The fate of Natalia

After the defeat of Dingane, the Kingdom of the AmaZulu was hurled into political strife. Mpande was open to the demands for land by the Voortrekkers and Andries Pretorius recognised him as King of the AmaZulu and as an ally.

In March 1839 the Voortrekkers declared the republic of Natalia at Pietermaritzburg, and Pretorius established his farm on the site of the future Edenvale. But the Afrikaner population of Natalia never numbered more than 6 000, including women and children, and its economy fell into the same speculative trap as its British counterparts, none proving more energetic in this respect than Commandant Gert Rudolph who claimed 40 farms totalling 250 000 acres.

Raiding not farming was Natalias forte, and in 1840 the Natalians raided the Bhaca chief Ncaphayi, seizing 3 000 cattle and abducting seventeen children for distribution as apprentices among the farmers. But Bhacaland was deep in the heart of the British sphere of influence, the missionaries complained, and Cape Governor Napier sent a force of 250 men to Port Natal to make good Britain's historical claims to Natal. In the initial skirmish the British suffered serious losses. But once reinforcements arrived, the Voortrekkers put up little further resistance. Natal was annexed to the Cape in May 1844, and elevated to the status of a Crown Colony in December 1845.

The Day of the Vow

For the greater part of the twentieth century 16 December had been observed as a public holiday, with Afrikaans-speakers attending special church services or visiting the Voortrekker Monument. Until the National Party seized power in 1948, this day was observed as Dingane's Day. After 1948 the National Party government set about politicising this day to legitimise their apparent uniqueness and historical relationship with God. Hence in 1952 Dingane's Day officially became the Day of the Covenant or the Day of the Vow. African nationalists and the socialist liberation movement's forces also used the day to mount protest action against white rule. The ANC led Congress Alliance launched its armed struggle (military wing), 'Umkhonto we Siwze: the Spear of the Nation', on December 16th 1961.

In 1994 South Africa elected its first non-racial and democratic government. In the spirit of promoting reconciliation and national unity, the day was given a new meaning and was renamed the Day of Reconciliation in 1995.

Collections in the Archives