The dramatic memorial to fallen Zulu warriors at Isandlwana that lies at the entrance to this most visited battlefield in KwaZulu-Natal has become the latest victim of metal thieves.
“Because of increased prices for scrap metal we believe it was targeted because two bronze thorns from the isiQu (bravery necklace) were sawn off,” said James van Vuuren, Deputy Director of Amafa, the provincial heritage body and the site’s custodian.
‘We will obviously have to restore it but it is a tragedy a memorial of such significance to the Zulu people and the country has been vandalised. We are now worried about other memorials: apart from their heritage value, these are important components of the provincial tourism offering.
“Isandlwana was fought on January 22, 1879 between the Zulu army and the British and Colonial forces camped there at the beginning of the Zulu War. It was a decisive Zulu victory which reverberated around the world. Today the battlefield and its memorials draw thousands of local and international visitors.
“Up until democracy there was no adequate memorial to the Zulu dead, though there were many to the opposing forces. To redress this, Amafa commissioned Pietermaritzburg sculptor Gert Swart to design one and it was unveiled by King Goodwill Zwelithini on the 120th anniversary of the battle. Many Amakhosi and their constituencies helped with cash or cattle towards the cost.
“It consists of a circular concrete platform symbolising the traditional Zulu homestead. Four bronze headrests reinforce the idea of final rest, while the bronze necklace of thorns echoes the bravery necklace given by the King.
“It also suggests izimpondo zenkomo, the horns of the bull, the encircling tactics perfected by King Shaka and used with such skill and precision at Isandlwana.
“The battlefield has a cattle fence but no security barrier as we didn’t expect this to happen. We will have to look at more protective measures,” van Vuuren said.
“We’re appealing to scrap metal dealers to report to us if they are offered these distinctive pieces for sale, and are offering a reward for information leading to a conviction.”
Note: Isandlwana in northern KZN near Nqutu is protected by provincial heritage legislation and open daily. (R20 entrance fee) The adjacent museum has recently been renovated with new displays and artefacts that evoke the famous battle and tell the story. There is also a new memorial to the Zulu dead at Rorke’s Drift, fought the day after Isandlwana. Designed by KZN sculptor Peter Hall this shows a leopard resting on a pile of shields, symbolising vigilance over the many who died in defence of the Zulu Kingdom.
Further inquiries: James van Vuuren: 082 499 3531.