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Day of Reconciliation – 16 December – South Africa

Martie Coetser is a freelance writer from South Africa. She has a keen interest in a variety of topics.

Nelson Mandela & FW De Klerk - 1994

Day of the Vow

December 16 is a public holiday in South Africa - The Day of Reconciliation.

Until Apartheid was demolished in 1994, this day was known as ‘Dingaans Day’, or ‘Day of the Vow’ or ‘Day of the Covenant’ - a religious holiday to commemorate a battle that had occurred on 6 December 1838 between 470 white Afrikaners (Voortrekkers) and about 10,000 to 15,000 Zulus. (Some sources allege 21,000 Zulus!) Relatively safe behind their wagons, armed with rifles, and with a river between them and the storming Zulus, the Afrikaners won this battle without any fatalities, while about 3,000 Zulus were killed.

* The Zulu people are the largest of the etnic groups in South Africa. Dingane was the brother and successor of Shaka. Their weapons of the time were short spears called assegais.

As sincere and devoted Christians, the Afrikaners believed that God has given them the strength to win this battle, therefore they vowed to regard the day 'forever' as a Sunday, traditionally observed as a day of rest and worship.

When the ANC came into power in 1994, they did not demolish this day that holds only bad memories for them. They introduced it as a day to celebrate reconciliation of all races in the country.

The Battle of Blood River

The Voortrekkers (Pioneers) were the culmination of discontented white Afrikaner farmers, (Boers), who had lived on farms on the border of the British-ruled Cape Colony between 1779 to 1879. These Afrikaners were the descendants of European migrants who saw the Cape of Good Hope as an escape from poverty, war and oppression in Europe since 1652.

When these farmers eventually had enough of British Colonialism and its unsuccessful and even careless efforts to protect them against hostile Xhosa-tribes, they decided to cross the Orange River to find a place where they could live in peace and harmony. Numerous preliminary scout patrols had foreseen only peaceful negotiations involving the purchasing of land and non of the sanguinary battles that would eventually in the 20th century end up in the establishment of the unjust regime, Apartheid.

Once on the other side of the Orange River the typical human tendency to divide instead of staying united sent one group straight to the north, the other group to the East and other groups to wherever they thought they would find the peace and prosperity they were yearning for.

The group that went east had a series of mountains to overcome with permission of the then friendly Basothu (people of Sotho) before they finally found themselves in the kingdom of yet another hostile African nation - The amaZulu (people of Zulu), who was prior to the Groot Trek reigned by King Shaka KaSenzangakhona. At the time the Voortrekkers’ met the amaZulu, Shaka's half-brother, Dingane KaSenzangakhona, was their king.

After the leader of one of the Voortrekker groups, Piet Retief, as well as his son and co-negotiators - were massacred during a meeting that was arranged with King Dingaan to trade cattle for land (February 6, 1838), the Voortrekkers realized that their lives were in danger,

The Battle of Blood River was one of many battles during this time, but distinguished by the Afrikaners as a sign that God was truly on their side by giving them - a group of only 450 - a victory over 10,000-plus Zulus. Today we take their victory for granted: 450 guns against 10,000 spears.

Nevertheless, the Voortrekker leader, Andries Pretorius, had made prior to the battle a vow to God: If they win the battle, they and their offspring will ‘forever’ commemorate the day as a Sabbath.

And this is the reason why a small contingent of white South Africans refuse to accept any changes God - or rather their idea of God - has disposed in South Africa while man has proposed.

The Voortrekker Monument

The construction of a majestic monument started on July 13, 1937 to be finally inaugurated on December 16, 1949 as a symbol of gratefulness because God had protected a group of 450 Voortrekkers - while so many did not survive and some had even died from the most dreaded decease, Yellow-Fever, which is until today still a dangerous threat.

This monument was also a prominent symbol of Apartheid, but thanks to the reconciliation policy enforced by Nelson Mandela - the first black president of a democratic South Africa - the monument has been declared a National Heritage site on July 8, 2011. (Nelson Mandela was the country's president from 1994 to 1999; his reconciliation policy has yet not been rejected by the ANC, the ruling party since 1994.)

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Today the people of Mzantzi (the Xhosa word for South Africa) still have the privilege to admire and utilize the monument inter alia as a tourist attraction and an ideal venue for classical music and choral performances. With its fantastic acoustics, the Hall of Heroes can accommodate up to 600 people and the lower level, the Cenotaph Hall, up to 900. Read more about the function of this imposing monument at www.voortrekker_monument/

Christians may still regard it as a symbol of God's power to dispose while mankind proposes and even practise their idea of justice and injustice for many years.

Voortrekker Monument


In 1993 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela, the first president of the New South Africa, and Frederik Willem de Klerk, the last president of the Old South Africa with its apartheid regime. These two presidents laid the foundation for a democratic South Africa and were the first politicians demonstrating a spirit of reconciliation that led to the official changing of Dingaan’s Day to Day of Reconciliation.

© Martie Coetser (December 2011)

Recommended hubs about South Africa -

© 2011 Martie Coetser


Mpho makua on April 16, 2019:

The south africa was every corapt on that times neh

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on September 06, 2014:

Dear issey, South Africa can do with more blessings, but I guess we still have a far way to go. I guess to know and appreciate peace, we have to know the opposite. Thanks for your comment :)

issey on September 02, 2014:

south africa has been through so many things but the lord jesus christ has been withn them so bless the name of jesus christ may god bless who ever read this who agree with it may the lord bless you

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2013:

So true, bravewarrior: Everyday should be a day of reconciliation :) Doing this demands an open mind and insight. Thanks for coming over for the read. Evidently, knowing the history of my country also enables you to know me better - the workings of genetic memory are not to be underestimated :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 16, 2013:

Interesting bit of history, Martie. Day of Reconciliation - how appropriate! Everyday should be a day of reconciliation. The world would be a better place.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 01, 2012:

Thank you, PegCole, for your much appreciated and inspiring comment :)

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on December 01, 2012:

Martie, I found this quite interesting and informative. It's easy to see your deep passion for your country and its history. I enjoy your writing style and the way you presented the story was fascinating.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 27, 2012:

Thank you, this and love you, Maria

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on November 27, 2012:

Your birthday is almost over, mar. What about taking a quick trip to South Africa ~~~

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 26, 2012:

Thank you, Scarlett OHara, I certainly will...fiddle dee dee...!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on November 26, 2012:

Thanks, marcoujor. Luckily I have once again survived all mishaps and, fortunately, tomorrow's another day....

Enjoy your birthday tomorrow with all your heart!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 26, 2012:

Oh darling, this is the opposite of what I wished for you.

Quick blink your eyes and smile...I am sending cyber hugs across the miles to turn the tide in your favor.

Get an early bed if you can. Love, Maria

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on November 26, 2012:

Hi my dear marcoujor, thanks for reading this again. I am very proud of my country, but at present quite disappointed in the government's incompetence, lacking strong, respectable leadership and management. We can but only hope and pray that all members - or at least half of them - obtain the wisdom exposed and practiced by Nelson Mandela - or at least half of it - and his marvelous vision and attitude.

I am now experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms after my amazing short holiday at the coast. But I think I will make it.... fluttering all the way from heaven down to earth.

Thank you for hoping that I have a relaxing beginning of the week! Unfortunately, my dear sista, someone up there or down below is making this Monday very blue - Started with a flat tire, then I bumped my car into a damn bakkie in our parking space.... now almost time to clock out and I am still handling one crisis after the other..... WTH?

Will catch up asap... :)

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 25, 2012:

What ho, I had read this, Sista...and it is just as excellent the second time around.

The pride you show in your country is infectious and beautiful.

Hope you have a relaxing beginning of the week. Hugs, Maria

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on November 25, 2012:

Hi Sunnie, apart from the fact that we don't feast on delicious turkey and leg-of-lamb on this day, although some certainly do, it is similar to your Thanksgiving - a day for counting blessings and for being grateful and especially for forgiving and reconciliation. Thanks for clicking in for the read. May you have a wonderful Sunday :)

Sunnie Day on November 24, 2012:

Hi Martie,

Thank you so much for sharing the history of South Africa and the Battle of Blood River, so interesting and I am sure the memorial is revered by the country in memory of all who died in the battle.

God bless,


Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on January 08, 2012:

Vinaya - What wonderful news! We are praying down here that Nelson Mandela's example will always be followed by the leading party. You will be surprise how quickly people stop following a good example, because every leader wants to stamp his own ideas of wrong and right on his people/followers. Thank you for your informative comment :)

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on January 06, 2012:

Thanks for sharing South Africa's history. After the ten years of bloody war, Nepal is trying to manage peace process, and draft a constitution. And our leaders take Mandela' South Africa as an example.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on January 06, 2012:

Thank you, Lindokuhle. Correction has been done :))

Lindokuhle on January 06, 2012:

Great history. Just a few points of correction.

It is King Shaka KaSenzangakhona and his half-brother Dingane KaSenzangakhona.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 22, 2011:

Epi - good to know I can get you out of miserableness. Mmmm, I better keep my lipstick on, and my mascara... and color my hair for a change before you notice the grey :)))

epigramman on December 21, 2011:

...well it's hard to be miserable for too long when you have a beautiful woman in your life like Martie .....

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 21, 2011:

Epigramman, it is so good to see you in this hub of mine, and thank you for posting the link on your wall. I feel honored. I am so glad you are coming out of your temporarily misery. Take care and listen to your doctor :)

epigramman on December 21, 2011:

...well this is an essential history lesson for anyone - so it will be posted to my FACEBOOK page with complete respect Miss M for your research, enlightenment, and a very passionate presentation - and I leave you with two quotes - "Make love not war" - "Read Martie and love what she has to say"

lake erie time ontario canada 12:32am and my anti-biotic eardrops are working - I am finally coming out of this misery

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on December 18, 2011:

Oh Martie,

I want to thank you and say how much your comment reminds me, in a beautiful way, of something Mom said....many times, in her own way. Both of you are very wise in my mind.

For example, Mom would say: 'Everyone thinks the recession is the end of the world. I have seen it with the Great Depression.' She equated our 9-11 (in 2001) to her 'Pearl Harbor on 12-7th, 1941'-- (just had the 70th anniversary of this tragedy) that she lived through/ never forgot the impact... spoke to us each year so we never forgot.

Anyway, thank you for reminding me of Mom and our continued efforts to journey through this amazing life, mar.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 18, 2011:

marcoujor – Thank you so much for your inspiring comment. I love the history of my country – in fact of all countries. But when I share my knowledge with others I try not to give any irrelevant-to-the-story detail; I believe the importance is the story, because what was, is, and will be again. This is what we need in order to be compassionate and supportive. We’ve got to know: “Something similar had happened – is happening – may happen perhaps soon – to us/me.” People tend to thing ‘the end of the world is near’, because of this and that.’ But when one knows the history of mankind, one knows that this and that were the order of the day since the very beginning.

Thanks so much, Maria, for making time to read my hubs. You know how much I appreciate your comments and support. I hope you have a lovely day :))

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on December 17, 2011:

Thank goodness this wasn't yanked (LOL) because you have a wonderful flair for relaying history in a most interesting and readable manner. I am remembering when I first befriended you and read your "Happy Birthday, Nelson" and having the same impressions.

Loved this and voted UP & UABI. Hugs, Maria

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2011:

Twilight Lawns - I appreciate your visit and approval. Thank you :)

Twilight Lawns from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. on December 16, 2011:

Great hub. History with absolutely no bias. I loved reading it. Thank you.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2011:

always exploring – I am really glad to know my American friends find the history of South Africa interesting. As I’ve said, one needs to know only a little in order to realize that every country has a unique history to treasure and a present with problems deeply rooted in the history. I’ll see you soon in your corner. Keep the kettle boiling!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2011:

Alastar Packer – It is quite an impressive monument with a unique structure. Every year on 16 December at exactly 12:00pm, the sun shines through a small slit in the roof directly on a sarcophagus and the slogan of the previous anthem: “We for you, South Africa.” It is such an awesome, sacred moment – even men cannot hold their tears. (I should have mentioned this in the hub!) Just follow Google’s ‘The Voortrekker Monument’ and you will surely find the detail interesting.

I plan to write more historical hubs... If only I can get the time to do it. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement, Alastar. Take care!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 15, 2011:

This is another great educational hub about Africa. I knew nothing about 'The Battle of Blood River.' I've always admired Nelson Mandela. Thank you again...

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on December 15, 2011:

My gosh but is Voortrekker Monument HUGE! Thanks for the link Martie- except for generalities, the history of the Boers' treks are new. That was great reading about the Battle of Blood River; very lop-sided, but its no surprise the volk thanked God for the victory. Appreciate you writing this Martie, you know how I like this kind of hub. Its good you had the Day of Reconciliation, it reminds of the two sides coming together 50 years after Gettysburg and making their peace. South Africa is a great country, write some more like this..hint!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

Deni, South-Africa has, I supposed like all countries, a rich and interesting history. But all of us are not interested in the details, we merely need an idea of the past in order to understand the present. Thanks for your comment. Always good to see you!

Jenifer L from california on December 15, 2011:

Thank you for this interesting history lesson regarding something I probably would have never learned!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

A.A. Zavala – I am always thrilled when you find a hub of mine fascinating. Thanks.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

drbj – There were horrible battles between the British and the Zulu’s in Natal. One of the battles was The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 – The British regiments were wiped out by the Zulu’s.

So tragic: Millions of young men lost their lives throughout the ages because of the greed of one or the other ruler, or of the quest for a so-called promised land.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

formosangirl – Just an idea of the history of any country enable us to have empathy with their current problems, although in South Africa the word ‘problem’ is totally out of fashion. We use the word ‘challenge’. The crime rate is currently quite a challenge – of the highest in the world.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

moncrieff –South Africa is the most modern and best developed country in Africa. You will certainly enjoy a tour of the country, but rather through a tourist agency. Thanks for your comment. It is always nice to see you in my corner.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2011:

poetvix – I’ve tried to keep it short and simple. In Wikipedia every detail is clearly and explicitly stated. Thanks so much for clicking in for the read.

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on December 14, 2011:

Completely fascinatin account of the battle and history of the monument. Awesome...

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 14, 2011:

These are fascinating and well-written details, Martie, of a history not well known in the U.S. I saw a British film years ago (so long ago that Michael Caine who starred in it was in his twenties) and it featured this epic battle of the British against the Zulu tribes.

Thank you for enhancing my limited until now South African education.

formosangirl from Los Angeles on December 14, 2011:

I did not know much about the history of South Africa until now. Very informative.

moncrieff on December 14, 2011:

Thank you for sharing. Colonial life in Africa has always been an interesting subject for me, although I have never been there. I guess, in our heart there has always been a strange fascination with this mystical continent.

poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on December 14, 2011:

I had no idea of the vast history behind this day prior to 1994. Thank you for a view into history that is concise, well written and easy to understand.

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