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11 December 1878

On the 11 December 1878 the British Government in South Africa presented an ultimatum to King Cetshwayo’s izinduna (senior representatives). It was under the Ultimatum Tree, on the Tugela River that the British issued this ultimatum that was to precipitate the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. 

The conditions of the Ultimatum included inter alia the disbandment of the Zulu Army and Cetshwayo having to swear allegiance to Queen Victoria – The Zulus were to pay taxes and return all the stolen cattle by mid January 1879, or there would be war. The conditions were unacceptable to the Zulus and war raged until August of that year, when Cetshwayo was captured. 

The Ultimatum Tree died several years ago but the site has been enclosed by a fence and a branch that was grafted from it and planted nearby has also been enclosed. 

Fort Pearson is situated above where the British No 1 (Coastal) Column crossed the Thukela River to invade Zululand on the 11th January 1879. 

There are interpretive panels at Fort Pearson but the use of a guide is recommended to enhance the experience of the site. The key to the gate to Fort Pearson is obtainable at the nearby Harold Johnson Nature Reserve (run by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife). A refundable deposit is payable.

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