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"Stanger" redirects here. For the surname, see Stanger (surname).
This article is about the town, for the Local municipality with the same name see KwaDukuza Local Municipality

KwaDukuza (also known as Stanger) is a town in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In 2006 the town's official name was changed from Stanger to KwaDukuza, however Zulus in the area used Dukuza well before this date, and many Whites use Stanger today (see name below). Furthermore Stanger still receives official recognition, for it has been used on new road signs in the area.[1][2][3] It is a historic capital of the Zulus and is famous for being the place of Shaka's assassination.[4]


It was founded around 1820 by King Shaka as KwaDukuza (Zulu: Place of the Lost Person) because of the capital's complex labyrinth of huts. After Shaka's assassination in a coup by two of his half-brothers, Dingane and Umthlangana (Mhlangane), on 24 September 1828, the town was burnt to the ground. In 1873, European settlers built a town on the site, and named it Stanger after William Stanger, the Surveyor-General of Natal.

Today, a small museum adjoins the site of King Shaka's grave, a grain pit, in the town centre. The otherwise simple town and its vibrant inhabitants are surrounded by sugar cane fields, bush, and the mahogany tree where King Shaka held meetings still stands in front of the municipal offices. The Shaka Day festival, a colourful ceremony of 10,000 or more Zulus, is held at the KwaDukuza Recreation Grounds on 24 September each year. This festival is usually attended by High level dignatries to mark the significance of the Zulu nation.

KwaDukuza is a cane growing centre and a bustling town. The Stanger North Coast Museum houses a great variety of historical items and information on King Shaka, the sugar industry and local history.

Stanger became a municipality in 1949 and is the commercial, magisterial and railway centre for one of the more important sugar producing districts.

The modern day town area of KwaDukuza has a distinct eastern flavour due the import of Indian labourers during the late 19th century to early 20th century to work under the name of sugar cane barons like Sir Liege Hulett. India sponsored indentured labourers to South Africa as the Zulus were not inclined to farm labour. The first few hundreds of Indian families departed northwards from Port Natal to the cane farms that applied for them, on 17 November 1860. The idea of importing Indian labourers was abandoned in 1911 after their numbers exceeded one hundred thousand. Most Indians did not return to India after their work contracts expired, and exchanged their return trip passes for currency or property. The expansion of the Indian community brought about a change in the economical and cultural attributes of KwaDukuza.

Some of the celebrations of the town include the annual Diwali and Winter Fair celebrations. Both of these events are considered major highlights by the members of the community, and are widely published in the local papers. The Diwali celebration usually commences at least 2 weeks before the actual event with what is known as the "switch-on". Residents of the town are greeted to a spectacular display of multi-coloured lights, arranged in Hindu religious symbols on the main highway. A mini fireworks display generally follows this event and is considered a very exciting moment in the annual calendar. A week later the main celebration commences, featuring song, dance, recitals, free food and a magnificent professionally choreographed pyrotechnic display. The Winter Fair is now an annual event due to increased popularity in recent times, and is used as a way of raising funds for the child welfare.


In 2006, the Minister of Arts and Culture officially approved the change of name of the town of Stanger to KwaDukuza, with the name change published in the Government Gazette on 3 March 2006. Also in the past the Zulu name has been simply Dukuza or Duguza, and these forms are still used today.[5][6]

In the Zulu name, the 'Kwa' at the start of KwaDuzuka is pronounced as the English "gwa", and means The House of, or, by extension, The Place of.


Early history

Shell middens containing early Iron Age pottery fragments have been found at Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito and Shaka’s Rock Village, which date back to roaming Bantu civilisation in the period from 400 A.D. The site of a later iron-age village of the Lala people can be visited in the Shaka Valley, near Stanger, dating back to about 1500.

In the Groutville area, there are sites of pre-historic Ice Age glacial activities, likewise in the Umvoti, Tongaati and Mbozambo valleys.

In 1816, after the death of his father, Shaka became King of the Zulus. At this time, he was living at his royal settlement "Bulawayo" in the heart of Zululand, where he was engaged in forming a vast and very effective Zulu army of warriors (impis), which led to his reputation as a mighty warrior.

In the early 1800s the area was thickly wooded, with some open patches or grassland on which King Shaka and the Zulu peoples grazed their vast herds of cattle.

European settlement

From 1824, the first European Settlers started to arrive in sailing ships from the Cape. They met and obtained land around the bay from King Shaka, and called their tiny settlement Port Natal. Later, it was to be renamed Durban, after Cape Governor D’Urban.

Settlers such as Henry Frances Fynn, Lieut. Farewell Captain King, Nathanial Isaacs, Mr. Hutton, and the young John Ross, befriended and traded with King Shaka, and the Zulus who were living in Zululand. Items such as elephant tusk ivory, skins and carvings, were traded for the settler’s beads, cloth, food and trinkets.

Shaka chose KwaDukuza as his new capital, where Stanger Town now stands, because he knew that the area was well watered and had good pasture for grazing his vast herds of cattle. The new settlement began in July 1825, and was occupied by September. King Shaka called it, ‘Dukuza’ (the maze). It was a massive, oval shaped settlement consisting of a huge central enclosure (kraal) for the royal cattle and about 2,000 or more beehive shaped huts around it. His massive royal hut was built alongside a small spring and stream.

During the late afternoon of 22 September 1828 (the official date commemorated is the 24th, but this is incorrect), King Shaka was seated on a large rock (which now stands behind his memorial) known as his throne, under a wild fig tree in Nyakamubi, when traders arrived. They had come to deliver blue crane tail feathers and animal skins that they had been sent to gather for him from Pondoland (Transkei).

At the time, King Shaka was being attended by his bodyguard, Mbhopa. He became very angry because the traders had kept him waiting, and their goods were of inferior quality, according to Mbhopa, and a general shouting match developed. Unknown to Shaka, Mbhopa, together with Shaka’s two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, were planning to assassinate him.

In the confusion, the three assassins put their deadly plan into action. From behind the nearby stockade of the Nyakamubi kraal, and through a side opening behind Shaka's back came Dingane and Mhlangana with their spears. Mhlangana stabbed Shaka on his left side, aiming for his heart, but instead hit the King's left upper arm. Disgusted, but ever brave, King Shaka strode away from them, probably heading for the entrance to Dukuza, and safety, but they followed, striking him repeatedly in the back. He fell dead at the entrance of the Nyakamubi kraal.

His faithful companion, Pampata guarded his massive, 1 metre, 91 cm (6 ft. 4 in.) muscular body all through the night, keeping the wild animals at bay, with a pole taken from the Nyakamubi fence.

On the following day the three assassins, and others, had a black ox killed, and wrapped the King’s body in its skin. Inside and near the entrance of the Nyakamubi kraal, there was a newly dug grain pit. They lowered Shaka's body and all his possessions down into the empty pit and filled it with rocks, forming a cairn of rocks over the top.

During the next month, Dingane the new King of the Zulus, had his half brother, Mhlangana killed, and organised the building of a new royal settlement in Zululand called Gungunghlovu. He evacuated all the people from Dukuza, and the warriors from the three military establishments in the Umhlali/Shakaskraal area, Umdumezulu, and Hlomendlini one and two, back into Zululand.

Dukuza was then deserted and the area was soon overgrown with bush, grass and weeds.

The first White family settled at the Umvoti River Mouth in 1836. It was Mr. Willem Landman together with his wife, Maria, who was the daughter of Piet Retief.

In 1840, an American Missionary, Reverend Aldin Grout, and his wife Charlotte established one of the earliest Mission Stations and school at Groutville outside Stanger. He encouraged the growing of sugar in the area and also established a sugar Mill called Umvoti Sugar Mill, now called Melville.

In 1846, Mr. Edmond Morewood was granted a large farm near Umhlali, which he called "Compensation", and where he practiced the first commercial sugar cane growing.

Morewood has been inspired by a visit to the islands off South Africa's East Coast, like Mauritius and Reunion, where he had been introduced to sugar cane growing and the sugar industry. He then had seed cane shipped back to Natal, which he planted. He also built a small mill there, using the masts of a sailing ship wrecked off Compensation Beach (now Ballito), which he cut into lengths to form rollers to squeeze out the juice from the cane. In January 1851, he proudly took his first processed sugar to the Durban market for sale, and is thus acclaimed as the pioneer of the Natal sugar industry.

With his sugar venture under way, and cane growing better than expected, other European immigrants from England and Scotland began to arrive and obtain land between Durban and the Umhlali river; along the Natal North Coast; Verulam, the Umdloti River Valley; Morelands farms and Tongaat. The development of the sugar industry raced ahead, and soon there were many sugar farms and mills in the area.

The Umhlali area, which was the original Militia and Magisterial area at the time, was called "Williamstown", under the 45th Division.

Modern town

In early 1872, under Liege Hulett, the farmers sent a petition to the Government in Durban, asking for permission to create a town and move up the magistracy and militia. With the necessary permission granted in 1872, and the site of Dukuza chosen, the initial layout of the town was surveyed and drawn up by the second Surveyor General of Natal, Dr Peter Sutherland.

The first buildings to be erected were the Police complex and a fort for the Mounted Divisions of the Militia, which was unfortunately demolished in 1971. These two sites were chosen because they were both on high ground, and because of the fresh water spring at the Police complex, which Shaka also used. This developing group of buildings, with the residency, the Magistrate’s house and the first shops, was then declared and named "Stanger" on 10 February 1873.

The name, "Stanger", originates from a Viking Pirate from Stavanger, Norway, whose descendants were the "Stanger" family from England. Dr William Stanger, after who the town of Stanger is named, was the first Surveyor General of Natal.

Liege Hulett was responsible for building the first churches in the area in the early 1870s. These included the Kearsney Chapel, the Methodish Church of Stanger as well as others at Kearsney for the Indians working on his estates.

In 1893, the first school was formed, a multi-racial school called "Whites" which was later referred to as the Mission School. This school was located in a small house on the corner of Jackson and Hulett Streets, opposite the Methodist Church, which was rented from the Seedat family of Stanger. It schooled children of all races, but closed in 1923, with 200 pupils.

A young man by the name of Mr. Anthony A. Simon, a European, who had run a school for Indian children at Isipingo on the Natal South Coast, had been persuaded by a friend, Mr. Joel Peters (later to become his father-in-law), to come up to Stanger to open a school, as there was none there. He is considered the "grandfather of Stanger's schooling system.

His son and daughters all took up the teaching profession and taught in local schools, and so did some of his grandchildren. In 1895, in two rooms set aside as a school for White children of the area, the owner of the large house, Mr. H R Dukes, became the second Headmaster. This is currently the location of Stanger South Indian School, and was referred to as the Stanger European Government School. It remained this until recently, when the new High and Secondary European schools were built, in 1966 and 1976.

In 1920, a school was built for Indians opposite the old Stanger Country Club, and soon schools for Coloureds and Zulus were built, and many more since, to cater for the growing number of children in the area.

Sir Liege Hulett also had a large part to play in the organisation of the extension of the railway system from Verulam to Stanger, and later to Zululand. It reached Stanqer in 1897.

He also built a famous narrow gauge railway upon which two short trains, one goods and one passenger train, ran between Stanger Station and Kearsney, to his tea factory. The two engines are preserved at Darnall (see key sites).

Soon after the formation of the Militia in Stanger in 1873, and the Mounted Division Fort, these two buildings, plus the Hulett House at Kearsney, the store at Thring's Post and Mr. Duke’s house in Stanger, were heavily fortified as protection laagers against threatened attacks by the Zulus under Dingane. Many of the local men joined the Forces, led by Captain (later Col.) Friend Addison. The Forces massed along the banks of the Tugela River, the boundary, at Fort Pearson, on this side of the river, and at Fort Tenedos on the opposite bank (see key sites).

The Zulu King Cetshwayo had been given "an Ultimatum" under the famous "Ultimatum Tree" on the bank of the river, to return stolen cattle, to stop killing and harassing the White farmers and to pay his taxes, in the December of 1878, which he did not comply with. Therefore, in January 1879 the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879 began and lasted until his capture in August 1879. The farming families in that area were brought to Stanger for safety.

Between 1906 and 1907 there was a Zulu rebellion, led by a sub-chief called Bambata, who, with his followers, rebelled and came against the Europeans from Greytown down Kranskop way, Thring's Post, Mapumulo and Kearsney, before they were stopped by the troops from Stanger.

Again the same venues were laagered against them. A few Whites were killed before Bambata was captured and killed, and this became known as the Bambata Rebellion, in which local White men took an active part under Captain Friend Addison. In both the graveyards at Fort Pearson and in the Stanger Cemetery, are graves of the men who died during these two wars (see key sites).

Also, both men and women from this area were actively engaged in the two World Wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945, and outside the Borough Offices there stands a Memorial to those who gave their lives during these wars.

The two hotels, Victoria and Stancrer Hotel, were built in 1873 by Mr. Samuel Knox, who had a small hotel in the Umhlali area, known as the "Umhlali Inn", which stood alongside the wagon trail from Durban to Zululand.

The telephone system of Stanger was started in 1901, with Miss Tilly Gielink as the first telephonist.

Motor vehicles first made their appearance along the potted, dusty dirt roads of Stanger from the early 1930s. One of the first cars belonged to Mr. Smith, a lawyer. Dr Bruce also owned one of the early cars. Stanger's streets were first tarred in the 1940s.

The spring and stream, which Shaka used, and which ran beside his royal palace and the Police Station, then goes underground. This is why the Town Hall basement always has water in it. Shaka's Indaba Tree's roots tap into this spring, which then runs underground and past the Victoria Hotel where Mr. Knox sunk two wells to draw Stanger's first public water

In the late 1920s, Mr. Gilmore, who owned a substation for electricity where Emmetts show room now stands in Reynold Street, was able to erect Stanger's first two street lights and empower them. They stood on the opposite corners, Couper and Reynold Streets, the one, outside the Victoria Hotel. These lights operated between the hours of 5.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. only. In 1952, the Stanger Hydro-Electric Scheme was brought into operation, channelling water from the Umvoti River through turbines, to bring electrical power to this area. The local farmers devised their own sources of power, using water or gas operated generators.

In 1932, Shaka’s grave was built over with white concrete, which can be seen today. A statue of Albert Luthuli was built in the town as a memory.

The first Post Office and Library of Stanger was off Jackson Street, between the present Post Office and First National Bank.

Stanger Village was granted ‘Township’ status in 1920 and ‘Borough’ status in July 1949, and Stanger's first Mayor was Leo Lavoipierre, who was also the first Chairman of the Town Board. They lived and farmed at Warrenton, between Stanger and Kearsney. Warrenton House, their home, still stands. He died in office as Mayor in 1966.

Key sites on the King Shaka Heritage Route

Memorial complex

Main article: Shaka Memorial

Shaka's two half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana and his body servant Mbopa assassinated king Shaka on the 22 September 1828. A memorial stone was erected over Shaka's grave in 1932 by the Zulu nation and was declared a national monument on the 29 June 1938. At the gardens an interpretive centre has been opened.

Mavivane Execution Cliff

This means the 'Place of Shivering'. According to legend Shaka used it as an execution cliff. The cliff is on the outskirts of Stanger, and can be found by going up Cato Street, over a bridge towards the cemetery, turning left alongside the cemetery the execution cliff can be found at the end of the road.

High Rock

According to legend this was a place of execution of many of Shaka's enemies, also many of his warriors were required to prove their courage by leaping from the rock into the sea. High Rock is in the Shakas Rock area on to seashore off Rock Lane. Follow the footpath to the sea shore.

Mbozambo Valley

This area is known as 'Shaka's Playground. Shaka used to bathe, relax and get his drinking water from an underground spring in this valley. This can be found on the outskirts of Stanger, beyond the Shakaville Township.

Observation Rock

According to legend Shaka used to sit on this rock to watch his impis from his 3 military camps train. The rock has been declared a National Monument and can be seen in the Groutvilie area. To view, take the old main road R102 out of Stanger and turn into the road past the Groutville School, then turn right up a hill to a field and follow a foot path to the rock.

Fort Pearson, War Graves and the Ultimatum Tree

All from the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War and can be found on the South bank of the Tugela River. Fort Pearson and the Ultimatum Tree are National Monuments. The Fort was built in 1878 and named after Colonel Charles Pearson, who led one of the columns that invaded Zululand in 1879. There is no building, just trenches and tent sites. It was under the Ultimatum Tree that delegates of King Cetshwayo, son of Mapande who was brother of Shaka, were given an ultimatum by the British Government to pay taxes and return stolen cattle by mid January 1879, or there would be war. War raged until August of that year, when Cetshwayo was captured There are war graves at the foot of the hill from that time. These can be found by travelling north on the N2. There is a signboard on the right about 5 km before the Tugela River directing you to the sites.

Fort Tenedos

The remains of this fort can be found on the bank of the Tugela River and is from the same 1879 war. It was named after a royal navy ship that not only supplied most of the men who built the fort, but also provided the original Garrison. A few war graves can be seen on the site, which can be found by travelling north on the N2 past Stanger. The turn off is to the right just after the Tugela River.


Notable people


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