Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Voortrekkers - Dingane and Piet Retief strike a Deal.

Dingane allocates land to the Voortrekkers if they recover cattle stolen from him.

Retief and DIngane strike a Deal

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Dingane Dithers as Retief Arrives

Dingane intended to impress Retief and called in many thousands of cattle from outlying areas. On Retief's arrival, he kept him waiting for two days with tribal dancing displays while he deliberated on his response to the inevitable request for land. His indunas Ndlela and Dambuza who wielded great influence were all for killing the party there and then.

He had expected to meet Uys, the commander of the Natal Commissie Trek and was surprised when Retief appeared, whom he called too small to be a commander. He set about accusing the Boers of rustling Zulu livestock near the Drakensberg but Retief replied that it was Sikyonela's Wild Cat people who were known to wear European clothing.

Dingane and Retief Strike a Deal

Dingane then asked that such livestock be recovered by the Boers as a sign of their good intentions whereupon he would cede them the land between the Tugela River in the north and the Umzimvubu River in the South.

Retief agreed to recover the cattle and sent messengers back to the Voortrekkers informing them that the land was theirs. Thus by the 14th November 1837, the first trekker wagons stood at the foot of the Drakensberg. To improve their prospects, the trek wagons of the much-respected Gert Maritz had arrived.

By the time Retief returned from Umgungundlovu, there were one thousand wagons camped in the area around modern day Estcourt. At the very time that Retief was seeing Dingane, Potgieter was finishing his attack on the Matabele at Kapain.

Between Retief's first and second visit, the seeds of inevitable perfidy had been sown. Firstly, Dingane learned of Potgieter's success at Kapain against the Matabele, that Voortrekkers had descended the Drakensberg in large numbers and thirdly, he had received a letter from Retief.

Retief's Letter to Dingane

In this ill advised and uncharacteristic letter, Retief wrote that Mzilikazi's fate was as a result of the providence of God when he had made war when he should not have. In a second letter, Retief had informed Dingane that he intended to retain some of Sikyonela's cattle as well as keep the horses and guns. To make matters worse, he was told the Sikyonela had been released.

Dingane determined to wipe out not only Retief and his party but all the Voortrekkers and contemplated an invitation to all the Voortrekkers including the women and children (but without the horses) to Umgungundlovu. However the sounds of muskets being fired into the air told him that Retief had already arrived.

Retief Arrives at Umgungundlovu

The king kept the party waiting for several days with displays of dancing and mock battles, even asking them to display their abilities as horsemen in the great area in the centre of the kraal.

Eventually however he signed a treaty (drawn up in English) ceding the land. The next day the Boers were to return joyfully to their party under the Drakensberg.

The Boers are Warned

At that time, a young twelve-year-old boy called William Wood, the son of one of the settlers in Port Natal was visiting the royal kraal. He was fluent in Zulu and had overheard the warriors talking about what was going to happen on the morrow. He warned several of the Boers but was brushed aside.

On visiting missionary Owen above the kraal, he told them the same - 'You will see. Tomorrow they will kill the Boers'. On the day Retief and his party were to leave 6th February 1838, several of the party breakfasted with the Owens and were again warned but ignored the warning believing that the king was incapable of treachery.

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Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide