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 directdescendant 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
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 aba
thakathi!" ("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
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