In 1886, the inhabitants of the town declared the Klein Vrystaat (Little Free State), which contained a population of only 72. This republic existed until 1891, when it was incorporated into the South African Republic.
On 2 February 2010, South African Arts and Culture minister Lulu Xingwana approved a state decision for Piet Retief to be renamed to eMkhondo. Like many other post-apartheid name changes in South Africa, the incident remains controversial. Most residents are uncertain what the new name means, and have argued that "Piet Retief" did not evoke widespread public offence, as did Verwoerdburg. Prominent Afrikaner groups, including the Freedom Front Plus, have promised to contest the change.