Episode 157 - Dick King and Ndongeni Ka Xoki’s epic ride leads another d’Urban to Durban

History of South Africa podcast

11-02-2024 • 23 mins

This is episode 157 - where Dick King and Ndongeni ka Xoki ride to out of Durban carrying a dispatch from besieged British commander, Captain Smith, surrounded by Boers, in real danger.

On the 24th May 1842 King and ka Xoki snuck out of the Port Natal region heading to Grahamstown in the south. That was a thousand kilometre journey which was going to take 10 days.

Averaging 100 kilometres a day on a horse was some feat. Ndongeni Ndongeni Ka Xoki had already given King his Zulu nickname -Mlamulankunzi which loosely translated means a peacemaker among bulls.

This was regarded as a mark of respect and admiration and there’s a lot to admire about King as well as Ka Xoki. They had agreed to take a dispatch to Lieutenant Governor Colonel Hare in Grahamstown for Captain Thomas Smith who’d been shamed by the Boers at the Battle of Congella which I covered last episode. King was young and adventurous, he was an elephant hunter and a trader and came to South Africa as an 1820 Settler at the age of six. He was a frontiersman and an excellent rider who could and did turn his hand to anything it seems. Ndongeni ka Xoki had worked for King for a few years by this time.

There’s also been a great deal of hooplah, disinformation and propaganda about King’s ride. The popular view of Dick King over the decades has been moulded by the Durban public memorial - it is an equestrian statue on the Esplanade - now Margaret Mcadi Avenue.
The main Dick King statue presents the sole figure of King as the heroic if exhausted rider, but there is a missing Ndongeni on his horse. Protestors who defaced the statue in 2015 of course had no idea about that, they were throwing paint at all colonial era artefacts - equal opportunity statue painters. It was midday on the 24th June when Boer lookouts spotted a schooner called the Conch rounding the Bluff and sailing into the bay.

It was a trading ship not a war ship, so the boers relaxed. They shouldn’t have, because the wily and wicked English had a surprise up their sleeves.
Crouching below decks were 100 Grenadiers of the 27th Regiment under command of Captain Durnford, a few others were on deck but dressed in civilians clothes.
Trickery and deceit — how very English.