Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelithini will fulfil his dream of building a cultural village at Isandlwana – complete with a place for himself – using an estimated R30 million from national government and the National Lotteries Board.
The Sandlwana Heritage Precinct, which has been in the planning phases since 1999, will be unveiled on Tuesday during a sod turning event in Dundee.
Regiments will now camp in nine huts when they prepare for the commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana and Zwelithini will have a slightly larger hut for him to stay in during the ceremony.
“This has always been a dream of his, the king has always wanted something like this,” said Zwelithini’s spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, adding that the village would benefit the Zulu nation and other South Africans in reminding them what happened during the Battle of Isandlwana.
The Battle of Isandlwana is commemorated on January 22. In 1879 the British Army was defeated when 24,000 Zulu warriors reportedly attacked a British camp of about 1,700 near Isandlwana Mountain. It is reported that 1,300 of the British force were killed.
“People think about Isandlwana and they think about the battle but the battle actually began at Ondini Palace. When King Cetshwayo was the commander and chief that time and this is where the preparations for the war were done, at his palace.
“Isandlwana was a very famous battle and we want tourists to go there anytime during the year, not only during the commemoration.”
Zulu said the monarch wanted a lasting legacy.
“We are in consultation with the families of those warriors who died during the battle so that they can officially be recognised. The time has come for us to celebrate the triumph of our warriors who were faced with guns. It is high time that the king does this because God was on our side during the war,” said Zulu.
Aimed at promoting Africans
The CEO of KwaCulture, the non-profit organisation managing the project, said the development was aimed at promoting Africans.
“The village is going to provide programmes that are going to address who we were during the pre-colonial times. It will have cultural camps for children, men, women and the youth.
“Remember that Africans in the past could not go to school; they got their education, particularly at a young age, from grandmothers in the villages by learning indigenous games, storytelling and teaching them respect.
“Our state president for example, didn’t get a formal education but you can pick up that he went through a cultural school because he is very respectful and carries himself very well,” said Gugu Ngcobo.
She said the victory was not only a victory for the Zulu nation but for the African continent.
“Isandlwana is the reason why the Zulus are known all over the world,” she said.
Ngcobo said the construction of the village would commence in July.
“This project is in three phases. We want phase one of the village to be ready for the next commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana… [in] January 2016. We are just waiting for the environmental impact assessors to get back to us. The latest we could start would be August.
Funding from Lotto
When asked about the funding Ngcobo revealed that the NGO had secured funding from the National Lotteries Board.
“We have received R12.5 million from the board. We will use this for the first phase which includes nine huts and the tenth, the king’s. The entire precinct will be the king’s palace.
“He won’t live there but it is for the monarch and its subjects can have access to anytime of the year,” she said.
Ngcobo said the national department of arts and culture had committed to the construction of phase two of the project.
“Phase two will be a memorial park as well as a statue of King Cetshwayo. We want phase two to start in February next year. We estimate the cost of phase two to be at around R25 million,” said Ngcobo.
Phase three will be the commercial phase, said Ngcobo.
“This will include service station, hospitality and crafts markets. This phase is open to private investors.”
Coming of age
Ngcobo said the village would not become a white elephant because the battle was internationally recognised.
“There will be continuous activities on the village that will make sure that this does not become a white elephant. The programmes we have are designed to run throughout the year.
“This is where communities can hold traditional events like umemulo, a coming of age ceremony and other cultural ceremonies. We know that this project won’t fail because we have been planning this since 1999, we just only got the funding this year,” said Ngcobo.
The guest list for the launch will include kings from monarchies around the African continent.