The introduction of British rule in the Cape Colony in 1806 led to dissatisfaction among the fiercely independent Afrikaners, resulting in an exodus of Voortrekkers to the hinterland, where they aspired to govern themselves and maintain their cultural identity and language.

After crossing the Drakensberg mountains and entering Natal, the Voortrekkers came into conflict with some of the resident Zulu tribes, and disputes arose over land ownership. A group of Voortrekkers under the leadership of Piet Retief arrived in Natal in 1838, and during negotiations with Zulu king Dingane in the royal capital at Mgungundlovu, the Voortrekker leader and 101 of his men were killed. This led to open hostilities – with other groups of Voortrekkers being attacked and killed, and a commando dispatched from Port Natal was ambushed at Italeni.

The Voortrekkers mobilised to avenge the attacks making a vow that if God should grant them victory over the Zulus, they would build a church in thanksgiving and commemorate the event annually. On 16 December 1838, on the banks of the Ncome River (meaning praiseworthy) 460 Voortrekkers defeated a strong Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River/ Ncome.