Posted on March 14, 2011

Troy Meyers
Henry Francis Fynn (born on 29 March 1803, London, England, died 20 September 1861, Durban, Natal) was the son of Henry Francis Fynn, a trader who settled in Cape Town as an innkeeper. Having been educated at Christ's Hospital in London where he acquired rudimentary knowledge in medicine, the younger Fynn joined his father in the Cape in 1818. After a stay in the Eastern Cape, Fynn returned to the Cape and joined Lt. Francis Farewell on an expedition to Port Natal.

Fynn landed at Port Natal on 10 May 1824 with a small advance party. The group spent an unpleasant first night fighting off hyenas at Congella. Farewell arrived six weeks later. In the interim period Fynn had made contact the Zulu King Shaka. He remained with Shaka and during his stay was able to nurse the Zulu King back to good health following an assassination attempt. Fynn played a crucial role in gaining Shaka's tolerance for the settlement of white traders at Port Natal and he was to visit Shaka frequently up until Shaka's death in 1828.

Dingane's ascending the Zulu throne presented an untenable situation for Fynn, so much so that he returned to the Cape and took up a position as an interpreter to governor D'urban. He subsequently became British resident to Faku of the Mpondo until he returned to a position as the assistant magistrate in Pietermaritzburg in 1852. He was then appointed magistrate of the lower Umkhomazi area, in the district of Alexandria and was responsible for administering justice over both whites according to Roman Dutch law and Africans under customary law, settling disputes and fostering a sense of mutual trust between colonists and the Africans. At this stage of his life he reconciled with his coloured (mixed African) children whom he had left in the care of his brother's wife Mvundlase in 1834 when he fled from Dingane and was succeeded by Duka Fynn (1824 - 1908), his son, as the inkosi of the iziNkumbini and Msimbini clans. The view held by the residents of Durban was that he had abandoned his 20 children in 1834, and that this constituted an act of irresponsibility. This was used to preclude him from senior positions of leadership in government on his return to Natal in the 1850s.

Fynn's brother, Frank Fynn, was succeeded by his wife Mavundlase in 1841, the first Nguni matriarchal chief, and subsequently by his sons Tom Fynn and Charlie Fynn. Charlie was succeeded by his son Frank Fynn, grandson of Frank Fynn and locally known as Ugasela. Colin Fynn succeeded Ugasela, and held the chief position over the iziNkumbini clan, but he left no issue.

In the Umtwalume area of Ubangibizo, uNkhuku Luthuli from Umgababa was allowed to settle with a small grouping after seeking “isizaâ€Â as he had a dispute with his brother who was the chief in that area. This event led to the Fynn clan's demise in the Umtwalume region as the state used this as a pretext to unseat them and transform the nature and form of the succession lineage. The Luthuli subsequently established a separate chieftaincy in opposition to the Fynns because of the succession battle between Albert and Thomas Fynn when Colin died in 1926.

The inkosi Percy Fynn (born 1885) was the last in the line of descent from Henry Francis Fynn. Percy was chief of the Insimbini and died in 1960. His descendants were classified Coloured and were from then on excluded from succeeding to the chieftainship. The land was also proclaimed an African tribal area and it was considered opportune to further alienate the Fynn clan from the basis of any rulership, i.e. people. Percy had five wives: Dora and Stella were designated Coloured and Kate, Adeline and Violet were Zulu.

The Bantu Authorities Act of 1952 irrevocably removed the chieftaincy from the Fynns and other similar chieftainships by legislation. From this period onward dynasty ceased to exist and descendants of Henry and Frank Fynn were reclassified Coloured and it became increasingly difficult to obtain recognition as amakhosi. The result was that members of the Fynn clan have been dispersed although a substantial number of them remains loyal to the Fynn dynasty. Due to the racial policies, the state reallocated land vested in the Fynn clan since 1875 to other groups in the area with devastating effects in that this unique feature of the earlier Shakan-English settler interaction was rendered impotent.

In 1995, the Fynn clan regrouped and appointed a local politician named Morris Lorens Fynn as its incumbent inkosi. Although not duly recognised by the current local authorities, Morris has registered a claim under the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act no 41 of 2003. Basing his analogy on the Restitution of Land Rights Act, he believes that this Act enables the commission to recommend the recognition of traditional leaders and clans that were denied their rights as a result of past racially discriminatory laws and practices. The Land Claims Commission has the resources, the legitimacy and jurisdiction to bring to a close the tragic saga of the Fynn dynasty. Morris has invoked its legislative statutes and remedies in seeking recognition in his fight for the restoration of the Fynn dignity and legacy.

The land in question is located in Alfred county and comprises of 4 lots with approximately 1255 acres, namely lot 7 (16 acres) held in trust for James Fynn and family, lot 8 (760 acres) held in trust for Duka Fynn and family, lot 9 (290 acres) held in trust by Charles Fynn and family, and lot 10 (189 acres) held in trust for Thomas Fynn and family. The property deeds are currently being held in trust by the government. This has a debilitating effect 145 years later. No transactions may be entered into pertaining to the land in question, stultifying any development initiatives or investment opportunities as a result of the indecision displayed by the state. In comparison, the Dunn clan (who are descendants of John Dunn who was given a chieftainship by Cetshwayo) was granted their title deeds in 1972 after an arduous battle and today the family has entered numerous ventures in the sugar cane industry and other agricultural exploits, realising financial prosperity and stability.

Further, Morris has staked the legitimacy of the Fynn heritage granted by royal decree by King Shaka, Cetshwayo and Faku in the 19th century to, amongst others, John Dunn, Henry Ogle, Robert Joyce and John Cane, all white traders and explorers in Natal who had married into the northern Nguni groups.

Chief Morris Fynn is an ardent adherent to the customary system of appointing the inkosi by succession, recognises and acknowledges the pre-colonial background of traditional leaders in South Africa, whilst taking cognisance of the equality clauses of the constitution, so that women can be eligible for chieftainship in the same manner as men. He maintains that governing institutions should also be barred from making appointments or identifying traditional leaders as this could become more politicised with the concomitant difficulties that power structures unleash either unwittingly or with intent when patronage becomes the tail that wags the dog.

In February 2011 the Fynn clan was faced with a dilemma when the local authorities decided to construct a public amenity on what was deemed to be Fynn land, lot 8 of Duka Fynn's descendants land. Excavations had already begun when the project was called into dispute by Iris Biggar (neé Fynn), daughter of chief Percy Fynn, who currently occupies lot 8 and operates a second hand furniture store in the nearby vicinity of Izingolweni. Iris and her husband, George Biggar, a direct descendant of Alexander Biggar, are also instrumental in providing social development services amongst the locals through the local church. This is also seen as a challenge by the chief of the Mavundla clan who have submitted a land claim against much of the Fynn lots of land.

It is the view of Morris Fynn that uncertainty of land tenure has placed the Fynns in a precarious position in relation to other African settlements in close proximity as the Fynns appear to be obstructionist and against development in defending their right to the land. On the contrary, the Fynns maintain that they are ready to share and develop this land resource with their African neighbours (relatives), but they seek to do so in a structured and legal manner. So far such a manner has proved elusive as the state currently exists as an errant absent landlord in this particular case. Emotions are also heightened by the local chiefs who seek to drive the local population in a concerted effort to alienate and finally eject the Fynns from the land after 180 years of tenure.

If all else fails it appears patently clear that if an equitable solution cannot be found in the not-so-distant future, a reparation scheme may have to be devised to encourage the Fynn clan to relinquish the land to an expanding African majority in need of living space. However, the Fynns claim to be African in every way and to have been robbed of their identity by the malevolent beast called apartheid.

Acknowledgements go to Sharon Bramdeow, Chief Morris Fynn, George Alfred Biggar, Iris Fynn- Biggar, Eva Jackson who has written a thesis on female chiefs, the Durban Local Museum and the Killie Campbell.

Troy Meyers is a small-scale entrepreneur and hopes to resume his studies in law and history soon