Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day of Reconciliation

Today [December 16] is a public holiday in South Africa.

The Day of Reconciliation holiday came about in 1994 following the end of apartheid, and is intended to foster a spirt of reconciliation and national unity.

However, the date chosen comes from a much earlier event.

On December 16, in 1838, was fought the Battle of Blood River. On the bank of the Ncome River on that date, king Dingane, with an army of close to 15,000 men, attacked 470 Voortrekkers. The Voortrekkers, under the command of Andries Pretorius, of course had provoked the attack, though they hadn't counted on quite that large of an opposing army.

The Zulus attacked the Voortrekkers in waves, with only spears for weapons. The Dutch soldiers had muskets and cannon. By the end of the day, the river by the hippo pool had actually changed color.

In the ignoble (some say) carnage on that killing field, over 3000 Zulu warriors were slaughtered. The Trekkers had 3 slightly wounded, including Pretorius himself.

The Zulus lived to fight another day, and with much greater success.

Read more about the Battle of Blood River, its causes and its aftermath here.


  1. It sounds awful... so sad. But amazing that only 3 were injured on the Voortrekkers' side. Wow.

    What tone does the past anniversary cast on this new holiday? Seems like a bloody day to use for a day commemorating less bloody sentiments. Is it a reminder?

  2. I read about this yesterday myself.

    I love Wikipedia.

  3. There are still plenty of South africans who hate each other, they're not reconciled, nor likely to be any time soon.

    There are a new class of wealthy africans. And the same old class of desperately poor africans.
    the same inequalities without the division of skin colour.

  4. @Shakespeare - I don't know that they are having that much luck with reconciliation as a whole but at least the open fighting has pretty much stopped. And I don't know why they chose that date for this public holiday. I think other things have happened on that date as well, some more recently.

    Stephanie - I love Wikipedia too, though I am wary. I was reminded of the holiday from a South African the day before, though. Then I decided to look deeper into the history.

    @Soubriquet - True, sadly. Plenty of Americans who hate each other, too.

    There is still the division of skin color, though reversed now. Actually, it is pretty surprising they get on as well as they do. It is still only 20 years since independence, though, and it will take generations.



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