Local bar owner Tony Gates has always been fascinated by history. The epic movie, “Zulu”, starring Michael Caine, had in particular ignited in him an avid interest in the Anglo-Zulu war. A few years ago, Tony and Hev decided to visit South Africa on their annual holiday and included in their itinerary a tiny rural Zulu village that was the site of the first major encounter between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.
The Battle of Isadlawana took place on the 22nd of January 1879. Eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand, a Zulu army, some 20,000 strong, attacked a portion of the British main column of 1,800 colonial and native troops, including approximately 400 civilians. The Zulus were for the most part equipped with their traditional weapons, iron spears called assegais and cow-hide shields, some had a few old muskets and rifles, but little ammunition and no training in their use. The British forces were armed with “state-of-the-art” Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles and two seven-pounder artillery pieces, as well as a rocket battery.
Despite the clear disadvantage in terms of weapons technology, the numerically superior Zulus fought with a passion and military strategy that the poorly led and badly deployed British did not expect. The Zulu army overwhelmed the British, killing over 1,300 troops, including the entire forward firing line. The Zulus only lost 1,000 troops. The crushing victory saw one of the bloodiest defeats for the British Army against an inferior indigenous force. The defeat at Isandlwana resulted in the British taking a more aggressive approach to the war, leading to a heavily reinforced second invasion and the destruction of Zulu King Cetshwayo’s hopes of negotiating peace.
Overlooking this scene of high drama, Tony and Hev stayed at the luxurious Isandlwana Lodge which was the first tourism project in KwaZulu-Natal between a traditional community and some international private investors. At this lodge, Tony and Hev learnt about the amazing partnership between the impoverished local community, (who had been left this land by their heroic ancestors), and two amazing American ladies, Pat Stubbs and Maggie Bryant. Pat has spent the last 13 years running and marketing this enigmatically beautiful cultural historical landscape. But Pat Stubbs has a mission which is way beyond just showing tourists history. She also shows them the reality of the present day battles fought by this welcoming community for their daily survival. Because of its remote location and the lack of industry and arable land, the Battlefield and traditional Zulu culture has remained intact, but it has come at a price. Most families survive off subsistence farming or social welfare grants paid to the elderly grandmothers who take care of their grandchildren whilst their husbands and children do migrant work in the far away cities.
Education is substandard, with a lack of classrooms, teaching materials and teachers, there is no significant infrastructure in terms of running water and electricity in most households and health care is basic. The HIV epidemic has also left deep scars in the village, with more than 90 children left orphaned, some themselves infected from birth and many struggling in child-headed households.
Pat and Maggie partnered with the traditional council, the local schools and the USA-based WILD Foundation to bring some sustainable change to this rural community. One of the initiatives launched by Pat is a Village Walk, which allows guests to interact with the local community and learn about Zulu culture and experience the warm hospitality of these beautiful people despite the challenges they face. Families who welcome guests into their homes all benefit from this excursion. Soon Pat’s guests asked about how they could make a contribution to her work in the village and she launched an “Adopt-a-Child” programme which allowed guests who were interested to sponsor the school fees and school uniform of one of the village orphans. Tony and Hev were not shy to become involved and on their first stay sponsored two young boys from the village. And Africa had got under their skin and they headed home with the intention of coming back on their next holiday.
Tony and Hev went back to their home in Spain and spoke to their many friends and the patrons of their “Fathoms” pub about their visit to South Africa and how they fell compelled to make a difference in the life of the children of Isandlwana village. On their next visit, they had successfully raised a significant amount of money to assist even more youngsters with getting an education and launched the Fathoms’ bursary. The bursary resulted in 6 students being selected for support programmes, one of whom was the eldest orphan boy who Tony and Hev sponsored on their first visit, Goodenough Njoko. Goodenough had lost both his parents to HIV and was being raised by his grandmother.
Tony and Hev have just returned from a visit to the village. They were delighted to find out that their first “son” from the village, Goodenough, who had aspirations to study medicine but at the time that they met him, could not even afford to go to school, had with their assistance managed not only to complete his schooling, but had found in their support the flicker of hope to drive him to be the best he can. Despite the poor educational and social environment that he was caught in, he had found someone to believe in him and he achieved academic results good enough to secure a government scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. Goodenough is the first person from this village to study abroad and will be the first medical doctor to come from this community.
In addition two other young men have also been given the opportunity to forge a future for themselves. Siphamandla Ntanzi had dreams of studying electrical engineering but a complete lack of maths and science teachers made it impossible for him to obtain the necessary grades during his final school year to allow him entry into this field of study. After meeting Tony and Hev at the lodge, Sipha had been convinced to go back to school and try and improve his marks. The Fathoms bursary allowed him to go and repeat his year at a school in the city. But during this time he not only improved his marks, he also learnt something about himself. He decided that if Tony and Hev wanted to make a difference to his community, he wanted to do the same. He decided that the best way to do this was by becoming a teacher himself so that he could go back to his village and teach mathematics and science. Sipha has now been accepted for a teaching degree.
Thulani Khumalo started studying a diploma in Electrical Engineering at a small college with the assistance of the Fathoms Bursary. After his first year of study he produced pleasing enough results to secure a bursary to continue his diploma at a better institution.
Tony and Hev continue to sponsor the education and uniform of one of the village orphans, Mxolisi Mabaso, who has two years of schooling left. They have high hopes for him and will continue to assist with raising funds for the village project through Fathoms.
Thanks to all the patrons of Fathoms dreams have been made a reality.
For further information contact: Tony and Hev Gates: firstname.lastname@example.org