On This Day – The Weenen Massacre


The Weenen Massacre was the massacre of Voortrekkers (emigrants who left the Dutch-founded Cape Colony) by the Zulu between 16-17 February 1838. After the murder of Piet Retief, South African Boer leader, the Zulu King Dingane sent his impis, or armed body of men, to exterminate the remaining voortrekkers who were camped at Doringkop, Bloukrans and other sites along the Bushman River. The present day town of Weenen, situated close to these sites, derives its name from the Dutch word for ‘weeping’.

Among the Voortrekkers, 41 men, 56 women and 185 children were killed as well as another 250 Khoikhoi and Basuto that accompanied them. Alexander Biggar, a trader at Port Natal and his second son, Robert, subsequently participated and died in retaliatory attacks on the Zulus.

Two months afterwards, on 15 April 1838, Andries Pretorius, who survived the attacks, reflects in his journal “As we were separated from one another, they succeeded in their attack at daybreak at Blaauwekrans, thereby killing 33 men, 75 women and 123 children.”This indicates a total of 231 deaths at the Blaauwekrans camps alone.