Today in South Africa, the 16 December is known as the Day of Reconciliation. Why was 16 December chosen for reconciliation?
In December 1838, the Voortrekkers made a covenant with God that if they were to defeat the Zulu army in the coming battle, they would forever celebrate this day in His name. The 470 Voortrekkers (Boers) drew up a laager of wagons on a bend in the Ncome River in Natal. Between ten and twenty thousand Zulu Impi under the command of Dingane’s Generals – Dambuza and Ndlela ka Sompisi – attacked the laager. With the advantage of muskets overs spears, the white Voortrekkers managed to defeat the Zulu. There was so much blood spilt in the river that it became known as Blood River.
In 1865 the Transvaal Republic declared 16 December as a public holiday, and it was known as Dingane’s Day. The defeat of the Zulu on this day also became a very powerful rallying point for the advancement of Afrikaner culture, identity, and nationalism. In 1952 the name was changed to the Day of the Vow.
After the Boer War / South African War 1899-1902, black people, liberal whites, and emerging political parties such as the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party saw it as a day to protest against white minority rule. Protest action from the 1920s onwards increased but so did Afrikaner Nationalism. For this very reason, the armed wing of the ANC – Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) sabotaged government structures in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban on 16 December 1961, announcing its existence and opening a new phase of resistance.
Find out more about the history of MK resistance, South Africa’s nuclear age, and the attack on South Africa’s Nuclear Power Station at Koeberg which was planned to take place on 16 December 1982, by reading Henry’s full article here.