Friday, September 11, 2009

South African Voortrekkers

South Africa was discovered Bartolomeu Dias (South Africa, Scott#708) in 1488. The Portuguese were the first nation that sent out explorers to search for the riches of Asia. Dias who was sailing down the west coast of Africa discovered a beautiful land at the tip of South Africa.
Later in the 16th century the Dutch arrived with the landing of Jan van Riebeeck (South Africa, Scott #118) in 1651, a member of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch who settled South Africa were of the Calvinist (SWA, Scott #298-299) persuasion. They belonged to the Calvinist Reformed Church of the Netherlands and were devout followers of the Reformation and strong believers in the sovereignty of God. The followed the Dutch Reformed Confession established at the synod of Dordt. They were accompanied by the French Calvinists also known as the Huguenots. These staunch French Calvinists had been persecuted by the French monarchy for over a hundred years. There were also numerous Germans who believed in the reformed Heidelberg Catechism (Germany, Scott #861).
The most dominant group was the Dutch, also known as the Boers, Dutch for farmer. The Boer nation that developed was intensely Calvinistic and included the French Huguenots (South Africa, #B-11) and the German Protestants. In the early 1800’s the English arrived and began settling South Africa. They clashed with the Boers and a high degree of tension was created. At the same time the Boers were experiencing border wars with the Xhosa and other tribal nations. The Boers had finally decided that they needed to migrate away from the English and thus in 1835 they departed. The Great Trek as it was called was led by the Voortrekkers (South Africa, Scott #B-6) The Voortrekkers were those Boers (mainly from the Eastern Cape) who left the Cape and ventured eastward to central South Africa. These hearty farmers wanted simply to be left alone to cultivate the land and practice their Calvinistic faith in peace.
The Trek was difficult and full of twists and turns. Led by various Boer leaders such as Piet Retief and Andries Pretorius they advanced towards what would become the Orange Free State, Natal and the Transvaal. Retief negotiated with the Zulus but they turned on him, murdering him and 500 other Voortrekkers. God’s sovereignty entered the picture and at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, the Boers defeated the Zulu. They killed thousands of Zulu while taking no losses to their Boer fighters. This battle opened up South Africa and established the short term Boer Republic in Natal. The British continued to harass the Boers and they retreated further behind the Drakensberg.
A monument stands to honor the Voortrekkers and the Great Trek. The monument was inaugurated in 1949 by Prime Minister D.F. Malan (South Africa, Scott #403). It is a unique Monument which commemorates the Pioneer history of Southern Africa and the history of the Afrikaner. The Voortrekker Monument (South Africa, B1-4) honors those brave Voortrekkers who from 1838-1854 ventured into the wilds of South Africa to establish a Christian nation. The Boers were finally defeated by the English at the turn of the century yet their culture and strong Calvinistic faith still survives today.

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