Nel & Stevens

Attorneys, Notaries, Conveyancers & Bond Originators - 033 4131181

Click here for Greytown home page with news and details of Greytown events


The Bhambatha Rebellion

The B(h)ambatha Rebellion is regarded by many as the beginning of The Struggle against Apartheid which culminated 88 years later almost to the day with the first Democratic Elections in South Africa on 27 April 1994.

Here follow a few "personal" accounts of the Bambatha Rebellion, 1906.

In October 1968, one Mishak Mthilane consulted Attorneys Nel & Stevens in Greytown. Their Interpreter, Gilbert Maphanga took this statement from him about his participation in the Bambatha Rebellion in 1906. 


During April 1906, Bambata came back from Zululand. He collected young men and instructed them to catch his uncles Magwababa and Funizwe. Magwababa was caught at night, Funizwe ran away. The following day I armed myself with others and went to a fort called Mdayi near Mpanza where we found Magwababa in captivity with others. Magwababa’s wives went and reported to a European farmer (Voyizana) Mr Phillip Botha that Bambata had taken Magwababa to kill him. Mr Phillip Botha went and reported to the Magistrate here in Greytown. The following day European Constables went to Mpanza on horseback being accompanied by the Magistrate (Dhlovunga) to see what had happened to Magwababa. They passed Mpanza and went to Mpofana (Keate’s Drift) where there was a Police camp. They remained there the whole day. We were guarding their return. At about dusk the spies saw them coming back. The Magistrate came up to where we were hiding. Shots were fired at them and they ran away. As the Police Constables were coming up at dusk we hid in the bank of the road at Nhlenyana. 

They were in separate groups. The first group passed. Then the second group was passing one of us threw an assegai in the third group and said "Usuthu". We rose and fought. We fought the Police who ran away and we went back to our fort. We slaughtered cattle and broke into the bar of the hotel, took liquor and drank it. In the morning we went to a farm of a European "Mkhovu" where we took a horse which was ridden by Bambata. We went towards the Tugela River. Bambata sent a message to Chief Silwane Mchunu that he must arm an Impi because he, Bambata, had started a war with the Europeans. He also sent a message to Chief Nyoniyezwe Ngubane. We crossed the Tugela River and went to Nkandhla where all the Chiefs and their Impis were to meet him. On the way we caught another horse which was to be ridden by Chakijana Sithole the Chief’s main Induna. When we were crossing the Tugela river it was about full. Chakijana fired a shot in the air and then we heard that were going to Zululand. We arrived at the kraal of Induna Mangari Ndlela who took us to Induna Sigananda Shezi in the Mome bush. He slaughtered a beast for us. Sigananda collected his warriors. After a month in the Mome bush periodically fighting with Bantu warriors favouring the Europeans, one day we fought with soldiers from Eshowe from morning till sunset. Many warriors died and many were injured in this fight. Several Chiefs joined us. We moved from Mome bush to Qhudeni where we found other Chiefs with Bambata and many warriors. A man by the name of Elijah came to us and said the European soldiers had gone and we all went back to the Mome bush, not knowing that this man Elijah was sent by the European soldiers to lead us into a trap. We entered at dusk. In the Mome bush I saw someone on top of the hill lighting a match. Early in the morning the soldiers fired at us. Many warriors died. I hid under a rock till midnight when I came out of the bush and walked towards Qhudeni. On the way I met others and came back. I was arrested and kept in custody for four months. I was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Untitled Document

The following synopsis of the BAMBATHA REBELLION was compiled by Mr. L.J. Mare.  He was a Clerk in the Kranskop Magistrate’s  office during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

He spent his life in the Kranskop district.

The handwritten notes were found in the Magistrate’s desk during 1976.




The then Natal House of Assembly passed an Act levying a £ 1 Tax on all Native Male members over the age of 18 years which was commonly known as “Poll Tax”. 

The first trouble arose when the Magistrate of Kranskop, Mr. A W Leslie, who later was promoted to Judge of the Native High court.  Mr. Leslie went out to collect tax at Silverstream as base for Tax collecting for the Hlongwas and Cele Tribes under Chiefs Mtamu and “Sobantu” respectively. 

The Hlongwas were taken first.  Trouble immediately started when they were called up to pay.  They told the Magistrate that they refuse to pay this tax, and some even went so far as to strike the table before the Magistrate with their sticks.  The Magistrate coolly collected all his papers and told the Indunas to bring all the men up to Kranskop to him, who had shown impudence.  The Indunas took them up to Kranskop to the Court and the Magistrate gave a term of imprisonment and 25 lashes with the Cat of nine tails. 

Next was Bambata with his followers who adopted a threatening attitude against a small party led by a Magistrate who had set out to demonstrate with Bambata.  Shots were fired and the small party were forced to withdraw on Marshals Hotel on the main road in the Mpanza Valley.  At the hotel were 3 women, mesdames, Hunter, Marshal and Borham and they together with the Magistrate’s party made their way as speedily as they could to the Police station at Keates Drift on the Mooi River.  The rebels did not follow them, but contented themselves with ransacking the Hotel and helping themselves to liquor.

 News spread to Greytown, and a force of Natal Police set out to bring in the fugitives who had barricaded themselves in the Police station at Keates Drift.  They reached the Drift without having seen a sign of the enemy.  They then returned to Greytown with the women.  They halted at the looted Hotel.  They continued to march after sunset with an advance guard.  They reached a spot in the Impanza Valley where the bush was very intense on both sides of the road.  Bambata’s men hiding in the dense bush rushed the advance guard shouting their war cry “Usutu”.  It being dark the men fought themselves free with difficulty, and linked themselves with the main body who were 150 yards in the rear.

 Sergt. Brown, Sergt. Harrison and Troopers Aston and Greenwood were killed, while 5 were wounded.  They then picked up the wounded and marched back to camps.  Troops were then mobilised and were going to bombard Mbata’s location.  The morning before the bombardment Bambata escaped with his impi to Zululand by way of Doornhoek and Lootshoek in the Kranskop district.  Crossing the Tugela and up the Manyana streams.

 The Kranskop reserves were then mobolised and followed two days after by the same route as Bambata had taken.  They passed the turn off he had taken into the Nkandhla Bush, and went on to Kandhla Magistry.

 The U.M.R. Greytown and some Kranskop reserves stationed at Ingwebevu on the Tugela then marched into Zululand 240 strong skirting the Qudeni mountain on Cattle raiding tour, going beyond Pukunyoni mountain.  Returning to camp were told to pich camp under the Pukunyoni. 

 On the morning of 28 May, 1906,  a detachment of the U.M.R. under Luit. Nuss were sent out to see if the way was clear to move on.  They came on a Zulu impi marching on the camp.  They fired a few shots and retired to the camp.

 A square was quickly drawn or formed with the horses inside and about 1000 Natives levies (they were from Inadi reserve) who had joined the cattle raiding party the day before.  The first rush of the enemy came from the North side where there was a big donga.  They were shot back, some fled from the East, were it was thick bush a few yards from the square.  They were shot back.  Then they drove a troop of cattle on the square on the North-Eastern corner, many Zulu being among the cattle edging them on with their assegai’s.  The corner of the square had to fall back to allow the cattle to pass.  A lot of cattle were shot down, and Zulu’s were shot 5 yards from the line of fighters.  With many other sorties, they even finally withdrew from the donga’s.

 Rifles were fired from a hill “Very bushy” about 300 yards away on the camp.  One European was shot dead and several wounded, and some Native levies were killed and many wounded. The dead and wounded were then carried away with the contingent who retired on the Buffalo river, and next day to camp at Ingwebevu.

 A Col. Barker had come down from Johannesburg with 500 men and together with the local troops they operated in Zululand near the Nkandla where they trapped the main impi at the Mome Gorge, killed Bambata and other chiefs which ended the activeness of Bambata and insurgents in Zululand.

 In the meantime Chiefs Meseni and Goluzembe had rebelled in the Mapumulo area and the fighting was then moved to that area.  Col. Barker operated from Noodsberg towards the Umvoti River, Col. Leuchars from Mapumulo towards Umvoti River.  The first clash was with Col. Barker and Meseni’s men.  They way laid him, but he killed 200 of the enemy.  The two Col. cleared the Umvoti River area and a clash took place at the “Insamba” towards Tongaat.  The enemy were there routed and a few hundred killed.  That ended the Bambata rebellion.

 Arising from the rebellion the Zulu King Dinizulu was suspected of having a hand in murdering loyal Chiefs in Zululand, several had been shot through the door of their huts of an evening.  Then the Magistrate of Mhlabatini in Zululand “Mr. Stainbank” was shot in a drift whilst watering his horse.  Two hundred Police were then sent to arrest Dinizulu near Nongoma.  The tribe armed themselves to resist the assist.  All troops were immediately mobilized (4000) and sent to Nongoma in about 48 hours 43 train loads of troops and their horses left Durban for Zomkele the nearest train terminus from where they rode to Nongoma.

 The evening the second day the troops left for the Usustu kraal.  The next morning the kraal was surrounded when 200 men were detailed to rush the kraal.  They found Dinizulu’s army there on the parade ground but all unarmed.  Dinizulu had stolen a march on them, he had left the kraal with a donkey wagon for Nongoma where he surrendered to the Authorities.  He was taken to the Railhead and sent to Maritzburg.  His trial took place in Greytown and he was banished to Rustenburg in the Transvaal where he died.



We read your information with interest having lived in Greytown for 10 years.
A little bit of information you may find interesting regarding Bambatha.  My grandfather DR. HS Flook was asked to go down into a ravine and remove Bambatha's head in order to prove that he had in fact died.  My grandfather duly performed this grisly task.
Congratulatioins on your web page, most interesting and lovely to read all the old names that meant so much to us.
Yours faithfully


Dear sirs, 

I read all with interest. My grandfather Major William Knott was with Royston's Horse at that time and it was he with Dr Flook (see Diana Pretorius' letter) who was instrumental in getting the head out of the Gorge as it was so impossible to remove the whole body. After identification it was deemed wise to bury both head and body which was done. Somewhat more grisly still my grandfather took a photo of this which my brother has since donated to the Pietermaritzburg Museum.

I have a photo of my grandfather which shows the medal awarded to troops for that rebellion.
I find your site most interesting and curiously live not far from the New Zealand Greytown,
Your sincerely
Patricia Frykberg (nee Knott)


I serve on both the Greytown Museum Board and the Tourist Committee) and I read with great interest about your grandfather's claim to 'fame' !  I have not yet had an opportunity to check on that aspect of the
campaign, but will do so as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, I would like you to know that your grandfather was awarded the campaign medals, and I trust that someone in your family at least has knowledge of their whereabouts.  (If the family do not wish to keep them, they would find a most welcome home in the Museum's collection, as they would add a unique aspect to the current display, which will be enlarged/revamped  for the Centenary Celebrations coming up in 2006.) 
The local Zondi clan also claim that it was not Bambatha that was decapitated, but a substitute, so that Bambatha could escape - to which his descendants still attest.  It is thought that he made it to Mocambique, where he settled, married, raised a family and died there at quite an old age !  Although very difficult to verify, attempts are being made to find more information.
Looking forward to hearing from you again
What I have in brief is this. (I plan to send to Greytown the whole biography of my grandfather Major William Knott,  from the time when, as a bugler of 16, he went with the NMP and Shepstone to the Annexation of the Transvaal, through the ,  Basuto and Zulu wars, 1st & 2nd  Anglo Boer War, 1906 rebellion and WW1.  I also plan to enclose  a photo of him with his 8 medals)
 William Knott was a Major and 2nd in Command  in Royston's Horse 1906. Family story and information from J Stewart's "History of the Zulu Rebellion 1906" and "Galloping Jack" (Napier Devitt 1937) give this:
When the story came that Bhambata's body was lying in a cleft in the Tugela Valley Colonel Jack Royston ordered  Major  Knott "to find the body and take the MO (Major Platt) with you" (from Galloping Jack) Because it was impossible to get the 5 day old body, not too decomposed because of the very cold weather, up the steep sides of the cleft, it was decided to decapitate it and bring it to Greytown. (Both Stewart and Devitt). General Mackenzie was appalled to see it in a basin, (Devitt) but neither Stewart nor my grandfather had that story. Stewart says that at no stage was there any disrespect. Grandfather said the head was  placed in a tent on a leopard skin and displayed to all rebels who recognised and identified it and saluted it.
 Knott and a contingent were then ordered to take the head back and bury it decently with the body where it lay - which they did. But my grandfather took a final photo which was donated by my brother to the Pietermaritzburg Museum in about 1980. It should still be there.
I cannot recall if there was any mention of Dr. Flook in Devitt's book, but Stewart has no mention of either Flook or Platt. And Grandfather never mentioned the either MO's name.
So there are several very conflicting stories. Stewart is painstaking in detail and documentary evidence. Devitt I cannot be sure of as I had only the photocopied pages relevant to Major Knott. Grandfather, well word of mouth and two generations on.......But there is that photo.
For myself I have to say that in all my family history writing and research there has been a conflict between family 'legend' and documentary facts. I try to incorporate both. Fact can be dull set against a real live story..... Sincerely and a very happy Christmas.
Patricia Frykberg (nee Knott)









Durban, Natal. July 1906

Zulu Rebellion 1906 - Scenes at the front

I bought an album containing these photographs at an antiques fair several years ago thinking they might have been related to the New Zealand military, but searching on the internet I find that they actually show South African troops. All titles used are as written in the album. Some of the photo's have serial numbers on them which make me think the album was not a one off, but perhaps something the photographer made up as requested by customers. Unfortunately there is no indication who took the photographs

I've found mention of some of the officers in the images:

Ian Knight contacted me with some more details:

...the 1906 Rebellion was one of the last Zulu uprisings against colonial rule (there was a big event in South Africa just last week to commemorate the centenary, funnily enough); your photos show some of the activity in the region along the Mzinyathi river - which had previously been fought over in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 (hence the photos of the 1879 battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift). There are a number of pictures there of the followers of an important chief called Mehlokazulu''s district - his indunas (headmen) and wives being questioned and his home in flames. Mehlokazulu was one of the most important Zulu chiefs to join the rebellion - the other was a chap called Sigananda (whose portrait is also included in your album).
I''m not sure they are unique images. Some I''ve certainly seen before in South Afican collections - the others may be there too, but I don''t recognise all of them.

If you can help with information about the events and people shown let me know.

Officers in the Field Rebel Women Midday Halt Scouting Natel Field Artillary at Mangeni Camp
Approaching Isandhlivana Blockhouse at Pomeray Horses to Water - no title - Artillery crossing a drift
Troops Passing Isandhlwana Burning Meklakajulus Kraals Battlefield and graveyard, Isaudhlivana Burning Kraals Mapumulu Natal Medical Corps Field hospital KelpemaKaat
Colonel Royston Questioning Induna Womens Laager HelponaKaar Extraxting tooth of Native Natal Field Artillary crossing a drift Ambulance Natal Medical Corps
Sunday in Camp Memorial Church and Hospital, Rorkes Drift Troops crossing Rorkes Drift Approaching Rorkes Drift Monument Rorke''s Drift
Siqinanda (Zulu Chief) age 107 Watering Horses Natal Medical Corps War Dance by Native Levies Mapuinulu
Natal Carnineers A cold morning in camp Officers in cave on Isaudhlwana Chakaa's Cliff Chaka's Cliff
Indaba of Chiefs Chief Meklakajulu's Wives Medical Corps in the field Courtmartial of Native Shell M'teli's Kraals
Rebel Women coming into camp Ping Pong at the camp Overturned wagon near N'gadeni Chief Makaquluzhis Indimas being questioned Chief Charley Fynn addressing his Luker
Forge at Kabosi River Colonel McKay Natal Carbineers Major Rodney, Col. McKenzie, Col. Royston