jazi provided Haggard with the title for his final volume of his Zulu trilogy, Finished.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Stephen

Many thanks for clarifying where Haggard originally gave his account of the death. Binns must have used the 1888 edition, whereas I only have a modern reprint of the 1882 edition (Echo Library - not a facsimile version) in which Haggard's introduction of only 3 pages or so didn't (indeed couldn't!) touch upon the subject. I'd been puzzled at first as to how an 1882 publication cited by Binns could have mentioned something which occurred two years later.

I've just turned to the entry for 20 April you mention on p180/181 of your book (as well as your endnote on p215) and see that he visited Gibson the same day. Given the destination of Haggard's morning walk, I wonder if he raised the subject with Gibson in the afternoon, who appears not to have shown too great an interest in the topic in his own work - perhaps slightly surprisingly. In view of how close Haggard & Stuart were, and their joint visit to the site of the King's death, one would have expected Stuart to have questioned closely all those Zulu whose oral testimonies he recorded (which he continued for some years after the 1914 Haggard visit) if he thought they had an opinion on the matter. When I get a moment, I'll give the indexes of the JSA vols* a look. Some of his interviewees are bound to have had a view, although on what authority is a different matter.

Magema Fuze is another who might, perhaps, have been expected to elaborate, but other than his reciting (as reported!) of the King's instructions on his successor at the time of his last illness, he doesn't go into the details at all as far as I can see.

What a pity - and a bit of a surprise? - that Osborn's letter to Haggard, having apparently survived until at least 1914, is no longer around.

Peter

P.S. * There was to be a 6th vol - do you know if this will ever materialise, or is it a dead duck? P.
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Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 39
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Peter

Yes, it is surprising about the Osborn letter. But, as far as I know, it's not in the Cheyne Collection retained by Haggard's descendants. There is a possibility it is held in the Haggard collection held by the Norfolk Record Office. Probably worth a check.

Re the next volume of the Stuart archive - I'll try and find out when (if) it's due.
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Keith Smith


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 540
Location: Northern NSW, Australia
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Peter
I'm not sure if there will be a sixth volume of this important work. Colin Webb died in 1992 (Vol. V, p. ix) and I know that John Wright, his co-editor, retired some years ago.

KIS
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Stephen & Keith

Thanks to you both. Stephen, as it hapens I was in the Norfolk CRO only last week but had very little time! I'll be there again, however.

I'm rather afraid Keith may be right, although one lives in hope! Before Colin Webb's death he had apparently intended to work on the remainder of the project during his retirement, so perhaps John Wright has managed to do so? It would be a great pity if the remaining material never underwent translation, editing, annotation & publication, gven there are apparently two more volumes worth of material waiting. Vol 6 was being worked on already by the time of the appearance of Vol 5 in 2001.

New editors might well introduce a different approach, too. In the last vol it was explained that their own approach had developed and changed by the time the material for Vol 5 was being worked on, arising out of their changing understanding on the nature & circumstances of Stuart's actual gathering of oral history. It might even be that, if they had been in a position to revisit their earlier vols, they might have treated the material quite differently. There are always dangers inherent in evaluating oral histories but Wright had, by 2000, apparently already been strongly influenced by the work of Carolyn Hamilton. Now there's a thought - possibly she'd be the perfect scholar, or one of them, to shoulder the burden!

The big changes of the last decade or so in the history departments at UKZN might also be a factor?

Peter
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Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Peter

According to a representative of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, publishers of the Stuart archive, John Wright is working on a further volume - but they do not have a date of publication as yet.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Thanks very much indeed for finding out, Stephen. That has got to be considered good news even if the timetable will inevitably be long term. If John Wright is tackling it single handed it won't be easy but at least it indicates that UKZN intends to continue with the project.

Peter
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The King is Dead
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