Veteran journalist and novelist, Fred Khumalo, says the aim of his latest book “the Longest March” is to unearth the forgotten history of Zulu migrant workers.

He penned the story of seven thousand Zulu mine workers who walked from Johannesburg to their homes in Natal at the start of the Anglo Boer War.

Khumalo retraced their 500 kilometre journey from Johannesburg to Ladysmith, where he was honoured with the Freedom of the City.

“On the mines they had boys, had a category of boys called Omakotshana, small brides, these boys during the concert called ihlahla or a concert on the mines would be dressed like women. They would put any kind of thing that would look like breasts, they would look like girls because the men wanted them to look like girls. They would be treated like ladies, would be given sweets…”

But in 1899 tensions between the Afrikaners and British escalated and the gold mines shut down. Seven thousand Zulu migrant workers made their way home on foot.

“I felt it’s one of those very important stories which have been hidden for political expediency or other reasons that are not explained so I took it as my responsibility as a storyteller, as a journalist, as a novelist to uncover that hidden pocket about his room and bring it into the public domain,” says Khumalo.

Khumalo says the book will soon be translated into isiZulu.