TODAY IN HISTORY: Day of Reconciliation in South Africa

By Drum Digital
15 December 2014

On 16 December 1995, the Day of Reconciliation was celebrated as a public holiday in South Africa for the first time.

In 1838 the Battle of Blood River took place between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus. The Voortrekkers, having moved into the interior of South Africa during the Great Trek, were eager to settle on land. The region that they intended to settle on was already inhabited by the Zulu people. Thus the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief was eager to negotiate with the Zulu chief Dingane. Having misunderstood Retief's intentions, Dingane planned an ambush and murdered Retief and his party of 100 people. This act culminated in the Battle of Blood River, in which 470 Voortrekkers, having the advantage of gunpowder, defeated the 10 000 strong Zulu army. This Voortrekker victory was commemorated since then as the Day of the Vow.

On 16 December was in 1961, when Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was formed. This was the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which was launched to wage an armed struggle against the apartheid government. Prior to its formation, the ANC had largely approached the fight against apartheid through passive resistance, but after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, where peaceful protestors were indiscriminately shot by police, passive resistance was no longer seen as an effective approach in bringing apartheid to an end. MK mostly performed acts of sabotage, but its effectiveness was hampered by organizational problems and the arrest of its leaders in 1963. Despite this, its formation was commemorated every year since 1961.

 On 16 December 1995, the Day of Reconciliation was celebrated as a public holiday in South Africa for the first time.

Source: SA HISTORY ONLINE

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