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An estimated 8 million South Africans consider themselves Zulu (amaZulu) or members of closely related ethnic groups in the 1990s. AmaZulu are originally from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. They share their roots with all the Nguni peoples whose ancestral and linguistic roots are Ntu. Ntu begot Mnguni; Mnguni begot Xhosa, Luzumane, Swazi and Ndebele. By the eighteenth century, Zulu society encompassed a number of Nguni-speaking chiefdoms north of the Tugela River. The Zulu homestead (imizi) consisted of an extended polygynous family and others attached to the household through social obligations. This social unit was largely self-sufficient, with responsibilities divided according to gender. Men were generally responsible for defending the homestead, caring for cattle, manufacturing and maintaining weapons and farm implements, and building dwellings. Women had domestic responsibilities and raised crops, usually grains, on land near the household.

AmaZulu are originally from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. They share their roots with all the Nguni peoples whose ancestral and linguistic roots are Ntu. Ntu begot Mnguni; Mnguni begot Xhosa, Luzumane, Swazi and Ndebele. Each of the descendants of the sons of Mnguni subsequently established their own kingdoms and spatial territories. Luzumane is the progenitor of amaZulu. Luzumane was succeeded by Malandela, Zulu, Ntombela, Nkosinkulu, Phunga, Mageba, Ndaba, Jama, Senzangakhona, Shaka, Dingane,Cetshwayo, Dinuzulu, Maphumzana, Bhekuzulu and the current king, Zwelithini.

Malandela had two quarrelsome sons, Qwabe and Zulu. In order to prevent them from fighting, he sent them to different areas to settle and establish their own communities. At this time, there was no Zulu kingdom as such. In fact, there were several traditional communities which were semi-independent entities, but not kingdoms. They lived in a loose confederation from the hills of Babanango to the Mhlathuze river. The borders of KwaZulu were the White Umfolozi river to the north and the Mhlathuze river to the south.

The neighbors of amaZulu included amaNdwandwe, abaThethwa, isiThelezi, amaHlongo or abaseLangeni and amaQwabe. Zulu chiefs demanded steadily increasing tribute or taxes from their subjects, acquired great wealth, commanded large armies, and, in many cases, subjugated neighboring chiefdoms. Military conquest allowed men to achieve status distinctions that had become increasingly important. AmaNdwandwe under the leadership of Zwide and abaThethwa led by Dingiswayo were the most powerful of these communities. The two leaders continuously extended their areas of influence by conquest and incorporation of smaller communities. Their ambitions ultimately led to a battle for supremacy between them. In the early nineteenth century, the large and powerful Mthethwa chiefdom, led by Dingiswayo, dominated much of the region north of the Tugela River.

Shaka, a Zulu warrior who had won recognition in 1810 by skillfully subduing the leader of the warring Buthelezi chiefdom, took advantage of Dingiswayo's military defeat by the neighboring Ndwandwe armies to begin building the Zulu empire in 1817. Shaka was one of the traditional leaders ofamaZulu who played a significant role in the creation and expansion of the kingdom of amaZulu. Shaka was one of the sons of Senzangakhona. He was born out ofwedlock and his mother was Nandi. After the death of Senzangakhona, Shaka usurped the throne with the aid of Dingiswayo of abaThethwa. He immediately set about organising the Zulu warriors into a mighty force. Meanwhile, the conflict between amaNdwandwe and abaThethwa escalated and culminated in the killing of Dingiswayo, the benefactor of Shaka. This enraged Shaka and he gathered both the amaZulu and abaThethwa armies and routed amaNdwandwe. Zwide fled and later died.

When Shaka ascended the throne in 1816, there were about 50 independent traditional communities in KwaZulu. Between 1816 and 1828, he attacked, defeated and subjugated most communities while others simply submitted and paid tribute and allegiance to the new king.

As king, Shaka Zulu (r. 1817-28) defied tradition by adopting new fighting strategies, by consolidating control over his military regiments, and by ruthlessly eliminating potential rivals for power. Shaka's warrior regiments (impis ) eventually subjugated the powerful Ndwandwe, and decimated or drove from the area the armies of Shaka's rivals. Spreading warfare -- exacerbated by pressures from Europeans -- drove thousands of Africans north and west, and the ensuing upheaval spawned new conflicts throughout the region.

The Zulu empire weakened after Shaka's death in 1828 and fragmented, especially following military defeats at the hands of the Afrikaners in 1839 and the British in 1879. Zululand, the area north of the Tugela River, was incorporated into the British colony, Natal, in 1887. The last Zulu uprising, a poll tax protest led by Chief Bambatha in 1906, was ruthlessly suppressed. The Zulu population remained fragmented during most of the twentieth century, although loyalty to the royal family continued to be strong in some areas. Leaders of Zulu cultural organizations and Zulu politicians were able to preserve a sense of ethnic identity through the symbolic recognition of Zulu history and through local-level politics.

Zulu men and women have made up a substantial portion of South Africa's urban work force throughout the twentieth century, especially in the gold and copper mines of the Witwatersrand. Zulu workers organized some of the first black labor unions in the country. For example, the Zulu Washermen's Guild, Amawasha, was active in Natal and the Witwatersrand even before the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910. The Zululand Planters' Union organized agricultural workers in Natal in the early twentieth century.

The KwaZulu homeland was carved out of several unconnected plots of land in Natal in the 1960s. In 1976 Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi, a member of the Zulu royal family, was named chief minister of KwaZulu, and the government declared KwaZulu a self-governing territory a year later. Buthelezi established good relations with the National Party-dominated government and, in the process, severed his former close ties to the African National Congress (ANC).

During the 1980s, Buthelezi refused repeated government offers of homeland independence; he preferred to retain the self-governing status that allowed the roughly 4 million residents of KwaZulu to be citizens of South Africa. Zulu solidarity was enhanced by Buthelezi's intellectually powerful and dominant personality and by his leadership of the Zulu cultural organization, Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe (National Cultural Liberation Movement--usually called Inkatha), which became the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) during the 1990s.

During the apartheid era, many people in areas officially designated as Zulu were descendants of nineteenth-century Zulu warriors or subjects of the Zulu royal family, who retained a strong ethnic consciousness and pride in their Zulu identity. Others in these areas, however, traced their descent to those who resisted Shaka's domination or celebrated his death at the hands of his own relatives in 1828. Some viewed their association with Zulu royalty as little more than an artificial political creation. A substantial minority within the diverse Zulu society in the 1980s and the 1990s supported the rival ANC.

Military prowess continued to be an important value in Zulu culture, and this emphasis fueled some of the political violence of the 1990s. Zulu people generally admire those with physical and mental agility, and those who can speak eloquently and hold a crowd's attention. These attributes strengthened Buthelezi's support among many Zulu, but his political rhetoric sometimes sparked attacks on political opponents and critics, even within Zulu society.

Buthelezi's nephew, Goodwill Zwelithini, was the Zulu monarch in the 1990s. Buthelezi and King Goodwill won the agreement of ANC negotiators just before the April 1994 elections that, with international mediation, the government would establish a special status for the Zulu Kingdom after the elections. Zulu leaders understood this special status to mean some degree of regional autonomy within the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Buthelezi was appointed minister of home affairs in the first Government of National Unity in 1994. He led a walkout of Zulu delegates from the National Assembly in early 1995 and clashed repeatedly with newly elected President Nelson (Rolihlahla) Mandela. Buthelezi threatened to abandon the Government of National Unity entirely unless his Zulu constituency received greater recognition and autonomy from central government control.

Bantustan - KwaZulu

During the apartheid era, tribal authorities served as the local government in the rural areas of the KwaZulu Bantustan. Chiefs only lost this status after the formation of the Government of National Unity in 1994. However, most chiefs still have great influence and respect among the traditional people who live in rural areas. Besides this, among the Zulus, the institution of tribal authorities symbolizes Zulu nationalism and culture. Because of their closeness to the people at the grassroots, chiefs had good relationships with different political parties.

The process which led to the creation of the KwaZulu Bantustan in the 1970s started in 1955. On 6 December 1955, H.F.Verwoerd, the Minister of Native Affairs, addressed an assembly of over 300 Zulu chiefs at Nongoma, where he urged them to implement the Bantu Authorities Act which had been passed in parliament that year.

Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi was born on 27 August 1928 into the Zulu royal family. His mother was the daughter of King Dinizulu, and granddaughter of King Cetshwayo. His grandfather Myamana Buthelezi was Prime Minister to King Cetshwayo. As the first-born son he was first in line to the Buthelezi chieftainship. Buthelezi was selected by the King, which indicated that Buthelezi enjoyed favor with King Cyprian, and that he had achieved some recognition as a leader within Zulu politics. In order to gain political credibility amongst the loyalists, Buthelezi set about portraying himself as a zealous supporter of the King and as a traditionalist.

On 31 July 1959 "Zululand" was finally proclaimed a Bantu Regional Authority. Military opposition was said to have been decisive in preventing a proposed territorial consolidation of the KwaZulu homeland that would have isolated Durban and its military installations from the rest of the country.

In the early 1970s cooperation increased among the homeland leaders, although they remained divided over the issue of whether to accept independence for their territories. Even Chief Matanzima, hitherto considered South Africa's puppet, joined the others in bargaining with the government in Pretoria and in denouncing its policies while demanding additional land and the consolidation of existing areas. In 1973 eight of the homeland leaders met at Umtata in Transkei to explore a federation of the homelands, but nothing came of this owing in part to the coolness of the Tswana leader, Lucas Mangope, and in larger degree to the incompatibility of a Black federation with the goal, voiced most strongly by Zulu chief Gatsha Buthelezi, of a unified multiracial South African state.

By 1972 Buthelezi had become a thorn in Pretoria's side. His calls for a national convention of representatives from all racial categories White, Coloured, Asian, and Black to decide the country's future form of government were encouraged by Coloured and Indian leaders. His initiatives were also supported by the Progressive Party, whose platform contained similar goals. His demands that Blacks be consulted by the government before the passage of any laws or regulations affecting them had great appeal for urban Blacks.

Inkatha, a Black movement dating back to the 1930s, had been shaped since 1975 by KwaZulu's Chief Minister Catsha Buthelezi into a popular organization to draw on Zulu ethnicity for political purposes. Formally known as the National Cultural Liberation Movement (Inkatha ye Nkululeko ye Siswe), Inkatha had a rural, tribal, and grass-roots flavor. With 300,000 members it was the largest Black movement in South African history. At least 95 percent of its supporters were Zulus and membership until 1979 was open only to members of that ethnolinguistic group.

Buthelezi emphasized links with the more radical nationalism of the ANC, of which he was once a member, and sought out the exiled ANC leader, Oliver Tambo, for a meeting in London in 1979. At the same time Buthelezi maintained contact with Nationalist cabinet members and the PFP opposition. He rejected the idea of independent homelands and of the separate council for Blacks foreseen in Prime Minister Botha's President's Council plan. The shortcoming of Buthelezi as a symbol of Black nationalism was that he was seen by educated urban Blacks and radical youth as a divisive figure, operating from a tribal homeland base. In spite of his rhetoric, it was suspected that he might in the end be willing to compromise with a reformist Botha government. With other Black political forces having to operate underground or with severe police constraints, Inkatha under Buthelezi is nevertheless an important power center. In Soweto, where Zulus formed the largest group, surveys have shown considerable sympathetic affinity with Inkatha, a factor that could become significant if urban politics become more meaningful.

Buthelezi was widely recognized as a Black nationalist leader. A charismatic and articulate figure, he benefited from his aristocratic lineage, and his legitimacy as the chief minister of the most populous dependent homeland provided him a relatively high degree of immunity to government sanctions. Inkatha was the only political party permitted in KwaZulu. Although some independent candidates ran for seats in the homeland legislature, all elected members belonged to the organization. Inkatha had the overwhelming support of the tribally oriented appointed members.

While Inkatha was less confrontational in expressing its aims, its program did not diverge markedly from that of the Black con- sciousness movement. It demanded the abolition of racial discrimination and full incorporation of Blacks into the country's decision-making process, leaving the final form of government subject to the practical give-and-take of negotiation. Inkatha foresaw a continued role for Whites, and Buthelezi took a controversial stand in favor of investment by multinationals in South Africa. One technique for excluding Blacks from the total estimated in the White areas has been to attach Black urban zones on the edge of cities to adjacent or nearby homelands. Invariably the Blacks living in such zones had been oriented to urban life and were dependent on the White-controlled urban centers for a livelihood just as the centers are dependent on Blacks for labor and as consumers. Thus one of the major Black areas attached to Durban has been added to KwaZulu and a similar area near Pretoria has been made part of Bophuthatswana, although its people are in all significant respects linked more closely to the city than to the homeland. During the period that the idea of separate development was being elaborated and the homelands established in law and in fact, aspects of apartheid in the White areas continued to be widely enforced.

The Lombard Commission in the 1970s, and then the Buthelezi Commission of 1980, were set up to investigate a possible future constitution for the province of KwaZulu-Natal; and then later on the KwaNatal Indaba of 1986, which was created by the joint governments of KwaZulu and Natal to investigate proposals for a federal system.

The 1996 report of the Auditor-General of KwaZulu Natal, Chris Foster, about the wastage of public funds by the former KwaZulu bantustan exposed the fact that graft and corruption was not accidental under apartheid but was indeed its essence. That the KwaZulu government ordered at the expense of the taxpayer teapots costing R575 each; salt and pepper sets each costing R391; curtains and their installation at the guest house of Chief Buthelezi and more than R500 000 spent to provide lace and curtains for four ministerial houses is a scandal. Such deeds could only be done by people who knew that their days in public positions were numbered.

The irony of it all is that the whereabouts of these expensive materials is now not known. This extravaganza occured in the midst of the sea of poverty. The ANC strongly condemned such activities of the former KwaZulu bantustan. The ANC called upon the IFP leaders who in the the KwaZulu bantustan government to account for the disappearance of this expensive public property.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2016 20:18:07 ZULU