Battles and Sites

kwaGqokli Hill:
Chief Zwide of the Ndwandwe, viewed the Zulu under Shaka as being a major threat and obstacle to him having complete control of the the area which is commonly known as Zululand. As a result he decided that he had to go to war with Shaka. When the war came in the autumn of 1818, Shaka ensured that he was well prepared. He realised that his forces where numerically inferior – 4000 as opposed to Zwide’s 8000 – 10 000. He thus needed to develop a careful strategy and use superior fighting tactics.

He posted advance parties at the drifts where the Ndwande would have to cross the White Mfolozi to reach his army. The intention of these advance parties were to delay and lure the enemy to kwaGqokli Hill. He deployed some of his men in a series of lines around the summit of this hill and hid a reserve in a depression on the southern side of the hill.

The battle began with an Ndwandwe attack on the Zulu advance parties, they were easily beaten, but they served their purpose of delaying and luring, Zwides forces under the command of . Nomahlanjana to kwaGqokli.

Nomahlanjana is reported to have launched a number of frontal attacks against the Zulu, in which they hurled their spears at their enemy. Shaka warriors however had been trained a different form of warfare – they did not hurl their spears at their foe – they had been trained to block ‘hurled’ spears with specially designed shields and rather to engage in brief and brutal bouts of hand-to-hand combat with a short stabbing spear. The tactics of the Zulu proved to be very effective and every time Nomahlanjana launched an attack, his forces were beaten back.

In desperation, Nomahlanjana ordered all of his forces into a single column, in an attempt to overwhelm the Zulu. This was the moment King Shaka had been waiting for – he unleashed his fresh reserves in a ‘chest and horn’ formation and completely surrounded his foe and engaged them in close and bloody hand-to-hand combat.

A large portion of the Ndwandwe forces managed to escape and Shaka did not have sufficient forces to pursue them.

The Battle kwaGqokli, was to be the first of three crucial battles that were to establish King Shaka as the master of the area between the Thukela and Mkhuze Rivers.

Battle of Opathe:
This deep gorge was the site of an ambush in 1838. After the battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838, the victory commando of Boers pushed on to Mgungundlovu, which was found in flames. The commando laagered on Mthonjaneni ridge, from where they ventured down the Opathe Gorge on 27 December 1838 to raid livestock. A Zulu named Bongoza led them into an ambush in the Opathe gorge, from which the Boers extracted themselves with some losses. Opathe stream, 8 kms south of Ulundi.

Battle of Ulundi:
In late 1878, the British colonial government in South Africa, fearing that the independent state of Zululand posed a threat to British expansionism, handed King Cetshwayo an ultimatum demanding that amongst other things he disband the Zulu army and the age regiment system. Although under orders from the Colonial Office in London to exercise ‘prudence’, King Cetshwayo’s refusal to comply with these demands gave the British governor necessary excuse to order an invasion. In January 1879, a British force under the command of Lt General Lord Chelmsford entered Zululand.

After the battles of Kambula and Gingindlovu in April and May 1879, where the Zulu army encountered heavy losses, King Cetshwayo sent messengers to request the British withdraw from Zululand. Chelmsford made it clear that before negotiations could take place, King Cetshwayo would have to surrender the royal cattle herd as well as all Zulu firearms. The King once more sent messengers bearing ivory as peace tokens to inform Chelmsford that these demands could not be met.

A Zulu force estimated to have numbered some 15000 converged on the British square. The uDloko, uThulwana, iNdluyengwe, iSangqu, iMbube and uMbonambi amabutho (regiments) closed in from the front and left of the square, while the uMxhapho, iNsukamngeni, iQwa, uDududu, uNokhenke, iNdlondlo, uVe and iNgobamakhosi amabutho approached from the rear and right.Chelmsford, keen for the British to redeem themselves after embarrassing defeats at Isandlwana, iNtombe Drift and Hlobane, led the advance on the Zulu capital, Ondini. On the morning of 4 July 1879 the British forces crossed the Mfolozi River at Nolela Drift. The force, bearing 12 artillery pieces and 2 Gatling guns, consisted 5124 troops including 958 black volunteers. They marched in the form of a hollow square and halted on a low hill about 3km west of Ondini.

The encircling Zulu force was however cut down by artillery and rifle fire and Zulu attack did not get much closer than 70m to the British ranks. For half an hour the Zulu fought in vain but were finally forced to retreat as the British forces marched on Ondini and set fire to the Zulu capital. King Cetshwayo sought refuge in the Ngome forest near the present-day town of Nongoma. He was captured there two months later and exiled to the Cape.

The Battle of Ulundi saw the final defeat of the Zulu army and the crushing of the Zulu state, thus marking the end of the old Zulu order. This monument, built on the site of the British square, honours both the Zulu warriors who perished defending that order, and the British soldiers killed in battle.3 kms east of central Ulundi.Tel:(035)870-2050

Ulundi Publicity Association can be contacted for more information regarding the battles that were fought in this area.

Monuments and Memorials

Grave of Zulu:

Inkosi Zulu was the founder of the Zulu clan. He was born in 1600. He and his family settled on the banks of the White Mfolozi near present- day Ulundi

Grave of Phunga:
Inkosi Phunga was Inkosi Zulu’s eldest son and successor. He was born in 1640.

Grave of Mageba:
Mageba was the brother of Phunga, who took over the chieftainship of the Zulu. He was born in 1657 and ruled until 1745.

Grave of Ndaba:
Ndaba was the on of Mageba. He ruled the Zulu until 1763. He was born in 1680.

Grave of Jama:
Ndaba’s son Jama was born in 1720. He was the inkosi of the Zulu until 1781.

Grave of Senzangakhona:
Senzangakhona, was the father of King Shaka and eldest son of Inkosi Jama. He was born in 1760 and lead the Zulu until 1816.

Grave of King Mpande:
Mpande became king in 1840 after overthrowing Dingane at the battle Maqongqo with Boer assistance. He was proclaimed king on 10 February 1840 and reigned until his death in 1872. He is buried at the Nodwengu Kraal, where there is a grave as well as a monument to the king, 300 metres in front of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Ulundi.

Grave of King DiniZulu:
The Zulu king Dinizulu was historically identified with the Bambatha rebellion. Heir of Cetshwayo, he is buried beneath a granite slab in the Makhosini area, several kilometers west of the tarred road to Vryheid. The period of his reign was 1884 to 1888 and 1898 to 1907. Makhosini valley

Kwa Nodwengu:
This was king Mpande’s main royal homestead until his death in 1872 Ulundi, opposite the holiday inn hotel and 300 metres in front of it. Tel: (033) 394-6543.

King Dinganes residence from 1829-1838 is the site of ongoing excavations. An interpretative centre is in operation. Makhosini valley, on section B of moordplaats farm. Map 2831ad Ulundi Tel:(035) 5452435

Grave of Piet Retief:
Near the royal kraal uMgungundlovu is a memorial to Retief and his party, executed on orders from King Dingane on the 6 February 1838.

Ondini was King Cetshwayo’s royal residence, built and rebuilt on several sites. The main village was the final focus of the British attacks during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. It was burnt to the ground. The present reconstruction on the old site is three kilometres east of Nodwengu. It is an important archaeological site, and a national monument.3 kms east of Ulundi Centre.Tel: (035) 870-2062

For more information regarding Ulundi’s cultural attractions contact Ulundi Publicity Association.


KwaZulu Cultural Museum:
Rich collections of the province’s archaeological heritage and Zulu culture are the main focus of this museums exhibits. Built next to the reconstructed royal residence of King Cetshwayo. King Cetshwayo highway, approx 3 kms east of Ulundi, at Ondini. Tel: (035) 870-2050/1/2

The eMakhosini Valley:Other Cultural Attractions

The eMakhosini Valley, birthplace of the Zulu Nation, is one of the richest and most cultural and historic sites in Africa. It was here that the legendary King Shaka grew up and established his Royal Residence. It is here that he first overcame that the Ndwandwe people in the battle of KwaGqokli. This set in motion a chain of events which was to profoundly affect the history of South East Africa.

Later his successor, King Dingane had the Trekker leader, Piet Retief, put to death outside his uMgungundlovu Residence. Still later, King Cetshwayo finally succumbed to the might of the British Empire at the battle of Ulundi, on the eastern periphery of the eMakhosini.

The eMakhosini is not only a place rich in history and of great natural beauty, but it is an area of great ecological diversity, ranging from highveld grassland to Valley Bushveld. These habitats support a variety of wildlife, such as Mountain Reebuck, Steenbuck, Impala and the unique Grey Duiker. Rare birds such as the Ground Hornbill, Secretary Bird and the Bald Ibis have made their homes here.

Amafa, KwaZulu-Natal’s Heritage Conservation body is in the process of establishing a Cultural Conservancy in the eMakhosini Valley. This entails the acquisition of a large area on which are situated the major historic sites. This area is to be ring fenced and stocked with the game animals. This will be accomplished in partnership with the local community. This will effectively recreate the 19th Century landscape.

The historic sites are to be interpreted and Zulu Guides trained to accompany visitors on tours through the Valley. It is intended that a ‘Must See’ tourist destination incorporating historic sites, wildlife and living cultures be established.

Fort Nolela:
Also called fort Ulundi, it was built by men of the 1/24th overlooking the camp of Lord Chelmsford’s flying column during the two days before the battle of Ulundi. It is about a kilometre south of the white Umfolozi River.5 kms south of Ulundi.

Fort Victoria:
The fort was built on the 9th august 1879 by the 58th regiment, whose headquarters and three companies remained there until 26 august, when the garrison was reduced to one company. 16 kms south-west of Ulundi at the junction of the Melmoth, Vryheid, Ulundi roads.

Kwa Nkata is a cliff on the south bank of the white Umfolozi River, which was used by Cetshwayo (and possibly Mpande before him) as a place of execution.6 kms below the Melmoth-Ulundi road bridge.

This was the name of the umuzi built by Mpande in 1826. It was at this homestead that Ngqumbazi, the eldest wife of Mpande, gave birth to Cetshwayo. It was here; too, that Sir Theophilus Shepstone crowned Cetshwayo.3 kms north east of Ulundi Tel: (033) 394- 6543

The Assembly Building:
Ulundi is the legislative capital of KwaZulu-Natal. The Assembly Building is the imposing complex,where the KwaZulu-Natal parliament sits and where visitors can view a magnificent set of tapestries depicting the history of the Zulu people.


View from Fort Nolela