In 1883 a Zululand police force was formed as a bodyguard to protect the resident commissioner of Zululand, Sir Melmoth Osborne. The force was led by Colonel Mansel who had served with the Natal Mounted Police and it recruited its members from among the black population The members were known as the Nongqai believed to be a Zulu translation of ‘non-white’.
Fort Nongqai was built on the boundary of Eshowe in a location that commanded a 360 degree view of all directions. The Fort was 3 storeys high, roughly L-shaped with 3 turrets of 2 storeys each, at the corners. Each turret had 6 sq metres of parapet roof, cement stairs and loopholes for defence. The Nongqai served with distinction, not least in the South African War (1899-1902) before being disbanded without warning in 1904.
When they were recalled in 1906 with the Bhambatha uprising 120 responded. The unit was again disbanded afterwards. Until quite recently the Police magazine was named “Nongqai” in honour of the unit.
Before it was turned into a museum the Fort was used by the Provincial Roads Department.
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