Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Vryheid.

Once the capital of the Nieuwe Republiek established by the Boers. The town is close to the battlefields of Hlobane and Kambula..

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Vryheid

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Vryheid was established in 1884 on land donated to Boers who had helped Cetshwayo's son Dinizulu subjugate a rebellious local chief - Zibhebu - and thence ascend to the Zulu throne. Dinizulu engaged 800 Boers to defeat the chief with the promise of land grants, however he eventually realized that should he be victorious, there would be insufficient land to give the Boers.

The British then negotiated a settlement with Boers to accept a parcel of land corresponding to the area around Vryheid ('freedom'). The Boers accepted and established the Nieuwe Republiek with Lucas Miejer as its president (Lucas Meijer House Museum, PO Box 57 Vryheid).

When the British finally annexed Zululand in 1888, the republic was incorporated into the Transvaal. It was finally reincorporated into Natal in 1903. There is a large German speaking population in the surrounding area - descendants of German missionaries and craftsmen.

The town still has many lovely reminders of this period with stately government buildings, a facade of national monuments and private dwellings in typical Victorian style.

In the Old Fort is the old prison with its four cells. The building has also served duty both as a Post Office and a Police Station. One of the cells houses a variety of guns from the three wars. The 'Republican Ideal' forms one of the other displays (Nieuwe Republiek Museum 0381 812133).

The Lucas Miejer Museum once belonged to the first president of the Nieuwe Republiek who built it for his wife. He died in 1902 and she remarried and died there in 1961. The museum is regarded as a living museum with training and educational events.

Close to the town is the Hlobane battlefield where the Zulus defeated the British in the war of 1879. The day after this battle, twenty five thousand Zulus were repulsed by the British at the nearby battle of Kambula. At the very end of the Anglo/Boer War, a party of 56 Boers were ambushed and massacred by Zulus at Holkrans.

Near the town is the 700ha Vryheid Nature Reserve and the 4500ha Klipfontein Nature Reserve (Ezemvelo Wildlife). There is a caravan park on the shores of Klipfontein. Both one day and two day hikes (The Lancaster Hiking Trails) are available in the Vryheid Nature Reserve. There is plenty of birdlife and small game. Overnight is in log cabins.

Between Vryheid and Nongoma is the Ntendeka Wilderness Area. Ntendeka means 'the place of precipitous heights' and magnificent views are to be had. The reserve is over 5000ha and about half is forest and half grassland. Hiking is available in the Ngome State Forest but permission must be obtained.

The Nchaga Trail between Vryheid and Piet Retief is a two day trail through indigenous forests.

Grootgewacht Dam offers picnic and braai facilities an non motorized water sport. On the shores of the dam is the Bonamanzi log cabin camp (Vryheid Parks Dept.).

Vryheid Information Bureau PO Box 57, Vryheid, 3100, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

034 9822133 Fax: 034 3314312

The Vryheid Museum

The Raadzaal (meeting house) of the New Republic together with the Carnegie Public Library is incorporated into a museum displaying artefacts from the Great Trek, Anglo/Zulu and Anglo/Boer Wars. Attached to the museum is a fort and prison cells. The Carnegie Library houses a local history collection and the information offices. The Lukas Meijer House houses five period rooms and displays depicting banking, mining, printing and Zulu arts.

PO Box 57, Vryheid, 3100 07.30 - 16.00

A Short History of the Nieuwe Republiek

After the death of Cetshwayo in 1884, various factions squabbled for the monarchy. A group of Boers got together to promote the lawful successor, Dinizulu. A local chief called Usibephu however continued to attack Dinizulu but was defeated in a joint Boer/Zulu operation. As a reward, Dinizulu promised each Boer territory but the total was found to be greater than his entire kingdom. A compromise was reached and land ceded to the Boers and the Nieuwe Republiek proclaimed in 1884. The capital was to be Vryheid ('Freedom').

Because many of the Boers had come from the Transvaal, there was a move to incorporate the Republiek with the Transvaal and this was completed in 1888, Vryheid becoming a district of the Transvaal.

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