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Metal thieves have vandalised a statue of dead Zulu warriors at the entrance of Isandlwana battlefield in northern KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial heritage body Amafa said yesterday.
"We believe it was targeted because of increased scrap metal prices, as two bronze thorns from the isiQu (bravery necklace) were sawn off," said deputy director of Amafa, James van Vuuren.
Van Vuuren said they would have to restore the statue because it had a significance to amaZulu and the country.
"We are worried about other memorials. Apart from their heritage value, these are important components of the provincial tourism offering."
Isandlwana battle was fought on January 22 1879 between the Zulu army and the British, and colonial forces camped there at the beginning of the Zulu War. It was a decisive Zulu victory which reverberated around the world.
The battlefield and its memorials drew thousands of local and international visitors, said Van Vuuren.
"Up until democracy there was no adequate memorial to the Zulu dead, though there were many to the opposing forces. To redress this, Amafa commissioned Pietermaritzburg sculptor Gert Swart to design one and it was unveiled by King Goodwill Zwelithini on the 120th anniversary of the battle."
The statue consisted of a circular concrete platform symbolising the traditional Zulu homestead. Four bronze headrests reinforced the idea of final rest, while the bronze necklace of thorns echoed the bravery medal given by the king.
It also has izimpondo zenkomo - the horns of a bull, a symbol of the encircling tactics perfected by King Shaka and used with skill and precision at Isandlwana.
"The battlefield has a cattle fence but no security barrier as we didn't expect this to happen. We will have to look at more protective measures," Van Vuuren said.
"We appeal to scrap dealers to report to us if they are offered these distinctive pieces for sale, and are offering a reward for information leading to a conviction." - Sapa