Sunday, January 28, 2007

Murder of Historian also Kills an Industry

White African David Rattray loved the Zulu culture, and did more than even they could manage on their own, to give prominence to Zulu heritage and heroes. Almost single-handed Rattray had built up a Battlefields Tourism business that was attracting millions of dollars to the imperiled South African economy. On Friday, January 26, a black gang murdered him, execution style, in his guest lodge at Fugitive's Drift, in KwaZulu - Natal province. The private facility is located opposite the battlefield at Isandlwana. Rattray was an expert on that battle as well as the seige of Rorke's Drift, scene of an incredible battle in 1879 when a massive Zulu army threatened to wipe out a tiny British army garrison, composed largely of Welshmen. A total of eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded for valour at Rorke's Drift.

Rattray was an authority on the Anglo-Zulu wars of the 19th Century and had written extensively on the subject. He had invested in the development of guest lodges near the more famous battlefields, and had spent years locating and purchasing a collection of relics which he used to explain history to foreign guests. Last year he gave a series of lectures in England which won him many new friends, including HRH The Prince of Wales, who had written a Forward to Rattray's latest book, now at the printer.

The Rattray murder is not at all unusual. South Africa is the most violent society on earth, with by far the highest rate of cop killings by armed gangs. Since "liberation" many blacks with a violent disposition have considered themselves empowered to grab what they want from society, all too frequently using lethal violence to do so. Their victims are not "unknowns". Listed in the urban body-count have been the famous and near famous - television actors, musicians, artists, and even two wives of National politicians. In 2001 for example, 64 year old Marike de Klerk, ex-wife of South Africa's last white president F.W de Klerk, was butchered in her condo. (see her photograph below) The story was smothered by an unsympathetic International press. Can you imagine the media frenzy in Canada if Jean Chretien's wife Aline was today found slain in her Quebec home?

I share Rattray's great interest in African heroes, albeit from afar. Recently I had enjoyed another careful viewing of the film ZULU, which stars Jack Hawkins and Michael Caine, and with Sir Richard Burton's narration. Rattray kept DVD copies of that film in his lodge at Fugitive's Drift, for his guests to watch after having listened to his presentation. He often gave talks on the grounds of the actual battle site, where John Chard won the Victoria Cross. The fight is superbly recreated in the movie.
On Friday a gang of six men, all armed with rifles or pistols, showed up for an execution. In the face of that much firepower Rattray's lodge staff were utterly defenseless. After initially robbing the front receptionist of the contents of her cash drawer, a gunman was heard demanding "Where's David? Where's David?" Soon a single shot rang out. The shooter reported back to the gang leader outside the lodge, and who never entered himself. The shooter was ordered to go back inside and make sure of his kill. Two more shots rang out. Rattray never had a chance.

The national media is full of predictable statements given by New South African politicians; those who routinely fax comments to the press following high profile murders. The really important assessments of Rattray's killing are coming from the heads of the S.A. tourism industry -those who no longer believe there is much of a future for their businesses. They acknowledge that South Africa is descending into anarchic hell.
Note: This article is supported with several additional images at

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