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Dingane assumed the throne, promptly murdering his half brother and anyone else whose loyalties were in question. Whilst initially reassuring his people that he was a man of peace, and that the slaughter of Shaka was a thing of the past, he soon became just as paranoid and just as brutal as his despotic brother.
Dingane and the Umlungus (Europeans)
At this time, Dingane was coming into increasing contact with white men, as traders, missionaries and as settlers. Whilst never forgetting Shaka's dying words, he was fascinated by their trinkets but feared their guns and horses.
In 1837, he permitted a missionary, the Reverend Owen to occupy a hillside above his huge kraal but was more interested in persuading the reluctant missionary to teach him about musketry rather than religion. Owen did however interest Dingane in painting.
The Zulu king had a relationship with the thirty or so settlers at Port Natal (Durban) that was by turns cordial and cold. He was happy to leave them alone providing they supplied him with trinkets and returned the increasing numbers of refugees that sought sanctuary near the settlers.
However, the relationship deteriorated to the point where the settlers three times had to evacuate the port whilst his warriors sacked the settlement.
In 1837, the Voortrekkers arrived in Natal and a party under Uys attempted to ascertain whether they could occupy the empty land South of the Tugela. Unfortunately, the trekkers could not cross the flooded Tugela to see Dingane so a shouted conversation ensued between the trekkers and some warriors on the far bank.
As a result of the confused conversation, the trekkers came away with the idea that they were free to settle the land. In fact, Dingane had already given the land to the reluctant missionary Alan Gardiner from Port Natal.
A few months later, another party under Piet Retief did see Dingane who requested that as a sign of good intentions, some cattle be recovered from a local chief who had stolen them from him. Retief recovered the cattle, together with some guns and horses, which he had no intention of giving Dingane.
In February 1838, Retief and one hundred others paid the king a visit to return the cattle and ratify the treaty giving the trekkers the land South of the Tugela. Dingane had already determined that he would eventually come up against these rugged men and their guns so he planned to remove them whilst they were still in small numbers.
He surprised the Retief party and dragged them off to his hill of execution, kwaMatiwane where they were all put to death. He then dispatched his ten thousand strong army against the Voortrekker camps stretched out along the Drakensberg foothills.
On the night of the 16th February 1838, 500 trekkers were killed by the Zulus. However, the army had underestimated the number of wagons that had descended the Drakensberg mountains and several camps were untouched. Further, they became distracted by the large herds of cattle (which was often the reason for Zulu conflict) and drove them back to the king.
The trekkers wreaked revenge at Blood River, ten months later where 460 men defeated a force of 10,000 Zulus causing 3,000 Zulu deaths and suffering two trekker deaths. The trekkers then aimed to seize Dingane but he fled, burning his kraal. A history of the Voortrekkers is here.