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Tributes paid to Anglo-Zulu War expert David Rattray slain at South African lodge

Tributes paid to Anglo-Zulu War expert David Rattray slain at South African lodge

The shocking rate of violent crime in South Africa was once again in the spotlight Saturday after the murder of David Rattray, an expert on the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war and colorful tourist personality who helped put the South African battlefields on the international map.
Britain's Prince Charles was among the many who paid tribute to Rattray, who was shot dead Friday evening at his Fugitives' Drift guest lodge in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The South African Press Association said that the killer entered the lodge while other members of the gang kept watch outside. It quoted police spokesman Muzi Mngomezulu as saying that investigations were continuing but that police hoped to make arrests soon.
The motive for the killing was not immediately clear.
"Tens of thousands of people, from HRH Prince Charles to KwaZulu schoolchildren, have listened to this unique South African deliver his message of nation building and reconciliation," said his widow Nicky in a statement carried by SAPA.
She said South Africa had lost a man who spoke to an international audience about "not only the history of his beloved South Africa but also about the miracle that he saw us living through today."
Rattray, who was born in 1958 according to his biography on the Conference Speakers International Web site, was regarded as an authority on the bloody Anglo-Zulu war. He had a reputation as a compelling storyteller and was popular on the lecture circuit in Britain.
He turned his home into a tourist lodge to allow visitors to revisit the scene of the 1879 battles of Isandlwana and Rourkes Drift, which were the inspiration for the film Zulu.
More than 20,000 Zulu warriors armed with spears and shields overwhelmed an invading British regiment of more than 1,750 well-armed soldiers at Isandlwana in a short but brutal battle that is regarded as one of the British army's most humiliating losses. Fewer than 100 British soldiers survived. Although hopelessly outnumbered, the British managed to repel a subsequent Zulu attack on their supply base at Rourkes Drift and inflict bloody revenge.
Thousands of tourists, especially from Britain, visit the battlefields every year.
The Prince of Wales was among Rattray's fans, having met him several times and stayed at the lodge, a spokesman said.
"The Prince was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of David Rattray's death," said the spokesman, on the customary grounds of anonymity.
Rattray was also a close friend of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. Sibusiso Ndebele, Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province, said that Rattray had "an iconic status as a cultural tourism guide" and was a "huge asset" to the nation.
Michael Tatalias, head of the South African Tourism Services Association, said that Rattray had an exceptional talent for bringing history to life and giving it a human face.
"He was a huge catalyst in the development of the Battlefields Tourism in South Africa, and put the story of the new South Africa and her people's complex past into the forefront of the minds of people around the world," Tatalias said.
The Opposition Democratic Alliance party said the killing "has sent shudders of revulsion through the length and breadth of South Africa."
South Africa has become notorious for its high rate of violent crime. According to government statistics, there were 18,528 murders in 2004 _ more than 50 per day _ and break-ins and muggings are rampant.
With the 2010 World Cup rapidly approaching, there are increasing jitters that the violence may dissuade visitors from coming to the country and undermine efforts to boost the tourist industry which is one of the cornerstones of government economic policy.
Top government and police officials repeatedly insist that the crime rate is coming down. But this is met with widespread skepticism.
Tatalias, whose organization represents the private tourism sector, said that too little was being done.
"The future of this industry depends on a significant reduction firstly in violent crime and secondly in crime levels in general," the organization said.


Updated : 2021-04-21 08:08 GMT+08:00