Battle of Isandlwana a sleeping giant for tourism

The uMzinyathi district municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal, Midlands, will soon be a highly sought-after cultural and heritage destination following the hosting of the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, held in eNquthu yesterday.

Speaking to Sunday World during the commemoration, uMzinyathi mayor Petros Ngubane said they planned to also showcase the other rich history of the area, which is often not told.

“Most people only know of the battle, which took place at Isandlwana mountain. But Rorke’s Drift is another important piece of history, which needs to be told. The British soldiers used the area as an army base and supplied their soldiers at Isandlwana with equipment and food. “The traces of history within the site are still visible. This can provide massive economic spin-offs for
the district,” he said.

Isandlwana (holy mountain) is a hill with a distinctive shape, which is the historical site of the battle that took place in 1879. It became a major footprint in the history of South Africa where the Zulu regiments (amabutho) under King Cetshwayo kaMpande, equipped with only cowhide shields and spears, defeated heavily armed British troops who had brought their machine guns ready for war.

The endearing scenery of the white-painted stones, which are the actual graves of the fallen British soldiers in the foothills of the mountains, still serves as a constant reminder of the battle.

Rorke’s Drift is about 12km away from Isandlwana and its story is often overshadowed by what took place in Isandlwana in 1879. But after the Zulus defeated the British troops, other regiments crossed the uMzinyathi river destined for the Rorke’s Drift, hoping to finish off the remaining British soldiers, but it wasn’t to be and they were wiped out.

The amabutho had not heeded the call by Cetshwayo not to cross the uMzinyathi river and instead acted of their own volition.

The mass graves of Zulu regiments in the place, also known as Shiyane, bear testimony to that fateful day.
Ngubane said a plan was afoot to create a heritage precinct to attract international tourists.

“Despite the place not being marketed properly, we still record about 17 000 visitors from Europe. The place is a sleeping giant and a potential gold for the district.”

The commemoration was attended by traditional leaders, royals from various countries, government officials and politicians.

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