1906 Revolt in Natal


When the Natal legislature imposed a poll tax of one English pound on all residents of Natal, a revolt erupted. The revolt was carried out by Zulu tribesmen of the area and was put down when the leader of the revolt, Bambaata, was killed on June 10th..

    By the early 20th century, the British colonial government in Natal had subjugated the once-powerful Zulu nation. The British, in their effort to incorporate the African population into their economic system, implemented various taxes to compel Zulu men to enter wage labor, as they often lacked the cash to pay these taxes otherwise. One of these was the hut tax, which was imposed on each household. As colonial rule deepened its grip, the British increased the tax burden on the Zulu.

    In 1905, the Natal colonial government introduced an additional poll tax of one English pound on every male resident of Natal over the age of 18. This was in response to their economic recession and was an attempt to raise revenue. This new tax was on top of the existing hut tax and was seen by the Zulus as a significant burden.

    Resentment over the poll tax was widespread. Bambatha, a Zulu chief of the amaZondi clan, became the focal point of resistance. Refusing to collect and pay the tax on behalf of his subjects to the colonial administration, Bambatha led a revolt in 1906.

    The revolt began as a series of isolated incidents, including ambushes on colonial forces and confrontations between tax resisters and government representatives. However, as tensions escalated, Bambatha and his followers sought refuge and established a base in the Nkandla forest.

    Colonial forces, aware of the potential threat of a larger uprising, responded with increasing military action. Battles between colonial troops and Zulu warriors took place in various parts of the Natal region.

    The conflict reached its climax on June 10, 1906, in the Battle of Mome Gorge, where Bambatha was believed to have been killed. After the battle, a severed head, claimed to be Bambatha's, was paraded as proof of his death, although some historians and local lore suggest that Bambatha might have survived.

    Bambatha's death marked the effective end of the rebellion. The British response was severe: many Zulu participants were executed or received heavy fines and sentences. The uprising had lasting implications for the region, reinforcing colonial rule and policies in Natal.