12 April 2005

King Langalibalele of the AmaHlubi

The 19th century King Langalibalele of the AmaHlubi in KwaZulu-Natal may become part of declared national heritage. Representatives of the AmaHlubi are in discussions with the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra).
According to the king's great-great-grandson, Prince Bekithemba Langalibalele, chairman of the AmaHlubi National Working Committee, the AmaHlubi was the largest tribe in south-east Africa during the 1800s. On 03 November 1873, the Battle of Langalibalele broke out after King Langalibalele refused to register guns which his male tribal members had received as payment for working on the Kimberley diamond mines. The Natal Carbineers under Lord Durnford attempted to storm Langalibalele Pass losing five men in the process. According to the AmaHlubi royal house, the imperial troops had been ordered to eradicate the amaHlubi. More than 200 young men, women and children were killed, cattle valued in today's terms at R21m were slaughtered and villages destroyed. Lord Durnford spent nine months in the area.
The king fled to Lesotho where he was eventually arrested. His trial was South Africa's first treason trial, and he was convicted of murder, treason and rebellion and exiled to the Cape Colony, and banished to Robben Island for life in 1874. In August 1875, he was transferred and held at Uitvlugt near Pinelands, where he was incarcerated for 12 years. He died under house arrest in 1889. His grave, kept secret by the amaHlubi for over 60 years, lies within the borders of the Giant`s Castle Game Reserve and was has been visited by one of his most illustrious blood decedents, Nelson Mandela. Langa, the oldest township in the Western Cape, was named after him in 1923.
King Langalibalele was born in the Umzinyati area in Utrecht in 1818. After a skirmish with Zulu king Mpande in 1848 he settled his people around the Klip River and after a few years they were forced to move by the British colonial authorities and relocated to Estcourt. The amaHlubi won more than 8,000 hectares of their land back in 2000 under the government land restitution. They are still demanding restitution from the British government in terms of the 1875 proclamation by Queen Victoria, which promised to compensate them for their losses during the Battle of Langalibalele. In October 2004, the then British High Commissioner to South Africa, Ann Grant, handed over a chair, a leopard skin cape and a staff, symbols of monarchy taken by the troops, back to King Langalibalele II.