» Voortrekker – Zulu Conflict

The introduction of British rule in the CapeColony in 1806 led to dissatisfaction among the fiercely independent Afrikaners (of Dutch descent), resulting in an exodus of Voortrekkers to the hinterland, where they aspired to govern themselves and maintain their cultural identity and language.

Deeply religious members of the protestant order, they considered themselves akin to the children of Israel seeking their promised land. In 1838 one of these groups under Piet Retief chose to cross the DrakensbergMountains and enter Natal where their leaders had already made contact with the group of English adventurers and hunters that had established themselves in Port Natal (Durban).

The English informed Retief that before acquiring land in Natal he would need to negotiate with the King of the Zulu, Dingane. Retief and members of his party therefore paid Dingane a visit. Dingane was already suspicious of the white men, particularly after news of the way in which another party had driven off an attack by the Ndebele, who had their origins in Zululand and was perplexed as to what action to take.  He therefore tasked them with recovering cattle stolen from him by another powerful chief by the name of Sikonyela, hoping that Sikonyela would remove them as a threat, but Retief and his men completed the task with relative ease. This placed Dingane in a dilemma and during Retief and his party’s subsequent visit, he had them killed. The Zulu King then unleashed his warriors on the various groups of Trekkers who by now had moved down into Natal in anticipation of obtaining land. Over the period 12th to 19th February 1838 several hundred Trekker families were killed before the remainder were able to regroup and beat off the Zulus’ attacks. The Trekkers then formed a commando to seek retribution and to try and recover some of the stolen cattle but they were ambushed in the eThaleni Valley and forced to flee leaving young 14 year old Dirkie Uys to die fighting alongside his father. Eventually a stronger force, led by Andries Pretorius, was constituted and the Zulu army was defeated at the Battle of Blood River on the 16th December 1838. Dingane fled his capital Mgungundlovu and was eventually defeated by his half-brother Mpande at the Battle of Maqongqo in 1840.

Places of Interest

Kerkenberg, Olivier’s Hoek Pass Area, Free State

201 | 21st October 1837 The Trekkers reached this site in mid October and stayed through till mid November, sending … Read More

Blijde Vooruitzicht
Blijde Vooruitzicht, Olivier’s Hoek Pass Area, KwaZulu-Natal

202 | This monument stands on the top of Retief’s Pass and is the point where his party stood and … Read More

Doornkop, Chieveley Area, KwaZulu-Natal

203 | 10th January Onwards – Chieveley Area near N3/R74 junction Retief arrived at this laager site on the 10th … Read More

Saailaager, Estcourt Area, KwaZulu-Natal

204 | 12 February 1838 The Zulus attacked the Voortrekker laagers in the Bushman’s River area after the execution of … Read More

Rensburg Koppie
Rensburg Koppie, Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal

205 | 17 February 1838 Marthinus Oosthuyse became one of the heroes of the Trek when on the 17th February … Read More

Veglaer, Estcourt Area, KwaZulu-Natal

206 | The site of a three day attack by Zulus on the Voortrekkers’ laager (13-15 February 1838). The actual … Read More

Bloukrans, Estcourt Area, KwaZulu-Natal

207 | After the execution of Retief and his men at Mgungundlovu, King Dingane despatched his junior regiments to drive … Read More

Ithaleni Battlefield
Ithaleni Battlefield, Mgungundlovu Area, KwaZulu-Natal

208 | April 1838 In April 1838 a Voortrekker Commando led by Uys and Maritz set out to recover the … Read More

Sooilaager, Loskop Station Area, KwaZulu-Natal

209 | 19th June to 1838 Maritz built a defensive laager using sods to build a wall underneath the wagons. … Read More

Skiets Drift
Skiets Drift, Ladysmith/Winterton Area, KwaZulu-Natal

210 | This drift was used by many Voortrekker parties including those of Maritz and Uys when they first entered … Read More

68 Park Lane, Ladysmith, 3370, South Africa

211 | The story has it that Pretorius’ Commando stopped here on its way to Blood River and a Dance … Read More

Wasbank Laager
Wasbank Laager, Wasbank, KwaZulu-Natal

212 | It is at this laager on the 7th Dec 1838 that Pretorius, Landman and Cilliers formulated the “The … Read More

Grave of Piet Retief
Grave of Piet Retief, Ulundi Area, KwaZulu-Natal

214 | Piet Retief and his party were executed here on the orders of King Dingane. The Memorial is near … Read More

Ophathe Battlefield
Ulundi Area, Part of Emakhosini Opathe Park, KwaZulu-Natal

215 | 27 December 1838 When the Wenkommando reached Mthonjaneni, they were deceived by a Zulu named Bongoza into believing … Read More

Barefoot Lady
Barefoot Lady, Olivier’s Hoek Pass Area, KwaZulu-Natal

216 | After the British occupation of Natal in 1842 many of the Trekkers decided to migrate either back over … Read More