.When going over a historical account there is always just a little overlooked fact that will be the dead give-away tell-tale fact that will suggest that behind what is being served up as a historical “truth” is a much more interesting story.

Die Afrikaners

CREDIT: Painting by Cobus van Bosch who has done a wonderful series of works memorializing the Orlam Leaders by using historical photographs in the public domain and giving it added value for future generations. His historical works are a great resource for educating our youth and instilling pride after years of oppression. This art is a wonderful practical act of reparation and restitution. Its deep value goes way beyond the confines of the gallery to live in the gallery of the hearts and minds of the descendants of these valiant men and women who once were warriors. Thank you Cobus.

Jan Jonker Afrikaner and a group of the Orlam Afrikaners



So is the case of an organisation established in 1875 by Boer intellectuals in Paarl called “Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners” (GRA -The Association of Real Afrikaners…. or True Afrikaners).

Their starting point was that they recognised that what was referred to as Cape Low Dutch had emerged as the lingua franca of most Boers who could no longer speak pure Dutch and they christened their observation of this language variant – Afrikaans. Shortly after, they launched their newspaper “The Patriot” which made it clear that their mission was not just a language claim but that they were also founded on a claim to a “God-given land”.

The Association and their newspaper was deeply rooted in three things – language, land and people (language, country and nation) and thus became the early standard bearer of Afrikaner Nationalism. In 1881 a Boer protest movement known as the Zuid Afrikaansche Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging (South African Farmers’ Protection Association) of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr emerged as a proto political party and joined with the GRA and formed a political party called the Afrikaner Bond which took its place in the Cape Parliament.

So why in seeking a more inclusive and respectful term as an aspirant and emergent national group did they not just call themselves “The Association of Afrikaners”. The answer lies in the tell-tale use of the term “regte” meaning “real” or “true”. In asking why they needed to do this, the obvious answer is that there must have already been people that called themselves “Afrikaners” and a language ‘Afrikaans’ that the new association wanted to both distinguish themselves from and lay claim to the term and language for themselves. It is this political usurping of the term “Afrikaner” or “African” and the language of “Afrikaans” that is the more interesting story than what became the dominant narrative.

There were immediately opponents of the announcement of this “new language” and use of the term “Afrikaander” later modified to “Afrikaner” and it came from within the Boer constituency from those who wanted to maintain High Dutch as their language despite the fact that youth were more and more taken by English or spoke the Cape Low Dutch. The reason that they gave for their opposition spells out why they were so opposed. They said that the adoption of this “Afrikaans patois” was nothing but an adoption of the “Hotnotstaaltjie”. Afrikaans was regarded as the language of those regarded as Khoena and ‘Coloured’….. the people derogatorily called “Hotnot-Basters” were those who called themselves Afrikaners and everyone knew it.

A popular story was partially related by the Afrikaans language movement to try to track the genesis of the term Afrikander to European settlers by referring to an utterance by a 16 year old boy, Henrik Biebouw. Detlef Biebouw was a German labourer (knegt) who had a child with a slave, Diana van Madagascar, belonging to Cornelis Linnes. Detlef then later bought Diana when their daughter Susanna was around 6 years old but he married an orphan girl Wilhelmina de Wit shipped from Rotterdam and they lived on the fringe with the mixed Khoena, slave and knegt lower class of Stellenbosch.

In 1694 Wilhelmina bore Detlef a son, Hendrik who grew up in this mixed community shunned by the settler mainstream. In 1710 the 16 year old Hendrik was brought to court after a drunk and rowdy disturbance of the peace the night before. Hendrik basically told the magistrate where to get off by implying that as a foreigner the magistrate had no right to be telling him how to behave in public – “because I am an African (Afrikaander)”, in reference to the locally born in his mixed community. The term was quite clear at that time and no respected European settlers would allow themselves to be referred to us such. The fact of the matter is also that by the time Hendrik was 20 he got on a ship and left the Cape for good.

Before 1710 the term was already well used by people of colour at the Cape as can here be illustrated. There were already a proto national group called the Orlam Afrikaners who were descendants of Khoena and Slaves who had trekked up from the Roodezand (Tulbagh) to the Gariep region and had left an indelible mark on the Southern African landscape. This Afrikaner dynasty had been using this term “Afrikaner” as their surname going back to their progenitor Oude Ram Afrikaner since the late 1600s. From a surname the term broadened to mean all of the followers of Jager Afrikaner – the fighter in the Gariep district. His cousin Jonker Afrikaner was the man who founded the city of Windhoek. Jager’s brother Afrikaner Afrikaner died in incarceration on Robben Island.

Some of my own forbears in the Roodezand (Tulbagh) were from this community of “Afrikaners of colour”. One of my 6th great grandmothers (paternal) had the inscription in her baptismal record – Kaatje Hottentotin. Her name was Johanna Catharina Voortman van de Caab. She had a long marriage with Heinrich Voortman, a German, and two of their daughters married two sons of French Hugenot settlers, the le Cordiers. Both sisters make up different lines in my family tree up to my paternal grandmother Elsie Petronella le Cordier who married my grandfather Pieter Francois Mellet in District Six in the 1920s where my father and his siblings were born. Many of today’s le Cordiers, le Codeurs and Kortjes all descend from these three mixed relationships at the Roodezand.

The term “Afrikaner” goes back to the early use of toponyms to denote where slaves were taken from…. Eg: Anthonie van Angola, Angela van Bengal etc. First generation slaves born in the Cape Colony were referred to as Eg…. Catherina van de Caab (Kaap). Persons born out of unions of slaves and indigene Khoena were given the toponym Eg…. Klaas van Afrika which then simply became Klaas Afrika or Klaas Afrikaander. It was thus that the old progenitor of the Afrikaner clan, born circa 1690, became known as Oude Ram Afrikaner whose son was Klaas Afrikaner. Around that time it became common to also refer to people born of mixed Khoena, slave and European relationships as Afrikaanders also known as Free Blacks. But it was considered a term for the low class labourers of colour.

Thus in the Cape as had occurred elsewhere in the colonial world the term “African” was used in the context of slavery. It had never been used within Africa as a term of identity except in North Africa in the town of Afariqa by the Afars. If one thinks through this it makes common sense. Why would anyone in Africa even know the term or think of a continental land mass until people were forcibly taken away and could look back to from where they had been taken into slavery. Each slave had their own locality from which they had been taken to coastal towns and then loaded onto ships and taken to new places. Collectively they began to refer to themselves by the continental name used by their captors – Africans. In the Cape which was the only place on Africa to which the Europeans had brought slaves, the terms van de Caab and van Afrika took its own unique twist. Afrikaner was a term denoting class, colour and mixing.

Afrikaans too, as a written language, predates the translation of the Bible into Afrikaans by a century and the publishing efforts of the Association of True Afrikaners by at least a half century. Texts from the Koran and Madrassa lessons written in phonetic Afrikaans using Arabic script exist to prove this assertion that the earliest written Afrikaans emerged from among the slaves at the Cape.

The first usage of the term Africa and African in South Africa as self-identifying terms for people and language is rooted amongst the Khoena, San and the slaves. Thus the term “Regte” meaning “True or Real” was an unfortunate subterfuge when adopted by the Association of True Afrikaners. Perhaps one day the children of the “Afrikaners of Colour” and the children of those who saw themselves as “Regte Afrikaners” may reconcile and “AfriKaaps” and “Regte Afrikaans” may reconcile too. Perhaps this approach to our history and the tense ties that bind us may hold the key for the resolution of the vexing issues of the future of both the Afrikaans language and those who still see themselves as “Regte Afrikaners”. It is wonderful to see that many young white Afrikaans speakers are exploring those aspects of history that have as Elna Boesak once put it ….fallen “tussen die kraake” and in so doing, finding liberation and connectedness with Africa and the Africans their forebears once rejected.

Where have all the Cape Khoena gone?

What happened to the more than 16 Cape-based Khoena clans  and where have the four large concentrations of San gone? Is it true to say that it is simply a case of the majority of today’s people labelled ‘Coloured’ are the only true descendants of the Khoe and the San? The complex answer to the former is the subject of this article and the answer to the second question is that this formulation is both simplistic and incorrect.

Khoe JJ

Notwithstanding the fact that probably around 35 – 40% of those that the Apartheid regime had classified as ‘Coloured’ are descended from the Khoena and the San in the Western Cape, the historic and scientific demographic of the Western Cape shows that the impact of slavery more than anything else has fashioned identity along with indigene heritage, imported indentured labour and the European/Eurasian tributary.

Indeed in the rural districts of the West Coast region as well as in the Northern Cape the figures may be as high as 70% among those labelled ‘Coloured’ and in the urban and peri-urban sprawl of the Cape Peninsula, and the rural districts of Boland and Overberg as low as 20% of people labelled ‘Coloured’ are of Khoena and San descent.

These assumptions are based on a large DNA study (The Living History Project that have been done on self-identifying individuals where 30% of those labelled ‘Coloured’ had Khoe and San mtdna (and 2% Y-Chromesome dna). The same studies interestingly showed that 17% of those labelled ‘Black’ also had Khoena and San mtdna (6% Y-Chromosome dna) and, those classified as ‘White’ and those classified as ‘Asian’ had 8,5% (0% Y-C dna) and 16% (0% Y-C dna)  Khoe and San mtdna. Notably those labelled ‘Coloured’ had 32% Bantu mtdna (22% Y-C dna); 22% Asian mtdna (16% Y-C dna); 13% Eurasian mtdna (48% Y-C dna); and 2,5% European mtdna (12% Y-C dna).

The question then is whether there is a historical explanation for why science shows us this evidence? Resoundingly, YES there is an explanation if we set aside the traditional propaganda history books and the racist ideas of ‘pure’ and ‘uncontaminated’ peoples as propagated by the Apartheid National Party ideologues. It is unfortunate that some today still tout these false notions as fact.

In the Western Cape we have 7 main historical tributaries into our ‘peopling’ identity today. The indigenes (Khoena, San and Bantu); the slaves (African, Indian and South East Asian); the Free Blacks (freed slaves, mixed Slave/Khoena and free black travelers; Europeans (from a range of countries); Maroons (runaways or drosters from the previous 4 groups); Exiles and Refugees; and Indentures and Migrants. By studying the interaction of these and the historical events involved, we are able through scientific dna studies show the relationship of history and science that underpins understanding of identity in the Cape. Along with this we have fairly advanced genealogical studies that also provide un-challengeable facts that record actual marriages, unions, births, deaths and descent that underpin the scientific evidence and the historical evidence that underpins the unraveling of ‘Coloured’ identity in the Western Cape as well as other identities. Purity of ‘race’ is totally debunked by these inter-related studies.

To understand what happened to the Khoena clans and the San of the Western Cape we have to go on a journey of persecution, war and resistance. It has been the covering over of this tragic story and fabrication of myths that has both insulted the memory of these our forebears and has denied us an proper understanding of this important element of our identity. For some who are the surviving direct descendants of the Khoena and the San it has denied them restitution and the opportunity to rebuild their social and clan identities. For those of us who have a strong affinity based partially on descent and wish to revive a broad sense of identity rooted in both our Khoena and San roots, the lack of clarity on the past is an impediment of how we move forward. And for those of us who simply wish to celebrate our Khoena and San ancestral roots as part of a tapestry of origins, likewise it is an impediment for us in moving forward, not to have all of the pieces of this puzzle.

Historical researcher Nigel Penn in his devoted work towards understanding what he calls the FORGOTTEN FRONTIER has provided us with the most useful and comprehensive  account of the hidden history of the ethnic cleansing of the Khoena and San of the Western Cape.

Four of my favourite characters in history were freedom fighter contemporaries in the closing years of a 160 year series of wars of resistance by the Khoena, San and Slaves to Dutch and subsequent British colonial land grabs and genocide. Khoena Chief David Stuurman, the enslaved Louis of Maritius, the rebellious priest Dr Johannes van der Kemp and the Itola warrior prophet Makana whose mother was Khoe and father was amaXhosa. They all died between 1807 and 1825 and each has an amazing story.

It is not their stories that I will relate here but rather the story of a 160 year conflict in which they were just the closing players. As the 160 years of war came to an end it over lapped with another 100 years war in the eastern Cape where Khoena, Slave Drosters and amaXhosa often also stood together. That war is fairly well covered by historians, albeit with terrible slants, while the 160 year war is not. In understanding this period we can better understand a complex process from which our identity rises like a phoenix. The story addresses the question of WHERE HAVE ALL THE CAPE KHOENA GONE?

Our history books give a distorted impression as to what happened to the Khoena (Khoi) and the San in the Cape Colony and writes out their resistance and survival strategies. Because of these deficiencies, distortions continue to this day. But thanks to ground-breaking research by people like Nigel Penn in his comprehensive work – ‘The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century’ ((2005) we have a much better picture of the facts. I draw heavily on this work for this article

Is the Khoena and San story just a matter of understanding two wars of resistance ending in 1677 and then along came two devastating Smallpox epidemics in 1713 and 1755 and “poof” there were no more Khoena and San from that time onwards? That story ranks as taking joint first-prise as an absurd untruthful account alongside that other myth that Chief Autshumao the trader who had travelled to Jakarta and back and, ran a successful trading post at the Cape for just over 22 years, was just an ignorant thieving beach-bum called Harry the Strandlooper.

What actually happened and the scale of what happened is a really horrible story that cannot be swept under the carpet.

When the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) set up its fort right next Autshumao’s settlement at the Camissa in Table Bay on the Cape Peninsula (//Hui !Gaeb) there were 16 or more Khoena clans in the Western and Central Cape reaching to the lower reaches of the Eastern Cape. Likewise at least 5 large San communities were also living across the same territory. The Khoena and San living within the boundaries of the then mapped Cape up to the Piketberg in the West and to outskirts of Swellendam district in the East was estimated at 50,000 and with further later estimates of 40 – 50,000 more beyond and up to the Gariep River on the North West and the Fish River in the Keiskamma in the East.

What then actually happened to result in the figure for Khoena and so-called Bastard-Hottentots together being given as 14,883 in 1798 in the census of all within the Cape Colony? WHERE HAD ALL THE CAPE KHOENA GONE?

The white population in 1658 was 166 and the slave population was 187 and 146 years later in 1798 the white population had grown to 21,300 while slaves were at 25,754. (In the period 1653 to 1807 63,000 slaves were imported and between 1808 and 1856 another 8000 Prize Salves arrived. Both the European and the Slave populations had grown dramatically but Khoena together with mixed Khoena-Slave were drastically down to under 15,000 from 50,000 and many were now the offspring of mixed relationships between male slaves and captured Khoena and San women after being taken by commandos in raids where their male partners were slaughtered. It is this puzzle that remains hidden in various histories. (Ref:AT Brenner 2006 –Appendix A ‘Slavery and Khoisan Indentured Servitude in 18th Century Dutch Cape Colony)

The starting point of course is the two anti-colonial wars of resistance by the Khoena ending in 1660 and 1677 respectively. While the first war ended in a stalemate the second war had grave consequences when the Cochoqua were defeated and faced economic, political and social disintegration. Loss of life, restrictions on land and confiscation of livestock (1765 cattle and 4930 sheep) was a huge blow. By the time that Chiefs Gonnema and Oedosoa died in 1685 and 1689 respectively, the Cochoqua were pushed back towards Roodezand (Tulbagh) and their fragmentation had accelerated.

In 1686 when other groups of Khoena were also under pressure from the colonists the San and the Grigriqua also clashed with the Cochouqua further weakening them. Other Peninsula Khoena such as the Goringhaiqua, the Gorachouqua and the remnants of the Goringhaicona migrated northwards, staying for a while with the Namaqua and eventually making new formations at the Gariep such as the Korana, Witboois, Griquas and Orlam Afrikaners. By the time of the expansion to Stellenbosch and the Drakenstein, the Khoena Klapmats were moved on while remaining Peninsula Khoena went into servitude alongside slaves on white farms or in the case of the males many were forcibly conscripted into informal commandos which rode out under white command to raid cattle from Khoena groups deep in the interior.

The pressure mounted on the Khoena in the Tulbagh, Ceres, Waveren, Riebeeck Kasteel, Piketberg, Sandveld areas as well as to Cedarberg, Kouebokkeveld and Saldanha. The colonists wanted their cattle and would do anything to rustle cattle from the Khoena. The two Governors van der Stel at first tried their best to stop cattle rustling and murderous attacks on the Khoena and San and introduced harsh punishments and even death sentences to put an end to this state of affairs. The errant colonists did their utmost to opposed particularly Willem Adrian van der Stel, but the VOC in Europe decided that he was being too harsh on the colonists and that they should legally be able to trade with the Khoena. This was a de facto license to go and do as they please. The company officials also now had to compete with the colonists in the bartering and they were no saints either. The besieged Khoena and San faced with ruin had no option but to retaliate and a 7 year period of war broke out from 1701 – 1708. In the wake of the war came further expansion when grazing permits were introduced for colonists to enter the Khoena areas of retreat. By 1714 this was followed by a loan farm system that was introduced. This in fact ran rough shod over the peace treaty with the Khoena signed in 1705.

It was in the aftermath of the war and during the time of the granting of grazing rights to trekboers, that in 1713 a visiting Danish ship that had arrived in Table Bay brought a devastating epidemic of smallpox. By all accounts it killed off settlers, slaves, Free Blacks and Khoena. The growing and increasingly more powerful Free Black community was decimated and never really recovered. The Khoena were hardest hit with reports of hundreds laying at roadsides as far as Saldanha Bay and the Drakenstein and beyond. While this tragic event, repeated again in 1755, does not account for the huge decline of Khoena and San by 1798, it is acknowledged that it was a significant contributing factor, along with cattle theft, war, land appropriation after forced removals and genocide.

Between 1714 and 1717 more surviving Khoena now without leaders and clans became ‘contract’ or ‘indentured’ labourers alongside slaves and were really treat not too differently than slaves.

The Khoena and San who bordered on Waveren, Piketberg and Roodezand (Tulbagh) at this stage still maintained their strength and coherenance and a resistance war again flared up from 1715 -1716. Hundreds of Khoena and San men were killed in battles and raids by commandos. Women and children were then taken off deep into the colony and scattered about farms as ‘indentured’ servants and labourers. Young boys were brought up to serve in militia as conscripts. Nominally the Khoena labourers and servants were not enslaved but formally were free people under contract. As children of slave men by slave women would also become slaves that could be bought and sold, Slave men had relationships with Khoena and San women, who were often widowed by war, knowing that their children would be born free and were likely to grow up around them. Khoena women also knew that the terrible things that inevitably awaited their Khoena and particularly male San male children were less likely to befall them if they were regarded as Baster-Khoena. It was a survival tactic and it did work for them. Khoena, San and slaves co-operated as oppressed people, under the same oppressor at a range of levels and often innovatively. This included fighting alongside each other as resistance fighters. Many slaves ran away to join the Khoena and Orlams resistance groups in the north across the frontier and across the frontier in the east.

From 1717 – 1725 a combination of illness among livestock affecting both the indigene communities and the colonists resulted in a retreat by Khoena inland particularly after the 1716 war. This did not stop the Europeans pursuing the Khoena because they were after livestock due to their own perishing. The stolen livestock of the indigenes who were now also in inhospitable territory further disrupted communities, who in turn fled northwards. Even the VOC could now see that the license given to colonists to trade was having a devastating effect on those whom the VOC too had to trade with. So in 1727 the VOC returned to the practice that they had condemned the van der Stels for implementing and instituted a new ban on colonists from trading with the Khoena. Of course the VOC was also short of meat and found that regardless of the new ban the Khoena stocks could no longer yield for anyone. The state of war however did subside for a while. But by this time the colonial held territory under the VOC had literally been ethnically cleansed of free organised Khoena through the brutality of war and the Khoena on the borders of the Colony were facing impoverishment.

By 1732 colonists now had farms all along the entire Olifants River territory. From 1738 to 1740 a war of resistance again broke out as colonist trekboers moved beyond Piketberg to Namaqualand and from the Westcoast to beyond the Bokkeveld. The defeat of the Khoena and the San and the resultant peace treaty, which everyone knew was not worth anything opened up further expansion into the north east. But now the settlers were on their own as the VOC was too weak to extend its support so far. The trekboers and farmers became a law to themselves and their commandos had free reign. From 1740 through to 1770 settlement continued but the settlers were few in number in relation to the Khoena so far inland and things were relatively peaceful in the latter years and the scene for conflict shifted to the Roggeveld in the 1750s and the nature of the conflict changed. The Khoena and trekboers now cut off from the VOC found common ground and created joint commandos and attacked the San. The records show that these raids against the San were vicious and genocidal in nature. Single attacks resulted in deaths of between 50 to 90 San. But these, bad as they were, were just a precursor to what was to happen next.

In 1774 the VOC decided to formally adopt the commando system as part of its military apparatus and thereby give it further reach. While all of this expansion through killing and raiding had been going on in the west and central regions of the Colony, there had been gradual encroachment and pushing of the Khoena eastwards as well. In the east the Khoena had strong and friendly networks with the amaXhosa and there was strong familial relationships and mixed clans too. The san too were also very strong in the mountainous areas such as the Sneeuberg and the Bruintjieshoogte. The settler expansion was halted at the Fish River, the Sneeuberg and Bruintjieshoogte. The most formidable resistance came from the San and the colonists were not doing very well. With the trouble in the Nieuweveld and Roggeveld intensifying too, the new formal commandos were dispatched by the VOC. This was imperative for the VOC because it had granted almost 200 new farms to settlers stretching from the west to the east so as to consolidate the Cape Colony. The Commandos despatched against the San and the Khoena Resisters were literally extermination machines. They were under white command but were roughly made up of 50% whites and 50% Khoena conscripts brought up on farms and trained while still young. The San were referred to as Vermin and the kill rate increased more than three-fold from 1773 to 1774 to figures like 260 deaths in a single attack.

The San unlike the Khoena did not entertain peace treaties and fought to the bitter end. Commandos killed all adults taking no prisoners but young women and children. These too increased the labour pool alongside the slaves as ‘indetured’ labourers. The Sneeuberg Camdeboo and Swart Ruggens saw the greatest indigene resistance of all time. It became the killing fields of the Cape Colony that went beyond any definition of war. This carnage is what gave birth to the Western Cape and its trauma has been passed on from generation to generation. The resisting Khoena faced the same fate in which civil war elements entered to fray. The same genocide would later be adopted against the southern amaXhosa where all adults were shot and all crops and livestock burnt in a scorched earth approach adopted by the British in the early 1800s.

The Eastern Frontier and the North Eastern mountain people saw a brave and defiant fight to the last man and woman. In the 1780s a resistance history played out in the Cape like nowhere else in South Africa, before or after. Those who say that the Khoena and the San gave up the fight without resistance are just displaying their own ignorance. The history books have remained silence on how the Western Cape was won by the colonists and about the brave resistance. White settlement only occurred as a result of the wanton murder of indigene inhabitants across the Western Cape. The people and clans that occupied this territory did not simply get whipped out by disease, or magically disappear in a peaceful migration elsewhere. They were decimated by force in a colonial holocaust. Though the smallpox epidemics played their part these paled against the slaughter. By 1798 the now mixed Khoena / Khoena-Baster population was 14,883 and no longer had land, cattle or freedom. These survived with the assistance of their enslaved comrades and still fought and resisted in different ways. In the Roggeveld in December 1801 a combined force of Khoena and Slaves involving 70 resisters rose up against their oppressive farmer. In 1808 over 340 slaves and Khoena under the leadership of Louis of Mauritius rose up in the biggest slave rebellion ever. These events, and many of them, is what built a very special resistance relationship between two groups of people who by now share familial ties of ancestry.

The slavery and Khoena interface gradually merged over the next 50 years when after the proclamation of Ordinance 50 giving Khoena freedom of movement and land tenure and, emancipation of slaves from slavery, together the survivors formed new communities alongside every white town. Along the migration routes Khoena and mixed Khoena heritage survived on farms and in small towns.

But many exiles from the Colony also would become new resisters fighting other battles for survival as they fled from the South to the West to the northern Gariep territory also joined by those who fled from the East to join them. Migrants poured into the Gariep territory and after years of struggle formed new communities with a solid Khoena base but also took in resisters from other groups including slave drosters and a few non-conformist Europeans. Just north of the main Namaqua groups along the Gariep river from Pella to Prieska a number of San and Khoena groups lived side by side, sometimes peacefully and sometimes in conflict. They had brought many traditions from different parts of the South with them.

The Gariep communities running from Pella eastwards were the Nanningai San, Naugaap Khoena, various Eis San groups, Kaukoa Khoena, Gyzikou Khoena, Au Nameikoa San, Koow Einas San, Naw Keis San, Hoekeikoa San, Noueikoa San, Moncoboo San, and Khoena groups – Kouringeis Korana (or Gora), Husingais Korana (Gora), Kay Kora Korana (Gora).

They were joined by the Kok and Barends descendants of the Grigriqua and Bergenaar Basters who also entered the Gariep territory, followed by the Witboois who had found refuge with the Namaqua, and the Orlam Afrikaners. The Korana (Gora) largely are said to be from the fragmented maroon Khoena from the South such as the Gorachouqua and Goringhaiqua who also regrouped at the Gariep.

By 1800 the largest groups of Khoena now resided far away from the VOC rule and the Cape colony frontier. At the Gariep the Khoena were to thrive until the next major upheavals came. British rule, missionaries, the Boers from the Great Trek and the discovery of diamonds as well as Mfecane all would impact negatively and violently on these Khoena and San communities which had found temporary sanctuary. Many would migrate west into Nambia, North into the Free State, across the Drakensburg to the East and elsewhere. A few of those from Griqualand East followed their leader De Kneg, AAS le Fleur to the Western Cape and scattered to Mamre, Goodwood, Touws River and Plettenberg Bay. A few gravitated over a long period back to the Western Cape in search of work but had to compete with new indentured labourers from St Helena, Asia and other African countries as from 1856 the Prize Slave indentured labour stream that had continued after slaver was abolished now dried up. Mostly the Khoena exiled to the Gariep remained frozen in small rural communities in the Northern Cape.

Post liberation from Apartheid Khoena and San survivor communities often against great odds in rural communities and a few in cities have struggled to reclaim their past. Some others have created KhoiSan revivalist movements to do the same. Yet others celebrate with pride their Khoena, San and Slave Heritage and the heroic resistance of their forebears as a tapestry part of who they are today. All call has been made for recognition of the historic injustice against San, Khoena and enslaved forebears, land reparation and restitution of the memory of our forebears particularly in the Western Cape which has been stripped of all acknowledgements of the Khoena and San. Others look at us incredulously and say “What on earth are they talking about. They are making up history.” In the face of hostility on the one hand and very confused and inaccurate narratives on the other hand, there is an urgent need to develop a simple popular narrative on this history so that even kids can articulate this free from ridicule.

Our children should be learning about these atrocities and about the amazing resistance in schools. Our public places should have exhibits and names that speak to this heritage. South Africa as a country should acknowledge this stolen past and put a stop to the stunted and covered over histories from whatever quarter they emanate. From the 1510 first victorious military engagement with the then world super-power military force under Portuguese General d’Almeide to the 160 years war and beyond…. through to such modern liberation heroes as Basil February, Ashely Kriel, Anton Fransch, Coleen Williams and Dulcie September…… the sons and daughters of the Khoena, San and enslaved…. we can really be proud…. They rose up above adversity.

To read a more in-depth account please reference – – ‘The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century’ ((2005) by Nigel Penn.


The Amazing Story of Cary and Harry – the founders of Cape Town

There are many injustices, falsifications and cover-ups in our South African history that indeed has also had everlasting impacts on us, how we see ourselves and how others perceive us. Of all of these many stories there is one to which I return again and again because without recognition of this cover-up which stands out from the rest, the erroneous accredited foundation of our City of Cape Town and indeed modern South Africa will go on for perpetuity and with it an everlasting negative impact, particularly on descendants of indigenes in this region of South Africa.

The story I refer to concerns two remarkable men whom the Europeans called Cary and Harry. Their real names were !Xhore and Autshumao and both originated out of the Goringhaiqua, a Peninsula based Khoena clan which settled on the banks of the //Gam i Ssa river (Camissa – sweet water/ Cape Town) in Table Bay, on the Cape Peninsula (//Hu !Gaeb). Both men contributed to the emergence of a new clan of maroon Khoena which became known as the Goringhaicona (!Kuinj//ai /kona).

Doman -

Later resistance leader Nommoa ‘Doman’

The name Goringhaicona meant the “children of the Goringhaiqua” and these were made up of entrepreneurial drifters and members of other clans – Gorachouqua (!Korakhwekwa), Goringhaiqua (!Kurinj//aikwa) and , Cochouqua (!Kukhwekwa) who for various reasons had branched off from other clans or suffered misfortune resulting in displacement or who were exiles from those clans. The Dutch had earlier labelled the Goringhaicona as the ‘Watermans’ (guardians of the freshwater //Gam I Ssa supplied to European ships) and then began using the first of the terms that blotted out their history, namely ‘Strandloopers’.

The story of how this //Gam I Ssa settlement of Goringhaicona came about is quite remarkable and indeed is the true story of the foundation of Cape Town, before the arrival of van Riebeeck in 1652. Though it has always been a very well documented story, it was covered up by constructed falsehoods and replaced by the story of the so-called Dutch founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck. This story was later dramatized and romanticised by visual misrepresentations of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria de la Quellerie using the images of two unrelated Dutch figures , Bartholomeus Vermuyden and the woman said to have been his mistress Catharina Kettingh (These can be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as can be seen the portrait of the real Jan van Riebeeck).

I have on a previous occasion told the true story of Jan van Riebeeck, the disgraced VOC official caught out defrauding the company while serving in Hanoi (Tonkin) in Vietnam and Deshima in Japan. On his voyage of disgrace he passed the Cape of Good Hope and noticed that instead of any European power controlling this halfway shipping refreshment station, it was instead in the hands of local indigenes. He used this fact and the offering of his services to pioneer the establishment of Dutch control of the Cape refreshment station to redeem his honour. It thus came to pass that he wrested control of the trading station from the indigene Gorighaicona traders.

The real story of !Xhore and Autshumao – Cary and Harry, should be a red-letter or prominent story in history if only for the fact that these are the first recorded South African indigenes to have travelled to London and Jakarta and back in 1613 and 1630 respectively. The facts of these cases challenge the false story that speaks of ‘Harry the Strandlooper’ – a troublesome ignorant scavenging beach-bum of no real significance.

There had been regular shipping first by Chinese explorers dating back to at least 1421 and European shipping since 1488 that passed through Table Bay. By 1652 local indigenes hardly raised an eyebrow in their interactions with Europeans as they already had 200 years of engagement with peoples from beyond their shores. There was nothing magical about 1652. Up until 1590 relations were particularly precarious with the Portuguese due to the dramatic defeat and killing of Portugal’s greatest military commander and much of his army in 1510 by indigene Khoena when the Portuguese tried to teach the Khoena a lesson for daring to punish some Portuguese thieves.

From 1590 and for the next 62 years a brisk trade was carried out between a range of Europeans directly with the indigene Khoena at Table Bay. By the end of the 1590s Portugal’s dominance was overturned in the Eastern trade with the United Netherlands States, England and France making major inroads. The Dutch quickly took the lead by establishing the first powerful multinational company the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) and England, ever the rival, followed suit with the establishment of the English East India Company. By 1605 there were 25 Dutch ships alone, not counting the Portuguese, French or English vessels, stopping at Table Bay to trade for fresh provisions with the Khoena. First Iron was the main exchange for salt, water, meat (sheep and cattle), and hides, but this quickly changed first to copper and later to brass. Various documentation resources record the various rises and falls and rises of this economy and who the key roleplayers in this were.

It is in 1613 that the records first introduce us to the man who changed the face of trading with the Europeans – Cary (!Xhore) and introduced the modern economic foundations for what would become the City of Cape Town. In 1630 the records first introduce us to Harry (Autshumao) who established the first physical human and trading station in Table Bay at //Gam i Ssa which became the human and built environment foundation of Cape Town. In !Xhore’s case it was in 1613 that he was kidnapped and taken to London and returned to the Cape over a year later. In 1630 Autshumao it would seem of his own volition travelled with the English to Jakarta and back.

The English East India Company ship the Hector kidnapped !Xhore and another Khoena man in May 1613. The companion of !Xhore died at sea but he was delivered to Sir Thomas Smythe of the EEIC whose intention was to train !Xhore and return him to Table Bay to act as an intermediary to support trading with EEIC shipping. The experience of !Xhore in London was a torrid one for him and the full account can be read in “King of the Hottentots” by John Cope (1967).

On being returned to the Cape with what was seen by the English as “a small treasure” in June 1614, !Xhore established himself defensively inland and used his experience to his and his people’s advantage. A year later an English Fleet arrived under King James 1 envoy Sir Thomas Rowe who landed a party of settlers made up of released convicts from Newgate Prison under Captains Crosse and Peyton and the 19 Convict Settlers to establish an English Colony. !Xhore initially attempted to establish a mutually beneficial alliance with these ill-disciplined riff-raff but soon the Khoena and Convict Settlers clashed as they engaged in abuse of their indigene hosts. Notably there were no women amongst the settlers who quickly and indiscriminately in terms of status of relationships in the indigene community sought out Khoena women. Xhore who had an armed force of 1000 chased off the Newgate survivors of the conflict who took to longboats and sought refuge on Robben Island. Only three made it back to England 3 years later, were reconvicted and hanged on Newgate Gallows.

!Xhore was wary of the Dutch and although he generally traded with all the European powers was more consistent in his trade with the English. In 1626 he refused to assist the Dutch who visited in large numbers of vessels that year while he generously service English ships. It was in that year that a Welsh sailor recorded that “Cary who had been in England had been killed by Dutch mariners because he refused them food”. It was also noted that the reason Cary refused to assist the Dutch was “because of their ill-treatment of the blacks”. !Xhore’s abduction and return to the Cape actually backfired on the English and the Europeans as a whole. The indigene Khoena came to really understand the value of their livestock and also realised that they had been making a mistake in providing livestock to ships in such generous numbers as they had done before 1613.

Never again did the Khoena part with so easily and in such large numbers their sheep and cattle even although !Xhore’s own herd was 5000 strong. After Chief !Xhore’s demise for the next five years there was a dip in relations and trade between the Europeans and the indigene Khoena.

Then at the end of 1630 the English befriended a young cattleless marooned Khoena man by the name of Autshumao whom they called Harry. They put a proposition to him that they needed local people who could act as go-between trader agents between passing English ships and the inland Cochoqua who were said to have over 10 000 head of cattle and other resources. As part of the proposition that Autshumao accepted he travelled with the English to Jakarta – the Dutch VOC controlled centre of Batavia in Indonesia. In Batavia where he stayed for a year Autshumao’s linguistic skills improved in leaps and bounds and he learnt much about the Europeans – English, Dutch and French.

On his return Autshumao who the English called Harry convinced the English that they transfer himself and 20 of his followers together with sheep, to Robben Island where he would be able to set up a safe trading station. In 1633 Autshumao convinced the Dutch to bring another 30 of his followers over. It is this group of 50 maroons from the different clans under Chief Autshumao who established the Goringhaicona clan who founded the first trading station at the Cape.

Here on Robben Island they created lookouts for the ships and set up rudimentary light-house fires to guide the ships, offered a postal service and set up guides for carrying out negotiations for cattle, collected salt and water on the mainland. Autshumao at this stage mainly saw the English and the Dutch as his clients and warned off the French. He quickly learnt about the antagonisms between the different Europeans. Later he tried to use his very good relations with the English to his advantage against the Dutch.

The Dutch in 1642 wanted someone who was closer to themselves than the English so they then transported an indigene Khoena man by the name of Isaac to Batavia to train him as their point man. The Dutch point-man did not last long. Isaac disappeared from any record within two years.

Over the next decade, in the shadow of Table mountain, Autshumao or Harry, who was no ignorant beach-bum, armed with his mastering of languages and his first hand understanding of the Europeans and their ways from his year in Jakarta, as well as the expertise that he had gained over five years in European shipping movements and needs now built up a really good trading business supported by 60 -80 inhabitants of his trading station who could provide for every requirement by the visiting Europeans. Now English, Dutch, French and Portuguese used his services. He was an entrepreneur extraordinaire.

By 1639 Autshumao and his followers had asked to all be returned to the mainland and set up their permanent settlement on the banks of the //Gami I Ssa river, a stone’s throw from where the Castle stands today.

Twelve years later it was this well established trading settlement, with its rudimentary built environment that played host to Jan van Riebeeck and his men during a harsh winter while he built the first fort. It was little wonder that after 17 years of effort to build up a thriving business and settlement, and after warmly receiving Jan van Riebeeck and giving them hospitality at the settlement, that Autshumao was angered (as recorded by van Riebeeck who contray to the earlier advice of Commander Jansens chose to cut out the Khoena traders and deal directly with inland chiefs) by the turn of events.

Autshumao was now experiencing having his trading business and village stolen from under him and being cast in the role of a beach-bum scavenger.

Autshumao had forewarning about what could happen after the wrecking of the Haarlem when the Dutch survivors built a fragile Fort and remained for a year. The Commander of that Fort, Leendert Jansens was the co-author of the “Remonstrance” to the VOC Chamber of Seventeen which preceded Jan van Riebeeck’s “making himself available” after the first choice of the VOC no longer wished to go the Cape.

Unlike Jansens well argued good-neighbourliness policy around Dutch-Khoena relations and respect for the Khoena as livestock farmers and traders to whom a fair price should be paid, van Riebeeck’s approach was to strip Autshumao of his dignity and employed a dispossession course of action. During Jansens year long stay at the Cape he had nothing but praise and good things to say about the Khoena traders. Jan van Riebeeck took a completely different approach, villified Autshumao and, the descendants of the Dutch settlement completely airbrushed out of the history books the founding Camissa Trading Settlement established by indigenes.

Jan van Riebeeck took into his household as a servant, my 9th Great Grandmother, Krotoa also known as Eva at the age of ten. She was Chief Autshumao’s niece and over her short life (she died 21 years later) she acted as a translator, emissary and diplomat between the Dutch community in the Fort and the various Khoena clans. In Jan van Riebeeck’s Journal she is mentioned over 155 times and he owes much of his recorded understanding of the Khoena, their customs, communities, the names and characteristics of their leaders, their economy, language and heritage to this young woman whom that settler community used and abused.

Cape Town was thus not founded by the crooked, errant and transient Dutch Commander from Vietnam infamy (who only stayed for a decade), – he simply was the pioneering founder of the Dutch colonial settlement .

The village, that became a town, which became the City of Cape Town was founded by that entrepreneurial, Jakarta-trained trader Autshumao. He too, on the building blocks laid by Chief !Xhore who had been trained in London, established the basic sea-port trading economy and hospitality economy that Cape Town still has as its main characteristics today.

!Xhore too was the father of the agricultural trading economy. But the memory of this greatness is still denied to his descendants today and he is still referred to as that scoundrel beach-bum. Stop awhile and remember CARY & HARRY – Chiefs !Xhore and Autshumao and the true story of the founding of Cape Town.

Many make the mistake to simply an inaccurately depict the Khoena and San as landless wandering groups of primitive stone and ironage people with no fixed abode and a single form of economic activity. Modern history did not leave the Khoena and San behind. The South African museums and social anthropologists have always depicted the various people of South Africa before 1652 as primitives without civilisation and with no social history. Thus one can go to no museum that will tell you the names, dynasties, kingdoms, economies and stories of the Khoena, San, Nguni, Bakoni, Tswana, Sotho and other families of peoples in our country. Something needs to be done urgently about this. History did not start in 1652.

You can read Richard Elphick’s “KhoiKhoi and the Founding of White South Africa” (1985) and John Cope’s “The King of the Hottentots” (1967) two amongst many other works that will if read carefully and with an open mind give you a very different perspective on the beginnings of the social and economic development and the built environment of Cape Town that is most often simply ascribed to superior European abilities.


The period 1679 to 1713 at the Cape of Good Hope was a time when the Colony was poised to develop in a number of possible directions large due to the efforts of two men who in today’s language would have been said to be “Coloured”. The first two Governors of the Cape Simon van der Stel and his son Willem Adrian van der Stel were remarkable men who made an indelible contribution to development at the Cape, laying the foundations for possibly a very different future to the trajectory on which the Cape and indeed South Africa would develop.

simon van der Stel old young

Simon on retirement and Simon as a young man

Simon van der Stel was born on a ship in Mauritius where his father, Adrian, had been posted by the United Dutch East India Company as Commander. Simon’s mother was Maria Levens, the daughter of a slave by the name of Monica van Goa also known as Monica van der Kus. It was commonplace at the time for the Dutch men working in South East Asia to take non-European wives. Simon van der Stel became the first person not born in Europe and born of mixed parentage to be appointed Governor of the Cape. Indeed there had also been only Commanders at the Cape previously who reported to the Governor in Batavia.

Simon’s first seven years were spent in Mauritius. Thereafter he accompanied his parents to Saloor (Sri Lanka) where his father was killed and where his mother also died. In his teens he moved to Batavia (Jakarta). Only after he turned 20 years old did he find his way to Europe where in the United Dutch Provinces he was married and had his children. Then in 1679 Simon was first appointed Commander of the VOC refreshment Station at the Cape and later in 1691 the first Governor of the Cape colony. Simon came to the Cape without his wife from whom he was estranged and would never see her again, but all of his sons were with him at one time or the other at the Cape.

Simon died in 1712 but his son Willem Adrian had succeeded him as Governor in 1699. Under these first two “Coloured” Governors the Cape Colony prospered and underwent major changes. For one the conflictual manner in which van Riebeeck and his successors engaged with indigenes was turned around. The van der Stels felt that settlers should be otherwise focussed in farming diverse crops and raising sheep and aim to produce wool rather than compete with indigenes over keeping cattle herds. They recognised that the Khoena were excellent as cattle farmers and believed that they should be engaged with fairly in trade for cattle under conditions of good neighbourliness. This stand would ultimately lead to the downfall of the van der Stels at the Cape at the hands of those settlers who opposed this approach.

During this period a class of Free Burghers emerged who were referenced by historians as the Free Blacks. These were people of colour who had either been freed from slavery, or who were born from marriages and relationships between slaves, indigenes and Europeans, or who had come from elsewhere as free black travellers. Like other Free Burghers they contributed economically to the development of the colony as craftsmen, farmers, and drivers of commerce. Some of the most successful of the early inhabitants of the Cape Colony, such as Swarte Maria Evert, were Free Blacks. History has not accredited them for their pioneering roles. Under Simon van der Stel the infrastructure of Stellenbosch, Fraschhoek and the Drakenstein developed and his pioneers in this development long before the arrival of the French Huguenots were the Free Blacks.

The pioneer component in the Drakenstein were the Free Black farmers and artisans. By the time of Simon van der Stel’s death there were 17 Free Blacks in the Stellenbosch district of which Franschhoek was a part. Amongst these were artisan craftsmen such as Isaac van Terenate, Rangton of Bali, Anthonie van Saloor, Jafta van der Caab and Johannes Adriaanse. Free Black farmers included Jan van Saloor, Marquart van Saloor, Anthonie van Angola, Manuel van Angola and his wife Elizabeth van der Caab, and Louis van Bengalen. Other Free Black and mixed families settled along the Eerste River. Some of the oldest and most prestigious wine farms in the district were established by Free Blacks.

Amongst the Huguenot families there also were people of colour. The first owners of the farm Rust en Vrede were the French family Jacques and Marie-Madeleine De Savoyes. Their eldest daughter Margo married Christoffel Snyman the son of the Free Black burgers Anthonie from Bengal and Catharina of Palicatte. The Free Black farmer Christoffel Snyman and his French wife Margo, as Marie then called herself, became the second owners of the farm Zandvliet, today known as Solms-Delta. The first owner Silverbach had also been married to a Free Black woman.

The story does not end here. One of the sons of leading French Hugenots Francois and Cornelia Villion (Viljoen), Henning Viljoen, married Margo Snyman, after Christoffel Snyman the Free Black died. Christoffel and Margo had a “Coloured” daughter Catharina who in one of those twists of circumstances, married her step-father`s brother, Johannes Viljoen. Other Huguenot settlers like the Cordiers in my family tree had two of their sons marry free slave sisters. The early days at the Cape did not have entrenched segregation. All of these people were amongst the founders of the Coloured and African communities of today. They are also the black ancestors of many white families. After van der Stel died , Anna de Koningh a free slave and her husband took ownership of Groot Constantia.

Amongst the French Hugenots was also one, Jacob Etienne Gauch the son of French parents, but born in Switzerland in 1684 (Celigny). He came to the Cape in 1691 and settled in Franschhoek under the name Steven Gous. In 1718 he married a 13 year old freed slave girl, Catharina Bok. They had 7 children. When the widow Catharina died in 1767 she was able to bequeath her youngest son the farms “Berg en Dal” and “Klipheuwel”, plus 12,000 guilders in cash.  In the traditional white narratives of Franschhoek the threads of black history under Apartheid was carefully removed from the complex tapestry that should have reflected the diverse heritage of the area.

But in this area and among these people with mixed Indigene, European and diverse Slave roots, a cancer had taken root amongst a small minority within the over 500 Free Burghers. All the venom of this small group of 14 lead personalities and 49 supporters, was aimed at the van der Stels – Governor Willem Adrian in particular. Adam Tas and Huising were relatively new in the Colony and so were most of the supporters. They were not, in the main, the older rooted community that had developed since 1652.

To get a flavour of the mentality of Adam Tas the chief architect of the demise of the van der Stels I quote directly from editor Leo Foche who published the diary of Adam Tas in 1914, wherein he re-enacts in his introduction, all that venomous racism of Tas, Huising and the other co-conspirators in the “Brotherhood” of that time who sought to get rid of the van der Stel legacy.

He uses expressions like “he (Willem Adrian) had betrayed the cloven hoof” and goes on to say……..

“a strangely complex character (Willem Adrian), a character which still remains a mystery to many who have forgotten his mixed descent. His grandmother on his father’s side had been a coloured woman, Monica da Costa known among the Dutch as Maai Monica of the Coast……. But as is frequently the case with persons of mixed blood, the throw-back badness occurred in the third generation. The impression that Willem Adrian leaves upon us is that of the half Oriental. His character was not without its more admirable features, but he lacked balance and self-control, and the moral sense seems to have been entirely wanting….. His Oriental ostentation displayed itself…….His nature was at once weak and domineering……. Van der Stel reveals a character without a trace of honour or shame. His private life was no less reminiscent of his extraction…..(he) displayed all the characteristics of the “Eastern Potentate”.

Leo Fouche’s diatribe on the qualities of Willem Adrian van der Stel, leaves an impression that he knew the man personally but this was 200 years later. Clearly too, this is how Fouche viewed “Coloured” people of his day.

Adam Tas, a Jewish convert to Christianity, was a Dutch adventurer and fortune seeker who came out to the Cape from the Dutch United Provinces in 1697 at the age of 29 to join his aunt and her German husband Henning Huising who was quite a powerful farmer at the Cape of Good Hope. Henning Huising based at his home Meerlust in Stellenbosch was also a cattle rustler who preyed upon the cattle of the free Khoena in defiance of orders from the Governor that forbade stock theft from indigenes. Under van der Stel the official policy towards the Khoena was that they be shown respect and that their cattle and settlements not be touched.

Tas struck lucky when he married a rich widow, Elizabeth von Brakel in 1703 who had a number of farms. He was set for life enjoying a life of leisure, drinking, smoking his pipe and writing. Accounts have it that he was a hard taskmaster who made his workers labour every day even when others gave their labourers days off work. Only having been in the settlement for five years he became a central figure, Secretary of the “Brotherhood”, a movement among some settlers which were antagonistic to the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) which they felt dominated their lives with despotic rules and the officials regulated trade to their own advantage. More specifically the “Brotherhood” were antagonistic to the van der Stel family and to the extended Free Black community which they referred to as “the black brood among us”, as well as to the Governors protection of the Khoena interests. The “Brotherhood” was probably the earliest manifestation of what in the 20th century became the powerful “Broederbond” secret society among Afrikaner Nationalists.

On retiring van der Stel senior had put pen to paper to give Willem Adrian van der Stel guidance in continuing the transformation policies that he had began at the Cape. These highlighted a mixed policy that focussed on the inter reliance of a number of progressive policies related to sustaining the environment such as mass tree-planting, building a strong mixed agricultural economy that expanded into different types of agricultural product especially wool farming, wheat and maize farming, improving relations with indigenes by putting an end to cattle-stealing and terror attacks by Europeans on indigene communities, and care for the indigent.

Willem Adrian found that when they went on trading expeditions to Khoena kraals to formally purchase cattle the Khoena would have no stocks for sale and would complain that bands of Europeans of up to fifty heavily armed men went deep into the interior and robbed and killed Khoena and amaXhosa. These would return to the outskirts of Stellenbosch with large herds of the indigene cattle, which they sold. This cattle would also never be recorded on asset returns that had to be made to the Governor.

Tas, Huising and Jacob van der Heiden were the leading organisers of these killing and thieving expeditions. Faced by the resolute Governor Willem Adrian van der Stel intent on stopping the cattle rustling and murder of indigenes Adam Tas, Huising and the “Brotherhood” agitated among some of the farmers to find a way to get rid of the Governor and to restrict the powers of the VOC officials over them.

Tas and Hüising drafted a petition, accusing the Governor and his officials of abusing the company’s trading monopoly and giving themselves privileges and excessive land so as to dominate Free Burghers. Willem Adrian was singled out and accused of building a palace for himself amongst numerous other exaggerations.

This was coming from men like Tas and Huising who had come to the Cape with nothing just a few years earlier and had amassed huge tracts of land and cattle far beyond what was possible within the bounds of VOC policies.

Fourteen agitators managed to convince only 63 of the 550 free citizens to sign the creative and scurrilous petition and it was secretly sent to the VOC in Amsterdam. When the petition came to light and was initially rejected after 240 of the Free Burghers in the colony drafted a counter petition pointing out the wild exaggerations and giving their support to van der Stel there was an initial sigh of relief that the criminally inspired attempted impeachment of the Governor had been halted.

Tas was arrested in 1706, charged and convicted. Two others were also imprisoned while another was banished to Batavia and others including Henning Huising were sent to Amsterdam for trial.

Faced with the counter petition by 240 of the Free Burghers, outlining how they had lied and exaggerated the situation at the Cape, Tas and Huising played the race card. They said that the signatories could not be taken seriously as it was the word of people tainted by blackness against true Europeans: They said the signatories were ……

“Kaffirs, Mulattoes, Mesticos, Casticos, and all that black brood living among us who have been bred from marriages and other forms of mingling with Europeans and African Christians. To our amazement they have so grown in power, numbers and arrogance…. That they now tell us that they could and would trample us…. For there is no trusting the blood of Ham. (Gham)”.

The outcome however was not what van der Stel and his supporters had expected and was devastating. Willem Adrian was removed from the Cape and his property and livestock auctioned off. Other officials were also removed and new restrictions place on successors. Henning Huising, Tas and others not only won the day but also enriched themselves in taking over the dismissed VOC officials contracts and properties.The merits of the case, the criminal facts about the “Brotherhood” and the counter petition of the 240 was not considered. Two factors overrode all others.

The argument made by Tas, Huising and the original petitioners that the words of 240 Free Burghers against the 63 who signed their petition should not be considered because these were considered to be inferior people – they were Free Citizens but “Of Colour” – notably “the black brood among us” as well as those soft on natives.

The second factor pointed out was that half of the 63 signatories were of French origin and that most of the 63 were prominent members of the militias at the Cape and their disenchantment with the VOC officials may put the Cape at risk because the petitioners could become a friendly force to the interests of France.

As a result Tas and the others were released and Huising and those sent to Amsterdam returned triumphant. Tas renamed his farm – Libertas, to note his victory.

A great injustice took place which successive white nationalist and colonial historians have painted in glowing colours as a freedom fight between the small settler farming community and a despotic, corrupt and greedy VOC government.

More sober historians would later point out that under the van der Stels the most prosperous and balanced developmental period existed at the Cape and that a new framework for sustainable and improved relations with indigenes was laid and that the Free Black population prospered.

These more enlightened historians also began to show the roguishness that had been at work and that the Adam Tas legacy had little to do with championing freedom of any sort. As a result of this victory the real agenda of that small band of European settlers soon emerged with the introduction of pass laws for indigenes, harsher conditions for slaves in terms of freedom of movement and together with the impacts of the smallpox epidemic the growing power of the Free Black community was halted in its tracks.

Indeed Adam Tas laid down the founding intellectual tenets of Apartheid and white overlordship. He was the first to call for codified ‘pass laws’ and controls on all people of colour – indigenes, slaves, Free Blacks and those in mixed marriages.

Notwithstanding that the Cape was a colony and the VOC was a powerful multinational company which had invaded and ran roughshod over the indigene population and imported slaves for the backbreaking work of establishing the Cape Colony, the period of the two “Coloured” Governors of the Cape was a period of greatest vision, imagination, innovation and prosperity for all, which could have resulted in a different historical trajectory.

The Tas episode together with the devastating 1713 smallpox epedemic halted the trajectory of the Cape Colony becoming a different kind of society where people of Colour may have become the dominant force. The smallpox epidemic impacted most negatively on the indigene population numbers and on the Free Blacks and reinforced the newfound dominance of a clique among the post 1685 settlers and their beliefs in racial domination.

In making this assessment and assertions one is not saying that the VOC was not practicing monopoly, nor was not authoritarian…. indeed this was the case across the VOC empire and it would have been unusual for it not to have been evident at the Cape. The issue is whether the van der Stels were despotic and had all of the terrible characteristics that they were accused of and whether the accusers were simply hard done by innocents. As an authority the van der Stels were part of a long line of Commanders and officials at the Cape who careied out the same VOC practices in much more vulgar a fashion but were not challenged. The van der Stels more than any other VOC officials put the Colony on a prosperity track that benfitted all. The track record and later behaviours of the detractors showed highly questionable moarl standards.

The van der Stels had some amazing skills of a scientific, architectural, horticultural and agricultural nature that laid the basis for the development of the south Western Cape. Simon van der Stel also commission ground-breaking work in getting a better idea of the indigene people up both the east and west coasts and had record compiled and drawings made of people, natural habitat and plant life. Both Simon and Willem tried to re-engineer the Cape Settlement and to analyse where the European settlers had gone wrong particularly in relation to the land and its people. White supremacists emerged to stop them and the European authority, the VOC, took their side for reasons of expediency. This is a story of how racism took root at the Cape and where theory joined practice. You wont find this story in the history books.

SOME RESEARCH REFERENCES ON THE VAN DER STEL – TAS CONTROVERSY: The Diary of Adam Tas – Edited and Introduction by Leo Fouche (1914); Simon van der Stele n sy Kinders by A Boeseken (1964) Nassau Bpk, CT; The Shaping of SA Society by Richard Elphick and HermannGiliomee (1989) Maskew Millar Longman, CT; The Afrikaners: Biography of a People by Hermann Giliomee (2003(, Paarlr, CT; New History of SA by H Giliomee and B Mebenga (2007), Tafelberg Pub, CT; South Africa – The House of van der Stel by Ian D Colvin – Romance of Empire Series (1910); Willem Adrian van de Stel and other historical Studies by G McC Theal (1913) Maskew Millar, CT; History of South Africa before 1795 by G McC Theal (1964), Struik, CT; In defence of Willem Adrian van der Stel by HCV Liebbrandt (1897) Precis of the Archives of the Cape of Good Hope; SA in the making by Whiting Spilhaus, (1966) Juta CT; The Portraits of Simon van der Stel first Governor of the Cape by JB Bedauax, Stellenbosch Paper in Linguistics; Rare Portrait of Simon van der Stel (2012) National Antiques & Decorative Arts Faire, Sandton; That hath been by Dorothea Fairbridge, (1910) CT; Culture In a colonial Context: Africa and the Americas 1500 – 1900 by Adrien Delmas and Nigel Penn.