The Bambatha rebellion (1906-1907)

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

1.      Taxatien:

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

Bambatha rebellion.

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.


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.