Sir Bartle Frere, the new British High Commissioner delivers an ultimatum to Cetshwayo the Zulu king to disband his army’


Chief Cetshwayo

Wednesday, 11 December 1878

The newly appointed British High Commissioner for Southern Africa delivers to Cetshwayo the Zulu king to disband his army, handover offenders. Frere who was appointed in 1877 wanted to pursue the idea of creating a Confederation of all Southern African territories, with a view to being appointed Governor of the entire region. Frere immediately realised that Cetshwayo was a major stumbling block in the attempt to bring all of Southern Africa under British control. He was thus determined to break Cetshwayo's resistance, hoping that this would pave the way for the British to extend their rule into the interior of the country.

Cetshwayo's ruled the Zulu nation at a time when British colonial penetration of the South African hinterland was gaining momentum. Successive British Colonial administrations in Natal, beginning with the occupation of the Territory in 1843, had been wary of provoking a war with the Zulu Kingdom. But with changed circumstances in the 1870s and 1880s as European powers began to take up colonies in Africa. South Africa took on a new significance and importance to the British Colonial Office. As part of the British efforts to gain control of South Africa, Frere's demanded that Cetshwayo disband his army.

Meanwhile Cetshwayo who had cultivated a very close friendship with a Scottish hunter and trader John Dunn appointed him as his advisor, especially in his dealings with the British. Dunn was allocated land between the Mhlathuze and Tugela Rivers and installed as a 'chief'. When war between British and the Zulu became inevitable, Dunn who was anxious to keep his chiefdom and wealth approached the British government, offering his services. War broke out between the British and the Zulu and at the battle of Ulundi on 4 July 1879, Cetshwayo's forces were defeated and he was captured and exiled to London until 1883.

• Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds) (1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, (Cape Town), p.0157, Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, (Kaapstad):
• Ballard, C, (1985) "John Dunn: The White Chief of Zululand" (Craighall)
• Giliomee, H and Mbenga, B (eds) (2007) "New History of South Africa" (Cape Town)
• Peter Delius, (1984) The land belongs to us: the Pedi polity, the Boers, and the British in the Nineteenth Century Transvaal, (Los Angeles), pp. 217-219

Last updated : 10-Dec-2014

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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