At about this time several years' continuous anarchy in Pondoland began. Umhlangaso and his followers, who lived on the border of Natal, absolutely refused to submit to Sigcau, the paramount chief. A message was sent to Pietermaritzburg stating that the natives on the Natal side of the border were getting troublesome, and that the chiefs Umbono and Umpikwa appeared likely to come to blows. Some of the bitter enemies of the police in the Legislative Council had stated that a sufficient number of police to be useful could not be assembled in less than a fortnight. This statement was, of course, absurd, and on this particular occasion, 1 10 men were gathered from stations in all parts of the colony. The majority of these were on the extreme southern border within forty-eight hours, and those from the most distant stations had arrived on the morning of the fifth day from the time the orders were dispatched from headquarters. Newcastle was then the terminus of the main railway line, and there were no branch lines, so most of the men had to do the greater part of their journey on horseback. In every instance the troopers who went from Pietermaritzburg to the border travelled by road, which journey to-day is in itself considered a good five days' trek. Harding, which was the point where they assembled, was nearly the most distant point in the colony from the railway, and these forced marches had all to be conducted in terribly bad weather.
The first detachment of police arrived in time to prevent bloodshed between the two tribes ; but there was some fighting, and armed natives from Pondoland, having crossed the Umtamvuna River, joined gaily in it. The arrival of the police was so unexpected that a large number of prisoners were taken, and many of the natives were disarmed.
Early in 1891 the camp was moved from Harding to a point overlooking the Umtamvuna, near the drift, patrols moving up and down the river daily.
When taken to Pietermaritzburg, Umbono was ordered to pay a fine of 650, and as he showed no inclination to hand over the money, the police marched to his kraal and surrounded it. This demonstration altered the chief's mind, and he was not long in paying the fine.
The fighting was resumed in Pondoland not long afterwards, and it took place so close to the border that Sigcau's impi, numbering 10,000 warriors, drove its enemy through the river into Natal. The two forces remained on opposite sides of the water, sniping at one another, until Colonel Dartnell crossed with a small escort and directed the paramount chief to retire. The firm attitude he adopted had the desired effect and, there is no doubt, averted a great deal of bloodshed, for had the pursuers once crossed the river there would have been a massacre not only of the fugitives from Pondoland, but also of the Natal natives.
The police, in the absence of rapid transport for supplies, were having a rather trying experience, and while they were doing most useful work in the south of the colony, abuse was being hurled at them very freely in the Legislative Council.
" As a police force they are utterly useless in the prevention or detection of crime," said one speaker. " The organization is on a wrong basis altogether. When you travel about Natal you will find people in every district say that the police are an utter failure in many respects."
" As a military force," said another speaker, " the Natal Police are really very contemptible. If one looks to them for defence it will be a very miserable defence indeed."
The Colonial Secretary pointed out that these were intemperate remarks. " It is an exceedingly useful force," he said, " a singularly fine corps, and at this moment it affords a nucleus for a defensive force such as probably no other colony in the world ever possessed on the eve of adopting Responsible Government."
In spite of a spirited defence which was made on behalf of the Natal Police, their numbers, which a little while previously had been added to, were again reduced by fifty men. Fortunately this reduction did not involve hardships on the men dismissed, because the other South African police forces took them over.
The scene of trouble was moved from the borders of Pondoland to the Bulwer Division, where a number of natives assumed a defiant attitude towards a magistrate. Some native police were sent out to make arrests, but these men were driven back, whereupon Corporal Strutt took out a detachment of six European troopers, and these were joined by some of the white residents. They marched out in the direction of the rebels, whom they found armed and still defiant. The white force opened fire on them, and those who refused to lay down their arms were killed. From the summit of a hill not far away another body of armed natives watched this skirmish. Doubtless their intention was to assist their friends until they saw what happened, and then they disappeared discreetly into the bush, and created no more trouble.
Up to this time the position of the police as a police force had been a somewhat curious one. The magistrates in the various divisions had worked independently, no central authority existing for dealing with cases. No intelligence regarding crimes was ever sent to headquarters by the magistrates, and a warrant, if not executed at the first attempt, was filed. The depositions were lost, and of course no record of the doings of criminals was kept. The clerk of the court prosecuted in criminal cases. The magistrate had charge of the gaols, and outside the central gaols there was no separate accommodation for women prisoners.
A Magistrates' Commission, which had taken evidence in all parts of the colony, presented its report in June 1892, and in this made the very recommendations which the Commandant of police had been urging year after year. Up to now there had been several distinct bodies of police in the colony the Mounted Police, Borough Police, and Local Board Police Forces, the Magisterial Native Police, Messengers and Convict Guards, the Magisterial Patrol Police, and the Water Police. In its report the Commission said :
." The police in the country districts, almost entirely natives, are under the direct control of the magistrate. They are employed in various ways, but only to a limited extent in police work. Under this system the magistrate is practically the chief detective in his division. He works up evidence in important cases, and then has to sit in judgment. A small number of patrol police are employed, and under proper control and supervision they may be very useful. The magistrates have, however, neither time nor the opportunity to supervise such a force properly. The Commission have come to the conclusion that the scattered forces now in existence are not suited to the present circumstances of the colony, and that the amount of money now expended over them may, by means of different organization, be utilized so as to bring about much better and larger results. We consider that the time has arrived when a police department should be established under a Chief Commissioner."
In spite of this, no change was made until two years after the report was issued.
In the meantime, the main body of the Natal Police were very actively engaged in the south of the colony. Frequent scares occurred on the border, and fighting took place continually in Pondoland until September 1893, an< 3 then the paramount chief prepared to make a very serious attack on the neighbouring natives. The police with a Maxim gun moved along the rugged country, overlooking the Umtamvuna River, to a site near Luji's Drift. They had just offsaddled when a large impi appeared. It was that of Sigcau .
He was marching upon Maqutu and his men, who had spoken bravely of opposing the paramount chief at a narrow nek of land leading to a hill, but the moment the impi put in an appearance Maqutu and his valiant men disappeared. The victorious impi swept through the kraals of Maqutu, burning the huts as they passed. There was a dense bush not far away, and shots were fired from this by Maqutu's followers ; in a very short time Sigcau 's impi was retiring, and fifty of his men were killed.
Thousands of Pondo women and children with their cattle had crossed to the side of the river where the police were stationed, and remained in full view of Sigcau and his men, who, as usual on such occasions, were anxious to capture the animals. An impi of 10,000 men advanced in four columns to Luji's Drift, which they would in all probability have crossed with the object of securing the cattle had the police not lined up and made a demonstration.
When Sub-Inspector Clarke crossed into Pondoland and joined Sigcau 's impi with the object of interviewing the paramount chief, the latter's followers had increased to 15,000 men. The chief himself was surrounded by an escort of Europeans and half-castes, who had been compelled to turn out. At the head of his column there were about 2000 mounted men, whose horses were jaded and in a sorry state, for they did not appear to have been offsaddled, fed, or watered for some time. Hundreds of breech-loading guns were held by men in the ranks, but the impi appeared to be somewhat short of ammunition . The men on foot marched in companies, each warrior being supplied with two large lumps of mealie bread, packed in grass rope, and carried over the shoulder. They had only one small beast with them for slaughtering purposes, it being evident that they expected to feed on the cattle of their enemies.
In November 1893 ^ ne unrest was as bad as ever in Pondoland, and the paramount chief, who was then very depressed, informed representatives of the police that his men were unwilling to do his bidding in making battle against Umhlangaso. The latter chief was very proud of his arrangements for meeting the enemy if they cared to come. These preparations consisted of a small structure, which he called a "fort." This at the most would have held about twenty men. It was strengthened by a fence of barbed wire, and a most ridiculous site had been chosen for it, because it only commanded a space of about fifty yards. Sigcau had, however, heard of this wonderful structure, and the tales told about it to his men were so exaggerated that they declined to attack it.
On the 9th January Umhlangaso got into a fright as great as that of his opponent, and sent a message to Colonel Dartnell stating that if the police would only assist him he would in return hand over the whole country to Natal !
The two chiefs came to blows on the i ith January, and the police turned out to watch the battle, which proved to be a severe one. Sigcau 's brother led the first attack, but it was feeble. Umhlangaso 's men, the Umsizis, executed a clever manoeuvre. They retired slowly until the attackers were wedged in between two lines of bushy country. Then the Umsizis poured out in dense masses from the bush on either side, stabbed the men as they sat on their horses, and drove the impi back.
The following day while the police were at Middle Drift Sigcau 's mounted men again came down to the river and opened fire on their enemy on the Natal side of the water. Whether the police were mistaken for the enemy or not, it is difficult to say, but many of the bullets fell close to them. As there appeared to be every prospect of the Pondos crossing over into Natal, the Maxim gun was trained on the drift, and the Pondos retired.
Some of the police paid a visit to the scene of the battle the following day and found scores of bodies lying about mutilated. There were more than a hundred dead natives outside the bush and many more amongst the trees.