This article is extracted from
SouthAfrica.Info published in February 2007:
David Rattray was born in Johannesburg in 1958.
He completed his schooling at St Alban's College in
Pretoria, and studied entomology at the University
of Natal before managing the Mala Mala Game Reserve.
In 1989, he and his wife Nicky moved to his
family's farm to start Fugitives' Drift Lodge from
where they hosted a constant stream of visitors
around the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's
South Africans from across the spectrum were
united this week in their praise for this internationally
renowned historian, who was murdered in his family home above
Fugitives' Drift last weekend.
On Thursday, more than 1,000 people attended
Rattray's funeral at Michaelhouse school in the
KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where his eldest son
matriculated in 2003, and his two younger sons are
On the same day, news broke that two suspects in the
murder - apparently committed during a robbery
attempt - had been arrested by the police and were
due to appear in court on Friday.
'Bard of the battlefield'
The world authority on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879
and a personal friend of Britain's Prince Charles,
the 49-year-old pioneer of "raconteur tourism" drew
thousands of people from around the world to the
battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, where
he brought the old battles to vivid life with
passionate accounts peppered with immaculate Zulu.
"To listen to David Rattray narrate the story of
Isandlwana was akin to watching the best-scripted,
best-directed and best-produced movie Hollywood's
finest studios could put out," wrote Sunday Times
columnist Mondli Makhanya.
According to Makhanya, Rattray's Isandlwana stories,
delivered from the top of a hill overlooking the
site of the battle and interspersed with war
commands in Zulu and English, lasted for hours, at
the end of which his listener "wished he could hit
the replay button."
'Deep love for the Zulu people'
Rattray had a deep love for South Africa's Zulu
people, their history and culture, and also worked
tirelessly in the community in which he lived.
According to the Sunday Times, he was a trustee of
the Siyazisiza Trust, the largest NGO of its kind in
KwaZulu-Natal, which helps poor people produce craft
items and vegetables.
"South Africa has definitely lost one of its great
sons," businessman Johan Rupert told the South
African Press Association (SAPA). "He gave his life
to promoting Zulu culture."
Saki Macozoma, also a leading SA businessman and
member of the African National Congress' national
executive committee, told SAPA that Rattray had
"restored the dignity of the Zulu people and their
history, and held people spellbound with his
intimate knowledge of the Anglo-Zulu war."
by David Rattray
by David Rattray
KwaZulu Natal Premier Sbusiso Ndebele, speaking at
Thursday's funeral, said the Zulu Kingdom brand was
now internationally recognised as a result of
Rattray's selfless and tireless work.
"In his journey Mr Rattray tapped into the
collective wisdom of the ages among all our people,"
Ndebele said. "It was rare to meet a man like him."
'He was a reconciler'
Michaelhouse chaplain Alan Smedley, who
led the funeral service, told Daily News
that Rattray had an incredible grasp of the
history of human conflict.
"He was a reconciler," Smedley said. "I
think this was part of his real life's work,
he used to use the platform afforded him by
the Anglo Zulu War to encourage
reconciliation between peoples.
"I was fascinated by the fact that
whenever he told his stories of the past, he
would never cast blame, but would instead
seek reasons why people acted in the way
they did - it was a very sensitive and
The key question of his sermon on
Thursday, Smedley told the Daily News, was
"what would David want us to do in response
to his death?
"I'm quite sure David would want us to
continue to build on his dream of a united
rainbow South Africa, to continue to build
on his dream that Fugitive's Drift Lodge
would be a place where people could come and
be inspired to see the bigger human picture
and to strive for peace.
"He would want us to continue to share
his unshakeable faith in the enormous human
capacity for good and not to allow acts of
evil to hijack us from the task of creating
a new South Africa which was free of
injustice and violence and pain and human
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