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Colony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for Zulus

Colony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for ZulusColony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for Zulus
Colony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for ZulusColony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for Zulus
Colony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for ZulusColony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for Zulus
Colony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for ZulusColony of Natal: Exempted from Native Law for Zulus
Form: Circular with attached loop for a neck ribbon.
By: ?
Date: 1892 (First Issued)
Ref:  Laidlaw: 0190;
Variations:
SizeMetalMassValue
32.4 mmSilver15.5 gm$1,380
32 mmBronze

Edge: Plain.

Obverse: On an ornate shield with the Queen's crown above, the coat of arms of Natal - a pair of wildebeests galloping to the right. In an arc above: “COLONY OF NATAL” and below: “LAW 28. 1865”. On a raised band around the rim, a Zulu-like design of triangles and dots.

Reverse: Across: “EXEMPTED / FROM NATIVE LAW” with space above for engraving the recipient's name and below for the date on which exemption was granted. On a raised band around the rim, a Zulu-like design of triangles and dots.

Four medals are illustrated:
(1) “LEAH XABA” exempted: “28 December 1889”
(2) "JESSIE JACOBUS / MATIWANA" exempted: "28 April 1893"
(3) “ADAM RICHARD / HLABANGANE” exempted: “19.9.1908”
(4) “WILLIAM EWART / GLADSTONEKALI” exempted: “30 - 10 - 25”

The last medal is less well made and the design differs from other known examples.

Notes: The laws governing the native population of the Colony of Natal were set down by the tribe to which the native belonged and enforced by the Chief with the support of the colonial administration. English law governed the conduct of the white colonists and other non-Zulu immigrants. In 1865, early in the life of the Colony, Law No. 28 was enacted which effectively allowed certain natives to become exempted from Native Law and become subject to the same laws as the colonists. This enabled the exempted natives to conduct business, enter into contracts particularly those involving the purchase and sale of property, marry and will their estate.

A petitioner for exemption had to establish his or her fitness and the the Government based its decision to grant exemption on such grounds as the ability of read and write English, the level of education, conversion to Christianity and letters of reference from prominent colonists.

Once exemption had been granted the native received a letter of exemption which had to be produced when required. These letters were not durable and inconvenient. In 1890 it was decided that, as an alternative, exempted natives could purchase an exemption medal in either bronze or silver. In February 1891 the cost of these had been determined to be 5 shillings and 9 shillings respectively and magistrates were requested to prepare a list of exempted natives in their area who wished to purchase a medal. The combined list had 155 names mostly for the silver medal. An order was placed with the the Crown Agent for about double that number. The medals were manufactured in Britain (the company is unknown) and the initial distribution took place during 1892.

It should be noted that the date on the medal is the date on which exemption was granted and not the date on which the medal was issued.

Medals continued to be issued to new applicants from the original stock until at least 1912. The reply to a letter requesting a gold medal dated 1919 stated that no gold medals were available. The different design of the medal dated 1925 (illustrated) suggests that the original stock had run out and that by this stage the medals were being manufactured locally.

It is curious that the practice of issuing these medals continued after 1910 when the Colony of Natal was incorporated into the Union of South Africa. The position of Secretary for Native Affairs, responsible for issuing the medal during colonial times, had been replace by the Chief Native Commissioner (Natal) but the exemption system continued to operate.

A reasonable estimate is that a maximum of 400 medals in silver and bronze were issued with most of these being silver. Very few have survived and an estimate of 20 remains extant. In addition to the four medals displayed, the author has records of the following silver medals:
(1) Umkasa Umpungosi, exempted 21 March 1877
(2) Jane Duba, exempted 8 January 1878
(3) Abbey Joseph Mndaweni, exempted 29.3.1912
No bronze medals have been recorded.

The medal to Hlabangane sold for $1,380 (Stacks, 1st Oct 2011, Lot 1054). The medal to Mndaweni sold for £440 (St James, 18 June 2008, Lot 939 - holed).

Further reference: Chris Woltermann, Coin World News, December 2013