Bambata or Mbata Bhambatha was a Zulu chief of the Zondi tribe in Kwazulu-Natal. He is famous for his role in an armed rebellion in 1906 when the poll tax was raised from a tax per hut to per head (£1 tax on all native men older than 18) increasing hardship during a severe economic depression. The Natal Police believed Bhambatha was going to resist the tax with force and sent about 150 men to arrest him. Instead the police were ambushed and four policemen killed. Thousands of colonial troops were then sent after him, including cavalry and heavy artillery, leading to 3,500 dead. Bhambatha himself reportedly was killed in the Battle of Mome Gorge. He is often credited as an inspiration to native South African resistance and as a precursor of the anti-apartheid movement.
The story of the Bhambatha rebellion is one of resistance, heroism and ultimately of violent colonial conquest. Unearthing the dramatic events surrounding the 1906 revolt in the colony of Natal exposes the spirit of our forefathers whom, faced with escalating levels of oppression at the turn of the century, organized a formidable fight back.When colonial leaders introduce the Poll Tax in Natal in 1905, many Africans see it as the final insult. Denied the best land and cropped within small reserve lands, they have faced war, famine and the undermining of African communal life. But now this new tax threatens to totally destroy African patriarchy and with it, tradition itself. The chiefs are split over how to respond.
One such chief, Bhambatha, like many others, fears the consequences of standing up to the might of the Colonialists. But he becomes a scapegoat for the British and has no choice but to fight. From a reluctant young chief, Bambatha evolves into the spirited leader of an unified African force that challenges the very core of British rule.
We open with the context of colonial conquest and its impact on African life, the initial phase of rebellion and Bambatha the man. The film then proceeds to look at the conflict surrounding his departure from his reserve in Umvoti, his march to the forests of Nkandla, and his success in uniting his fellow Africans to resist the colonial authorities. The ambiguious relationship of the chiefs to the rebeliion is brought to the fore by our focus on his relationship to the Zulu inkosi, Dinuzulu, the chief of chiefs.
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