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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versión On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versión impresa ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.36 no.1 Pretoria may. 2010


Race, politics and religion: The first Catholic mission in Zululand (1895 - 1907)



Philippe Denis

School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa




This paper explores the strategies deployed by the Catholic authorities in the late 19th century to gain access to Zululand, their approach to race relations and their relationship to the colonial enterprise in general. The first Catholic mission in Zululand was established in 1895 through a remarkable conjunction of events: the intervention of an ecclesiastical visitator, the decision made by John Dunn, the "white chief", on his death bed to entrust the education of his children to the Catholic Church and Bishop Jolivet's friendship with the British resident commissioner. The Catholic missionaries empathised with the Zulu culture, but remained imbued with colonial prejudices. They treated the first black Oblate and the first black priest in a discriminatory manner.



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1 The Catholic Directory 2009-2010, 80th edition (Pretoria: South African Catholic Bishops' Conference, 2009).
2 J.B. Brain, "History of the Roman Catholic Church in Natal 1886-1925, with special reference to the work of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate", thesis for the degree of D. Litt. and Phil. of the University of South Africa, 1982, published under the title Catholic in Natal II1886-1925 (Durban: Archdiocese of Durban, 1982), 113-120, 223-230.
3 Godfrey Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana (St Ottilien: Eos Verlag, 1995), 473-490.         [ Links ]
4 George Sombe Mukuka, "The establishment of the first Black Catholic Clergy in South Africa, 1887-1957", PhD thesis, University of Natal, 2000, published in a revised form under the title The other side of the story: the silent experience of the Black Clergy in the Catholic Church in South Africa (1898-1976) (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2008), 46-67.
5 J.B. Brain, Catholic beginnings in Natal and beyond (Durban: T.W. Griggs, 1975), 173.         [ Links ]
6 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 115-16.
7 Ibid., 115
8 "Father Anselme Rousset and the Zululand Mission. Extracts from Oblate Rome Archives", 4. Typewritten document previously in the possession of Fr Denis Howard St George OMI and kindly communicated to the author by Prof J.B. Brain.
9 OMI Archives, Cedara, Correspondence of Bishop Charles Jolivet, B10/9/c/2/3: Charles Jolivet to Marc Sardou, 20 June 1895.
10 Délibérations du Conseil du vicaire apostolique, 30 July 1895, quoted in Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 116.
11 Ibid.
12 On John Dunn, see J.R. Botha, "John Dunn", in Dictionary of South African Biography, vol. 1(Pretoria: Nasionale Boekhandel, 1968), 260-62; Charles Ballard, John Dunn, the white chief of Zululand (Craighall: Donker, 1985);         [ Links ] [P.J. de Vos, ed.], The Dunn Reserve, Zululand. Natal Regional Survey, Additional Report, No 4 (University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, 1953).
13 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 117.
14 Ballard, John Dunn, 160-61.
15 On the Wolseley "settlement", see Jeff Guy, The destruction of the Zulu Kingdom (Johannesburg : Ravan Press, 1982), 69-79.
16 Ballard, John Dunn 173.
17 Ibid., 225.
18 St Andrew's, Tugela, was a mission farm on which indigenous people willing to be taught were invited to live for a small rent. See Cecil Lewis and G.E. Edward, Historical Records of the Province of South Africa (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1934), 668.
19 Killie Campbell Collections, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, KCM 98/54: Dominique Dunn, 'This is my country. The memoirs of a Coloured South African', (c. 1955), Preface, 5.
20 Ballard, John Dunn, 168. Silvert Martin Samuelson had been sent to Mapumulo in the 1850s to assist Bishop Schreuder. He established the first Anglican mission station in Zululand, St Paul's, in KwaMagwaza near Eshowe in 1865. See Lewis and Edward, Historical Records, 656.
21 Dominique Dunn, 'This is my country', 10-11. See Ballard, John Dunn., 225.
22 [de Vos, ed.], The Dunn Reserve, 3. Carmichael then moved to Nqutu where he replaced Charles Johnson, on furlough in England. He left Zululand in1887 to join the Brotherhood of St Augustine in Modderpoort. He died in 1947.
23 Dominique Dunn, 'This is my country', 18.
24 "Father Anselme Rousset", 4-5. The author of this compilation quotes 'from an original article prepared for de Mazenod Circle, Ireland, from an original paper, since mislaid, which Anselme Rousset wrote at the request of Bishop Delalle after the Oblates left Zululand [in 1921]."
25 OMI Archives, Cedara: Charles Jolivet, Journal, 14 October 1895.
26 Henry Rider Haggard, Diary of an African journey (1914), ed. Stephen Coan (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 2000), 214.
27 ([Henri] Perennes, Monseigneur Jolivet, Oblat de Marie Immaculée, Evêque de Bellune, Vicaire Apostolique de Natal (Priziac: Imprimerie de l'Orphelinat Saint-Michel, 1837, 70-74. Bishop Jolivet elaborated on his 'friendly relations" with Marshall Clarke in a letter to Louis Soullier of 14 November 1896 (OMI Archives, Cedara, Correspondence of Bishop Charles Jolivet, B-10-9c/2/4).
28 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 117, quoting Jolivet, Journal, 23-24 March & 3 April 1886.
29 William Murray to Ignatius Jutz, 6 November 1926, quoted in Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 475. The original letter has recently been transferred from the Inkamana Abbey Archives in Vryheid to the Archives of St Ottilien Abbey in Germany. A long reproduced is published in Sieber's book.
30 Pietermaritzburg Archive Repository, Zululand Government House, 767, no 992: Resident Commissioner to Secretary of State, 15 November 1895.
31 Information gathered by Professor Jonathan Draper among John Dunn's descendants in the Mtubatuba area in the 1980s.
32 William Murray to Ignatius Jutz, 6 November 1926, quoted in Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 475. Original in Inkamana Archives.
33 Abraham Leslie Behr, "Three centuries of coloured education: historical and comparative studies of the education of the coloured people in the Cape and the Transvaal, 1652-1952", unpublished PhD dissertation, Potchefstroom University for C.H.E., 1952, 190-91; Muriel Horrell, African education: some origins, and developments until 1951 (Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations, 1963), 19.
34 Missions de la Congrégation des Oblats de Marie Immaculée, no 150 (June 1900), 216 : "Durant son séjour à Cala, M. l'abbé Bryant réussit à intéresser à notre
œuvre le gouvernement du Cap. [...] Il obtint un subside annuel de 24 livres sterling, mais à la condition absolue de ne recevoir à l'école des enfants half-cast." See Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 85.
35 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 74-75, 100.
36 Lewis and Edward, Historical records, 366.
37 For a history of the Diocesan Board of Education, the predecessor of the Anglican Board of Education, see (accessed on 11 March 2010). By 1896, the Diocesan Board of Education had already held 89 meeting. Different arrangements were made for the "Church Schools" ( European children), the "Mission Schools" (children of mixed descent) and the 'Native Schools" (black children).
38 In his will John Dunn had 'named his first wife, Catherine Pierce, and all her family as his chief beneficiaries. She inherited most of the furniture and effects together with 100 heads of cattle and 50 for each daughter'. The Emoyeni house and its effects went to Nontombi Veronica Sokolu, "his favourite among the Zulu wives and by whom he had had seven children' (Dominique Dunn, 'This is my country', 16.
39 Murray to Jutz, 6 November 1926, in Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 475.
40 William Murray to Marshall Clarke, resident commissioner, 7 November 1895, in Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 476-77. Original: Public Record Office, London, CO 427/27, despatch 386 (microfilm Pietermaritzburg Archive Repository).
41 Anselme Rousset, "Excursions à travers le Zoulouland", Missions, 173 (March 1906), 86.
42 Ibid, 477. The existence of racial tension in the Dunn family is confirmed in Dominique Dunn's memoir. See Ballard, John Dunn, 223-24.
43 Casimir Le Bras to the Superior General, Cala, 7 April 1990 in Missions, no 150 (June 1900), 216.
44 Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 477.
45 OMI Archives, Cedara, Correspondence of Bishop Jolivet, B10-9/c/2/4: Charles Jolivet to Louis Soullier, 14 November 1896.
46 Jolivet, Journal, 6 February 1896. See Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 118. Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 479, quoting the "Emoyeni Chronicle", writes that Rousset and the sisters arrived just before Christmas 1895. Jolivet's version is probably more accurate.
47 Bouton arrived in 1896 and left in 1902. He built the school at Emoyeni in 1897. See "Father Anselme Rousset", 10: Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 483.
48 Anselme Rousset, "Seven years with the Zulus", Petites Annales, quoted in "Father Anselme Rousset", 6.
49 Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 479.
50 "Father Anselme Rousset", 6.
51 Dominique Dunn, 'This is my country', 18.
52 Ibid.
53 Sieber, The Inkamana Monastery, 481. The Oakford sisters continued to teach the black children even after visitors from Europe encouraged them to concentrate on the coloured children. Ibid., 484.
54 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 118.
55 Ibid., 223.
56 Alfred Thomas Bryant (London, 1865 - Cambridge, 1953) would deserve a full biography. Snippets can be found in Joy Brain's books. See also Eric Steinhauer, 'Bryant, Alfred Thomas', in Kirchenlexicon, 19 (2001), 162-63. An 8-page autobiographical text, entitled 'Some sweet memories' and dated 1947 is kept in the Inkamana Archives.
57 Bryant, 'Some sweet memories', 1-5. See also Brain Catholic Beginnings, 172.
58 Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 92. The story of Bryant's departure from Mariannhill remains largely unwritten. Michael Green, who had access to the Mariannhill archives, refers to it in his historical novel, For the Sake of Silence (Johannesburg: Umuzi, 2008), 364-65. In his Sweet memories, Bryant maintains a total silence on his change of ecclesiastical status. As a result from the visitation the monastery had to curtail its missionary activities and restore the strict Trappist observance. This was short-lived however. In 1909 Mariannhill separated from the Trappist Order and became an independent missionary congregation.
59 'Father Anselme Rousset', 6.
60 OMI Archives, Cedara, Correspondence of Bishop Charles Jolivet, B10-9/c/2/4): Charles Jolivet to Louis Soullier, 14 November 1896.
61 Bryant, "Some sweet memories", 6. See Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 579; Mukuka, The Other Side of the Story, 49.
62 On Edward Mnganga, see Mukuka, The other side of the story, 46-67. Additional information based on the Mariannhill archives is to found in a brochure compiled in 2010 by Fr Henry Ratering CMM under the title 'The first Zulu priests'. In Europe Mnganga was called Muller - after the name of his godfather in Germany - allegedly because his name was difficult to pronounce.
63 Malukati Mncadi, interview conducted by George Mukuka in September 1994 in Mariathal. See Mukuka, The other side of the story, 56.
64 Izindaba Zabantu, 7 September 1928, quoted in Mukuka, The other side of the story, 50.
65 Sieber, The Benedictines of Inkamana, 580. See also Brain, Catholics in Natal II, 119.
66 [Ratering], 'The first Zulu priests', 1.
67 Ibid., 2. The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Monastery Council on 25 September 1888.
68 Jolivet, Journal, 12 December 1898 : "Je confirme une trentaine de Néophytes, la plupart de la famille Dunn. Je suis très content de ce commencement de mission. Il m'est impossible d'aller jusqu'à Ebahlene où du reste il n'y a pas encore un seul Chrétien. Le Père Edward Zulu y est.
69 OMI Archives, Cedara, B10-160/A Gumede, L.: copy of Leo Gumede's obedience card. The original is kept in the OMI Archives in Rome. The author of "Father Anselme Rousset" (see above footnote 8) was the first writer to pay attention to the life of Leo Gumede. See also Mukuka, The Other Side of the Story, 139-40.
70 OMI Archives, Cedara, B10-160/A Gumede, L: copy of Leo Gumede's obedience card.
71 Quoted in Mukuka, The Other Side of the Story, 140.
72 An indult in Catholic canon law is a permission, or privilege, granted by the competent church authority.
73 OMI Archives, Cedara, B10-160/A Gumede, L.: Statement of Bishop Henri Delalle, Rome, 22 October 1920. Delalle indicated by mistake that, the second time, Gumede made vows for 3 years. He should have said 5 years.
74 Mukuka, The other side of the story, 46-73.
75 [Ratering], 'The first Zulu priests', 2.
76 Jolivet, Journal, 20 March 1903. Bishop Jolivet died a few months later, on 15 September 1903.
77 Mukuka, The other part of the story, 51.
78 Stuart Bate, 'The Church under Apartheid', in J. Brain and P. Denis, eds, The Catholic Church in contemporary South Africa (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 1999), 151.
79 See Dabula Mpako, "The call to action of the African Catholic Priests' Solidarity Movement", in P. Denis, ed., Orality, memory and the past. Listening to the voices of Black Clergy under Colonialism and Apartheid (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2000), 275-80.

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