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Piet Retief


moonga   david

Piet Retief

moonga   david

Piet Retief's grave at uMgungundlovu

According to tradition, the Zulu nation was born in the valley of the Mkhumbane River in Zululand, Natal by Zulu. Shaka, the most famous of all the Zulu kings, was a direct descendant of Zulu. Dingaan, his half-brother, murdered Shaka on September 1828 and became paramount chief of the Zulu's in his place.Before moving back to the ancestral home of the Zulu's, the Mkhumbane Valley, Dingaan killed off all his rivals to consolidate his position. Here he built a new capital called, uMgungundlovu, which means, "the secret place of the elephant".

In October1837, Piet Retief, Voortrekker Leader at the time, visited Dingaan at the Royal Kraal. Retief was in high spirits at the prospect of negotiating a land deal for his people with Dingaan. In November 1837, about 1000 Voortrekker wagons started the descent down the Drakensberg from the Orange Free State into Natal. Dingaan asked Piet Retief for a token of their friendly intentions. Some of Dingaan's cattle had been stolen by Chief Sekonyela and his tribesmen. He asked Retief to recover them. Retief and his party of 69 men recovered 700 head of cattle, 63 horses and a few rifles.

The party arrived back at uMgundlovu on 3 February 1838. On the following day, a treaty was signed, whereby Dingaan ceded all the land south of the Thukela River, as far as the Mzimvubu River, in the Transkei, to the Voortrekkers
On 6 February, Retief and his party were treated to a farewell dance by the Zulu impis. They were told to leave their firearms outside the royal kraal. Suddenly, when the dancing had reached a frenzied climax, Dingaan leapt to his feet and shouted "bambani laba bathakathi!" ("Kill the wizards!") The men were totally overpowered and dragged away to a hill called kwaMatiwane, named after a chief who had been killed there. Retief and his men were savagely butchered to death. The general opinion as to the reason why they were killed is because for some obscure reason, they withheld some of the cattle recovered from Chief Sekonyela.

During the Battle of Blood River on December 1838, the assasination of Retief and his men was avenged. The victorious Voortrekkers finally arrived at uMgundgundlovu on 20 th December, 1838. The Zulu capital was deserted and ablaze with fire. They found the skeletal remains of Retief and his party. A memorial to mark the spot where they were buried was later built. The huts in the original "city" have been rebuilt on their foundations, and restored.

On a hill overlooking uMgundgundlovu, in 1838, the Revd Francis Owen tried to negotiate the establishment of a permanent mission station. Also from this hill, he was witness to the cruel slaying of Retief and his men on that fateful day.

Location and Contact for Visitors

Follow the N2 (north) from Durban, pass Stanger and then on the R34 towards Ulundi. Look for signposts close to Ulundi (about 220km) - Tel. +27 3545 2254



As I understand the true historical facts relating to the buildup to and death of Retief and his men is not found in journals or manuscripts read in schools etc.

Piet Retief was forewarned before the time to not take his weapons into the central area of the kings kraall which we know he did not respect and entered into the Kraal and also went so far as to fire weapons demonstrating their marksmanship. Subsequently the indunas had an indaba with Dingaan and one of the older men reminded the group of what the prophet who went by the name of Jacob who had visited their people some years before had prophesied and said: " the sign of the end and collapse of the Zulu nation would come when white skinned people entered their community and introduced teachings from a little black book and they would show their sticks of fire in front of the king, this would be the beginning of the collapse".

It was on grounds of this that out of necessity they have to destroy those that have brought this on the Zulu nation. That visit was also a step taken by Piet Retief to see the king in order to acquire more land than what the king had given.

The documentation is available to be read in a guest house in La Lucia and I am sure obtainable for anyone who seriously is looking for deeper and more accurate insight into what happened in this countries history. I know I was raised by a very biased understanding of events and have taken the time to look for unbiased or ignored documented testimony.

Posted by: Trev

We all learnt that Retief was this great hero and leader. But of what character was he? I have heard that he was a brigand, thief and scoundrel (possibly a type of highwayman/robber). Can this be substantiated or refuted?

Posted by: Les Ball

The answer is: The Zulu "nation" was founded by their warrior kings, Dingiswayo, Ushaka, and Dingane, who assassinated the latter. Even the rebel group led by Mzilikaze, had to flee the country, and ended up as the Matabele tribes North of the Limpopo river. Likewise the Basotho nation fled into the safe haven of the inaccessible Drakensberg mountains, while the amaBaqa were driven South into Pondoland.

Sadly so, many lesser tribes and dwarf nations were totally annihalated from southern africa similarly to the Red Indians in America, and the Aborigines in Australia...

By the time the first Voortrekkers arrived, the practise of the ruling tribe to kill all fighting men and to marry all women to build their nation was already in practise for three generations, and, unlike America and Australia, they never embarked on a similar 'land grabbing' process. As a matter of fact, some nations such as the Bafokeng were always on friendly terms with the Voortrekkers in the Free State and Transvaal.

The important role of the Khoi and San is often exaggerated in comparison with that of, for instance, the Lemba goldsmiths of Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe, who were known to be of Jewish origin...

Posted by: whiteboy

My question is, how could Digaan have given Piet Retief land that belonged to the Khoi people. So land was taken from the Khoi by black and whites. Our Khoi fathers and mothers were robbed legally as we are now nd I pray to God that one day we will get our land back. We dont mind sharing it, but would love to be recognized by black and white that we (the Khoi) are the custodians of this land.

Posted by: khoiboy

Would love to see an authentic, unbiast historical account on Piet Retief, the man.

Posted by: Les Ball

I enjoy reading the rich literatures of the Zulus and the whole traditional virtues of south Africa. The Zulus has very rich culture that needs to be protected for the future generation. I love their traditional attire. How I wish I could have one.

Posted by: moonga david




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