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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 few rifles.

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 day.

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

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