I have heard some rather ignorant and puerile arguments made by Zuma’s Radical Economic Looter supporters about Russia never being involved in colonialism and never having been part of colonisation in South Africa. I suppose ignorance is bliss. Russians were among the largest single migrations of white settlers (25 000), fought on the Boer side in defense of independence and segregation, and were involved from the early days of the United Dutch East India Company at the Cape, and were involved in the Slave Trade.


There is also this weird notion that Russia is still the Soviet Union and thus our old and natural allies against imperialism and that Russian Oligarchy Capitalism is different and more ‘progressive’ than Global Capitalism – a natural ally of Black Tender- entrepreneur  Capital. But it is from a very murky criminal arena that Zuma’s Radical Economic Looters take their inspiration. And this is where the world of the Gupta’s exist.

There were once 11 criminal oligarchs who emerged from the old government forces of the Soviet Union, especially from the KGB and Soviet Military. They made their money initially through the global criminal shadow economy, particularly as Lords of War – the ILLICIT ARMS TRADE, but also through the other 4 of the five key pillars of the global criminal syndicate capitalist arena – namely HUMAN TRAFFICKING  & PEOPLE SMUGGLING, the ILLEGAL  DRUGS TRADE, the GREY GOODS & EXOTICS TRADE and MONEY LAUNDERING. A fight broke out between them and one of these oligarchs emerged not only as the richest man but also as the President – Putin. Putin has huge investments in Capitalism across the world , including the united states. It is this murky side of Russia which was alive and well even under the Soviet Union which through the global criminal shadow economy had close relations between South African Gold and Diamond Mining as the two countries richest in these mining products. There have always been Lords of War who facilitate. (Here I refer you to go and see a movie by that name, starring Nicolas Cage…and you will get an understanding of what I am talking about). There were always ways that powers who would be politically embarrassed if they did certain things openly, required front men to do the dirty deeds for them. Apartheid South Africa facing global isolation tapped into this world just like the super powers did. It is in this context that the Gupta phenomenon arose.

Because of just over 70 years of the Soviet Union, Russian Capitalism had huge hurdles to overcome – one of these being that Imperialism is the highest stage of Capitalism and imperialism required colonies and in the modern era neo-colonies or satellites across the globe. While Russia has these satellites around its own territory, and some client states it has no real global spread. South Africa is one place that offers Russia just such a neo-colonial opportunity. But to be able to assert pressure and manipulate South Africa Russia needs an economic stake and indebtedness. Here Putin – a willing and keen buyer found a willing seller and sellout in Zuma and his Radical Economic Looters.

But let’s just go back and dispel the myth that there was no Imperialist involvement and colonial involvement of Russia in the conquering and colonisation of South Africa.

The links between South Africa and Russia are very old. The first locally born Governor of the Cape, Hendrik Schwellengrebel’s father, Johannes, was born in Moscow in 1671 and died in Cape Town in 1744. His father was a longstanding early capitalist trader in Moscow and spent most of his life in Russia. Hendrik became the chief representative of the largest multi-national company, the Dutch VOC, which had colonised the Cape. Swellendam was named after him.

The Russian Tsar, Peter the Great enjoyed a very close relationship with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch Royal family and had a particular interest in the affairs of the Cape Colony. The Tsar went out of his way to befriend one of the VOC’s best senior officials – the first VOC Governor Simon van der Stel who became his closest confidante. It was van der Stel who was responsible for the surge of development and efficiency at the Cape..

Russia had come into the maritime arena relatively late but the Dutch VOC played a big role in getting Russia off the starting blocks. Tsar Peter the Great, as a young man, assisted by one of the Directors of the VOC, Nicolaas Witsen, was accommodated in Amsterdam to learn everything about ships, shipping and maritime travel and trade and did so a one of the VOC shipping yards in 1697. It was here that his vision for a Russian Fleet was born and here that the foundations of the title “THE GREAT” was laid and it had everything to do with the VOC.. Indeed the relationship between Tsar Peter the Great and the Dutch colonial power at the Cape was so strong that Prince William of Orange and Witsen the Mayor of Amsterdam gifted Tsar Peter with his first ship built while Peter was in Holland. Once the fleet was up and running, the Cape of Good Hope was frequently visited by its ships.

Witsen was also one of Simon van der Stel’s best friends and he got the Russian Tsar interested in the Cape Colony. Under Peter the Great the first books were published in Russian about Africa assisted by Witsen and his friend van der Stel, and the first Russian maritime vessels were sent to round the Cape. It ended in disaster, but it is to be noted that so close was Imperial Russia and its Royal Family to the Dutch Royal family and the United Dutch East India Company that this Russian expedition included senior Dutch officers. Peter the great had huge dreams of maritime power and an equally huge interest in his friend’s economic vision for South Africa. These dreams were unfulfilled because of some basic blunders.

After Peter the Great, Tsarina Catherine the Great continued the maritime legacy of Peter this time with the temporary assistance of the British. It got Russia off the maritime starting blocks but she was to follow in Peter’s footsteps of unfulfilled dreams….but others did take the efforts forward in later leaps and bounds. This was just the beginning of a long relationship between Russians and South Africa that ultimately led to much Russian shipping rounding the Cape. Russian royalty and nobility made many an excursion to the Cape in the 19th century and had close relationships with the ruling elite at the Cape who were infatuated with the Russians. Even the Tsar’s son Grand Duke Prince Alexi was a prominent visitor to the Cape and was received by the Colonial Parliament.

Folly however again struck a blow to Russian ambitions when Russia sought to teach the Japanese a lesson using the Cape as a massing point for its attack ‘armada’ against Japan in 1904. Russian Imperialism blatantly used Cape Town as an African staging post for war regardless of the then pro-Japanese British, causing near hostility at Simonstown. Imperial Russia was taught an almighty lesson by Imperial Japanese navy that cut them down to size. One of the ships that was involved was the battleship Aurora which took a lead in the Russian Revolution. So here we have in our history a conflict involving three imperialist powers right on our doorstep in Cape Town. Most of the ‘British’ sailors at Simonstown naval base were actually West and East African sailors who had to stare down the Russians. The role of black sailors in global conflicts has always been relegated to the shadows. The first Naval battle of World War 1 actually took place on Lake Tanganyika between German and British gunboats with African sailors.

By the beginning of the 20th Century around 25, 000 Russian settlers had established themselves in South Africa. YES SETTLERS WHO STOLE BLACK LAND AND DISPLACED BLACK SOUTH AFRICANS! The Russian were amongst the strongest supporters of the Boer Republics in the Boer War. The largest international solidarity groups raising money, material aid, medical support detachments and fighters for the Boer army were in Russia and Holland and these included the royal families. The Russians were totally infatuated with the Boers and admired their way of life. Russian immigrants joined special detachments of Russian fighters to aid the Boer War effort.

Russians as one of the largest settler groups of all the European settlers were thus part and parcel of the numerous European colonial settlers in South Africa. They joined the Boers in defence of the Boer Republics and all that it stood for (segregation of and suppression of black people).

Additionally there is only one other short-lived case of Russians attempting to establish a colonial state of their own in Africa – Madagascar to be precise. Despite the efforts of Tsar Peter and Tsarina Catharina they were not a significant maritime power and this curtailed their Imperialist orbit to their immediate Asian and European neighbours. This was a simple twist of fate.

The African adventure into establishing a colony in Mauritius was when a rebel group of Russians, led by Count Maurice Benyowski, a Hungarian,  using the Cape as a rear base and supply line attempted to set up and maintain a base at  Antongil Bay on the north eastern coast of Madagascar. There he built  a  village  and  a  fort  at  the  mouth  of  the  Antanambalana  River  near  the  present  city  of Louisburg and declared himself a king of the local tribes.

Notably Madagascar was an important source of slaves to the Cape at this time and the ships carrying supplies for the privateer Russian colonial experiment also carried slaves back to the Cape. The Russians too made frequent trips from Benyowski’s settlement to the Cape and back. Benyowski  then returned to Europe but  later again went back to Madagascar in 1785 and set about transforming his little colonial kingdom into a city state in the form of a fortified village  above  the  sea  near Angontsy  and  Antongil  Bay.  After notifying the French of his ‘independent state’, the French who were the colonising power in Madagascar, put a quick stop to this. The French sent a military force and defeated the short-lived Russian colony and Benyowski was killed. From that time the Russian royal family and Russian capitalists disowned these rebels and kept their imperial interests closer to home, other than giving their support to the Boer Republics in an act of opposition to British Imperial interests.

So what of the Russians and slavery?

Dr Robert Shell in his major work on Cape Slavery – “Children of Bondage” mentions that ships operating out of Russian Ports were involved in the slave trade around the Cape which suggests involvement in the Indian Ocean slave trade which is still subject of much research after a long period of neglect. The Atlantic slave trade dominates the research in the slavery arena.

One record of a Russian ship involved in the slave trade was the Goliubchick which took 306 slaves to Matanzas in Cuba in 1838.  There were around 34 slaves who had died on the journey. In 1839 she was caught by British anti-slaver patrols and her slave cargo liberated.

Thus clearly the Russians were involved in transoceanic slave trading, even though not a major player. Rather they make up that smaller but yet significant sector of slave traders that include the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic and Russia. This was a small block compared to Portuguese, Dutch, French, British, Spanish and American, but it did involve a significant part of the slave trade.

There has been a small African presence and black presence in general in the Russian Imperial orbit for at least 500 years and the finger points at least in part to slavery and servitude, even although the vast majority of slaves in the Russian empire were not people of colour. The African slave descendants go back to the period of Turkish occupation of part of Russia and when the Turks with their slaves retreated from this part of the Russian orbit they left some slave descendants behind. There are also older roots to this black presence in the region that are being explored. As major slave traders of the region – the Crimean Tartars, though focussed on European and Asian slaves, were also linked to the African slave trading centre of Basra in Persia which was probably the world’s biggest slave market from 800 AD to 1300 AD.

Here is a snippet from an interesting letter to the editor of a Russian newspaper indicating an old black presence in the Russian Imperial orbit.

“Passing for the first time through the Abkhazian community of Adzyubzha, I was struck by the purely tropical landscape around me: against the background of a bright green primeval jungle there stood huts and sheds built of wood and covered with reeds; curly-headed Negro children played on the ground and a Negro woman passed by carrying a load on her head. Black-skinned people wearing white clothes in the bright sun resembled a typical picture of some African village.” (Markov reprinted in Vradii 1914, pp. 16–17; quoted in Tynes 1973, p. 2 and Blakely 1986, p. 9; as per ‘African Presence in former Soviet Spaces’ – Kesha Fikes and Alaina Lemon (2002)

This was a letter in 1913 to the Editor of the Russian language newspaper KAVKAZ in Tblisi, Georgia by a certain E. Marko raising the curtain on a ‘phenomenon’ along the Black Sea at Abkhazia of a clearly African descendant community. It was not the first time this community had been ‘discovered’ and surprize was feigned. It had happened many times before and after that the Negroes of Batumi Province were brought to light. Indeed this story sheds just a chink of light on the history of the small black component of the slavery systems in the Russian orbit that go back in time to before the first millennium.  

Russians and various peoples all the way through to Poland and the borders of Germany were initially enslaved captives of the Crimean Tartars who ran the entire slave trade for centuries in the region. This was eventually reversed by the Russians in the 17th century and they then became slavers and slave keepers.

However outside of the Caucasus the evidence of black slavery in Russia is sparse until the transformation from Slavery to Servitude under Peter the Great. At this stage of the advent of Imperial Russia black African servants began to appear in high society. This coincides with the Russian Royal family’s close relationship to the Dutch East India Company and Dutch Royal family and parallel interest shown by Peter the Great in maritime travel/trade and in Africa. The black population at the time of Peter the Great was largely servants, but originally most likely to have been purchased as slaves. The African slaves would have come from the slave markets across the Russian – Iranian border and also it was common practice for shipping in the region to use slaves as sailors too. This would have resulted in East Africans entering the Russian slave arena. The Russians called them Negry.

There has been much papering over Russian Imperial history, colonialism and slavery in that part of the world resulting in a lot of ignorance of this history in countries that fall under the western dominant sphere. The Imperial Russian royal family, nobility and capitalists were well connected to the most advanced early capitalist trans-global companies and the Royal family network that patronised the efforts of East India Companies. Thus it cannot be said that the Russians were never involved in what Walter Rodney called “Europe’s Underdevelopment of Africa” through the imperial and colonial footprint. Indeed today Russian capitalism and its imperialist intent is making up for lost time and Zuma and his neo-colonialist looters have been quite willing to play the same role that the African facilitators of slave trade did in the past.

There is an assumption that Russia was never an Empire, never colonialist, never embraced the slave trade and always had a positive attitude to Africans and other persons of colour who were never exploited in Russia. This erroneous belief is based either on false history or plain ignorance or mischief and has led to some suggesting that Russia has a clean record in its interaction with smaller countries in the world and Africa in particular, and cannot really be seen as ever being an imperialist and capitalist country. Zuma and his looter friends are white-washing the Russians (or should I say blackwashing them). The Russians were as “White” Capitalist as any other in global capitalism, but were temporarily halted by the Russian Revolution, two World Wars and the Cold war. But the capitalist boys are back in town and the old Russian infatuation with South Africa continues.

It is true that Russia cannot be said to have been a direct colonial power in Africa but through the relationships between Royal families across Europe, the Russian Tsars certainly interacted positively with colonialism and were beneficiaries of that colonialism as a feudal Imperial super-power allied to other powers directly involved in colonialism and exploitation in South Africa. In its own orbit the Russian Empire built its infrastructure on slave labour and the Corvee system using slaves from within those territories.

Russia too was certainly an imperial colonial power in its own orbit. Russia would never have been that great a power unless it had itself revolted against being enslaved by others in its early history and in turn enslaving the subjects of the powers that once enslaved them. Slavery in Russia was made up of war captives, survivors of disasters, persons sold into debt bondage and victims of kidnapping…. Just like the same scenarios in Southeast Asia, India and Southern China. A few African slaves were brought into Russia and largely became servants, little more than slaves, in the households of the nobility and royal family. The moneyed upper classes were frequent visitors to the colonial playgrounds and South Africa was one of these playgrounds. These Russian upper classes also were intimately tied into the Dutch East India Company and later also had a relationship with the British colonial administration of the Cape and a strongly supportive role of the Boer Republics. Russians also served in the French Foreign Legion Forces and a group of Russians attempted a foolhardy establishment of a private colony in Madagascar which was quashed by the French.

Putin and other Russian oligarchs amassed their fortunes on human trafficking, arms smuggling and drugs smuggling if one follows the reports over 30 years, and much of this arms fuelled African conflict and bloodshed just like happened with Western Powers in Africa.

Russian slavery and its trade in slaves (Polish, Lithuanian, Germans and Siberians) to the Tartars is documented and involved great cruelty. Slaves were castrated and had their ears and nostrils cut off, their cheeks and foreheads branded with the burning iron and they were forced to work with their chains and shackles during the day, and were locked up at night in holds. Young slave women were continuously raped. The Russians would have treated black slaves similarly and in this sense a slave was a slave regardless of colour. Slaves were originally referred to as kholopy and their owners had unlimited power over their slaves. Slaves could be killed lawfully by owners, and be bought and sold.

Slavery which was a major institution in Russia came to an end or rather was transformed into servitude and enserfment only in 1723 under Peter the Great. Like the end of slavery in South Africa in the Russian empire slavery only ended in name and the servitude and enserfment that followed was similar to the indentured labour system that replaced slavery in South Africa and elsewhere.

Slavery in Russia differed from the west only in that the vast majority of slaves came from Russia’s orbit of imperial dominance rather than from afar and thus in the main it was Europeans, Slavs, Turks and Asians that were predominantly enslaved and Africans were a really tiny proportion of the whole. This was largely because Russia was a poor maritime power and reach. The Africans brought to Russia increased slightly during the post 1723 era of paternal servitude among royal families who wanted to keep in vogue with other Royal households in Europe by having black servants. In the 1800s the Tsar alone had around 20 Africans in servitude in his household.

The Russian capitalist class, royalty and nobility have always had a strong interest in South Africa, in particular in mining and during the gold and diamond rush flocked to South Africa to make their fortunes and to support the Boers. The Russian Revolution put paid to this colonial capitalist class furthering their interests but as soon as the cold war was over and the defeat of the USSR communists, Russian Capitalist interest peaked again with de Beers opening up in Moscow and new linkages being made. During Apartheid the Russians always still had dealings with de Beers, but covertly.

Interests in South African mineral resources, markets and control of energy in Southern Africa’s economic engine has become a pre-occupation of Russian oligarchs and mafias. Russian organised crime quickly moved into South Africa and human trafficking of women into the night club and sex trade (slavery) quickly ensured that a strategic foothold was secured for the criminal vanguard of oligarch Russian Capitalism and its imperialist intent. In a world where capitalism and imperialism is realigning the ghost of pre-revolutionary Russian capitalist and colonial interest in Southern Africa is resurfacing. Global realignment between the most conservative popular authoritarian forces  of USA capitalist and Russian Capitalist forces, both with strong fascist overtones should make South Africa really cautious. Peter the Great’s unfulfilled dreams may yet come to fruition.


  • The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century – William Gervase Clarence-Smith
  • Slave Trades, 1500–1800: Globalization of Forced Labour – edited Patrick Manning
  • Russia and South Africa before the Soviet Era – Apollon Davidson
  • African Presence in former Soviet Spaces – Kesha Fikes and Alaina Lemon
  • Children of Bondage – Dr Robert C Shell
  • Bondage: free/unfree labor in Russia, Europe and the Indian Ocean – Alessandro Stanzian
  • Imperialism the highest stage of Capitalism – VI Lenin
  • How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – Walter Rodney



In today’s highly charged political arena erroneous claims are made, using terms like ‘First People’ and/or alternatively ‘First Nation’, that bear little credibility to the facts about who the ‘First People’ are in the South African context and more broadly indeed in Africa. When we talk about “First People” without any political baggage then we can only mean the emergence of Homo Sapiens (humans) on the continent.

Anatomically modern humans evolved from the archaic humans in the Middle Palaeolithic period about 200,000 years ago in Africa, marking the dawn of the subspecies Homo Sapiens, who are our ancestors. Archaeological discoveries of archaic humans should not be conflated with that of modern humans.

Behar, Soodyall and the Genographic Consortium tell us that in dna terms the forebears of those we refer to as the San have matrilineal ancestry which diverged from the rest of the human mtDNA pool sometime around 90,000 years ago in East Africa and that parallel to this there were also at least five other matrilineal lineages arising out of the “First People”.

The Genographic Consortium also establish that an estimated minimum of 40 other evolutionarily successful lineages flourished in sub-Saharan Africa as well during the period of modern human dispersal 60,000 –70,000 years ago. About 70,000 years ago the forebears of the San would have entered South Africa.

They further say that only much later, at the beginning of the Late Stone Age, about 40,000 years ago did introgression of additional lineages occur into the San mtDNA pool and that these processes were further accelerated when other East African, (& Nilotic) and Bantu dna entered the mix during the periods of different East African and siNtu (Bantu) engagements on the periphery of the Kalahari from around 2,500 years ago. This is when the Khoena (Khoi) first emerged with strong dna shared with the same forebears of the San but also with other dna markers. The Khoena would also take on further dna markers as they later came into further contact with siNtu speakers around 600AD in the Eastern Cape and siNtu speakers would take on dna markers of the Khoena and San too.

Humans and apes are said to have common ancestry relatively in the Miocene period around 8-million years ago. Early ancestors of archaic humans can be traced back in various parts of the world from before 2,5 million years ago through markers that they left behind. We often hear people make sweeping claims that their ancestors occupied the land for millions of years or hundreds of thousands of years, but such statements are not rooted in fact and we must distinguish between early ancestors in human evolution- archaic humans and Homo Sapiens (humans as we know ourselves to be).

The first Homo Sapien ancestors (Humans) began spreading from East Africa and were what can be called the ‘FIRST PEOPLE’, about 200,000 years ago and the ‘first division’ of ancestry, into which the San and others fall, emerge about 90,000 years ago.  Around 80,000 years ago a small group of Homo Sapiens also left East Africa and moved through the Horn of Africa to populate the rest of the world through a slow migratory drift. Some of these also returned back into Africa over different periods of time. Homo Sapiens of the ‘first division’ of ancestry, into which the San falls, can be shown through archaeological evidence to have moved into southern Africa around 70,000 years ago.

San populations from northern Namibia and Angola separated from the San populations in South Africa as early as 25,000 – 40,000 years ago and the Khoena pastoralists only emerged from the Southern Namibian and South African San 2,500 years ago showing small but distinct markers of East African and Nilotic dna markers going back first to East Africa and then to the Middle East and this was just a few hundred years prior to the first of the different waves of Bantu migration. The Bantu migrations were not “invasions” or “colonisation” as sometimes alleged, but rather a slow migratory drift over a very long period not too different from that of the Khoena across South Africa.

The South Africa San from around 12,000 years ago (and the later Khoena pastoralists about 500BC) had a great diversity of peoples that fell under these catchall terms. Studies of the movement of sheep from Southern Arabia and North Africa to end up being farmed by Khoena also attests to an East African, North African and even Middle Eastern connection to some San and to the Khoena in particular. There are also markers in both the San and Khoena of post Bantu migration dna which evidence genetic mixing with Bantu. All of this shows that the ancient background to the Khoena is a lot more complex than previously projected and popularly believed.

The entire humanity shares connections to the “FIRST PEOPLE” (the widespread Homo Sapiens that spread across Africa 70 000 years ago) and, this includes those who later emerged to become the San and the Khoena.

The puzzle that has consumed researchers concerns the WHEN and HOW and WHERE that the groups whom researchers collectively called Khoena (Khoi/Khoe) emerged. It is accepted that in great measure there is an ancient sharing of dna linkages to the San, but that in smaller measure there are also markers of other groups in Khoena dna prior to Bantu migration and prior to modern era mixing. Scholars who have applied their minds to this subject are archaeologists, linguists, ethnologists, geneticists, physical anthropologists and social historians, and have published a number of studies in this regard.

In recent times these social scientists and scientists have worked more closely together than before and particularly with the advances in genetics, more and more evidence is emerging that clearly shows that the San may have not been as isolated from other influences than previously thought. The Khoena particularly were certainly were exposed to other dna contributions. Lots of new indicators are constantly emerging. For instance in 2014 Dr Carina Schlebusch, a foremost geneticist, found in her studies a hard Khoena link to East Africa that points to a journey from East Africa over 2000 years ago by following milk markers in the Khoena dna – Allele LP-SNP 14010G. An open mind has to be maintained when exploring our past.

Political interests have also stood and hovered over these studies eager to latch onto anything that may give their political claims more credibility. One must be careful not to be led by political opportunism. It is important that one treats all claims with a degree of questioning and rather look at ALL information available without hastily jumping to conclusions.

It is not necessary to argue ‘race purity’, ‘first people’ nor ‘first nation’ to establish the important indisputable fact of ‘first habitat’ at the time of colonialism and the devastation that colonialism caused to indigene peoples. ‘First Habitat’ and being an ‘Indigenous People’ (Indigenes) is also not exclusivist and in different parts of South Africa it has different meaning. The sharing of indigenous roots for at least the last 1700 years between various peoples indigenous to the African continent is a social history and genetic reality too. Acknowledgement of these facts in no way weakens the argument of dispossession by the most marginalised and discriminated against indigenous peoples. In my opinion it actually strengthens the arguments for redress.

Political terminology does not assist when dealing sensitively with the complexity of human development in Africa (or anywhere for that matter). The political term ‘First Nation’ is a purely based on the modern European political term – NATION, relating to the emergence of post-feudal ‘Nation-States’ in Europe in modern history and bears no relationship whatsoever to indigenous peoples of Southern Africa. It actually is a colonial term.


Archaeological and DNA studies are constantly providing new evidence, and as a result, new perspectives and schools of thought often arise concerning the origins of the Khoena people of South Africa.

But the one thing that is agreed is that events of catalytic importance happened around 2,200 – 2,500 years ago in the region of the Kalahari and it’s perimeter (also called the Northwest Circle) in Southern Africa whereby one branch of the San were engaged by external forces from East Africa with older links to North Africa and beyond which gave birth to the Khoena of the Kalahari and perimeter.

The Khoena as a social formation first emerged in the Northwest circle of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Limpopo with the Kalahari as epicentre then migrated southwards in three stages – first to the Gariep and Southern Namibia and then to the Eastern Cape and then to the Western Cape. Along this route they also mixed with other groups – among these Bantu and Cape San. This migration trajectory is how the Cape Khoena as a people evolved over a thousand year period.

For over a century two schools of thought (with many variations within each) have dominated among those studying the Khoena. Then in recent times these came together in consensus and but then even more recently the consensus revisited with new facts leaned toward the one school of thought, particularly based on important new genetic information. Debates will continue but from the genetics arena fairly hard evidence has emerged to support the “out of East Africa, North Africa and beyond” school of evidence. This was addressed earlier in this story.

Essentially in a simplified form, the DNA evidence shows that the events that gave birth to the Khoena in the Kalahari and its perimeter was a coming together of San adopting pastoral influences around 2,200 – 2,500 years ago in that region with migrants from East Africa.

These migrants had migrated southwards sometime between 2,800 and 2,500 years ago and who in turn had roots further back in Ethiopia and Southern Arabia 3000 years before that time (6000 years ago).  Conclusive evidence has been provided to show that the Khoena in South Africa have West Eurasian dna along with Southern African (San) dna. The Khoena are shown that in addition to San dna to also have strong traces of Nilotic dna and Bantu dna and some Hadza/Sandawe dna all showing a mixture of roots along a migratory route. The notion of absolutely separated races or ethnicities (the notion of purity) is not borne out by dna scrutiny. So the Khoena are a relatively new development born among some of San who were genetically mixed with new migrants and who engaged in a new pastoral mode of living and economy.

Thus migrants along a trajectory from North Africa to East Africa to South Africa, mixing along the way over a long period and bringing sheep and cattle, at a particular point, engaged with the San and later in different epochs with Bantu on the edges of the Kalahari. From this mix a new pastoral community of Khoena came about in the Kalahari and over 200 more years began to drift further South to the Gariep. From the Gariep over another 600 years some of the Gariep Khoena drifted down to the Eastern Cape on a trajectory to the Western Cape, while others drifted down the West Coast similarly. In the Eastern Cape the Khoena for a second time engaged with Bantu and also again engaged with dispersed San.

The complexities and the depth of highly developed African societies with social histories that interface with South Africa are now also coming to light after a long period of suppression by Christo-European intellectual hegemony, responsible for the destruction of African civilisations and, for papering over huge elements of a challenging African past.

The evolution of Khoena social history over this migration requires much more collection of evidence and research. For instance the interaction between the Khoena and the old African centres of trade and development at Great Zimbabwe and Mapangubwe, or with the fascinating Lembe (South Africa’s black Jews) would be interesting to explore. The gaps in social history must be explored and a challenge exists around notions of ‘primitivism’ and the European concept of ‘the noble savage’ which has strongly been overlaid on Khoena society and unfortunately has been adopted by some elements who then lock Khoena culture in a time capsule.

This when linked to skewed histories based in what I call the ‘Great Lie’ distort the entire San and Khoena story. Richard Elphick gives us just a small glimpse of Khoena trading links in pre-colonial times with trade routes stretching up to East and Northern Africa and indeed they were not an isolated ‘primitive’ group in South Africa, without linkages to an ‘outside’ world.

By about 300 AD the Khoena through a process of multiplication by division spread through the Eastern Cape forming a number of tribes, one of the first of which was the Cobona or Chobuqua who were integrated with those whom the Khoena and San called the Xhosa, the earliest of siNtu speakers in the region. The language and customs of the Xhosa reflected the strong San and Khoena influences and integration. Senior Xhosa leaders preferred Khoena and San wives, a tradition that continued over the centuries. The great Makhanda’s mother for instance as late as in  the 18th century was a Khoena diviner and Makhanda himself (in the 19th century) was married to Khoena leader Hans Trompetter’s sister.


In the slow migratory drifts that brought Khoena, San and siNtu speakers together in the Eastern Cape there is no evidence at that time of any major threat by one on the other. The siNtu speakers were much smaller in numbers and not very powerful. Both the Khoena and San left a major mark on these people that they called Xhosas – ‘the angry ones’. Centuries later with later Nguni influences brought to bear by the Thembu, Mpondo and Mpondomise both the Cobuqua and the Xhosa came under Nguni influence.

Numerically the Khoena by far were more numerous than the Xhosa in the Southeastern Cape but they lived together largely in peace. The later Nguni trickle grew and grew and asserted hegemony particularly over the Xhosa. Both groups were pastoralist and over time the nature of pastoralism resulted in frictions with hunter gatherers, the San, who retreated into the mountainous regions of Bruintjies Hoogte, the Sneeuberg, Roggeveld and beyond. Here the San established a formidable presence some 30 000 strong and could well hold their own, as proven for a long time with the European onslaught. From the Zuurveld down to the Hottentots Holland Mountains the Khoena were well established numerically alongside Xhosa and fairly integrated with them, and had tens of thousands of head of cattle and sheep. At the time of the European invasions the Khoena numbers were fairly much on par with that of the Xhosa (if one looks at the comparisons in the first scientifically compile census of 1865 this is a strong indicator). There is no evidence of any sudden invasion by Nguni and no evidence of war and devastation among the Khoena at the hands of either the Nguni who were settled in the Eastern Cape long before van Riebeeck’s arrival , or by the older Xhosa of pre-Nguni times. There is however overwhelming evidence of sudden invasion, war, genocide and destruction by the Europeans and it is simply propaganda and wicked to suggest otherwise by equating a 1800 year slow migratory drift of people indigenous to the continent with an invading European colonial force.

South Africans were subjected to great distortions around our history in school curricula dictated by the neo-fascist Christian National Education. The ‘GREAT LIE’ that was fed to school children and reinforced at tertiary education institutions for a long time basically said that at the time of the Europeans arrival in South Africa, it was a largely uninhabited land, sparsely occupied here and there by very primitive people – ‘noble savages’ (not quite human and not animal) who had no notion of ownership or claim to the land in which they wandered about largely living by their wits.

This lie went on to say that foreign black hordes from the North arrived suddenly as colonisers more or less at the same time as the Europeans and ruthlessly started to take over the land of the wanderers and began to wipe them out. The few remnants of the wandering Khoena and the hunter-gatherer San, according to the ‘Great Lie’ succumbed to smallpox and then largely died out over time.

The Great Lie then says that the survivors were given every  assistance with the help of missionaries to embrace civilisation and lead wholesome lives. European civilisation in this dishonest story therefore saved the San and the Khoena from the destruction of the Blacks.

The ‘Great Lie’ had its own contradictions but everything was done to indoctrinate people of colour in the Cape that their real oppressors and their enemy was a foreign black invading force and that the Europeans saved the surviving Khoena and San and gave them the means to develop and take their place alongside the civilised world.

This process called ‘PACIFICATION’ of the Khoena was as bad, if not worse, than the brute force of the wars employed by the Europeans (15 wars of dispossession) to forcibly move the Khoena and take over their lands. ‘PACIFICATION’ also included destroying all forms of social organisation, institutions of leadership, alienation of San and Khoena from land, induction into servitude as servants and farm labourers, conscription into commando militias, engaging Khoena in crimes of genocide against the San, and indoctrination into Christianity.

It was the European that criminally assaulted the Cape San, Cape Khoena and Eastern Cape Xhosa and not invading colonising black hordes.

The impact of ‘ethnocide’ and ‘pacification’ was devastating and the Cape San and Cape Khoena too to some extent faced extinction had it not been for the assistance of others such as the Xhosa and Nama and northern San as well as for the phenomenon of slavery that allowed integration for survival. The Cape San who faced concerted genocide were driven to extinction. The few Cape San children who were not killed were taken as prisoners to become labourers on farms. They integrated with slaves and had offspring, which assisted a form of survival through natural assimilation.

The more numerous Khoena though stripped of their social formations, leadership institutions and land followed five avenues for survival – seeking refuge and reintegration among the Nama and Korana (and to some extent with Xhosa); integrating and assimilating with slaves and forming a new labour forces of Khoena-Basters; congregating at mission sites and utilising a theology of liberation to counter pacification; allying in armed resistance with the Xhosa against colonialism and pacification ; and forming Oorlam, Griqua and other revivalist formations and strategies.

The ‘GREAT LIE’ has been resilient and it still is quite dominant in all discourse regarding indigenous people. Key to understanding the experience and the grievances of surviving Indigenes lay in understanding what constitutes ‘colonialism’, ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnocide’ and not to go down the path of racist arguments about ‘Black Colonists’ that only serve to take the focus off the suppression and dispossession of Cape Indigene communities.

What is Genocide and what is Ethnocide?

Here academic researcher and writer Mohamed Adikari assists us. We must be cautious and focused when using terms lest we undermine our own arguments. When it is argued that both ‘black people’ and Europeans are responsible for colonising, dispossessing Khoena and San of their land and livelihoods and committing genocide a grave series of errors have occurred that only serve to let the European colonial perpetrators off the hook. We have already addressed the distortion on what is ‘colonialism’, here the issue of ‘Genocide’ and ‘Ethnocide’ is addressed with the assistance of Mohamed Adhikari’s work on this subject.

In the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) – Article II the following is made clear –

Genocide is a Crime against Humanity committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group through a) killing members of the group; b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

GENOCIDE: Adikhari outlines at least ten further definitions, but also provides a comprehensive understand of Genocide (and ethnocide) for the South African context in his work on the South African Genocide – The extermination of the Cape San Peoples, where ‘Genocide’ as ‘extermination’ is made clear. He defines ‘Genocide’ in the South African context “as the intentional physical destruction of a social group in its entirety, or the intentional annihilation of such a significant part of the group that it is no longer able to reproduce itself biologically or culturally, nor sustain an independent economic existence.” Adikhari goes on to say that “the ‘intent’ need not be explicitly declared (in our context there were times that it was explicitly declared and other times it was when Trekboer society and commandos just followed an exterminatory culture). He says “it is sufficient only that the perpetrators exhibit genocidal intent. Genocidal intent does not have to be present at the start of the violence as objectives can change during the course of an atrocity. Once the consequences of socially destructive actions – which can include conquest, land expropriation, massacre, forced labour, forced migration, the destruction of environmental resources, confiscation of food, the spread of disease and child removal – are recognised as possibly leading to extinction, to persist in these actions is to display genocidal intent” ….. and this Adikhari can lead to genocidal consequences. Now this can be argued as also being all experiences also shared by the Cape Khoena with some finer distinctions….. and most importantly it did not have the consequence of genocide with such intent. What the Cape Khoena experienced was forced removal, ethic clearing and the consequence of ethnocide.

ETHNOCIDE: Adikhari states that “coerced cultural assimilation without extensive bloodshed (death on a scale large enough to debilitate the social life of the group in question) does not constitute ‘Genocide’. Ethonocide, crime against humanity and cultural suppression are more appropriate terms for this abuse. Mass displacement or deportation on its own does not amount to genocide – nether do conquest or suppression of revolt without genocidal intent”. The Khoena were not wiped out or exterminated and still exist in various formations today. The Cape San don’t. It is thus a very important distinction to make because if one does not make this distinction it can undermine the claims of both surviving Khoena communities and revivalist communities.

Essentially from an original Cape San population of 30, 000 at the time of van Riebeeck, by the 1970s only 30 ‘unhybridised’ Cape San still survived according to Adikhari. He goes on to show that in South Africa today there are 7,500 people who identify as San. These are not the Cape San. About 1000 are Khomani and //Xegwi and, 6,000 are recent immigrants from Namibia and Southern Angola who were part of the SADF forces when it retreated from Angola and withdrew from Namibia in 1990. The Cape San were destroyed – eliminated or ‘exterminated’ and no other group including the Khoena suffered this atrocity. Very few people today can identify as Cape San. The survival of Cape San memory and genetic linkage largely only exists because of the assimilation of captive San children who had offspring with slaves and pacified Khoena on Cape farms. This heritage and memory survives within modern Khoena and those classified as ‘Coloured’. We should however be cautious of calling this Khoisan identity because that sanctions assimilation and to a degree violates the memory of a distinct Cape San people. It also papers over the violation and genocide of Cape San by pacified Cape Khoena commandos led by Europeans. The memory should always recognise Cape San and Cape Khoena as distinct groups with some common experiences and some common antiquity roots and dna.


We have already looked at the Kalahari origins of the Khoena and the origins of the Cape Khoena flows from the understanding of those origins.

By 200 – 300 AD the Khoena of the Kalahari and its perimeter had migrated down to the Gariep River territory where they co-existed with the Southern San. The Khoena formations that developed there were the NAMA who would move very slowly down a part of the West Coast and who would give birth to the GURIQUA clanlets which could be found in the Southwestern Cape at the time of colonization. Then there was also the ENIQUA of the Gariep; and the GORA of the Gariep, also known as the KORANA who lived alongside the various groups of San and there was a degree of integration.

At the Gariep the KHOENA engaged with Tswana and Sotho, and also later at its lower reaches with amaXhosa and there too was a degree of integration and with mixed groups forming. Over the next 300 years through a process of ongoing social organisation through multiplication of tribes by division and ever moving southwards, the breakaways from the Gariep Khoena spread and new social formations were born – one giving birth to the other.

East of the Gariep in the Eastern Cape the Chobuqua (Cobona) emerged with habitat around the area between Port St Johns and the Kei River and from here a break-away group of KHOENA gradually moved ever Southwards in a slow migratory drift down to the southwestern and central Cape where they entered the southernmost lands of the Cape San (or /Xam) people. Along this migratory route between 600 – 1000 AD the Khoena and San were joined by some of the earliest siNtu speaking migrants who had been part of a gradual southwards migratory drift from the Great Lakes region.

This very small early Bantu migration along the eastern trajectory met the Khoena who had migrated from the Gariep. They also met the //Xegwi and !Kwi San who already had habitat before the Khoena arrival. This is how the original Xhosa formation came about – a coming together of San, Khoena and early Bantu (siNtu speakers). Those first Bantu could not have been a large invading group because the culture and language of these early Bantu was dramatically altered to reflect much of the Khoena and San culture and language which left its mark. Later Nguni arrivals would again stamp a stronger Nguni mark on the amaXhosa.

In comparison, not much of a mark was left on the Khoena and San by the siNtu speakers language and culture. This is not the usual hallmark of a conquering people and suggests that at this time the Xhosa were not a dominant group. Later Nguni speakers who moved down from the area of what we call KZN today around the 14th century into the Eastern Cape and were more organised social formations with military capacity and in their areas of settlement they became a dominant force. The Nguni first dominated in the areas north of the Kei River (Zwede, Xesibe, Hlubi (southern), Bomvana, Mpondo, Mpondomise, and Thembu) and then later as these new Nguni influenced the earlier siNtu/Khoena who were living around the Kei – namely the Xhosa and Cobuqua, the territory from the Kei River down to the Gamtoos saw its own social revolution.

THE SPREAD OF THE AMAXHOSA: In this social revolution with the influx of new siNtu Nguni groups, firstly the Xhosa and then Chobuqua it would seem, largely assimilated and over time became the Xhosa house of Phalo, which then split into the Gcaleka and Rharhabe houses (lineages and great chieftainships). Two dominant social formations in turn developed from the Rharhabe house – the Ngqika house born of Mlawu and, the Ndlambe regency (the regent for the young Ngqika who conflicted with him) and then there were also the Sigcawu formation.

But south of these social formations were the older southernmost Xhosa formations who shared close and integrated familial and ancestral relations with the Khoena and San – the GQUNUKHWEBE – who by the time of the colonial assault were led by Chief Chungwe who was closely allied to the Khoena of the region – Hoengeyqua, Gonaqua, Gamtoos, Inqua and even the Attaqua.

Peaceful coexistence was shattered for awhile as a result of the wrong alliances being made by particular Xhosa tribes and Khoena tribes against mutual enemies. This was highly influenced by the Nguni influence over the Xhosa, particularly the introduction of deference to royalty and the paying of tribute to kings. Pieres tells us that the Inqua chief Hinsati made the mistake of giving refuge to Xhosa royal Gwali, who was dethroned by his brother Mdange acting on behalf of Phalo. As a result of a war around this act the Inqua were defeated and were assimilated into the Sukwini, Gqwashu and Nkarwane clans. These three clans are part Xhosa and part Khoena. Similar stories relate to the Khoena incorporation or creation of the isiThathu, Ntinde, Giqua. The very name of the Gqunukhwebe for instance derives from the Khoena tribe known as the Gonaqua. Khoena, San and Xhosa internal conflicts spilled over into each other’s ever changing social formations. These inter-African tribal interactions and similar between the Xhosa and the San, which occur over a long period of time with different periods of intensity are a natural phenomenon in African social history that cannot be compared to the sudden colonial invasion with the intentional purpose of clearing areas for calculated deliberate European settlement. The Xhosa effectually when fully analaysed are a hybrid people of an early siNtu, Khoena, San and Nguni mix, with many having as much claim to Khoena and San ancestral heritage and culture as those trapped under the label ‘Coloured’.

The Gqunukhwebe, Khoena-Xhosa mix were to become strongly influenced by the Ndlambe and particularly after the British crushing and murder of Chungwa. The catalyst for radical change of identities and power relations was first the relatively weak but very destructive Boer incursions, but more damaging was the powerful British military and social engineering interventions.

The Khoena groups were one by one crushed and pacified by the European settlers but pockets of Rebels under the leadership of Chiefs Klaas and David Stuurman made an alliance with the Ndlambe Xhosa, in the form of a resistance confederacy and over more than three decades kept the combined struggle alive. Thus to this day there are Xhosa and Khoena Stuurmans. It is a complete fabrication that the Khoena and San were assaulted and crushed by a foreign invading hoard of blacks from the north. There is shred of evidence for this nonsense story.

It is of interest to note that the dna make-up of Xhosa people in at least one large sample tested has been shown to reflect about 17% of the same Southern African dna demarcating San and Khoena dna as those classified as ‘Coloured’ who in the same large sample testing showed 30% having the Khoena and San dna markers. Notably the same tests showed those self-identifying as ‘Coloured’ also having 31% sub-Sharan dna (bantu). Thus large numbers of both those today called ‘Coloured’ and ‘Xhosa’ show descendancy from San and Khoena.

NOTE 1: WHO ARE THE NGUNI?  Around 600 AD, as a result of a different gradual but more substantial Bantu migratory drift into the areas of KZN where Tsonga from Mozambique came together with Bakoni from the western regions of South Africa and with the San, a further new South African born formation developed, referred to as the Nguni language group. They would later in time join the earlier siNtu speakers in the Eastern Cape through a slow migratory drift. This downward knock-on formations of locally born social organisations made its way into the north of the Eastern Cape and have already been mentioned – Zwede, Xesibe, Hlubi (southern), Bomvana, Mpondo, Mpondomise, and Thembu. The Nguni, who evolved in South Africa, were not a sudden invasion of Black colonist aliens that arrived one day to rob and, kill and plunder as some propagandists have elaborated.

All of these groups mentioned evolved as a range of South African born formations. They were not a foreign invading force but an evolutionary trajectory born of the mixing of Bakoni (from Sotho/Tswana/Khoena from the West),  San (East Coast San) and the southernmost Tsonga – namely the Tembe. It is this local mix that gave birth to what we call Nguni. The largest initial group of Nguni in the East were the Ndwandwe, which in turn and in time saw the emergence of social formations such as the Ngwane and the Mthethwa. It is from the latter that the original small tribe of Zulu emerged alongside the Khumalos, Qwabe, Hlubi, Bhaca, Bhele and Zizi. The Nguni to the North in what later became Swaziland were the Mbo and the Langeni subdivision that birthed the Dlaminis. Between 600 AD and 1500 AD this represented the emergence of modern social organisation in the Eastern regions of South Africa. Trading links prior to European colonisation ran from Mozambique right down the East Cost to the Southern Cape from one social formation to the other.

NOTE 2: In the North Central and North Western parts of South Africa there are further complex histories of social formations which are also involving a mixing of peoples including Khoena and San starting from the periphery of the Kalahari.  Moving from East to West is the story of the Venda and Pedi formations including the Phalaborwa, Lobedu and Shona as well as the fascinating ancient Lembe traders with their Middle-Eastern linkages, the Singo and Rozvi with their stone-walled towns, and the Kgalagari, Kalanga, Tswapong. Then there is the uSotho story and the baTswana stories of the Morolong, Masilo and Mokgatla and, the sub-divisions forming the Hurutshe and Kwena story. The Nguni formations of the Eastern Regions also would migrate westwards over time with the emergence of the Fokeng and from these arose those later became known as Matebele. Then there are the Tlokwa, Kgatla and Tlhaping who also came into conflict with the Gora or Korana. The Rolong story and their conflict with Kora (Gora) for instanced reached the ear of van Riebeeck when Kora traders who had come down to Cape Town to trade with the Dutch, that they were attacked by the Briqua (the Rolong). The social formations in this part of South Africa had many complexities which would ultimately impact of the Gariep communities and more intensely so when the combination of the European colonists embarked on their Great Trek, the Mfecane/Difecane occurred and the British conflict with the Boers took place. What is simply important to note here is that the population and its many social formations in this part of South Africa are as old as the migratory shift of Khoena moving southwards from the Gariep. The territory north of the Gariep and from the Kalahari perimeter to the East Coast and up to the Limpopo is vast – and there was no European dictated border of South Africa in those times that demarcated a Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique or Lesotho. In these territories and to their immediate north there are signs of great civilisations which at least in their beginnings are as old as the emergence of the Khoena and are linked to migratory drifts from the Great Lakes regions. All of these peoples consider themselves as indigenes of their region and indigenous Africans.

The notions of ‘origins’, while of note, is actually not as clear and exclusive as some think nor is it the most important focus in the struggle for the rights of  those Indigenous people who are most marginalised and discriminated against. The most important issue is what happened to the Cape San and the Cape Khoena under colonialism in terms of people, social organisation, leadership structures, land and resources and how subsequent to this the dominant forces in South African society has continued to marginalise and discriminate and deny the social history, culture, existence and rights of indigenes. That is the ral struggle to overcome, not the notion that some persons of colour are aliens compared to others. Don’t buy into this ‘divide and conquer’ lie.



It is very difficult if not impossible to say how many persons among those labelled ‘Coloured’ have the right to be recognised as Khoena (Khoi) today. However we do have a clue as to what those numerical parameters may have been at the time of the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1806 we find reference to around 18 000 Khoena/Baster Hottentots in the Cape Colony and their locations.

In 1806 the population of the Cape Colony was 25 000 whites, 29 000 slaves, 1 200 Free Blacks and 18 000 ‘Hottentot-Basters’ of whom 500 were in Swellendam, 5000 in Stellenbosch and 8 947 in the Gamtoos and Graaff Reinet district of the Eastern Cape and the others were scattered across the long western frontier. This however reflected the boundaries of the Cape Colony at that time and did not include 10 000 – 15 000 Khoena in the Gariep district.

Then in 1837 the Aborigine Protection Society references 33, 000 Khoena in a Report to the British Parliament. After this date, except for a very important document of 1865 the Khoena, Slaves, Prize Slaves and Free Blacks are recorded as ‘Coloureds’ – a catch-all term created by the British adminstration.

However when the British carried out the very first Census done in modern scientific format in 1865 and presented it to Parliament in 1866 the administration temporarily reverted to separating ‘Hottentots’ (‘Baster-Hottentot’) from ‘Other’ – denoting other persons of colour and, two separate figures are given. This does not happen in later years.

So in 1865 the population breaks down as:

WHITE - European & Locally born Euro-African		      181 592
OTHER - ex-Slaves/Prize Slaves/Indentures/migrants of colour  132 655
XHOSA - within the 1865 colonial boundary		      100 536
KHOENA - 'Hottentot' & 'Baster-Hottentot'		       81 598

Between 1865 and 1904 migration of persons of colour increased from St Helena, Philippines, China, India, West Africa, the Caribbean and North America, but particularly from  East Africa mostly as indentured labour to replace slavery. This substantially increased the ‘Other Coloured’ population by 1900. The African component, generally called Masbiekers were formally assimilated into the ‘Coloured’ population by the authorities in 1904 rather than ‘Native’ [Black] population).

It would thus be fair to say that the ratio of Khoena to ‘Other persons of Colour’ designated as ‘Coloured’ was less than 1:2 or one third of the total number classified by the authorities as ‘Coloured’. The Khoena as a result of the 169 years of war was the only population (other than the San) that reduced in numbers (by three fifths) from their original numbers at the time of van Riebeeck.

Europeans grew from 90 persons to 181 592 by 1865 and, Khoena from 200 000 persons reduced to 81 598 in 1865 of whom three quarters were likely to have mixed roots with slaves and others. Such was the effects of the crime of Ethnocide against the Khoena.

In the case of the Cape San the numbers reduced from 30 000 at the time of van Riebeeck to around 25 in the 1970s, to just one or two very old souls left in the 21st century who directly link to the Cape San as a result of Genocide.


As previously established a preferable and more accurate anchor in discussing the ‘land issue’ as regarding Indigenes (or indigenous people) is to examine who had habitat and where at the time of colonial incursion – ie ‘FIRST HABITAT’.

Firstly in is important to dispel the falsehood that most of South Africa was uninhabited and that instead it had small groups of wandering people with no claim on land ownership. It is also important to distinguish between foreign visitation to the shores of South Africa via sea travel and the later colonisation (European settlement, dispossession of indigene land and resources, and subjugation) that took place.

Seaborne visitors to the shores of South Africa can be traced in history over a long time. In pre-modern history Knox-Johnston, a maritime historian, indicates that the story of the visitors and migrants of colour to the Cape can possibly be first traced back to the Phoenicians (people of Lebanon, Syria and northern Palestine) 2,500 years ago, followed by the Carthegians 140 years later. Beale further shows that the ancient Buddhist temple at Borobudur has a bass relief showing a sailing vessel indicating a trip down the east coast of Africa by Indonesians around AD 700 and in 2003 he built a replica that successfully proved the possibility of rounding the Cape at that time. Knox-Johnston further shows that the Chinese travelled down the African coast in AD 960 and the Arabs may have reached as far as the Cape in AD 1000 and that their cartography fairly accurately identifies South Africa in 1154. These Arab travellers referred to the South African indigenes as Wak Waks, differentiating these from East and North East Africans whom they referred to as the Zanjis.

Menzies, another maritime historian,  further makes a strong case for the Chinese having rounded the Cape at least by 1421 when China circumnavigated the world. The Chinese cartography of this time was much more advanced than that of the late-comer Europeans and notes detail like the Drakensberg mountains. While it is important to acknowledge these external contacts, we have no records of that early engagement with indigenes, nor reliable information on the impacts that may have been left. But there must have been engagement and impact.

In the modern period we know that according to maritime historians Gaastra and Bruijn,  a huge build-up of shipping which stopped at the Cape, took place between 1600 and 1652 numbering some 1071 ships and then post 1652 the entire shipping trade mushroomed decade after decade. During those first 52 years of visitations, one can calculate around 200,000 passengers passing the Cape on outward bound journeys and at least half that number on return voyages. For various reasons, among the crews and passengers were people of colour – most notably slaves from West Africa taken to Southeast Asia and from Southeast Asia and East Africa on westward bound journeys. During this time there is record that some indigenes that had travelled abroad to London, Java and Batavia as shown by Elphick and others. Social historians Crampton and Vernon show that evidence exists that people of colour as well as Europeans were shipwrecked, made it to shore, became accidental settlers and assimilated into indigene populations. Vernon chronicles many of these earliest shipwreck survivor stories from the 16th century in some detail too. According to SA Tourism, there were over 3000 ships of 37 nations that were wrecked off the South African coast since the 16th century. In the years before the European settlement of 1652 most of the survivors of those wrecks assimilated into local indigene African communities and these will have made impacts in pre-colonial settings.

As a result of records provided as a result of pre-colonial visitation to our shores from the early 15th through to the 17th century we are able to get a fair idea of the state of habitation in the two and a half centuries before colonisation. Archaeology also gives us an even older idea on spread of habitation, social organisation and mode of living. The information at hand more than dispels the myths perpetuated in the ‘GREAT LIE’.

The information available shows that the Cape Khoena and their Southeastern Cape siNtu cousins, the amaXhosa, and the earliest of inhabitants, the Cape San (/Xam and !Kwi) had first habitat of the Eastern Cape from as early as between 500 – 800 AD and were certainly well settled far down into the Western Cape and on the Cape Peninsula for over 800 years before European colonists established their first settlement at Table Bay.

By 1400 the Northern reaches of the Eastern Cape also had newer siNtu speaking migrants who had moved down in a gradual drift, in a social-organisation multiplication by division process over time from the area we today call KZN – namely the amaPondo, AbeThembu, and amaMpondomise who on arrival interact with the settled Khoena, San and amXhosa and the mixed community of Cobuqua.

At the time of European ‘first incursion’, the San and the Khoena (Khoi) shared first habitat in the Cape from the South-eastern Cape down to the Cape Peninsula and throughout the Western Cape up to the Gariep River. In the Southeastern Cape both groups also shared that habitat with the siNtu (amaXhosa) with whom they shared ancestral and familial relations for 800 years prior to the later Nguni migrations from the north, of amaPondo, AbeThembu, and amaMpondomise from around the 14th century. Evidence is that these different peoples co-existed in the same habitat, with the Khoena being more numerous in the area from the Zuurveld right down into the Overberg, with smaller groups living right down into the Cape Peninsula.

Strictly speaking the San had “first habitat” in the Northern and South-Central Cape and were known as the /Xam and on the Eastern Coast they were known as the !Kwi. Both the Khoena and the siNtu migrated into the terrain of the Cape San but this cannot be equated with colonisation and acts of war and extermination, though a degree of natural low level friction arose from time to time between pastoralists and hunter-gathers. There are no markers evidencing large scale or mass aggression.

There is no doubt whatsoever that on the Cape Peninsula and environs the Khoena social formations who had ‘First Habitat’ at the time of colonisation were the Cochouqua, Gorachouqua, Goringhaiqua and Goringhaicona.

These social formations shared soft boundaries with the Chainouqua, Hessequa and Attaqua in what was to be later named the Graaff Reinet district bordering the Zuurveld and the Swellendam District below. It is this “First Habitation” at the time of colonialist occupation that is the basis of the assertion that in the different areas south of the Zuurveld and inland up to the Gariep as explained, the Cape San and the Cape Khoena were the ‘indigenous people’ or ‘indigenes’, and in other areas the the siNtu-Khoena, the amaXhosa, the AbeThembu, amaPondo and amaMpondomise were also indigenes. On the Western Coast and inland up to the Gariep were the Nama Khoena and their sub-clans the Guriqua. The largest numbers of Khoena were concentrate in the Swellendam, Graaff Reinet and Zuurveld districts in the East and also the Namaqua in the West.

Later we can be more specific about the demarcated habitat in the Cape Peninsula and environs. There is no doubt that at the time of Jan van Riebeeck’s settlement of United Dutch East India Company (VOC) officials there was a sound territorial claim by a network of indigene peoples starting with the Cape Khoena and Cape San from the Cape Peninsula to the Gariep River and stretching from the West Coast to the East Coast and way up the East Coast to the  territory of the lower eastern Gariep.

LAND OWNERSHIP AS A MATTER OF INTERNATIONAL LAW: Did the Khoena make it known that they lay claim to the land, as in the manner that Europeans thought of as ‘land ownership’? Contrary to those that propagate that the Khoena did not have a way of thinking regarding land ownership, or that this would be difficult to prove in law, the recorded facts say differently. This can be seen from the pen of Jan van Riebeeck himself.

One needs to look at just one excerpt from the diaries of Jan van Riebeeck which sums up the feelings of the Khoena at the time and set the edges of the relations for the next 160 years. This excerpt is just after the pressurised signing of the ‘peace treaty’ after the second of 15 Khoena-Dutch wars.

“They (the Khoena), strongly insisted that we had been appropriating more and more of their land, which had been theirs all these centuries, and on which they had been accustomed to let their cattle graze, etc. They asked if they would be allowed to do such a thing supposing they went to Holland, and they added (in their own words): ‘It would be of little consequence if you people stayed here at the fort, but you come right into the interior and select the best land for yourselves, without even asking whether we mind or whether it will cause us any inconvenience’.

They therefore strongly urged that they should again be given free access to this land for that purpose. At first we argued against this, saying that there was not enough grass for their cattle as well as ours, to which they replied (in their own words): ‘Have we then no reason to prevent you from getting cattle, since, if you have a large number, you will take up all our grazing grounds with them? As for your claim that the land is not big enough for us both, who should rather in justice, give way, the rightful owner or the foreign intruder?’

They thus remained adamant in their claim of old-established natural ownership. They said that they should at least be allowed to go and gather bitter almonds, which grow wild in abundance as winter food there, and to dig for roots. This likewise could not be granted them…. when they persisted in their request, eventually they had to be told that they now lost the land as a result of the war and had no alternative but to admit that it was no longer theirs…… Their land had thus justly fallen to us in a defensive war, won by the sword, as it were, and we intend to keep it.” (5 – 6 April 1660. Van Riebeeck Diaries volume 3: 195-196)

Were the Khoena entirely nomadic? No! This is another European myth based on their lack of understanding about sustainable African farming science. Evidence of villages exist in European texts since the conflictual engagement between Franscisco d’Almeida in 1510. The Camissa trading and maritime settlement co-established between indigenes and the English prior to the VOC settlement also clearly demonstrates settlement rather than ‘beach-combing’. The accounts of the strength of cattle and sheep farming and the grazing patterns linked to seasonal and weather conditions illustrate sustainable herding rather than lack of settlement. Jan van Riebeek’s own journal accounts underline a relatively settled system of social organisation and habitat existed over centuries. Size of livestock herds which number in tens of thousands over a widespread area totally undermine the notion of pastoralism being simply a nomadic scavenging way of life.



The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity by Behar, Soodyal et al;  The American Journal of Human Genetics (2008), doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.04.002

Going full circle on KhoeKhoe origins by Alan G Morris in ‘The Digging Stick’ Vol 31; No 1; April 2014 (Archaeological journal)

Insights from DNA studies of Khoe-San; Journal of Archaeological Studies (2012)

Lactase persistence alleles reveal ancestry of southern African Khoe pastoralists; Uppsala Bio Life Science Pathfinder on work of Dr Carina Schlebusch [journal/ April] (2014).

MtDNA control region variation affirms diversity and deep sub-structure in populations from Southern  Africa, by Karina M. Schlabusch et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology (2013).

Going full circle on KhoeKhoe origins by Alan G Morris in ‘The Digging Stick’ Vol 31; No 1; April 2014 (Archaeological journal)

Insights from DNA studies of Khoe-San; Journal of Archaeological Studies (2012)

Lactase persistence alleles reveal ancestry of southern African Khoe pastoralists; Uppsala Bio Life Science Pathfinder on work of Dr Carina Schlebusch [journal/ April] (2014).

MtDNA control region variation affirms diversity and deep sub-structure in populations from Southern  Africa, by Karina M. Schlabusch et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology (2013).

KhoiKhoi and the Founding of White South Africa; Early History of the KhoiKhoi (3-22); Narcotics, Metal and Long Distance Trade (62-68); Richard Elphick (1985)

The struggle for the Eastern Cape 1800 – 1854; Martin Legassick; (UWC) KMM Johannesburg (2010)

The Anatomy of a South African Genocide – The extermination of the Cape San Peoples; Mohamed Adhikhari; UCT Press (2010)

Voices of the San; Edt Willemienle Roux & Alison White; Kwela Books; Cape Town(2004)

A New history of Southern Africa; Neil Parsons; Macmillan; (1980)

New History of South Africa; Hermannn Giliomee & Bernard Mbenga; Tafelberg; Cape Town (2007)

The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century; Nigel Penn; Ohio Univ Press (2005)

The House of Phalo; A history of the Xhosa People in the days of their Independence; Jeff Peires;Johnathon Ball; Cape Town (1981)

Cape Town: The Making of a City; Nigel Worden, Elizabeth van Heyningen, Vivian Bickford-Smith; David Philip; Cape Town (1998)

Imagining the Cape Colony: History Literature and the South African nation; David Johnson; UCT; (2012)

The genetic prehistory of Southern Africa; Pickrell JK, Patterson N, Barbieri C, et al; Nature Communications; (2012)

A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545 to 1800. Walter Rodney; New York;  Monthly Review Press. (1970) Read with – The History of Trade.

Representing the Cape “Hottentots,” from the French Enlightenment to Post-Apartheid South Africa. Franklin Philip; In: Eighteenth-Century Studies 40 (4). John Hopkins University Press. (2007)

The Record; or, A Series of Official Papers Relative to the Condition and Treatment of the Native Tribes of South Africa; Moodie D; Cape Town: A.S. Robertson.  (1838)

Census of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope 1865 – Cape of Good Hope; Presented to Parliament 1865
Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aborigine Tribes; Aborigine Protection Society; William Ball, Aldine Chambers, London (1837)

The Making of the Cape Colony – 169 Years of Ethnic Cleansing Wars & Genocide

The first Dutch-Indigene war of 1659 -1660 and what happened to the Goringhaiqua and the Gorachouqua by 1679 as a result, was just the curtain-raiser to 169 years of warfare that wiped out the Cape San and severely damaged the Khoena and totally disrupted their social cohesion and societal organisation. It is this prolonged push against the Indigenes and, their resistance to this aggression, that is fundamental to understanding what became of the Khoena people, their social formations, leadership structures, language, culture, their land, rich livestock and all that made up their society.




Our history books are silent about how the original Cape Colony in the Cape Town City Bowl area after 170 years grew into a territory that stretched to the Gariep River in the West and to the Fish River in the East. It is generally not known that a series of ethnic cleansing wars got rid of the indigene population who valiantly resisted inch by inch the take-over of their land.

As much as the real story of a port at Camissa which was founded by Indigenes long before the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck is a vital piece of our missing history, and the story of the many and diverse ‘migrants of colour’ to the Cape which is another important piece of our missing history, so too is the story of over 169 years of warfare as a result of colonial incursion and the resistance to dispossession, a major missing piece of our history and heritage.

This brief but comprehensive chronology fills in the missing years and events.

It tells a very different story than that peddled by white supremacists and racists who would have us believe that colonialism was a most beneficial part of our development and that the benefits of innovation, creativity and scientific discovery would not have happened in South Africa had it not been for the superior Europeans. In the minds of supremacists and race bigots all human advancement in the world of science, invention and advancement is bound up with the dominant system of an epoch and the dominator. Our intellect tells us that this is nonsense. Was it the Groote Schuur Heart Transplant Team that did the first Heart Transplant or was this advance the work and benefit of the Apartheid system. Premier Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance would have us believe that it is the latter, when she argues that Colonial system was hugely responsible for all human advancements that took place within that epoch. Colonialism she argues was beneficial and that this is due to European civilization and European ideas, invention and work. Thus it was Europeans who built and developed and innovated everything.

Our history tells a very different story. Indigenes had a thriving agrarian economy which was well balanced and they were vastly rich in many tens of thousands of livestock – sheep and cattle. The Indigenes traded all the way up to East Africa for those things that they did not have, by means of developed African networks. Indigenes had travelled to London and to Java and had established a thriving facilitating and servicing port on a very busy sea route. Over 1071 ships called at Table Bay and were serviced for over 50 years before van Riebeeck colonized the Cape. More than 200 000 visitors had passed through the port, staying over for between 3 weeks and 9 months.

Our history tells us that over 170 years the colonists major preoccupation was destroying habitat, land-grabs and livestock grabs, employing forced removal, war, ethnocide and genocide to rid themselves of the self sufficient Indigenes or reduce them to paupers and aliens in their own land.

The writings of commanders and early governors of the VOC bemoaned the lack of skills and laziness of the European settlers and officials and our history shows us the huge dependency that the Europeans had on the skills and labour of slaves. Closer scrutiny of our history shows that without indigenous knowledge and the advanced skills of people of colour who had been cruelly wrenched from their societies in Asia and Africa, the European efforts would have come to naught. Agriculture, building, scientific endeavor, medicine, the early education system and all aspects of development can be traced back to the Slave Lodge. The Europeans were pretty useless when scrutinized and then when we look at their destructiveness against the indigenes nobody can view this all and talk about benefits and any persona with a semblance of humanity would have to say that the colonization at the Cape was a crime against humanity. A crime which has never been properly addressed to this day.

Nowhere else in South Africa is there a comparable act of such criminal depth. No other people in South Africa suffered such an assault and experienced wars for a solid 169 years, or experienced the kind of ethnocide or genocide experienced within the Cape Colony by the Cape Khoena and the Cape San. No other people resisted with such valiance and consistency over such a long period. And no other people bear the dispossession and deep emotional scars left to the extent that they cannot manifest their heritage and culture in the ways that others can who were left at least with some social cohesion, land, language and cultural form. The colonial destruction of the Cape and its peoples is comparable to the worst of atrocities and crimes against humanity recorded.

Helen Zille’s recent remarks and the disgusting drawn out manner in which her party – the DA, are dealing with such a serious problem; a Terror Lekota’s equally disgusting and appalling statements about land not being stolen and his apologist approach to colonialism; and the cretins of Zuma’s coterie like Jimmy Manyi who has often insulted the descendants of the Cape Khoena with his crass neo-colonial overlays of African struggles, all show a poor understanding of South Africa and African history.

Perhaps this chronological teaching tool that I have developed based on writings accredited at the end can help people to begin to fight the three perversions that I have mentioned that are alive and well and each posing as some weird notion of being progressive thinking.

trekboer-expansion-map1659-1660    (1)      FIRST DUTCH-INDIGENE WAR  OF RESISTANCE & CONQUEST

Doman’s War for Camissa, whereby the Cape Peninsula was taken from the Peninsula Khoena (Goringhaicona, Gorachouqua and Goringhaicona) resisting the Dutch occupation and they were forced to relocate their habitat first to behind the Tygerberg and then to the foothills of the so-called Hottentots Holland Mountains. It ended with a coerced treaty establishing VOC appropriation of the Peninsula by Conquest.


Oedesoa and Gonnema’s War to Counter Consolidation of the Cape District – whereby Oedesoa moved his numerically large forces and resources to blockade the Dutch settlement at the Peninsula, and where the Dutch through a combination of newly introduced cavalry, mobile firepower and ‘divide and conquer’ tactics forced the Khoena to retreat and opened up direct trade contact with other groups and access to their resources beyond the Peninsula. Ultimately by 1679 the Dutch controlled the area from the Cape Peninsula to the Hottentots Holland Mountains and rendered the Indigenes to a status without land, cattle and tribal infrastructure forcing them to either become refugees fleeing North-West or farm labourers. It ended with a coerced treaty where one of the signatories was still a child ceding all land up to the Hottentots Holland Mountains to the VOC. Gonnema died in 1685 and Oedesoa died in 1689. The Colony spread to Stellenbosch, Drakenstein, Paarl, Franschhoek, Tygerberg and Wagenmakersvallei (Wellington) with a straight line running across from the Hex River Mountains to the West Coast.


The Ubiqua/Sonqua War – which saw some refugee Gunjeman’s, Guriqua, and Namaqua but largely led by the nearby San (Ubiqua and Sonqua) engage in a war to counter consolidation of Dutch control in the Cape District and the new Stellenbosch District and expansion of its boundary to the ‘Land van Waveren, Pieketberg and through to the Berg River mouth on the West Coast and into the San territory of the Skurweberge and Kouebokkeveld Berge. The Ubiqua and the Sonqua were an interface people between Khoena pastoralists and San hunter-gathers but predominantly the latter. This was a war over habitat, land, livestock and water and battles saw loss of large herds of livestock as well as lives on both sides. In 1705 and 1708 peace was negotiated largely with the cattle keeping Khoena elements in the conflict rather than with the San and the Dutch established recognised ‘Captains’ and gave them “staffs of office”, gifts and stipends. Grazing permits and loan-farms were granted to Trekboers and further colonisation took place.

1713          THE GREAT SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC occurred in this year and its coming was devastating after the huge impact of, colonisation, three wars, much step by step conflict in the process of forced removals and the decimation of an agricultural livestock economy and break up of social organisation. Thousands died in the epidemic which would later reoccur on a few occasions in the 18th century.  In April 1713 after a Danish Ship which had a smallpox outbreak at sea entered Table Bay and gave contaminate clothes to slave women to wash at the washing place which was part of the Camissa water-system of the town. Smallpox first spread to the Slave Lodge and then to all in Table Bay and the Peninsula and then beyond into the greater Cape District and the Stellenbosch District. It reached beyond the Drakenstein and Waveren, and beyond the Berg River to even affect the Namaqua. The meshing of the epidemic with the ethnic cleansing of the Cape and Stellenbosch Districts and the pacification of the small numbers of remaining Khoena is noted here because its impact falls into the same levels of attrition of war.


The Namaqua and Ubiqua War of Frontier Contestation –  to halt the expansion of the Frontier and to destabilise the frontier colonial community.  This war saw a qualitative change from warfare primarily previously being conducted by VOC forces sent from the Fort de Goede Hoop, to a situation now where it was primarily being conducted by bands of Trek-Boer farmers in the settled areas together with pacified Khoena against free Khoena and San. This period thus also saw the militarisation of the frontier with the establishing of a series of VOC military posts along the border. Distance from Table Bay became a prohibitive issue for warfare supply lines and support. The contestation of this war of the flea, largely and fairly successfully being waged by Khoena trek-herders and hunter-gatherer Cape San saw the centrality of the issues of the erosion of water access, land and livestock rights. After many raids and battles and counter raids and battles in March 1716 peace was agreed and again “staffs of office” were given to approved Captains by the VOC. Again, the Khoena element agreed to peace under coercion and, were drawn into pacification processes while the San avoided treaties.


The Namaqua and Gonaqua Resistance War for Livestock Defence – from 1716 – 1719 there was a combination of bad weather conditions and livestock sickness that resulted in both meat and grain shortages and settlers were under severe pressure. The result of this was for the Europeans to again covet the livestock of the Khoena beyond the Northwestern and the Eastern frontier. These wars resulted in large scale cattle raiding AGAINST THE Namaqua and the Gonaqua and then counter attacks of resistance. In the case of the Gonaqua it resulted in them suffering massacre and complete seizure of the tribe’a livestock herds at the hands of the Jacob van Heijden barterer gang who were nothing but thieves and murders contracted by the VOC. From 1702 already murderous gangs of self-styled settler militia run by cattle barons like Henning Huising backed by his friend Adam Tas and a small elite antagonistic to the van der Stels, rode out to strip the Chainouqua, Hessequa, Attaqua and Gonaqua of their cattle and leave death and carnage in their path. The Eastern push opened up two new Districts – that of Swellendam and of Graaff Reinet. It was here that the most numerous concentrations of Indigenes lived with very large herds of cattle an sheep. One step at a time under a thin guise of bartering and trading, largescale theft, plunder and murder took place on a scale that even embarrassed the Governor and VOC. On the Western Frontier the Guriqua and the little Namaqua and the now tiny remnants of surviving Cochoqua, Goringhaiqua and Gorachouqua refugees among them came under the same assault. Between East and West the Cape San were still a formidable fighting force that held their positions. By 1626 the pattern of conquest and pacification continued and the VOC Chamber of 17 were informed that for 250 kilometers in all directions of Table Bay there were no free Khoena or settlements except for a hut or two here and there. Expansion increased after the war to include the entire length of the Olifants River by the mid 1730s. Between 1716 and 1730 the Sanveld which had a history of at least 1000 years of habitat and co-operative relations between Cape Khoena pastoralists and Cape San hunter-gatherers experienced rapid incursion by European raiders and settlers and bitter fighting ensued in a scenario of severe drought and hardship. Both Cape San and Cape Khoena resisted European incursion inch by inch.



War of Cleansing, Pacification and new Frontier Stabilisation -This was a paradigm shift war that changed the nature of future conflicts between colonists and indigenes and consolidated the family of colonial districts of the Cape Colony – Cape District, Stellenbosch District, Swellendam District, Graaff Reinet District of three District Frontiers –  and the western and Eastern and central frontiers as one frontier to be defended.  The huge distance gap weakened the power of the Dutch VOC and strengthened self-rule among colonists. Farmers were much more of a law unto themselves, leading to many atrocities. The Commandos partially became made up of pacified Khoena conscripts to complement settlers and had become prone to committing atrocities. This was the war whereby the Commando system was developed and where the power for advance and defence shifted away from control by the Table Bay based VOC, to local District government and commando leaders and indeed to groups of farmers. The role-players in conflict and war expanded to include new role-players too like the ‘Oorlams’ and ‘Bergenaar Baster’ groups as well as escaped slave formations. The war had reached the Great Namaqua and its impacts began to be felt as far away as the broader Gariep region. All along the border there were acts of resistance and unrest and destabilisation of settlements and farms. Resistance popped up everywhere by the Khoena and San, and in the midst of all of these class warfare broke out between big capitalist land and livestock barons and rebel setters led in rebellion by a man named Estienne Barbier, who was eventually captured and publically crucified in Cape Town. The results of the bitter fighting with the San not only cleared the border regions but it also extended the border.

The Bokkeveld, Pieketberg, Sandveld, Olifants River and de Doorns River territories were effectively conquered and stability maintained for settlers. The way also opened up for new settlement in the Bokkeveld, Hantam and Roggeveld. The Khoena in all of these areas were put to flight or forced to become labourers  on white owned loan farms under terrible conditions alongside slaves. Again after coerced peace treaties, leaders sanctioned by the Commandos, District government and rubber-stamped by the VOC  were issued with the title “Kaptein” and given a staff of office. The Commando system effectively became the new colonial authority.

1740 – 1770      A TIME OF TENSE PEACE & LOW LEVEL GUERILLA SCIRMISHES ENSUED – Many incidents continued to occur but by and large the period of open war and mass clearing of the border territories went quiet to a degree. But in fact during this period settlement and expansion actually increased dramatically.

The trajectory of colonisation for the rest of South Africa was set during this period. Pioneering excursion was followed by trek-farming, and this was followed by seizure of Indigenes livestock and this was followed by militarisation and war, followed by treaty and quickly followed by mass settlement of new  immigrants. On the Western frontier settlement of migrants was not successfully implemented but on the Eastern Frontier it became the mainstay of the conquest of that part of South Africa.

By 1770 expansion to the north via the West Coast or the Central Cape was a very unattractive option. The lack of water and the hostile environment and fiercely independent San put a block on European advancement. So the focus for expansion was the Cape San territories of Bushmanland and the Eastern Cape territories. The largest concentrations of free Khoena were to be found in the Graaff Reinet District and the Zuurveld. The central regions of the Western Cape through to the Gariep was thirstland territory where water was as precious as gold or diamonds.

1763  The Cape Colony population had reached 6,867 Europeans & locally 
      born Settlers and 7,215 slaves and around 500 Free Blacks.


The Rebellions of the Roggeveld and Hantam. This area had a significant Khoena population (Guriqua/Chrigriqua) that had maintain their freedom and they lived in relative peaceful co-existance with the Cape San or /Xam whose main numbers were across the Sak River. By the Seventh Dutch-Indigene War the fight increasing became one involving warfare between the Commandos and the Cape San. The Trekboer incursions into the environmentally difficult territory of the Guriqua pastoralists which could not sustain new people and the Cape San territory which had thus far resisted a Colonial presence for over a century since Dutch settlement at Table Bay, caused great upheaval and destruction. These rebellions were intense conflicts and up-scaled the nature of warfare even although this was pretty much focussed in the Roggeveld and Hantam. Retribution from settlers and their early laissez-faire commandos was swift and brutal with public crucifixions and displays of dismembered bodies left in the sun to rota as deterrents. Many were also sent as prisoners to Robben Island. The rebellions heralded a new period of military crisis for the Dutch


The First Genocide Curtain-Raiser Offensive – Over the next 25 years the nature of warfare was different to that of the earlier years in that during the 15 year period 1774 – 1789 the focus of the conflict was the Dutch mission to destroy and cleanse Bushmanland and the Mountainous territory through to the Eastern Cape by labelling the Cape San as non-human vermin that had to be exterminated. This in part happened by direct interventions of government orders and also by a culture that sprang up under the new General Commando system and among the settlers. Culpability for the Genocide must however be squarely placed on the shoulders of the Dutch VOC government who directly benefitted from the rent-tax paid by every settler famer in the approved loan farm scheme. Hundreds of “loan-farms” were approved in territories before, during and after wars of conquest.

Faced with environmentally inhospitable land beyond the northern frontier of the Central Cape the Trekboers were enchanted by the lush grass of the Camdeboo district where it also seemed that there was no Khoena and Xhosa resisters to oppose their occupation. They got a rude awakening when they came up against the fiercest resistance that colonists had ever experienced in their over one century occupation at the Cape because this was the heartland of the Cape San. So opened the bloodiest war ever on South African territory. The Europeans, to counter the fierce resistance, turned to Genocide and scorched-earth policies and practices. The objective was to exterminate the Cape San people. Around 30 000 Cape San were reduced to a few hundred over a 25 year period.

The General Commando system under a military Supremo known as a Veld Kommandant, the first of whom was Rudolf Opperman, established a formal militia system and conscripted pacified Khoena en masse into the Commandos alongside white soldiers.

The Modus Operandi  for the genocide practiced had two legs:- (a) all adult San had to be killed, male and female, in combat or not; and (b) teenaged girls could be seized by Khoena commandos to be concubines or brides and children were to be captured to be made farm apprentices and integrated into the Slave and ‘Baster-Hottentot’ labour force. However to gain a better perspective which shows that part (a) was the dominant approach only 258 child captives were formally registered over the first seven years of the ensuing wars during the most intense massacres.

A typical raids during this ‘Curtain Raiser’ of the genocide campaigns resulted in reported figures of 122 killed, 61 killed, 111 killed, 265 killed and so on in systematic massacres. The wounded were routinely shot in coup de grace style – men, women and children. There are records of conversations where Europeans boasted of their kill rates – one noting that he had personally killed 300 Cape San.

The Curtain Raiser War was just the beginning, and quickly the Dutch realised that this conflict with the Cape San was not going to be a push-over. Settlers started becoming refugees and the Commandos were just not coping. The previous approach of forcing treaties on indigenes was a non-starter.


The Second Genocide Offensive (Seekoei Massacre and Koerikei’s Triumph). This was a continuation of Veld Kommandant Opperman’s Offensive but it was also one war where the Cape San were the victors and put the settlers and Commandos on the retreat. It started in August 1775 when Adriaan van Jaarsveld’s Commando set up a sting operation. They killed a Hippo and left it on the Seekoei River bank so that they would lure the Cape San to come and feast and then feigned a retreat. When over 150 Cape San gathered for a feast that night, the Commandos attacked and massacred them in what became known as the Seekoei Massacre. This outrage spurred on the Cape San to launch their own offensive moving in on farms raiding large numbers of livestock and killing anybody who got in their way. The nature of war changed dramatically and casualties mounted. Opperman was out-matched, short on munitions and short on manpower and the rear forces of the settlers and VOC were slow in response. By the time that there was a response Van Jaarsveld’s Commando had abandoned the fight and retreated. The Sneeuberg and Camdebo settler communities were left exposed but a new defence team was cobbled together using different tactics and the war lulled to a stalemate scenario by 1777. Effectively it was a victory for the Cape San.

1781      KHOENA CONSCRIPTION: The idea of a regiment of pacified Khoena first arose during the early days of the commandos but the first such regiment of 400 collaborator Khoena was formed in this year known as the Corps Bastaard Hottentoten and was based in Cape Town to be used at the behest of the VOC authorities.

Later after the 1790s missionary stations particularly that of the Moravians, played a major role in pacification of the so-called ‘Bastard-Hottentots’, such as that established at Genadendal who actively facilitated the recruitment of Khoena soldiers who were used to carry out genocide attacks on the San and later in the wars against the Xhosa. The roots of the collaborator tradition that divided opinion among those who would later be classified as ‘Coloured’ which carried on right through to Apartheid was firmly established at this time.

The Corps Bastaard Hottentoten was disbanded a year later. By 1793 it was again established, this time known as the Corps van Pandoeren with 200 men including freed slaves. Once again it was disbanded and then reformed in 1796 with 300 men. These were then incorporated in 1801 into the Cape Regiment formed by the British. When the Batavian government took over from the British for a brief few years the Khoena regiment again went through a change and was called the Corps Vrye Hottentoten in 1803. Later its name changed again to the Hottentot Light Infantry. Once the British returned to take over the Cape permanently they formed the Cape Regiment in 1806 which included a cavalry element.

By 1817 there were two Khoena units – the Cape Cavalry and the Cape Light Infantry. In 1820 these were named the Cape Corps battalion of mounted infantry. After rebel Khoena soldiers participated in the Kat Rebellion in the early 1850s the battalion became a mixed white and ‘Coloured’ Corps and by 1870 it was decided to exclude ‘Coloured’ people from military service.

In 1878 the all-white Cape Mounted Rifles was established. Only in 1915 during the First World War were ‘Coloured’ men once more recruited into a reconstituted Cape Corps and after disbanding it the Cape Corps was resuscitated again in 1940 and disbanded in 1945. The Coloured Service Corps started up in 1947 was closed down in 1950. In 1963 in an attempt to drive a wedge between those the National Party called Bantu and those now classified ‘Coloured’, the Cape Corps became a full part of the SADF. Ten years later it was renamed the South African Cape Corps Service Battalion, and then in again renamed the South African Cape Corps Battalion.

These developments over the years played a divisive political role in the community labelled ‘Coloured’ and became a vehicle for Apartheid anti-black propaganda which was spread within communities classified as ‘Coloured’ and to assert and deepen control these were used actively in the SADF wars and terror campaigns across Southern Africa. It is a shameful part of history that must be faced honestly.

In the early 1820s opposition to the conscription into these became a grievance among the rebel Khoena resistance on the eastern frontier. In this period too these military units were used with great devastation by the colonial authorities against the Khoena-San alliance and against the Khoena-Xhosa resistance Confederacy.


The Ten Year San Struggle for Survival – The year 1778 was the year that the VOC Governor at the Cape realised that two centres of power had resulted from these long drawn out frontier wars. The Table Bay based official government was the dog being wagged by the tail. The ‘tail’ being the frontiermen and Commandos which had developed their own way of doing things despite the VOC at Table Bay. So Van Plettenberg embarked on a personal tour of the frontier and for the first time the frontier was mapped, formalised in terms of its limits and this was committed to paper. A consolidated Cape Colony was established with four formal districts that was to be defended by a formal military system answerable to the Governor of the Cape – Van Plettenberg.

Van Plettenberg’s decreeing of frontiers meant nothing to each of the indigene formations where land violation was taking place – the Namaqua, the Cape San and the Xhosa. The troublesome and uncontrolled northern and Eastern frontiers remained in crisis after van Plettenberg’s visit and demarcation exercise confirm the conquest of the Indigene peoples. Over the next ten years, encouraged by Plettenberg and his promise to flood the frontier districts with new migrant settlers, land grabs, theft of livestock and plunder continued with a new vigour by the colonists. The Cape San met the onslaught with vigour and determination even although the official death count for 1778 of San was over 500. The Northeastern mountains would continue to be a bloodbath for ten years and experience genocidal attacks on a grand scale.

From 1785 and over the next decade Commandos again and again launched campaigns. Conservatively researcher Adrian Leftwich puts the San war dead at 2500 San killed and 669 (children/young women) taken prisoner to become farm labour during this decade. The figure may well have been more like 14 000 given the frequency and extent of killing sprees. The conflict playing out with the San was occurring at the same time that colonial forces were fighting the second war against Xhosa resistance in the Zuurveld.

At the time of van Riebeeck the suggested figure for the Cape San across all areas was 30 000. By a century and a half later, around 15 000 were located held up in the mountainous regions and in Bushmanland. Since the onset of the genocide practice in both war and peace times until the 1790s it is likely that this figure of San was reduced to 1000 and by the mid-19th century the literal meaning of genocide was sealed.

The Aborigine Protection Society report to the British Parliament records testimony such as this one:

“I have heard one man, who is represented as an estimable character in other respects, declare, that within a period of six years, parties under his orders had either killed or taken 3,200 of these unfortunate creatures ; another has stated to me, that the actions in which he had been engaged had caused the destruction of 2,700. They had acted thus in compliance with the instructions of a government which not only violated all the principles of Justice and humanity by this indiscriminate massacre, but even acted in direct opposition to the plainest rules of policy and of common sense, by depriving the colony of the benefit which might have been derived from so useful a people.”

Other records with specific figures and anecdotal accounts of 2500 here and 500 there and 3000 on another occasion all suggest very high figures for those killed and other large figures for child captives spirited away.

Then Mohamed Adikari notes in his book on the genocide against the Cape San that his estimate of those killed is probably  8 000 to 10 000. I is my belief that even such may be low given the kinds of utterances by individuals about their ‘kill prowess’ during the days of the Cape San bloodbath and taking into consideration that the settler farmers themselves had their ‘posse’ groups who went about murdering and stealing. The fact is that after the year 1800 there wasn’t 30 000 Cape San any more in the Colony and the approximately 15 000 thought to be in the Northeastern mountain strongholds and in Bushmanland were less than a thousand, and later by the end of the 1800s were just a few hundred and a century later, literally there was no Cape San left. That is what genocide is! It is the extermination of a people!

Pressure also mounted on this area as the large populations of Khoena from the Breede River right through to the Fish River started to flee inland northwards to find refuge after European Settlers ravished their livestock, appropriated their land, forced them into conscription and farm labour alongside slave and meted out greatly cruelty. The Chainouqua had been decimated in the same manner as the Khoena on the Peninsula as were the Hessequa. The Inqua, Attaqua, the Gamtoos, the Hoengeyqua and the Gonaqua also suffered massacre and were put to flight and large waves of European settlers moved into their habitat supported by militia. Those that remained behind became pacified and were integrated with slaves on farms. Others joined forces with the Xhosa and the Zuurveld became the new holding ground and battleground.

Those Khoena that passed through Cape San territory often antagonised and preyed upon and attacked the Cape San as much as the Europeans did. A few joined in common cause with the Cape San in their fight against the Colonists but most trekked on to regroup and integrate in the Gariep communities. By 1787 pass laws and controls were introduced to all Khoena still in the Cape Colony and taxation was applied to all categorised as ‘Bastard-Hottentots’ namely Khoena who were the offspring of Slaves, Free Blacks and Khoena. A system was established called the ‘ingeboekte stelsel’ which controlled the process of assimilation of Khoena and captured San into the pacified indigene population. ‘So-called ‘Baster-Hottentots’ were also compelled to do military service in the Commandos and they participated in some of the worst of the genocide crimes against the Cape San.

Those refusing to participate were placed under arrest. Soon the pacified Khoena developed the same racist attitudes and practices towards the Cape San and the Xhosa as was to be found in European society and thus two traditions began within society that later became labelled ‘Coloured’ – a racist antagonist tradition against people regarded as ‘Black’ and ‘Bushie’ and on the other side a ‘liberationist’ tradition which saw cooperation between Khoena, San and Xhosa who engaged together as a family of people of colour in a common anti-colonial cause bonded by blood ties and ancestral ties and the experience of common resistance. It was these ten years that would cast the dye for intergroup relations and politics for the next two centuries.

The tenth war saw the remnants of the Khoena in the Cape Colony and their social formations and tribes, totally dismantled thereby completing the ethnocide and ethnic clearing of the original Cape Khoena tribes. As a result of what happened starting in 1787, by the third decade of the 19th century no Khoena tribes existed as formations in the Cape Colony anymore. This was a crime against humanity. Culture, dress, language, habitat and independent economy were all decimated. Remnants of this was all that was left and it mixed with the cultures of slaves and other migrants of colour with an element of European overlay. In the 1790s when missionaries appeared on the scene to acculturate pacified Khoena and dominant new European Christian overlay hammered out the Indigene traditions and only a feint crudified element remained alive.

During this ten year period of war the bulk of the combat was between the San and the Europeans, with some sporadic resistance breaking out among the Khoena, such as the Riviersonderend millenarian movement of Jan Parel which inspired revolt over a very wide area and even spread as far as the Roggeveld. There were also mini revolts involving unity between slaves and Khoena. On the Western frontier and up to the Gariep the state of rebelliousness passed from the Khoena to the revivalist and droster groups – the various  Oorlam groups such as the Afrikaners, the Basters, the Springboks and the still emergent Griquas. Retreating Khoena and mixed Khoena groups were excellent horsemen and marksmen.

During this ten year period of war even the San had acquired guns and were often better at using guns than many of their opponents. But by 1790 the San resistance had been overcome and to a large extent the genocidal onslaught decimated the resistance. They were reduced in number to probably less than 1000 and pushed to the more arid regions of the area mapped as Bushmanland.


The 1st Zuurveld Contest.  The series of wars that started in 1779 and lasted for 100 years until 1879 are known variously as the Xhosa Resistance Wars or the Eastern Cape Frontier Wars. This inaccurately describes at least the first five of these Wars which were as much part of the Khoena Resistance as part of the Xhosa Resistance. It is also important to note this because of the historical mischief of dividing the Xhosa from their place in Khoena and San history using a crude division into Bantu/Nguni vs Khoena and San. Historically the Xhosa are a mixed ancestry people who developed in the Eastern Cape prior to the late Bantu/Nguni drift to this region. The Xhosa are a mix of Chobuqua Khoena, Cape San and early siNtu migrants from around the year 500. They were later more heavily influenced by the Nguni migrational drift into the region in around 1300 – 1400 AD. The language and culture of the early siNtu migrants and, the name that they were given by the Khoena and San – XHOSA, is clearly a sign of their early dominance by the Khoena and San. The latter movement into their territory by the Mpondo, Mpondomise and the Thembu impacted on their earlier identity which then took on new Nguni dominant features.

At the time of the first attempts to colonise territory jointly occupied by Khoena and southern Xhosa groups who were the most familial integrated through intermarriage and clan ties among the Xhosa with Khoena and San, where the resistance was jointly handled by Khoena and Xhosa forces. In the first five wars of the Eastern Cape the Khoena played a valiant role alongside Xhosa warriors.

Moving on from their defeat by the San in the Sneeuberg, Swarteberg and Nieuweveld, the Dutch-Boer commando under van Jaarsveld moved into the territory occupied by very mixed Khoena and Xhosa communities in the Zuurveld district which was occupied by the Gonaqua, Gqunukhwebe, Ntinde, Gwali, Dinge and the Mbala, and by the Rharabe Xhosa which by this time were the dominant grouping. Later the son of Rharabe, Ndlambe would become regent to the young Ngqika who later rebelled against him and collaborated with the British Colonial authorities in return for bolstering his position.

Trek-boer farmers had moved into the area and van Jaarsveld’s commando attempted to assist them to establish hegemony in the area by expelling all traditional African communities from the area and appropriating their cattle. In 1779 the Trek-boers were fleeing the area along the Bushmen’s River as the Xhosa and Khoena took action to halt their forward movement, settlement and cattle theft. This resulted in the first armed clashes between Trek-boers and indigenes.

Adriaan van Jaarsveld and his commando arrived in October 1780 and from this point the low level war became intense. By July 1781 van Jaarsveld claimed to be victorious and said that all indigene African forces had been driven out of the Zuurveld territory. The war in reality ended with a stalemate situation As history has shown, the Zuurveld was only cleared by the British under Graham using scorched earth and genocide tactics in 1811. Effectively van Jaarsveld’s exaggerated claims were an attempt to save face after his earlier defeat by the San.

The proof of the pudding was in the eating in that it would take a few more wars over three decades before Van Jaarsveld’s fanciful claims could be realised.


The 2nd Zuurveld Contest. Continuous raids took place on the herds of Xhosa and Khoena by the Trek-boers and on the Trek-boers by the Xhosa and Khoena. The Zuurveld was contested terrain where those that had been temporarily expelled quickly returned to challenge the European farmers. What ensued was a scenario of some Trek-boers making alliances with the dominant group against other groups also making their way back home after the last war. Barend Lindeque a Trek-boer and rebel frontier settler Coenraad de Buys (who had a Khoena wife) joined Ndlambe, the regent of the dominant Rharabe Xhosa, established within the Zuurveld, who waged attacks against the Gunukwebe allied with Gonaqua Khoena who had relocated back into the Zuurveld after having been expelled by van Jaarsveld’s commandos.

The Trek-boer frontier farmers who had returned to the northern Zuurveld in the face of unrest around them once again fled. Thus once again two government commandos from Graaff Reinet and Swellendam again tried to clear the Zuurveld of Xhosa and Khoena African communities. The attacks of these Dutch forces penetrated as far as the Buffalo River causing havoc in Xhosa and Khoena communities and stealing their cattle.

This continued until 1793 when a peace treaty was signed with the Dutch forces ceding that the Xhosa could not be forced out of the Zuurveld. As a result, settlers began revolting against VOC officialdom in 1795. Parallel to these events a civil war broke out within the Xhosa between Ndlambe the regent and his nephew Ngqaika.

1795        POPULATION STATISTICS: By 1795 the total Khoena in the entire mapped and boundaried Cape Colony was around 15 000 and were now known as ‘Baster-Hottentots’ with the vast majority in the Swellendam / Graaff Reinet / Zuurveld arena.

But there were also a probable equal number of Khoena who were located outside of the Cape Colony in Namaqualand and the Gariep district and in the shared territory of Xhosa and Khoena just outside of the Zuurveld and beyond. A better idea of the numbers within the entire Cape Colony of surviving Khoena would only be recorded in the 1860s where a proper scientific census was done. Just before the term ‘Coloured’ was used in census figures and all other terms dropped after 1836, according to the Aborigine Protection Society in London, the figure for Cape Khoena at that time was 33 000 and included the Gariep River territories, but more than half of these were of mixed slave and Khoena ancestry.

At that time there was a recorded population was 12 742 Europeans and locally born settlers and 14 810 slaves with the majority being locally born slaves and around 900 Free Blacks…. (a further category of ‘Prize Slaves’ was added after 1808, a these increased numbers substantially).

From the 1770s the slaves being imported were less and less from India and Southeast Asia, and mostly from East Africa. Masbieker slaves coming from the slaver station in Mozambique came from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi Tanzania, Madagascar and as far as Congo. These slaves had assimilated with pacified Khoena over a wide area to such a degree that Khoena and apprenticed San could no longer be seen as being very different from slaves. The colonists called them ‘Baster-Hottentots’ or just ‘Basters’.

1798 – 1799     THE NAMAQUALAND REBELLIONS: This was more of an eruption of conflict involving at times fights between three or four adversary groups at a time and then a coalescing of Namaqua, Orlams and San against the Boers as the influences of the eastern frontier resulted Indigene refugees trickling into the western region. Tensions had been building up in Namaqualand as a result of the crossing of paths between various groups each with intentions to improve their fortunes one way or another and much of these intents at the expense of the Namaqua.

The Namaqua and Cape San frequently clashed and so did Boer adventurers and fortune hunters like Adrian van Zyl and his sons, Jan Wiese, Petrus Pienaar and others resulting in clashes and serious loss of life. New Boer farmers were taking control of water supplies and keeping Namaqua away from access. Oorlam groups like that of Jager Afrikaner, the Koks and the Barends also played a role. All of the tension arose from plundering livestock and assaulting communities in the process. This tension was stirred into eruption when commando leaders started making a record of Namaqua names in a register of the population and the Namaqua believed that this was the first step toward enslavement.

The word went up that “they would defend themselves to the last or take flight rather than become slaves.” While these rebellions seemed to be ebbs and flows of flare-ups between different groups encroaching on each other it was all driven by colonial expansion involving the pushing of various peoples toward the Gariep River. When the tensions dissipated the conflict visited itself as attacks and counter-attacks of different Oorlam and ‘Baster’ groups on each other. And when that dissipated the aggression turned on the various Khoena and San communities on either side of the Gariep and in turn onto the Tswana and Sotho speaking groups northwards. The Gariep had now emerged as the potential border of the Cape Colony.

1800         THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD OF UPHEAVAL: The first two decades of the 19th century at the Cape Colony was a revolutionary period among indigenes and slaves. It saw the emergence of great leaders, revolutionary movements and revolt of various types. Men like Klaas and David Stuurman, Louis van Mauritius, Makhanda Nxele, Jager Afrikaner, Cornelius Kok, Barend Barends and Andries Waterboer had changed the terrain of struggle in remarkable ways. They also left us a narrative or voice of their struggle as had not been as clear before this time. This voice showed a wrestling with ideas and an understanding of the world beyond the Cape Colony and the influences of struggles of oppressed peoples beyond our shores.

The period also showed that indigenous communities were not locked in time, to the van Riebeeck era, or times before that, or into antiquity times. (It is unfortunate that many revivalist groups in the 21st century stereotype Khoena history and culture in pre-colonial times or van Riebeeck’s time whereas like any other people in the world they too progressed and their cultures progressed in time) Like all communities globally the Khoena and San were subject to the winds of change and adapted as people and adapted their cultures also to modern times. Certainly they too engaged modern weapons and tools of struggle. In some respects if we look at the Griqua political model, it was at one stage the most modern of developments of both the white and black opponents of British colonial rule.

ADAM KOK AND THE GRIQUA: Adam Kok I, was a manumitted Slave who had a farm called Stinkfontein, north of Piketberg  from 1771, where he amassed a following of his wife’s people the Grigriqua and refugee so-called ‘Hottentot-Basters’. A decade later he and his community were pushed off their farm by Boers and they moved north to settle at Kamiesberg in Namaqualand. By this time Adam Kok was a substantial leader of a large community of followers who were known as Bergenaar Basters who had very strong feelings about their independence. As the community grew, its original base which was Cape Khoena, Free Black, deserter slaves and descendants of relationships between these, grew further to include San, Sotho, Nama, Tswana, Xhosa, Korana and non-conformist Europeans.

There are many myths which erroneously claim that missions provided sanctuary for the Khoena and played a progressive part in Khoena resistance. This is simply not true. Except for one early aborted missionary endeavour, the missionaries only arrived on the scene in the 1790s three decades before the end of the 169 years of warfare on the Khoena and San and their role was to mop up, pacify and assimilate the Khoena and surviving Cape San together with free slaves and other migrants of colour into colonial society as ‘coloureds’. They also specifically targeted the rebellious Oorlam and Bergenaar Baster groups of Khoena revivalist refugees from the Cape colonial wars.

In  1801  London  Missionary  Society  (LMS)  missionaries  William Anderson and Cornelius Kramer engaged the Bergenaar Basters of Cornelius Kok 1 who succeeded Adam Kok and his ally Barend  Barends who had married into the Kok family and by 1804 the combined followers of Kok and Barends moved  to  Klaarwater  where the LMS set up a mission. Klaarwater was later renamed Griquatown after the Bergenaar Basters took on a new name which revived that element of their roots that linked to the Indigene Khoena – GRIQUA. The independent minded Griqua and the missionaries continuously clashed because the missionaries were intent on entrenching their political cause of pacification on behalf of the colonial government. This ultimately led to a split between East and West Griqualanders with Andries Waterboer and his dynasty emerging as leaders of the West Griqualand people. Waterboer was of San lineage and was a teacher and mission agent.

Between 1801 – 1828 and beyond the story of the Griqua and the two Griqualands, their struggles, alignments and betrayals was a major part of the history of the Camissa Footprint and the resistance story of people of colour. Griqualand was the first manifestation of an independent modern proto-nation territory/state in Southern Africa of people of colour. Indeed of all people. The Boer Republics had not yet emerged at this time. It has been the most coherent and enduring manifestation too of Cape Khoena revivalism ever. Although having spawn two streams it also remains one of the most united of Khoena revivalist traditions.

1801        UNITED KHOENA AND SLAVE REVOLT: Increasingly from this point on slaves too began to revolt. In the Roggeveld in December 1801 a combined force of pacified Khoena and Slaves involving 70 resisters rose up against their oppressive farmer. In these revolts the majority of slaves were now Africans from other territories across the continent. The difference between slave and those known as ‘Hottentot-Basters’, and difference between their working and living conditions was now negligible.

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 routes of war and flight from the Colony, those now of mixed Khoena-Slave heritage survived on farms and in small towns, while surviving resister communities regrouped ultimately far northwest and northeast in either older communities like the Namaqua and Korana from which all Cape Khoena originally stem, or they formed new revivalist communities.

1804        THE STUURMAN GONAQUA SETTLEMENT: Governor Francis Dundas of the Batavian Commonwealth granted land to Klaas Stuurman and his Gonaqua followers to establish a permanent settlement in an attempt to buy them off. He also offered the Khoena better protected conditions of service on farms.

Klaas however, died before taking occupancy, but David immediately took charge and was recognised by the authorities represented by Captain Alberti as having a right to the location granted to his brother Klaas. The death of Klaas occurred during a buffalo hunting expedition.

The land given to the Stuurmans was situated on the Klein River east of the Gamtoos into which it flows. David’s people moved to the land in 1804. They were a group consisting of ten men and 32 women and children, but were soon joined by many others – Khoena seeking refuge and slave deserters. The Stuurman community were settled and lawfully entitled to own their land for the first time in decades. There were six other Kapteins who were awaiting similar settlement. A brief truce thus followed during which the Khoena resisters even returned some of the cattle taken in war.

The period of truce did not hold for long. Only one other Kaptein received land.

The frontier Trek-boers began making allegations against the Stuurmans from 1805 and these continued over the next few years. The land was referred to as a Gona kraal or Chief David Stuurman’s kraal and became a refuge for runaway Khoena farmworkers, slaves and conscripts into the militia. David Stuurman became a magnate for attracting displaced Gonaqua and at the same time developed close relations with Chief Chungwa of the Gqunukwebe.

The increasing recruitment of young Khoi men into military service was having a negative impact on Khoena communities and was pitting the Khoena against their amaXhosa allies and other Khoena and the San. The conscription issue was highly emotive for mobilising youth into the rebel fold. Chief David Stuurman’s small kraal broke every rule in the book and was a stumbling block for both the narrow interests of the Boer Frontiersmen and for the new British authorities in the Cape. David Stuurman’s vigorous anti-conscription efforts amongst the Khoena attacked the heart of a key strategy of the British who hoped to use the Khoena as a buffer against the amaXhosa.

1806        BRITISH RULE: The Cape now had ceased to be a Dutch VOC territory as in this year it fell under the Batavian Commonwealth as had all areas making up the Dutch company’s footprint from South Africa through to South Asia and Southeast Asia. The Batavian Republic had been established as a result of its attachment to France in 1798.

The Batavian Commonwealth representative at the Cape was Lieutenant-General Jan Willem Janssens who had just over 2000 soldiers including French marines and German and other Europeans. A major part of their forces were also people of colour – 600 Khoena troops in the Corps Vrye Hottentoten, 54 Free Black Javanese Mardijkers as vital artillery men with 16 field cannon and 100 slave auxiliaries to move the cannon over rough terrain. This dependency on people of colour for military defence was regardless of the fact that the European population was 25 000 strong.

In January the British arrived in Table Bay and proceeded to take the French aligned Cape of Good Hope by force. The battle of Blauuwberg ensued and Lt General Jan Willem Janssens, commander-in-chief of the military forces of the defence was forced to concede defeat to Lt General Sir David Baird, who had landed at Melkbosstrand.

In 1806 the population of the Cape Colony was 25 000 whites, 29 000 slaves, 1 200 Free Blacks and 18 000 ‘Hottentot-Basters’ of whom 500 were in Swellendam, 5000 in Stellenbosch and 8 947 in the Gamtoos and Graaff Reinet district of the Eastern Cape and the others were scattered across the long western frontier. The Gariep Khoena were not counted. The British invasion force who remained temporarily were just over 5000 soldiers in addition to the resident white population.

By this time the Khoena culture and institutions of self-governance were destroyed in the Cape Colony and over time traces of these was panel-beaten out of existence, with Khoena, freed slaves and Free Blacks being merged by the colonial authorities into one entity labelled as ‘Coloured’ by the time slavery was abolished in 1834.

1807 – 1808         DAVID STUURMAN REJECTS THE ‘STAFF OF OFFICE’: The abolition of the transoceanic slave trade came into being when the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act on 25 March 1807. This news and the stories of the impact of the slave revolution in Haiti and elsewhere reached the shores of Cape Town and spread among slaves and Indigene resisters alike. It impact was to be felt in Cape Town within 18 months.

In 1808 at Captain David Stuurman’s village alongside Bethelsdorp near the Gamtoos River he made a stand in refusing to accept the ‘Staff of Office’ from the local landdrost and spoke out about the pressganging of Khoena youth into becoming military conscripts in the colonial forces and the continuing mistreatment of Khoena farm labourers. Stuurman’s village was being used as a centre where war refugees, militia deserters and conscription dodgers were gathering to the consternation of the landdrost. Stuurman engaged in a face to face quarrel with a recruitment officer which antagonised the landdrost.

Bethelsdorp mission started by Dr Johannes van der Kemp differed from many other mission stations in that it attempted to blend with indigene culture and resisted the pressure asserted on it to facilitate military conscription and pacification. It was a small mission at that time that was fairly unsuccessful at attracting either Khoena or Xhosa, except those seeking refuge, largely because of the resistance dynamics of the time. The refugees would then move on to David Stuurman’s protection. It is from this unusual mission that a mythology of missions being refuges for Khoena escaping colonial oppression arose.

While a few temporal elements of the Bethelsdorp phenomenon can be cited for a couple of other missions, the general trend was that mission stations purpose was not as a refuge. Missions were clearly part of a pacification and control drive involving collaboration between church and colonial authorities. Rebel priests such as van der Kemp were curtailed and harshly treated. Dr van der Kemp was also an abolitionist of note who was hated by slave-owners and the authorities.


The War of the Klaas Stuurman & Chungwa’s Confederacy: The new Government of the First British Occupation at the Cape sent a contingent of British soldiers under Gen T P Vandeleur to crush a revolt by Boers in Graaff-Reinet in 1799.

General Vandeleur had met the Khoena on the road near Algoa Bay. Barrow describes when the Khoena were making their case to the British about their ill-treatment by the Boer frontiersmen. He says of Klaas Stuurman:

“One of the Hottentots called Klaas Stuurman, whom they had selected for their Chief, stepped forward, and, after humbly entreating us to hear him out, without interruption, began a long oration, which contained a history of their calamities and suffering uder the yoke of the Boers; their injustice, in first depriving them of their country, and then forcing their offspring into a state of slavery, their cruel treatment on every slight occasion, which it became impossible for them to bear any longer, and the resolution they had therefore taken to apply for redress, before the English troops should leave the country (the district). That their employers suspecting their intention, had endeavoured to prevent such an application by confining some to the house, threatening to shoot others if they attempted to escape, or to punish their wives and children in their absence.” After showing the General a young Khoena boy who was wounded by the Boers, Klaas stated: “This act among many others equally cruel, resolved us at once to collect a sufficient force to deprive the Boers of their arms, in which we have succeeded at every house which had fallen in our way. We have taken their superfluous clothing in lieu of wages due for our services, but we have stripped none, nor injured the persons of any, though we have yet a great deal of our blood to avenge.”

In April 1799 a Khoena-Xhosa Confederacy had been established to resist the continued advance of Trek-boers into Khoena and Xhosa territory and the raiding of cattle by these invaders. The Khoena were also incensed about the brutal behaviour on farms bordering their communities where Khoena had been pressed into labour alongside slaves. The united Khoena and amaXhosa forces swooped on farms throughout the Zuurveld down to Swellendam and right through to Oudtshoorn.

Commandos from Graaff-Reinet and Swellendam were then quickly mobilised to counter the attacks and the British and Boers were forced into an alliance of expediency.

The Khoena-Xhosa Confederacy was a nightmare for the colonists because they had done their best to inculcate among the Khoena that the Xhosa were not their people but part of a foreign invading force who meant them ill. Most Khoena in the region did not buy this false story because they knew that they were integrated with Xhosa, had families with the Xhosa, had language ties to a degree and, had a common experience of loss of land and livestock. Their cultures, religion and folk-stories were the same in many respects too. (The false story is still spread by those who cling to the collaboration tradition today even although it’s now dressed in radical ethno-nationalist and anti-black racist rhetoric).

Many of pacified Khoena, Slaves and mixed Khoena-slave labourers and military conscripts were also deserting the whites and joining in the resistance, while whites were abandoning their farms in the face of widespread Khoena revolt.

In 1801 the rebel Khoena under Klaas Stuurman, Hans Trompetter and Boesak carried out widespread raids. In the face of these highly skilled Khoena rebel fighters the commandos made no headway, facing defeat wherever they tried to attack. Before the British government ceded the Cape Administration to the Batavian Republic in early 1803 a peace favourable to the Khoena was signed by Klaas Stuurman. Both the Khoena and the Xhosa could not be made to leave the Zuurveld and there was an agreement for all Khoena to have written contracts and better working conditions. Klaas Stuurman’s negotiation stance from a position of strength was:

“Restore the country of which our fathers were despoiled by the Dutch and we have nothing more to ask. We have lived very contentedly before these Dutch plunderers molested us, and why should we not do so again if left to ourselves? Has not the Groot Baas (God) given plenty of grass roots, and berries and grasshoppers for our use; and, till the Dutch destroyed them, an abundance of wild animals to hunt? And will they not return and multiply when these destroyers are gone?”

The issues of this war became socio-political and economic as Khoena were now not just fighting about land, livestock and resources. They also were making demands for an end to conscription of Khoena, for freedom of movement and for a halt to the violence and ill treatment of farmworker Khoena and slaves.

1808       THE GREAT SLAVE UPRISINGThe ‘Jij’ Rebellion of 25 October 1808 led by Louis van Mauritius: This was the largest slave uprising ever at the Cape in which Khoena and slaves participated.

On 25 October 1808 a slave revolt took place at the Cape, remembered as the ‘Jij Rebellion’ led by the slaves Louis of Mauritius and Abraham van der Kaap and took on a military style campaign though short lived. The Haiti influence was clear to be seen. On two days, over 326 slaves, many Masbiekers, including a few indentured Khoena labourers and two Irish sailors participated in an organised rebellion plotted at a Camissa waterfront tavern and launched from the Swartland wheat-belt. The leader of this rebellion was a 30 year old slave by the name of Louis van Mauritius, who had first arrived at Camissa in 1881 as a 3 year old child.

In 1791 the slave rebellion that broke out in St Dominique in the Caribbean which by its successful conclusion in 1804 claimed over 300 000 lives on both sides. Led by Toussaint l`Overture against the French colonists the revolution established the first black republic of rebel slaves which they name the Republic of Haiti. In 1794 the abolition of slavery declared in France and the Maroon War in Jamaica in the same year by runaway slaves followed by the Feron Slave Revolt of 1796 in Grenada in the Caribbean against the British sent ripples throughout the slave-reliant colonial world including the Cape. Another conflict that had an impact on all British colonies was the United Irishmen`s Rebellion which erupted against British Rule in Ireland and the first British governor at the Cape in 1806 had been in Ireland during this rebellion in command of the Dragoons which later put down the revolt by Louis of Mauritius. These tales were related to Louis of Mauritius and Abraham van de Caab and set the scene for the Cape’s biggest slave revolt and subsequent largest ever ‘Treason Trial’ after it was crushed.

Those in revolt had in a short period and in a relatively well organised campaign, not without serious problems, taken over 40 farms and captured the farmers and their families, with little violence, covering Malmesbury and Swartland areas, Blouberg, and Tygervalley and managed to reach the outskirts of Cape The treason trial recorded the fine details and labelled the revolt a ‘rebellion and evil deed’. A statement by Abraham van der Caab was raised in court to defined the revolt –  “tomorrow when the bloody red flag of battle goes up and the fight for freedom is complete, you will be able to address your owners as Sij (she) or Jij (you).” Slave owners were entitled not to be addressed familiarly or equally as ‘you`. They were only to be addressed as ‘master` or ‘thou`. The central point in the trial illustrates clearly the motive for the rebellion – a fight for ‘equality` – symbolised by the expression of familiarity   ‘sij’ (she) ‘Jij`(You). It is the simple usage of the words ‘she’ and ‘you’ that became the baring of the standard in the fight for ‘equality and freedom`.

Sixteen of the rebels were condemned to death by the Court. The Governor, Lord Caledon intervened to commute 11 of the death sentences. Louis van Mauritius, Hooper – one of the Irishmen, Abraham van der Kaap and Jephta of Batavia were sentenced to hang for their leadership of the act of rebellion. Cupido of Java who had committed the purely criminal offence of rape was also sentenced to death. Louis boldly managed to escape from prison after he was condemned but he was apprehended and returned by a reward seeker. Louis’ wife Anna died during the trial after becoming ill with stress.

Another 46 slaves were given various heavy sentences including imprisonment on Robben Island. Many of these slaves were from Mozambique – the Masbiekers who were the most down-trodden of slaves at the time. The other slaves and Khoena who participated in the revolt were given over to their owners for “correction” by Governor Lord Caledon.

While the ‘Jij’ rebellion failed in its mission, it resulted in major changes in the Cape. Slaves began to stand up for themselves more and more. Slave owners were more aware that they could be challenged and that the slavery system had a limited shelf life. The authorities were forced to come up with systems to hear and deal with complaints of slaves. More and more smaller acts of challenge by slaves occurred and another revolt took place in 1825. An abolitionist movement even developed amongst the white settlers. History shows that Louis and the rebels made an indelible impact on slavery conditions and its eventual demise at the Cape.

(Those who try to separate Cape Slavery history and slave ancestors from Khoena and San heritage do a great injustice. Firstly had it not been for procreation with the numerically larger numbers of slaves (after the ethnic cleansing by colonists) many Khoena lineages and San lineages would have been lost. The so-called ‘Baster-Hottentot’ phenomenon was key to the survival of the Indigenes. Secondly there were many joint acts of resistance to colonialism where Khoena and slaves fought alongside each other).

1809     INTRODUCTION OF THE ‘Hottentot Proclamation’: The Caledon Codes – In this year the Caledon Code or more accurately the Hottentot Proclamation (sometimes called the Hottentot Code) was passed to control the free so-called ’Hottentot’ or  ‘Hottentot-Baster’ labour force on farms by taking away their freedom of movement. The code said that all ‘Hottentots’ now had to have a fixed abode and required a ‘pass’ from the farmer controlling the fixed-abode to move about freely. Effectively it formalised the earlier de facto extension of the pass regulations from slaves to Khoena. The code also made labour contracts compulsory and that these had to be registered by the farmers. It furthermore set conditions under which an employer could withhold wages for goods supplied by ‘Hottentot’ labour. The proclamation extended to all people regarded as ‘Coloured’ and further extended taxation to such. It was the first steps of the Cape Colony embracing Liberal Capitalism as its economic modus. It would only be repealed and replaced by a new Liberal Capitalist ordinance in 1828. But as with all British laws little proviso’s were later added to deal with child labour.

Just as Khoena society and its means of struggle and its cultures had now changed dramatically since 1652 and before, so too had the methods of control and oppression changed.

In 1811 in an attempt to appease the growing protest and revolt among the Khoena about the cruelty and violence of farmers towards Khoena labour, the British introduced a Proclamation instituting ‘Circuit Courts to investigate and prosecute farmers engaging in violence and cruelty against the Khoena labourers on their farms.

Then in 1812 the ‘Hottentot Proclamation’ was varied by the ‘Apprenticeship of Servants Act’ that allowed for the apprenticeship and employment without pay of free ‘Coloured’ children if the child was an orphan, or destitute, or had grown up on a farm. This covered all children born of slave and Khoena relationships on farms and it also covered kidnapped San children after their parents were killed in genocide raids, until the age of 25. This was a codification of earlier apprenticeship controls introduced by the Dutch going back to 1775. War was not the only means that was used to control Indigenes and often government moves and legislation was dressed up in a manner to project that it was in fact ‘PROTECTING’ Indigenes whereas it was the opposite. This practice has continued right up to the present day and there were always those among the Indigenes who naively supported such moves.


The British Scorched Earth Campaign in the Zuurveld: The British government at the Cape government sent Lt-Col Richard Collins in 1809 to tour the frontier areas and afterwards based on his recommendations a decision was taken to expel all Xhosa and Khoena from the Zuurveld and that this be densely settled by European settlers while the area between the Fish and the Keiskamma Rivers should become an unoccupied land with no occupants whether settler nor indigenes.

In 1811, Lt Colonel John Graham allied with Landrost Anders Stockenstroom of Graff Reinet swooped on the Zuurveld with an army made up of British, Boers and pacified Khoena and drove out every man, woman and child numbering over 20 000 Gqnukwebes, Ndlambe Xhosa and other Khoena across the Fish River. They were supported by the local commandos of Swellendam, George and Uitenhage. Colonel Graham was recognised by the colonial authorities by having a new frontier town named after him – Grahamstown. Also joining the 500 British troops were 700 pacified Khoena troops in the Cape Regiment also under Col Graham’s command.

Governor Cradock instructed Lt Colonel John Graham to efficiently carry out a scorched earth approach so as to ensure, “the expediency of destroying the Kaffir kraals, laying waste their gardens and fields and in fact totally removing any object that could hold out to their chiefs an inducement to revisit the regained territory.”

Lt Colonel John Graham in his own words written to his father said, “The only way of getting rid of them is by depriving them of the means of subsistence and continually harassing them, for which purpose the whole force is constantly employed in destroying the prodigious quantities of Indian corn and millet which they have planted…. Taking from them the few cattle which they conceal in the woods….and shooting every man who can be found… As to fighting, it is out of the question; we are forced to hunt them like wild beasts.” At another time he told Governor Cradock that “the most effectual measure….would be to pursue parties of plundering Kaffirs to the kraal they belong to, and if possible, burn their huts and destroy every man Kaffir it contains.” Record has it that the ageing Chief Chungwa was killed in his hut while asleep.

It is a shameful blot on Khoena history that the pacified Khoena forces were brutal participants in these massacres, just as they had been with the San. Much of the present hostility by some ‘Coloured’ people in modern times against black people is rooted in this collaboration of some Khoena at that time with colonialists against other Khoena, the San and the Xhosa allies.

The British, Boer and collaborator Khoena forces did not have it all their way. The Xhosa and rebel Khoena forces put up much resistance. In one of the battles Anders Stockenstrom was killed. Word went out that Chief David Stuurman was said to have been responsible for the Stockenstroom death and thus his profile as a formidable foe increased. In January 1812 Stuurman’s ally Chungwa was killed and Stuurman then allied with Ndlambe of the Rharabe amaXhosa retreated across the FishRiver.

John Campbell of the London Missionary Society who visited the Zuurveld in 1813 said, “Formerly it was strewn over with Kaffir villages, but now not a living soul is to be found. Universal stillness reigns.” The prosperous settled southern Xhosa and Khoena and Khoena advanced farming communities were brutally destroyed to facilitate white settlement and left a legacy of poverty in the Eastern Cape.

Again the colonialists were able to hold the ground gained in war through the collaboration of the Xhosa leader Ngqaika who signed a treaty with Lord Charles Somerset. This resulted in the antagonism of Ndlambe and further civil conflict between Ndlambe and Ngqaika supporters. Out of this cauldron arose a remarkable spiritual and military leader known as an Itola – Makhanda also called Nxele, the son of a Khoena mother – a diviner, and a Xhosa father.

The British expelled massacred and pushed out of the Zuurveld its former 22 000 combined free Khoena and amaXhosa inhabitants. Although the fourth frontier war had concluded, David Stuurman and his men continued a war of the flea and he remained amongst the amaXhosa. Over the years snippets of information, such as an account by the missionary Read in 1816 continued to reach the authorities in the Colony which simply showed that Stuurman was still around and a force to be reckoned with. He continued to receive escaped slaves and deserters from the pacified Khoena in the colony.


Makhanda and David Stuurman’s War: Following Ngqaika’s defeat by Ndlambe in 1818, Nqgaika asked the colonial authorities for assistance in his efforts to gain ascendency in the civil conflict among the Xhosa. As a result in December 1818 the British colonial forces invaded the Xhosa territory agreed upon by the last treaty. By December they had defeat Ndlambe. When the British departed, a united force of Xhosa dismayed at Ngqaika’s collaboration with colonists against his own people, supported Ndlambe in defeating Nqgaika.

In December 1818 Ngqaika and the British forces launched an attack on Ndlambe’s warriors to teach them a lesson. When they left, however, Ndlambe was again able to defeat Gaika, and then assembled a large army led by the his now powerful and popular military adviser, Makhanda, and took the war of resistance into the Colony and with up to 10 000 men attacked Grahamstown in April 1819. The attack was repulsed with the help of a pacified Khoena collaborator Jan Boezak and 180 of his men returning from a hunting expedition. At a low point for the British garrison, running out of ammunition, Boezak saved the day for the British at Grahamstown and allowed British reinforcements to defeat Ndlambe and push their control back as far as the Kei River.

Makhanda, concerned about the Xhosa losses, surrendered and was imprisoned on a British ship and taken to Robben Island. Makhanda is quoted as telling the British “People say that I occasioned this war. Let me see if by giving myself up it will restore the peace”.

This was also the last of the great resistance war efforts of the Khoena now reduced to guerrilla allies to the amaXhosa. David Stuurman had also made his last stand against the British during this 5th Xhosa War of Resistance in which the remnants of the old Klaas Stuurman Xhosa-Khoena Confederacy continued a Guerrilla War against the British. Indeed right through the Xhosa Wars of Resistance there would always still remain a Khoena resistance element. This came dramatically to the fore during the Kat River Rebellion in 1853. It also came to the fore during the time

The 5th Xhosa-Khoena Resistance War was really the beginning of a different kind of resistance of Khoena, with the exception of the Kat River Rebellion, and as with the guerrilla warfare of Khoena Bergenaar commanders such as Uithaalder and Hans Branders who kept large British forces pinned down for two years. The Khoena rebels, though certainly not with mass followings, would continue to play a heroic role in a different kind of resistance in the Eastern Cape. They would remain allied with the amaXhosa throughout, understanding the need for united African resistance and thus breaking ranks with those Khoena who succumbed to missionary indoctrination that they were superior to other Africans and were a brown race, set apart.

Chief David Stuurman pioneered guerrilla warfare in this 5th war by bringing together the mixed band of Khoena, so-called ‘Hottentot-Basters’ and escaped slaves. This would bring to the end an era of 164 years of wars of resistance and opened a new era – from 1659 until Stuurman was sent to banishment in Australia in 1823. Great acts of Khoena, Orlams, Namaqua and Griqua resistance joined with revolts in communities in some mission stations would carry the resistance traditions forward in the 19th century, but war as defined as soldiers going head to head had come to an end for the Khoena and the San defending their own territory. The guerrilla cations that followed were by a people that no longer had a secure place to call their own, nor very well defined support communities.

David was taken to Cape Town along with Makanda and other amaXhosa prisoners of war on 22 December 1819 on board the ship Queen and sent to Robben Island.

In October 1819 the Xhosa leaders were forced to recognise Ngqaika as primary leader of the amaXhosa. Ngqaika and Lord Somerset then made a gentlemen’s agreement whereby the area between the Fish and the Keiskamma Rivers, with the exception of the Tyume Valley held by the Xhosa, would be a neutral zone free of both Xhosa or European settlers. No free Khoena or San land or communities or structures existed in the Cape Colony any longer.

1820          MASS BRITISH SETTLEMENT AND COLONIAL SOCIAL ENGINEERING: In this watershed year the British landed 5000 British Settlers in the Eastern Cape to consolidate their hold over the resisting amaXhosa. In the same year all of the resistance leaders – Khoena and Xhosa were incarcerated on Robben Island.

1820          THE GREAT ESCAPE BY KHOENA AND XHOSA PRISONERS OF WAR: In August 1820 a convict at the Robben Island Prisoner of War compounds, Johan Smit, planned a dramatic escape with Khoena leader Hans Trompetter and others. They overpowered and disarmed a sentry and then freed a number of other prisoners who broke into the armoury and released and armed even more prisoners. Amongst these was Makhanda, the great warrior prophet who had been captured in the fifth frontier war of resistance and the Khoena leader, Chief David Stuurman.

After a gunfight with the prison guards in which one was killed and others wounded, some 30 prisoners made their way to the whaler’s boat station. Here they split into three groups each with an escape boat. The boat carrying Trompetter, Stuurman and Makhanda overturned in the heavy surf at Bloubergstrand. Only four escapees survived, amongst them Trompetter and Stuurman. The great resistance hero Makhanda, the prophet warrior of Gonaqua and amaXhosa heritage was drowned. He is reported to have clung to the capsized boat, shouting encouragement to the others before disappearing under water. The boat commanded by Johan Smit made it to shore with all its escapees, but the boat commanded by Holmes also overturned and only three survived.

The escapees were hunted down. Of the 30 that escaped, fourteen had drowned, twelve were recaptured, two were killed and only two evaded capture. The main conspirators who had organised the break out were hanged while others were flogged and branded and had their years of imprisonment extended. Chief David Stuurman was spared death because of an act of mercy shown toward a Mr Bryant during the escape in which Bryant’s life was spared. However he was sentenced to be transported for life to the penal settlement in New South Wales in Australia.


Chief David Stuurman was banished to Sydney in Australia.

Until the ship Brampton departed for Australia on 25 February in 1823, Chief David Stuurman was sent back to Robben Island for the third time. Chief David Stuurman was the only person to have successfully escaped from Robben Island – and he did so on two occasions. David Stuurman and Jantjie Piet were the only two Khoena at that time to be sent to Sydney on 22 April 1823.

A number of people argued for Chief David Stuurman’s release and return to South Africa. Amongst them the philanthropist Saxe Bannister and another philanthropist and journalist Thomas Pringle who wrote an article for the New Monthly Magazine in 1828 wherein he recorded the long struggle of David Stuurman with the colonial authorities. In 1831 there was an order for the release of Chief David Stuurman but it was too late. In 1830 a year after the relaxation of his prisoner conditions, the last of the great Khoena resistance leaders in the Eastern Cape had died.

In this year Lord Governor Somerset issued a proclamation liberalising conditions of slavery so that slaves could have the right to marry and be baptized as Christians. Working hours were regulated and slave children under ten years old could not be sold. The testimony of Christian slaves also was now accepted in a court of law. The issue of slave children not being sold made a mockery of the fact that the British Parliament had already abolished trading in slaves altogether, some 18 years previously and illustrates that one has to not accept legislation or records to be an accurate reflection of reality when evaluating the past.

1825    GALANT’S SLAVE AND KHOENA REVOLT: In this year Galant, a young slave of 25, led a rebellion involving 12 slaves and ‘Khoena-Baster’ labourers, killing his master and two other Boers.

The Khoena in the Koue Bokkeveld had been defeated by the Trek-Boers and their commandos many decades earlier and much of the bitterness still remained as had the cruel behaviours of farmers first adopted on the massacre drives. Galant had regularly been beaten and locked up and had his property stolen by his master. Galant had reported this to the authorities repeatedly without redress. He could not take the abuse anymore and organised his fellow slaves and apprenticed Khoena labourers to revolt.

Galant and the others were captured after a fight in the mountains, put on trial, convicted and executed. The Galant uprising is simply an example of waves of such unrest that was occurring at this time.

1828     PROCLAMATION OF ORDINANCE 50: This was the final death knell of the distinct Cape Khoena Identity. It was the first step toward the declaration of Khoena, freed-Slaves and other non-Xhosa persons of colour in the Cape Colony to be ‘Coloured’. By 1836 only the term ‘Coloured’ appeared in the statistical records. (In the first formal Census of 1865 there is a once off reverting to separation of figures for ‘Hottentot’ and ‘coloured’)

Ordinance 50 repealed the Hottentot Proclamation of 1809, allowing ‘Hottentots’ and so-called ‘Hottentot-Basters’ and all free persons of colour, freedom from carrying passes or adherence to pass laws (still in practice for other Africans), granting the right to land ownership, freedom from compulsory conscription into military service, and freedom from being flogged for labour offences. It also stipulated limitations on labour contracts. It would remain in place until 1841 when it was superseded by the Masters and Servants Ordinance.

But the damage of 169 years of warfare and degradation had been done and a culture, language, land, livestock and resources had been lost forever. Nothing was returned.

Legislated controls over the lives of people of colour were now commonplace and this year marked an end of one era and beginning of another where political struggle would come into the ascendency. Politics was war or resistance by other means.

By 1836 the statistics no longer recognised Cape people of colour by separate categories of Hottentot-Baster, Slaves, Prize Slaves and Free Blacks. All are from this year called ‘Coloured’ . (until a once-off change in 1865)

CONCLUSION:    KHOENA & SAN RESISTANCE: From this point rebellions and challenges such as that of the Kat River Rebellion, the East Griqualand insurrection and many others, or further support by Khoena in the Xhosa frontier wars of resistance such as that of Hans Branders in Mqoma’s war would continue but the deportation of David Stuurman and the death of Makhanda brought to a close a long protracted era of Indigene Resistance Warfare.

The amaXhosa Wars (war 6 to 9), the Zulu Wars and other resistance efforts continued the resistance war tradition first started by the Cape Khoena and Cape San. Those first 169 years of resistance (1659 – 1828) was the longest, bloodiest and most resilient of all resistance to colonialism ever seen in Southern African history, indeed anywhere in Africa accompanied by Genocide at the hands of colonists never seen elsewhere in Africa to this degree except in German controlled West Africa – yet this story was largely omitted from history books and continues to be omitted.

FINAL NOTE ON POPULATION STATISTICS: In 1795 we find reference to around 18 000 Khoena/Baster Hottentots in the Cape Colony, then in 1837 the Aborigine Protection Society references 33, 000 in a Report to the British Parliament and thereafter Khoena, Slaves, Prize Slaves and Free Blacks are recorded as ‘Coloureds’ from 1838.

But then in the very first Census done in modern scientific format in 1865 and presented to Parliament in 1866 there is a reversion to separating ‘Hottentots’ (‘Baster-Hottentot’) from ‘Other’ – denoting other persons of colour and, two separate figures are given. This does not happen in later years. So in 1865 the population breaks down as:

WHITE     (Europeans, Locally Born & soldiers)               181 592
former slaves, Free Blacks & Migrants of colour              132 655
'KAFFERS’ (amaXhosa within the Colonial boundary)            100 536
'HOTTENTOTS’ (‘Hottentot Basters’)                            81 598

 TOTAL     POPULATION – CAPE COLONY                          255 760

Between 1865 and 1904 migration of Europeans and migration of persons of colour, particularly Africans from outside of South Africa who were assimilated into the ‘Coloured’ population by the authorities in 1904, kept apace and ever increased. (Colonial authorities took a decision to incorporate ‘Masbiekers’ into the ‘Coloured’ population rather than ‘Native’ [Black] population).

It would thus be fair to say that the ratio of Khoena to ‘other persons of colour’ designated as ‘Coloured’ was 1:2 or one third of the future totals. The Khoena as a result of the 169 years of war was the only population (other than the San) that reduced in numbers (by three fifths) from their original numbers at the time of van Riebeeck.

Europeans grew from 90 persons to 181 592 by 1865 and, Khoena from 200 000 persons reduced to 81 598 of whom three quarters were likely to have mixed roots with slaves and others. Such was the effects of the crime of Ethnocide against the Khoena.

In the case of the Cape San the numbers reduced from 30 000 at the time of van Riebeeck to around 25 in the 1970s, to just one or two very old souls left in the 21st century who directly link to the Cape San as a result of Genocide.


My notes are a teaching aid. I encourage all to read the full original research on which the teaching aid is based:

  • The Forgotten Frontier by Nigel Penn; Ohio University Press; 2005
  • The anatomy of a South African Genocide – the extermination of the Cape San Peoples; Mohamed Adikari; UCT Press 2010

  • The Struggle for the Eastern Cape 1800 – 1854 by Martin Legassick; KMM, Johannesburg 2010

  • KhoiKhoi and the Founding of White South Africa by Richard Elphick; Raven Press, Joburg 1985
  • Seven Khoi Lives by Karel Schoeman; Protea, 2009
  • Early Slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717 by Karel Schoeman; Protea, 2007
  • Breaking the Chains by Nigel Worden and Clifton Crais; Wits UP, 1994
  • Slavery, Emancipation and Colonial Rule in South Africa by Wayne Dooling; UKZN, 200
  • Children of Bondage by Dr Robert C-H Shell; Wits UP; Johannesburg 1994/199
  • Slavery in South Africa – Captive Labour on the Dutch Frontier; Elizabeth A Eldredge & Fred Morton; UNP, 1994
  • The House of Phalo by Jeff Peires; Johnathon Ball; Johannesburg & Cape Town, 2003
  • The Khoekhoe soldier by VC Malherbe; Military History Journal – Vol 12 No 3; 2002
  • David Stuurman: Last Chief of the Hottentots by Susan Newton-King & VC Malherbe; WUP; Johannesburg, 1980
  • The day Cape Slaves made themselves masters – The 1808 Rebellion a dramatic shift in the nature of resistance by Nigel Worden; Cape Times; 2008
  • Records of the Cape Colony by George McCall Theal (36 Vols); Slave Revolt and Trial-Volume 20; London; 1900