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

3 thoughts on “The Making of the Cape Colony – 169 Years of Ethnic Cleansing Wars & Genocide

  1. Pingback: The Making of the Cape Colony – 169 Years of Ethnic Cleansing Wars & Genocide | Camissa People – AFRICAN BUSHDOCTORZ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.