"Will Schreiner's death, first time in 50 years not writing to him on his birthday" Read the full letter



Dinuzulu (1868 - 1913) was the eldest son of the last king of an independent Zululand, Cetshwayo. Cetshwayo had been banished from Zululand to Cape Town in the aftermath of the Zulu defeat in the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War. In the ensuing political fragmentation of post-war Zululand, Dinuzulu attempted to assert his rule as Zulu leader, eventually turning in 1884 to Boer mercenaries to help him defeat his rivals to the throne. However, Dinuzulu’s ongoing resistance to British interference in Zululand resulted in his arrest and imprisonment on the island of St Helena, in spite of a protest campaign led by the Colenso family. Upon his release in 1898, Dinuzulu was installed as a salaried ‘government induna’ in Natal, where he was expected to advise the colonial state on ‘native affairs’. He did so, but also attempted to assert his role as rightful Zulu leader, and he was subsequently implicated in the 1906 Bambatha Zulu rebellion against the Natal government’s imposition of a poll tax, although Dinuzulu denied all involvement in the uprising. In December 1907 martial law was declared in Zululand and Dinuzulu was arrested and charged with treason.

The ensuing trial took place at Greytown in Natal, where Dinuzulu was supported by Harriet Colenso and legally represented by Will Schreiner. Will Schreiner turned down a place at the National Convention and spent months away from his legal practice at Cape Town in order to defend Dinuzulu, and received in effect no fee for his involvement, carried out as a matter of principle. As Olive Schreiner rightly observed in various letters from this period, the trial of Dinuzulu was a calculated move by the colonial authorities to destroy the last vestiges of African autonomy and traditional leadership in order to pave the way for the white-controlled Union of 1910. Dinuzulu was found not guilty on eighteen and a half of the twenty three charges laid against him. He was fined and imprisoned, but amongst those convinced of Dinuzulu’s innocence was Louis Botha, who on becoming Prime Minister in 1910 had Dinuzulu freed and settled on a farm in the Middelburg district.

For further information see:
M.C. van Zyl (1968) ‘Dinuzulu’ in (ed) W.J. de Kock Dictionary of South African Biography¬† Vol I Pretoria: National Council for Social Research, pp. 245 - 247
Andrew Duminy and Bill Guest (1989) Natal and Zululand from Earliest Times to 1910 Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press
Jeff Guy (2002) The View Across the River: Harriet Colenso and the Zulu Struggle against Imperialism Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press and Oxford: James Currey
Jeff Guy (2005) The Mamphumulo Uprising: War, Law and Ritual in the Zulu Rebellion Pietermaritzburg: University of Zwa-Zulu Natal Press
Shula Marks (1970) Reluctant Rebellion: The 1906-8 Disturbances in Natal Oxford: Clarendon Press
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