Two Kings (Part 1)

Two female skeletons, complete with traditional beadwork, were unearthed during road works in the vicinity of Homestead Way in 1935.

The story behind this discovery goes back to the early 1800s when the Hlubi clan lived in the foothills of the Drakensberg. Langalibalele was born in 1814 and became King in 1836 after his brother was killed by Dingaan. Soon after becoming King, his half-brothers Duba, Mini and Luphalule captured him to kill him, but he managed to escape.

Like his brother previously, Langalibalele fell into an argument with King Mpande who had succeeded Dingaan. The Hlubi tribe escaped to settle at the Little Bushman’s River.

Men went to work on the Kimberley diamond mines where guns were accepted as part payment of their wages. Over the years a small arsenal had been collected in the Hlubi kraal. These firearms were not registered as required. This was treated as a rebellion.

In 1873, two military units were sent to arrest the King during which three soldiers were killed at Bushman’s Pass. It is claimed that over 200 of the Hlubi’s were killed, the cattle slaughtered, and their villages destroyed.

In South Africa’s first treason trial – which is believed to be a farce – Langalibalele was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island for murder, treason and rebellion. His eldest son, Malambule, was sentenced to five years on Robben Island.  Two hundred – including his sons, headmen and induna – were imprisoned for between 6 months and seven years in Pietermaritzburg.  

This was all carried out under the watchful eye of Lieutenant – Governor Sir Benjamin Pine, which led to Pine’s removal from office as he had exceeded his powers.

In the meantime, Bishop Colenso discovered irregularities in the trial, including that there was no defence counsel and Pine himself presided over the court. The Bishop pleaded Langabilele’s case with the authorities in London with the support of John X Merriman, the Cape Prime Minister who threatened to resign over the matter. In 1874 Lord Carnarvon, the Secretary of State, sent a letter to the Queen, proposing a conditional pardon for Langalibalele, following ‘a very unfavourable judgement and the unquestionably wrong and illegal procedure at Natal’. This resulted in King Langalibalele and Malambule being transferred initially to the Castle.

They were then both placed under house arrest in 1875 at the Uitvlugt farm homestead. The seven roomed main dwelling house was a mud and stone structure and was not in good condition.

Two of his 70 wives and two other sons were permitted to join him, along with a number of his retainers. Initially only one wife, Nokwetuka, joined him. Two other wives, Mbombo and Mabonsa, later joined him and extra kitchens were built so that each wife could have her own kitchen. His favourite wife, Vokwe refused to come to Cape Town. In a document dated 1881, reference is made to some of the King’s children being born while at Uitvlugt.

The cattle on the farm were herded by one of Langabilele’s sons, Mnukwa who was too busy with cattle to attend a nearby school but was being taught by the brother of the constable stationed at the farm.

When Langalibalele was finally allowed to return to Natal in 1887, he was obliged to live under a government induna in the Zwartkops location. He died in 1889 and was buried in what is now the Giants Castle Game Reserve. In accordance with tradition his grave was kept secret until 1960.

In 2004, the British High Commissioner to South Africa handed back to King Langalibalele II, a chair, a leopard skin cape and a staff as symbols of the monarchy taken by the troops when King Langalibalele was arrested.

King Langalibalele
Conditions under which King Langalibalele and his son were moved to Oude Molen
Kings Cetshwayo, Langalibalele, Sekhukhune and Khoi fighter, Doman