Every year on the 16th of December all South Africans take a day off work to celebrate the day of Reconciliation. While it may have different meanings for different people, the day was intended to foster reconciliation and unity in a post-apartheid country.
The day is also of great significance due to two historical events that took place. The first of these was in 1838, when 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.
The second historical event that took place on 16 December was in 1961, when Umkhonto We Sizwe was formed. This was the military wing of the 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.
Whatever this day means to you, it is an important one. Celebrate it by surrounding yourself with loved ones.
From Junk Mail, a peaceful and happy Day of Reconciliation.