“The Day of Reconciliation is an annual public holiday in South Africa on December 16. The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. The holiday came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity,” – Wikipedia.
December 16, is a day of great significance in South Africa due to the historical event that took place that Day in 1838.
The Battle of Blood River is said to have been a battle between Voortrekkers on a ‘trek’ into the interior and the Zulu, who desired to enhance their sovereignty.
Whilst Shaka was assassinated by his brother Dingane in 1828, he was not as warlike as Shaka. Dingane was sly and capable of just as much brutality. With his dying breath, Shaka told Dingane that he would not rule long, that the white man would come and take his kingdom away.
Having killed his half brother, Shaka, some nine years previously, he had come to the throne to end the bloodshed that had characterized Shaka’s reign of ‘terror’.
In October 1837, the Voortrekker, leader Piet Retief visited Dingane at his royal kraal to negotiate a land deal for the voortrekkers. In November, about 1,000 Voortrekker wagons began descending the Drakensberg mountains from the Orange Free State into what is now KwaZulu-Natal.
Dingane asked that Retief and his party retrieve some cattle stolen from him by a local chief as part of the treaty with the Boers. This Retief and his men are said to have done, returning on February 3, 1838. The next day, a treaty was signed, wherein Dingane ceded all the land south of the Tugela River to the Umzimvubu River to the Voortrekkers.
February 6, at the end of the celebrations, Retief’s party were invited to a dance, and asked to leave their weapons behind. At the peak of the dance, Dingane leapt to his feet and yelled “Bambani abathakathi!” Retief and his men were overpowered, taken to the nearby hill kwaMatiwane, and executed.
Contemporary history has it that; Dingane’s army then attacked and massacred a group of 250 Voortrekker men, women and children camped nearby. The site of this massacre is today called Weenen (Dutch for Weep).
The remaining Voortrekkers elected a new leader, Andries Pretorius, who would lead a punitive raid on Dingane.
“My brothers and fellow citizens, here we stand in the presence of the Holy God, creator of heaven and earth, to make a vow unto Him…” should “He give our enemy into our hand so that we might be victorious over him, that this day and date every year shall be spent as a memorial… we shall also instruct our children that they must also share in it, as generations yet to come”.
Andries is said to have led a party of some 470 Voortrekkers to face about 10 000 Zulu warriors led by Dingane’s generals Dambuza (Nzobo) and Ndlela kaSompisi, but the 470 Voortrekkers, had gunpowder and the advantage.
The battle began at dawn and was over by midday. More than 3000 Zulu casualties were counted around the laager. Only, 3 Voortrekkers, including Voortrekker leader Pretorius, were wounded, none were killed. The Ncome River became red with the blood of the slain. Hence it became known as the “Blood River”.
December 15, 2016; South Africans share their thoughts on Reconciliation day. SABC Digital News:
July 13, 2015; Battle of Blood River, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa December 16, 1838. WNDTV:
December 16, 2013; South Africans across the country celebrated the Day of Reconciliation. SABC Digital News:
South Africans across the country celebrated the Day of Reconciliation.
The history of Recocilliation day can be traced as far back as the days of the Voortrekkers.
February 25, 2010; The Battle of Blood River – KwaZulu – Natal, South Africa. Wetu Africa:
The Battle of Blood River was where the mighty Zulu Army was beaten for the first time by the Voortrekkers or Boers. – SmartGuide.
Febraury 22, 2008; 1838 Bloedrivier. sapper1984:
In the Battle of Blood River on December 16, 1838, some 470 Voortrekkers, led by Andries Pretorius, defeated an estimated 10,000 Zulu on the banks of the Ncome River in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Dawn broke on a clear day, revealing that; ” ‘all of Zululand sat there’ ,” said one Trekker eyewitness. Sarel Cilliers, on his deathbed years later recalled that before the battle commenced, the Trekkers had made a vow to God that if He should deliver them, they would build a church and commemorate the day as a Sabbath.