In anticipation of a lecture cruise to Cape Town in November (2010), I am including an article written following a visit there in 2008.
Heading away up the coastal highway, north-east from Durban, the endless swathes of sugarcane give way to the milk chocolate expanse of the Tugela River. A formidable barrier when in flood and a sticky mess in the dry season this is the historic frontier between ancient white and black supremacy.
Crossing the bridge, tantilizingly close to the site of the ‘Ultimatum Tree’ – just around the river’s bend to the north – the Zululand of the imagination and reality beckons. At this ‘tree’ in 1878 the terms of effective surrender to colonial domination were put to the representatives of the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, by John Dunn, a trusted adviser to both camps. The good burgers of Natal, British, Afrikan and native, were ever fearful of the perceived threat just across the river, and following a series of land, border and incursion ‘difficulties’ had resolved to bring the ‘savages’ to heel. The ‘conditions’ stated were impossible for Cetshwayo to sign off and retain his authority – much like the conditions required of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarians in 1914!
Natal was spoiling for a fight. The British Government, heavily involved in trying to secure India’s northern border through it’s own incursion into Afgahnistan, was not!