Langalibalele Pass in the Drakensberg

The Smoke on the Pass

Mthethwa Langalibalele, whose surname means 'the sun is boiling hot', was chief of the 10000-strong Hlubi tribe who lived peacefully in the Bushman's River Valley at the base of the Drakensberg. 

©Roger de la Harpe
Rock 75, where a cook from the 75th Regiment on Foot carved the figure 75 into a boulder during the Langalibalele rebellion in 1874 in Giant's Castle.

Many of the men worked on the Griqualand diamond fields and were paid with guns. When the Natal colonial government insisted they give up their weapons, the amaHlubi refused and were promptly declared to be in rebellion. A force of several thousand colonial men-at-arms marched on Langalibalele, who fled with his people and cattle up what was then known as Bushman's Pass, about 5 km north of Giant's Castle Pass.

The colonials attacked from three directions, but became utterly confused and were routed. Langalibalele was finally deceived and captured by Basotho chief Molapo, and subsequently tried and banished to Robben Island. The incident shook the Natal colonial administration to its core and hastened the Anglo-Zulu wars. At the top of Langalibalele Pass are five small monuments to the colonial soldiers who fell during 'the smoke on the pass'.

By David Bristow