Perhaps the most important happening in South African history was the Great Trek, the massive movement of people, goods, wagons, north from the eastern Cape Colony into what became the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. These Voortrekkers migrated between 1834 and the end of the decade. On the way they developed distinctive beliefs concerning their destiny, their relation to God and their relation to the African groups with whom they had serious conflicts. A major battle between better-armed Afrikaner forces and Zulu warriors ended in triumph for the Afrikaners on 16 December 1838. This formed the basis of a national holiday for the Afrikaners, and for the nation of South Africa.
Various Afrikaner organisations conceived of a great celebration surrounding the centennial of this major battle in Natal when a great monument to the Voortrekkers would be constructed near Pretoria. The corner-stone laying was planned for 16 December 1938. In preparation for this celebration, Ox wagon caravans from many parts of the Cape Province made their way north, holding worship services, giving speeches and otherwise building enthusiasm in countless towns along the way. Some of the wagon caravans travelled for four months. The culmination near Pretoria resulted in perhaps as many as 200,000 Afrikaners camping there for the corner-stone laying on the appointed day.
Two major complaints had been voiced continually for decades. First, the Afrikaners wanted total freedom from the British Empire; second, they feared the increasing numbers and influence of African groups for jobs, commodities and land. Scholars and political leaders are convinced that this show of emotion for the Afrikaner cause went a long way to unifying Afrikaner people, resulting in victory for the ‘Purified’ Nationalist Party at the polls in 1948. This study shows how the reiteration of past historical events, in the context of emotional and sometimes tense situations, helped to produce a self-confidence among the disunited Afrikaner factions. From this there resulted a reinforcement of their ideology, or myth, which contributed to their success as a people at the middle of this century. They were confident that their highest nationalist dreams were the result of God's help in their struggles, and resulted also from their loyalty to their cause.