The story of 16 December


The story of 16 December

As we enjoy our first December public holiday, it’s worth a short history lesson as we get to understand the significance of this day.

The 16th of December is remembered for two reasons. Although they happened in different centuries, each has its own story to tell.

Battle of Blood River

This first of these was the Battle of Blood River between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus. During the Great Trek, the Voortrekkers were seeking land to settle on in KZN. This led to a meeting between Piet Retief and Zulu king Dingane. The negotiations did not end well as Retief and 100 of his men were killed by the Zulus. The Battle of Blood River followed which was won the by the Voortrekkers, with much Zulu blood colouring the river. The Voortrekkers commemorated each year.

Sharpeville Massacre aftermath

The second defining event took place on the 16th December 1961 with the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Prior to this, the ANC had fought a passive battle against apartheid but this changed following the Sharpeville Massacre where peaceful protesters – many of them school children – were shot and killed by the apartheid police. The formation of MK was then also commemorated each year. The Sharpville Massacre, and subsequent shift from passive resistance by the ANC, ultimately triggered a new dawn in the fight against apartheid.

On the 16th December 1995, the Day of Reconciliation was observed for the first time, aiming for reconciliation and national unity. While enjoying all that the day has to offer, let’s reflect on what history has taught us and what it takes to reconcile and unite our beautiful country.