The Bambatha rebellion was a war of resistance by the Zulu people of South Africa against Britain.It began in 1906 and ended in 1907. The. war got its name from its leader Bambata who was an Induna (military Commander) of the Zulu army.
By 1879, Zulu Kingdom had disintegrated completely following the British victory over the Zulu at the battle of Ullundi. Like other secondary rebellions on the African continent, the Bambatha rebellion among the Zulu was an example of African reaction against colonial exploitative, oppressive and suppressive reforms.
Causes of the Revolt
British introduced taxes in Zulu land such as poll tax of 1 pound per head irrespective of
race, colour and income level. Tax on land was also levied on equal amounts to Africans, Europeans and the coloureds. All taxes in imperial British South Africa were uniform while the Europeans were earning twenty times than other races thus in 1906 Africans had to react against such unfair taxation.
2. Loss of independence:
In 1879, the Zulu were defeated at the battle of Ullundi and their leader Chetswayo was exiled by the British. The Zulu nation itself received British administrators. This loss
independence-was resisted by the Zulu hence leading to the Bambatha rebellion.
3. Mal-administration by the British and the Boers towards the Zulu:
Zulu chiefs were deprived of their rights and powers to create an army. As a result, there was anarchy as law and order could not be maintained. Zulu warlords were also ignored and not recognised. In 1906 blacks in Natal attempted to rise against the European rule. This rising was silenced using excessive imperial British government brutality that angered Bambatha and decided to lead the whole kingdom against the British rule.
4. Loss of land:
The British conquest of Zululand was followed by the arrival of the white settler administrators and soldiers. The settlers forcefully grabbed land sending the Zulu to live in designated reserves. This massive loss of land was unacceptable to the Zulu because it made them less productive.
5. Opposition to colonial labour policies:
This was in form of forced labour and deliberate underpayment problem. Wrongfully, whites assumed that Africans were by nature used to supply free labour and whites adopted it as a policy. On top' of this, taxes were imposed so that they can condition Africans to work on European mining activities and farms to earn money for taxation. In spite of complaints and even warnings from civil service, the colonial government did not listen. By 1906, Africans could no longer tolerate this thus leading to 1906 Bambatha uprising.
6. Growth of independent Church movements in south and central Africa:
The independent churches were the churches that broke away from the main stream of European Christian churches. They were completely opposed to any kind of foreign rule. Following the Ethiopia's victory over Italy 1896, the independent church movement developed the principle of Ethiopians whose aim was to resist against the European colonial rule. It was therefore their preaching that inspired Bambata and other Zulu leadJrs to rise up against the British rule in 1906.
7. Loss of cattle:
Cattle was their only hope for survival. Cattle were lost to the British and the Boers. Unfortunately, about the same time a cattle disease struck some of the remaining cattle stock. This cattle loss worsened the misery of the Zulu. Like the Nama and Herero people, the Zulu interpreted this cattle epidemic to have been caused by the British hence leading to
1906-07 Bambatha rebellion.
8. Worry for loss of trade to the British Companies:
When Britain colonised the interior of South Africa, trade was made to be conducted entirely by the British South African Company of Cecil Rhodes and other Europeans. The trade in ivory, gold, copper to mention but a few which the Zulu used to dominate was taken over by the British agents. Thus the desire to establish a strong hold in their trade relations made the Bambatha rebellion eminent.
9. Perhaps the immediate cause of the war was the emergence of Bambatha a minor induna.
He offered the necessary leadership and direction for the rise of Bambatha. The importance of Bambatha in the rebellion was so paramount that it got its name from Bambata.
10. Desire to safeguard their cultural values:
Zulu people were worried about the teaching of European Christian missionaries in South Africa. The missionaries from Europe attacked the culture of the Zulu and disintegrated the powers of their political and spiritual leaders. Instead, the European missionaries campaigned for practices that were dispensable to the Zulu such as "love your neighbour as you love yourself' and the practices of monogamy among others which lead to the 1906
11. Desire to regain the historical legacy of the Zulu:
The history of Zulu dating right from days of Dingiswayo and Shaka was that of success and victories over their enemies. With this background, the Zulu took themselves to be the most powerful in southern and central Africa. However, with the arrival of British, the Zulu lost this dominance and they could not imagine British ruling over them and stopping them from collecting tributes and raiding the neighbours.
12. Hatred ofShona and Sotho warrant chiefs:
The British also annoyed the Zulu by employing outsiders to work with the British administrators among the Zulu. Several Shona and Sotho people were employed by the British to administer the Zulu and yet the Shona and Sotho were formerly the subjects of the Zulu, therefore making them bosses over the Zulus hence leading to 1806 Bambatha rebellion.
EFFECTS OF THE REVOLT.
To a large extent the effects of Bambatha uprising were negative on Africans as for instance:
1. Total Massacre of Africans and destruction of their property:
Little effort was made by the British combatants to distinguish between the innocent and the rebels. It was a real genocide that brought this war to an end. Whoever and whatever was found was destroyed. Around 3000 Africans and 32 whites were left dead. A lot of property and assets were also destroyed.
2. The Bambatha rebellion brought the final conquest and destruction of reknowned Zulu army by the British:
Bambatha was defeated together with all the other lndunas who had supported him against the British. The defeat weakened the Zulu politically, economically and even militarily. They could not rise up against the British army more hence leading to their total loss of independence.
3. Demonstration of the Previous exisiting Zulu mighty:
Credit should go to Shaka who laid the strong nationalistic foundation and his successsor who laid the foundation of Zulu unity. Clearly observed, it was a demonstration that Zulu were not a divided people.
4. The war caused famine:
Like In the rest of African societies where resistance against colonial rule was witnessed, Bambatha caused bunger and famine in South Africa. This was through destruction of gardens and cultivation plus recruitment of able-bodied men to go for war leaving the agriculture sector unattended to.
5. Acceleration of colonial torture:
The suffering of the Zulu in particular and the Africans in general increased. For instance, the unfair poll tax that the Zulu rose against was not revised downwards after the war. Instead Africans were to pay the poll tax after the miserable humiliation at the battle field.
6. Disarmament of the Zulu:
Unlike in the war of the guns where the Basuto were allowed to keep their guns after defeating the British, the Zulu loss of the war was followed with complete disarmament. This was a British strategy to make the Zulu refrain from the war attempts.
7. The Zulu proved the British military superiority:
Before this, Zulu people were proud of their cow hom military tactic with Afncan weapons . but after their defeat, they learnt that the British machines such as multi-burrel maxim gun fire and British canon fire could not be challenged by African military technology.
8. Massive death of cattle:
The British deliberately destroyed the animal stock of the Zulu. They were aware that one of the pillars of the Zulu economy was animal husbandry. Thus the British confiscated the animals of the Zulu to feed their 15,000 strong soldiers. At the end of the war, the Zulu animals had been eaten up and this had a negative effect on their economy.
9. The migration of Zulu people and the accompanying social and economic effects:
Many of the Zulu people could not continue staying within the empire because of economic hardships. The young and adults were forced to migrate further south to the towns of Durban, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth in mining centers such as Kimberly and Wind hoek while some migrated to work in British farms. They began to look for salaried jobs because life was becoming unbearable with the Zulu Empire.
10. Africans were further oppressed and suppressed as the whites embarked on revenge for the death of their 33 Europeans. More types of taxes unknown before, were introduced in the area. As for example, the Zulu now were made to pay property taxes such as tax on animals, forced labour also became more rampant as whites strongly believed that the Zulus could not rise again against the whites.