CHART: 150 Tributaries in Coloured or Camissa (African Creole) Ancestry



Click on the highlighted text above to access a chart which breaks down the over 150 ancestral origins of people classified Coloured and also illustrates that almost 73% of these tributaries are African. Between 1904 and 1911 in an act of de-Africanisation a census committee created a new use of the term Coloured and decided who all would be placed under the umbrella term. This act is known as forced assimilation. After the Second World War in defining Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, it was agreed that forced assimilation of peoples was a crime against humanity. Apartheid was also later classed as a Crime Against Humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Coloured race classification though repealed in 1990 has found itself into two post-Apartheid pieces of legislation and it is still used frequently in practice by the post-Apartheid government. Shamefully for government Courts have also found government guilty of marginalization and discrimination on the basis of using Coloured race-classification. There is no justification for continuing the colonial and Apartheid practice of de-Africanisation of Coloured people.

There is nothing in law that forces us to use the term Coloured. Self-determination of how you wish others to recognise your culture as an African by ancestral birthright is protected in international law and Constitutionally.

The state now thankfully has restored the rights of the San peoples’ and the Khoi people’s (Nama, Korana, Griqua and Cape Khoi) as African peoples who were stripped of their ancestral birthrights as Africans in 1911.

Many more people were also de-Africanised in 1911 and want their African heritage restored as African people of Camissa or African-Creole cultural heritage. While there are some who do not mind the term Coloured and self-identify as such, there are many who do not want to be called Coloured and prefer to self-identify their sub-cultures in different and more positive ways. But the starting point is for the State to first recognise that what happened in 1911 was an act of de-Africanisation and to restore our African-ness. We are African Conscious just as much as other African brothers and sisters – Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Pedi, Tswana, Venda, Shangaan, Ndebele, Swazi, Tsonga, Griqua, Nama, Korana, San, Cape Khoi. Our African sub-culture has multiple tributaries which define as African-Creole or Camissa and we have a proud history of surviving crimes against humanity such as colonial disposession, ethnocide, genocide, slavery, de-Africanisation and Apartheid. In this cricible of criminal acts against our forebears they stood up for themselves and though constantly brutalised they rose above this adversity. We have learnt their stories and learnt about their many cultural threads and are proud of our heritage – not in a narrow chauvinistic manner – but nonetheless proud of the lessons for all humankind therein.

It is high time that government stops colourism and racist classifications. Stop pouring new wine into old wine-skins. Restore our African identity, restore our sub-cultures just as that of the Khoi and San have had their dignity rightfully restored. We too have indigenous African bloodlines of many African peoples in us. We can show that almost 73% of our ancestry is African, and we also have Asian and some European roots too. These cannot be unraveled. Restore our dignity.

Os is! We are! Camissa! An African-Creole people. Proudly African and Proudly South African.

The chart is there to see our roots in full. We cannot chop part of ourselves off and still be authentic. We are! And our fellow countrymen and women should accept us for what we are even as we accept all others for who they. We celebrate all our diverse cultures in South Africa for indeed they can all be found within us! Os is! Is ja!



Homeless pic

I hereby submit two documents for your consideration together with this covering submission which focuses on the issues of the people of the Western Cape in terms of land restitution.

The first document outlines that part of South African history of dispossession in the old Cape Colony that probably represents the most hidden part of South African history – the 15 wars of forced removal ethnic clearing of the Cape of its indigenous African communities over 176 years (1652 – 1828) and the subsequent de-Africanisation of its Nama, Damara, Griqua, Korana, Cape Khoi and Camissa people in 1911 and again to even greater degree in 1950.

The second document is written by an economist who unpacks the economic instruments used alongside the ethnic clearance wars whereby one of those instruments, the issuing of  “Leningplaats” or “Loan Farm” bonds of the VOC, co-relate absolutely to the 15 wars, particularly the first ten.

The contention of this submission is that by using the 1913 Land Act as the yardstick for evaluating dispossession, a terrible injustice has been done and that any act of Restorative Justice must consider what happened in the period highlighted. The same dispossessed descendant communities saw the Europeans get a second bite of the dispossession cherry when under the Group Areas Act, the little that people of colour still had, was again taken away from them by the Europeans.

After 24 years of the ANC government little or nothing has changed for those still classified by the Apartheid definition as “Coloured” and for our fellow African cousins, the Xhosa, particularly of the Gqunkhwebe, as other African persons in this province. This submission contends that all persons of colour, except those who specifically assert that they are Asian, are Africans without the need to use Apartheid terminology and definitions.


The African people of the Western Cape, largely Cape Khoi and San (/Xam), but on the eastern extremities of the Western Cape the Gqunukhwebe too, were rich in livestock and crops. The estimated Cape Khoi population was in the region of 150 000 in 1652, and the /Xam around 30 000 and Gqunukhwebe in the region of 30 000. Historians estimate tens of thousands of head of cattle and three times as many sheep were owned by these African communities, who responsibly and scientifically used the land and its water resources through rotational use of their land for managing herds.

By the year 1800, the Khoi were 25 000 in the Western Cape, the /Xam around 1000 and the war records show the Gqunukhwebe were around 20 000 displaced people and after 1812 were totally expelled from the northern reaches of the Western Cape. Within another century the /Xam were wiped out due to recorded genocide practices. The Western Cape was ethnically cleared except for those pacified Khoi who were turned into farm labourers under the same conditions of the slaves. Land, liberty, livestock, water resources, sustainable livelihoods, social infrastructure and cohesion, culture and leadership in independent successful African farming communities was purposefully destroyed and the land, livestock, water resources were expropriated without compensation by European settlers under force of arms and conquest. Farms were staked out and title deeds drawn up as Loan Farms by the settlers who paid the VOC a monthly fee and an annual tithe in tax. The beneficiaries were the white farmers, the United Dutch East India Company and the British Government.

Alongside this dispossession and denigration, local Africans joined slaves on farms who were predominantly Africans (68%) and from Asia (32%) in having to labour for no compensation on these European farms. Not only did all of these people labour on farms, they also built the infrastructure of the towns roads, docks and city. The added value for no remuneration is immeasurable. Any form of restitution cannot ignore this scenario, experienced nowhere else in South Africa to this degree.

The slaves were from East Africa and the northern reaches of South Africa (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KZN) and were known as Masbiekers, as well as some West Africans classed as ‘Prize Slaves’ or ‘Liberated Africans’ seized from slave traders at sea.  When brought to the Cape by the Royal Navy who had ‘rescued’ them, they were branded and forced to work for 14 years as free apprentice labour before really being free – some as late as 1870.

Indigenes and slaves integrated over generations and when the indigenes were freed from this forced servitude in 1828, and slaves were told in 1834 that they were emancipated, these were bitter-sweet moments because they had to first compensate their exploitative masters with a form of compensation in kind, for their loss of human property, by a compulsory four years of free labour before they were actually freed. The Masters also were paid financial compensation by the British government for freeing their slaves and the loss of income they would suffer. Neither Indigene Khoi nor Slaves got any compensation for their two centuries of enforced free work that added value to those farms and made huge amounts on bond levies and taxes for first the VOC and the British Government.

Slaves and Khoi who had lived for generations on farms were proletarianised or made unemployed and turfed off the land and had it not been for churches and mission stations had nowhere to go unless they agreed to their former master’s terms. The land was rightfully theirs for two reasons – as the fruit of their uncompensated labour and; as Africans it was their birth-right.  No other African people in South Africa had suffered this level of dispossession, degradation and exploitation, nor such a lengthy period of violence and war. There has never been compensation for any of these injustices.

Numerically those of the combined heritage of African slave, Asian slave, African indentured labour, Liberated Africans and other migrants of colour, together with a small percentage of European and Khoi ancestry, were three times in number to every Khoi person when the last census in 1904 still counted Nama, Damara, Griqua, Korana and other Khoi collectively as “Hottentots”. But in 1911 in the first census after forming the Union of South Africa in a deliberate act of de-Africanisation all were labelled “Coloured” without consultation. As proof of their claim to be Africans two of the earliest political organisations formed by such descendants was THE KIMBERLY AFRICAN LEAGUE (1885) and the AFRICAN POLITICAL ORGANISATION (APO 1902).

In 1950 with the passing of the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act this enforced de-Africanisation continued and the little bit of land, most often rented, and in some cases owned was taken away and given to whites in both rural and urban areas and identity and birth-right as Africans was trampled over.

Today those classified “Coloured” by government are still appealing to have the tern “Coloured” abolished in favour of returning the rightful African identity and acknowledging that  just as other Africans have diverse cultural heritages those called “Coloured” are Nama, Griqua, Damara, Korana, Cape Khoi, San; and for the larger majority people are calling for recognition of the dignified  term Camissa which is not race, ethnic nor colour, but rather is a deep part of our cultural origins going back to the Camissa River and speaking of an African people who rose above the adversity of slavery, wars of colonial dispossession, genocide and Apartheid.

So today the vast majority of such Africans, still suffer de-Africanisation and the imposition of the enforced colonial and Apartheid label “Coloured” and  are still landless, and without livestock and sustainable livelihoods. Today unemployment, lack of education, homelessness, landlessness, ghettoisation, backyard dwelling, gangster ridden lives under siege, and substance abuse (one of the legacies of the Dop System used on farms) dominates the lives of a destitute, abused and forgotten African people.

The committee dealing with Restorative Justice around the issue of land restitution by means of EXPROPRIATION OF LAND WITHOUT COMPENSATION is asked to consider the fact that the depth and extent of dealing thoroughly and justly with land dispossession and homelessness that affects the vast majority of the almost 92% of people of colour in South Africa cannot be transformed effectively on the basis of willing buyer / willing seller as per the present constitutional approach. We have had 24 years since 1994 with little or no change in this regard and this is the basis for the need for the change demanded. It is un-natural and illogical that land and home ownership is overwhelmingly dominated by less than 9% of the population.

Therefore the following FIVE PRINCIPLES should be considered among the many statements made in this public participation process.

  • The first appeal is to recognise the unique suffering of slavery, dispossession of indigene land en masse and, destruction of sustainable livelihoods that occurred pre- 1913, to Khoi and Slaves and their descendants, and the conditions under which such suffering took place.
  • Secondly the appeal is to recognise that while the masters of Khoi, Slaves and Indentured Labourers, bizarrely received Slave-owners compensation in two forms – from the victims through a compulsory four year apprenticeship without remuneration, as well as – financial compensation by the British Government – Khoi and slaves and their descendants got no compensation for their expropriated land, livestock or labour.
  • Thirdly the wave of Forced Removals under Apartheid both in the City of Cape Town and in the rural towns of the Western Cape has not been properly dealt with. District Six is just one indication of how badly this matter has been handled. The whole approach to restitution of victims of Forced Removals being handled on the basis of title deed certificates and other legalistic methods, does not deal with the majority who were poor tenants rather than just owners. Thus the process involved the FEW rather than the MANY.
  • Fourthly it should be recognised that those classified as “Coloured” firstly by the census in 1911 and further deepened by the 1950 Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act in a deliberate de-Africanisation process, be restored their birth-right status as AFRICANS based on the recognition that any person who has at least one ancestor that is indigenous to Africa, is an African. This issue of the National Question is deeply bound with Land Restitution.
  • Fifthly it should be recognised that Land Restitution must consider the condition of the poor and dispossessed today, and not just historically. People living as backyard dwellers, in shanty towns, and shelter-less on the streets of cities and towns deserve the dignity of having homes.

People who have worked for generations on farms and who descended from slaves on farms and descended from indigenous Africans who were renowned for their livestock farming, but now are marginalised from farmland deserve the dignity of being empowered with farmland, agricultural training and support – particularly the younger generation. This is both a restorative justice issue and it is a food security issue.

(Almost 92% of South Africans are people of colour and just over 8% are white. Back in the 1980s there were 185 000 white farmers and today there are only 25 000 and with most of them they are old and their children do not want to farm. Yet people of colour are shut out of the agricultural economy simply because this dwindling white population see it as their preserve. Within 15 years South Africa will experience a food security disaster. Simple logic says that South Africa needs to create 200 000 black farmers in a short period of time and this needs a radical solution. Each province needs an agriculture academy, an agricultural equipment co-operative system, a seed bank system, and a national and international volunteer mentorship program. This cannot be put off any longer. All students of colour coming out of a three-year agricultural-college program should receive a land grant if they get a 65% pass rate or higher. That is radical.)

The following five approaches to actual LAND, SHELTER & BUILT ENVIRONMENT are asked to be considered.

  • Land should not simply be commoditised and, no single beneficiary of land restitution should get restitution twice. Land restitution should be part of mass empowerment rather than the empowerment of an elite like has happened with BBBEE. Politicians should be last in line for restitution, so that they may remain focussed on ensuring that the most vulnerable and destitute in South Africa are served first.
  • Legislation should be immediately passed to disallow foreign ownership of land by creation of two types of transactions – FREEHOLD and LEASEHOLD. Foreigners must only be allowed to get 99 year Leasehold and not Freehold ownership of land. This scenario is the law in many countries. Eg: Thailand which has never been colonised has always not allowed foreigners to buy land and only allows Freehold transactions for foreigners. South Africans should be allowed a maximum of only one Freehold residential property, one Freehold business property and one Freehold farming property; thereafter any other property held should also be Freehold so that there can be a levelling of the playing field of property ownership. This element relating to South Africans could have a 15 year sunset clause.
  • The land issue is not just a rural issue and thus land and homes restitution in the urban environment requires the state to be innovative and must engage the banks and property barons and realtors for their share of land expropriation. The mortgage bond system has resulted in the banking mortgage bond sector being the largest holders of property in South Africa. It is a distortion to simply see the land issue as a struggle between white and black individuals. There should be full review of how the BANKING MORTGAGE BOND business is conducted and properties so held must also be part of the redistribution of land without compensation. There are five ways in which this could be done.

1.The state should look negotiating with the banks and property development sector, with the view to transfering of a percentage of vacant housing stock and land stock on the open market, at cost, to specially established Community Housing Associations, where the association becomes the trust owners, and after fifteen continuous years the occupants of such houses having paid affordable rentals, will become owners of the title deed. This offers a radical means towards housing people and integration of people out of the Ghettoisation created by Apartheid. Other innovative modalities should be looked at, with building permission and land sales legally being conditional on a social-housing component being required for sign-off.

2.All persons of colour who are existing mortgage bond payers to banks, should as an act of restitution be given a substantial once-off discount on their mortgage bond by the banking and property sector in lieu of theirs and their ancestors suffering and dispossession, including during Apartheid, in view of banks and property barons having benefited from colonial and Apartheid practices.

3.A type of 5-Year Marshal Plan should be immediately embarked upon to eradicate backyard dwelling and shanty town dwelling and must include a de-ghettoisation and deconstruction of Group Areas component for providing homes either at low-cost rental with a sunset clause on ending payment, or for free in those cases of indigence.

4. In all cases as part of a dedicated program of de-ghettoisation the broader built environment must receive attention so that play centres, community centres, sports facilities and other elements contributing to quality of life is dealt with in terms of the Freedom Charter’s vision.

5. All forms of urban renewal and gentrification projects should immediately be stopped from evicting people and making them destitute. Similar provisions should be made such as is used by ensuring heritage is preserved, whereby additionally  people’s rights to decent shelter and an inclusion  of an on-site homes element must be shown in development plans before building permission is granted.

  • In the rural areas, towns and farmlands there are at least three types of land restitution that is required. Firstly there is a need for decent housing and built environments for rural communities in villages and towns; and land is required for dispossessed claimants both at an individual level and at community level. Secondly there is the question of farmland being restored to dispossessed farmers and farmworker communities who have more than paid for such land in terms of their families having for many generations worked originally under enforced conditions for free and after that for a pittance in remuneration. Thirdly there is a dire need for South Africa to create new qualified black farmers with land at their disposal to meet a national need for 200 000 farmers, in the face of the fact that SA has experienced a drop in farmers from 185 000 in the 1980s to 25 000 at present. Logic says that white domination in farming will result in a huge food security threat if we do not quickly transform the agricultural environment. Therefore:

1.The question of land in the rural areas has to be separated into land for rural homes, villages and towns; rural land for restitution involving dispossessed black farmers and farm labourers; and arable farmland for a new generation of young black potential farmers. There should be no granting of status farms to politicians and the black business elite and the principle of one restitution award per person is vital to avoid corruption.

2. The issue of expropriation of ARABLE land has to stand out from land simply as a commodity or land for human habitat. Likewise land for livestock grazing must be separated out from land that is useless for any kind of farming or land which will be too expensive to be used for farming due to cost of fertiliser and other products. There is a huge degree of phony debate about land which reduces the land empowerment issue to saying that worthless land is available for restitution and therefore caution must be applied in this regard.

3. Land on its own for purposes of farming is not going to empower people. Government must not delay in setting up Agricultural Colleges in each province with a 20 year plan to produce 200 000 graduates fit for the various disciplines in agriculture and to be fit to farm, with support. All who achieve more than 65% passes should be assisted with acquiring farm land, a mentor, support from a seed bank, aqua support, and support from equipment co-operatives. This should be at the heart of agrarian reform. Existing white farmers as well as assistance from foreign volunteer organisations should be drawn into a mentorship programme to support such new famers. No arable land should be given to people who cannot and will not farm the land. A holistic agricultural advancement framework has to be developed to support transformation which not only involves farming but also involves everything that supports farmers logistically in terms of equipment Co-Operatives, Seed Banks, Aqua support, and of course the already mentioned Land Bank.

4. Arable land and grazing land as well as land for village and town restitution must be identified and mechanism of expropriation, that is not punitive nor vengeful, need to be established in a responsible manner. To be able to do this the banks will have to be engaged as much of the land has actually become subject to mortgage bonds and loans against land assets. To this end it is vital that a Land Transformation Bank is immediately established by the state.

5. No restitution land should be allowed to be sold for up to 15 years. Land extent in terms of acreage, duly informed by good international agri-business practice, should be limited per farmer – black or white. The intention should be to break down segregation in the agricultural business arena over a 15 year period and build national unity in the process. Part of this approach should include a special farm and remote area security plan, involving all farmers black and white supported by the SAPS

It is vital to the success of such a radical transformation programme that EDUCATION on land and agrarian transformation is immediately embarked upon. Firstly it is important for each provincial to explain the history of WHITE EXPROPRIATION OF AFRICAN LAND WITHOUT COMPENSATION and in the Western Cape the system of SLAVERY and INDIGENE ENSERFMENT. The then provide other reasons as to why it is important that the 92% black population become empowered stakeholders in our society and why for good race relations to be built the issue of land justice must be accomplished and put behind us. Then the education programme must look at the different component parts of Restorative Justice and Land Reform and explain these to the public as well as the checks and balance to be put in place to prevent corruption in this arena. The education program must ensure the thread running through the entire process is JUSTICE and not RETRIBUTION and must explain all of the processes, time-frames and modalities – and most importantly how the average person is empowered to be a beneficiary. Importantly RED-TAPE must not feature and the entire process should have timelines.


The two attached documents should be read with this submission because the first demolishes any argument that suggests that Europeans bought the land through a treaty process with Indigenes. There is no doubt that all treaties and agreements occurred after land-grabs and wars of conquest by the Europeans against Africans of the Western Cape. It also demolishes those who argue that the Africans of the Western Cape are not really Africans but rather a non-African minority who collaborated with the Europeans. Both of these facetious arguments are a denial of crimes against humanity. The second document is written by an independent American economist who elaborates on the legal instruments of dispossession in the Cape through use of grazing licenses and the Loan Farm system in tandem with wars of dispossession. The author is not well acquainted with the wars and erroneously over emphasizes the smallpox epidemic. His focus is simply on how the legal instruments of the VOC underpinned possession of property.

I thank you for your consideration of this submission.

NEW BOOK WORK IN PROGRESS: The Camissa Embrace – An Odyssey of an Unrecognised African People

At the end of last year I completed my new book and have subsequently shared the un-edited first draft and received various comments.

 I have taken these on board and subsequently subjected the book to professional editing as part of the process of going forward with publishing. The book as also been used together with previous published material to inform an SABC TV three part series presently in production which has brought a range of expertise used in writing the book as well as a cross section of youthful voices from South Africa who explore the questions raised, in front of the camera. This process also was used to improve the text.

I START WITH CHAPTER ONE – WHICH GOES BACK TO LOOK AT THE PERIOD 200 BCE – 1600 CE and demolishes numerous myths that project a false or highly compromised view of pre-colonial history. A range of expertise is used in putting together, just in broad strokes, a different way of looking at prehistoric times in Southern Africa and almost 2000 years of pre-colonial history. Archaeology, Anthropology, Genetics, Paleo-art Science, Sociology, Social history and Oral traditional history are all consulted to build a picture of our past, as a curtain-raiser for looking at the last 50 years of the pre-colonial period and then the colonial period that follows. The focus from that point on is the Camissa story of those labelled “Coloured” (Khoi & Camissa) – the story of a forgotten African people.


Os is! We are (the Camissa story in prose)


  1. A Wind Blows from Afar: The “Peopling of South Africa” through the coming together of micro-communities of hunters, herder-hunters, herders, herder-farmers and farmers from 2000 years ago.
  2. The Shoreline Frontier: The true story of the Founding of the Port City of Cape Town and its dispossession by agents of the United Dutch East India Company
  3. The Ethnic Cleansing Wars: Forced Removals, Ethnocide,and Genocide through 15 Wars of Dispossession in the Cape 1652 – 1828
  4. Migrants of Colour: Forced, Coerced and Voluntary Migration of People of Colour – African, Indian, Southeast Asian, Chinese and the Black Diaspora 1652 – 1910
  5. Classification: The emergence of the term “Coloured”, Apartheid and de-Africanisation of the forgotten African Camissa and Khoena people 1911 – 1950
  6. Conclusion: Navigating the future as African people of Camissa and Khoena heritage

…….[Khoena or Khoi incorporates – Nama, Damara, Griqua, Korana & Cape Khoi. These were counted as a separate set of Khoena peoples labelled AS Hottentots until 1904 (then numbering around 86 000). Thereafter in the census from 1911 they were counted as “Coloured/Mixed” (Camissa) and made up one fifth of all who were enumerated under this category. These together with the approximately 1500 San people in south africa are referred to by the UN as being indigenous peoples who are “discriminated against and marginalised” among South Africa’s broader indigenous African population. The /Xam people were the “First People” of the Cape and the khoena and the kalanga people can be seen as “foundation people” of South africa along with the tshua san.]



Paper presented to the 28th Annual Conference of the South African Sociological Association 1 – 4 July held at the University of the Western Cape on the theme Navigating Uncertainty – Patric Tariq Mellet – 4 July 2018

Nomalanga Tariq Darlene b    Sociology 2b

Metaphorically we talk about being between a rock and a hard place. And this is kind of2018-07-04 15.58.27 where we are at, in South Africa, at this point in time where socially, politically and economically all the roads have led to a very hard place and when you are at the bottom of the woodpile its extremely tough. We are challenged to dare to hope under these circumstances. Hope is at rock bottom level for most, particularly the MANY on the underside of life, while the FEW continue on the vulgar path of self-indulgence; and where the Political Estate is seen to have betrayed the trust of the poor. The question is begged – Is there sweet honey in the rock? (to use an old biblical phrase)

In these times, the question of identity and ethno-nationalism and the politics of tribe, is something that many are turning to because of the political failure – ‘the dream deferred’ – of those that were promised transformation of lives in the after world of the liberation struggle…. and all the sacrifice that went with it. The poet Langston Hughes warns us that when dreams are differed, they explode!

Who am I, where do I belong, where am I going to? What do I believe in? I am being battered by all sorts of ill winds. I want shelter from the storm. What can I hold onto? This is what many are asking.

So now we have people looking for Messiah’s, for Chiefs, for Kings, for Fuehrers, for the Uber-leader and the Uber-truth, and for some form of direction and home and leadership. People feel that through this they may have control over their lives and that their world can be more manageable and understandable. In this quest authenticity is of no consequence. People need to belong, believe and to be in control of their destinies. People have turned their search to the primal self; to a perceived past which speaks to them of being “FIRST”  – “Number  One” – and with no external influences, and of simplicity and belonging in every sense of the word. IDENTITY POLITICS has thus taken centre-stage in South Africa as a SAVIOUR from a Political Estate and system perceived not to have delivered on the dream; the dream deferred.

Without anyone calling it out – what we see in fact is that people have been lured back towards Dr Verwoerd’s separate-nations vision of Apartheid. And a lot of the pseudo-historical and pseudo-heritage teachings of the colonial and Apartheid era are being used to back up dodgy claims about IDENTITY. The ghost of Hendrik Verwoerd is chuckling at the predicament we have caused ourselves by our politician having poured “New Wine into old Wineskins”.

IDENTITY is an important cornerstone in a wholesome life and in navigating the paths of life. Its pitfall is where it becomes a narrow race – ethnic and religious badge. To me there is a big difference between these kinds of badges and the life enhancement that IDENTITY can offer and inversely how lack of IDENTITY can be a hugely destructive force. To understand and to know where one is going we need to know where we come from.

South Africans have been assaulted over the years by ideologically manipulated history and academia has unfortunately contributed to this because of the many colonial-perspective overlays that drown people’s ability to see their story therein. What Gustavo Guttierez, the Liberation Theologian called “the power of the poor in history” is blotted out.  Recently from some quarters there has been an attack on bringing “history” as a subject back into schools where the “humanities” has had to give way to the “sciences”. I have no doubt that there will be great value in bringing history back into the classroom. What we should be asking is – “whose history”?

Much of our social ills here among Cape Flats communities can be tracked back and understood through an appreciation of what happened in the past. Crime and substance abuse that is endemic, does have a genesis. We can go back to 1658 and work forward to the “Dop system” on farms for instance as tools of pacification to track alcohol foetal-syndrome and the dominance of alcohol problems and “tik” problems today. In 1658 two ships brought 402 West African slaves from Guinea and Angola to Table Bay. They were mainly kids. They were captured as cargo at sea during a Dutch vs Portuguese ship battle. These kids, among our ancestors, had been traumatised in capture, traumatised by a sea journey cram packed in vessels, traumatised by a sea battle, traumatised when half their number had sank with the Portuguese ships – and so they arrived in Cape Town. What did Jan van Riebeeck do when confronted with these 402 sickly and traumatised kids, outnumbering the Europeans more than four to one. He used daily tots of alcohol and rations of tobacco to pacify them. Half of their number was sent on by sea to far off Batavia and the death rate of those that remained was more than three to one. The “Dop system” carried on as a means of pacification along with violence against slaves and against Khoi apprentices, right up until our lifetimes. Understanding our history is vital to how we view our problem-solving today.

When we look at how violent and aggressive our society is, we need to understand something very important. As much as we have Alcohol Foetal Syndrome, and large doses of Stockholm-Syndrome we also have something called Generationally Transmitted Trauma. We had 15 wars of Resistance in the early Cape Colony over 176 years and this meshed with 100 years and 9 wars of resistance in the Eastern Cape, which then also spread over the rest of South Africa.

Only recently the War of Southern Africa which included conventional war, guerrilla war and civil uprising and repression, which we simply call “the Struggle” has come to an end only just two decades ago. If I go back to the ethnic-cleansing wars of the Cape and just look at one type of aberration during the waves of genocide used against the /Xam people, some of the Khoi and the Gqunukhwebe people, I can illustrate why our society is so brutal, and especially so to women and children.

The Commandos meting out genocide were European led and comprised 40% Europeans and 60% Pacified Khoi. They would go out in one swoop with intent and kill 300 adults, 90 adults, 500 adults and so on – ultimately decimating a previous 30 000 strong set of /Xam communities. A few young women would be “spared” to be raped, and to serve as concubines, and a few children taken to be apprentices on farms. The commandos in their orgy of violence, was witnessed by the surviving kids and young women identified to be abducted. Commandos used gratuitous violence such as cutting off the breasts of the older women so that these could be dried and cured and made into tobacco pouches. This is the trauma that has travelled generationally to our present. Similar things happened during the war in Angola by the SADF when pickled fingers and ears were brought home by soldiers to show that they “got a terrorist”, as opponents in the war were called.

Let me be more personal to illustrate the power of heritage as a positive. I was born into a dysfunctional family environment, partly influenced by the fact that our family was rent asunder by race classification into “Coloured”, “other Coloured”, Asian and “White”, and we were homeless, poor, and my mother was a single working mum earning a pittance. At the age of 13 she started work at 75 cents per 7 day week in the garment industry and laundry cleaning industry. When she finally pensioned off she was earning 14 Rands per 6 day week. As a result of this I was in 4 foster home situations before the age of 9, then into a cruel Dickensian Children’s Home where labour and daily beatings were the norm. Then I went into an Industrial Trades School and out to work when I was ending my 15th year, to work for 10 Rands for a 6 day week. You can only imagine the havoc this had on my life. Many of my peers died young, got into drugs and crime and landed up in prison. I didn’t. I became a Freedom Fighter and by my 40s through part-time studies I achieved an MSc with distinction for my dissertation and became the first ever in my family to get a good education. What made the difference?

I was lucky in that my part time mum encouraged me to read. I was lucky that one of my carers when I was 9 introduced me to my heritage rooted in slavery. Understanding of slavery became my magnificent obsession. I was lucky that a teacher one day in history class threw the text book in the bin and told us the difference between propaganda and history. There are many such lucks that I encountered in a very bleak childhood and early teens whereby I was introduced to heritage and the building blocks of identity. I also learnt that we as human beings collect identities (plural) from the day we are born until we die. We also discard identities too. But without identities and without knowing where we come from, we cannot navigate our present nor know where we want to go. I learnt that much of what we are taught about history and heritage is a version designed to control us. I also learnt that our hidden history is fascinating and offers us so much including confidence in tackling life. We were lied to by ideologues telling us that their forebears brought civilisation to Africa.

The early formation of societies 2000 years ago in South Africa when hunters, herders and farmers came together and formed new societies and how these fashioned themselves over time, was replaced by a nonsense story of a huge black alien invasion 500 years ago, and this has caused much division in our society. We were told that slavery was a minor thing and very humane in comparison to other parts of the world and that slaves came from Malaysia.

It was a blatant lie in that 48 000 of the original slaves came from Africa and Madagascar including other parts of South Africa; 17 200 came from India and 13 500 came from an array of countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Borneo, Formosa and other islands of Southeast Asia. We were also never told that more migrants of colour came to the Cape Colony than European overlords for 200 years. At a less important level we were never told that Governor Simon van Stel and the second Governor his son Willem were not Europeans but people of colour. The image of Jan van Riebeeck used on stamps, coins, banknotes and so on wasn’t him at all. It was Mr Vermuyden; and Jan’s wife was portrayed by Vermuyden’s mistress Ms Kettering. So our colonial history was skewed in many ways. Importantly when you go and look at history more carefully, you find lots of false divisions based on race and ethnic theories. The Xhosa and the Khoi and so-called “Coloured” identities are totally intertwined. We are actually cousins. Even the founding of this city of Cape Town has a very different history to that of the Jan van Riebeeck story. It was a thriving port over the 50 years before the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. The story of the Khoi people too is totally distorted yet now we have many imitating aspects of that flawed colonial history and making bizarre claims based on falsehoods. I cannot go down every avenue here but simply wish to illustrate that at the heart of many of our social problems are false social constructs and the hiding of aberration.

The Lebanese-French, Christian-Arab writer, Amin Maalouf from his brilliant book – “On Identity” says….

“What makes me myself rather than anyone else is the very fact that I am poised between two countries, two or three languages and several cultural traditions. It is precisely this that defines my identity. Would I exist more authentically if I cut off part of myself?”

Maalouf talks about people being pressed and ordered to take sides or be defined by a given identity and then comments:

“…pressed and ordered by whom? Not just by fanatics and xenophobes of all kinds, but also by you and me, by each and all of us. And we do so precisely because of habits of thought and expression deeply rooted in us all; because of a narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplistic attitude that reduces identity in all its many aspects to one single affiliation, and one that is proclaimed in anger…. I feel like shouting aloud that this is how murders are made – it’s a recipe for massacres.”

Many of us grew up under the obnoxious and murderous system of Apartheid which killed people and it killed souls. What concerns me is that Apartheid ideas are becoming vogue again in the form of the elevation of tribalism, ethno-nationalism, and skewed notions of singular identities.

There is a challenge for sociologists to wrestle with this new threat to our social cohesion in the 21st century. Also if we are to seriously come to grips with social ills in our society we have to join the dots for people on the wonderful Kaleidoscope of the “Peopling of South Africa” and the history not just from 1652, but from 2000 and more years ago. Indeed the 1652 date tells a much distorted history. What is wiped out is the true Camissa story of the founding of the Port of Cape Town, servicing over 1071 ships during the 52 years before Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival. The challenge is for sociologists to connect the dots between substance abuse and violence today to what really occurred yesterday. It’s to connect the dots of Land dispossession, Livestock dispossession, Livelihood dispossession, Leadership dispossession and the break-up of social cohesion of the past needs to be connected as a continuum with homelessness and community ills and erosion of social cohesion today.

Landlessness, homelessness, ghettoization void of social facilities, unemployment and generally a system of alienation of most from coherent expressions of identity and stakeholdership in our society is a recipe for conflict and war. And once we enter that vortex it is going to be extremely difficult to pull out of it. There is little time left to change course and, in changing course, the transformation that is required has to be radical to be credible. Transformation is the only remedy that speaks to RESTORATION. There is sweet honey in the rock!

When we look back at our past, at our history and our heritage it is also not just about being between a rock and a hard place. There is so much to learn about overcoming adversity. You cannot have come through the worst evils known by humankind – slavery, ethnocide, genocide and Apartheid – forced to be down at heal and to have your very life and gene snuff out, without visiting the spirit and resistance of our forebears and their innovation in swimming against this tide of oppression and repression. Those caged birds did sing. We do sing! When people ask me who I am…. I know why I say – I am an African, I am a Southern African, I am Camissa and I am born of a people who rose above adversity generation after generation…. and I too took the resistance road and claimed a liberated life.

Yes there is sweet honey in the rock!


THE NATIONAL QUESTION: NON-RACIALISM or ETHNICISM – POISED ON A THRESHOLD – A reflection on the 58th Freedom Charter Day 2013


(Patric Tariq Mellet 26/06/2013

There is a fairly widely held view of ANC history which is a misrepresentation that has no factual basis. This is the view that the ANC only opened up its membership to all national groups for the first time in 1985 after the Kabwe conference.JOHN GOMAS ET AL

Certainly at the Kabwe Conference there was a vigorous debate which involved three different viewpoints and the one viewpoint that ANC should be open to all, emerged as the majority viewpoint. But this debate developed from a political climate post 1959 and had its roots in practices of a tactical nature by some and a reactionary nature by others, rather than in the ANC policy or its constitution which declared for the first time in 1943 took a non-racial position in saying that “Persons over the age of 17 who were willing to subscribe to the aims of Congress and abide by its constitution may become an individual member on application.”

The ANC in reviewing its constitution in 1958 stated:

“Membership of Congress shall be open to any person above the age of 18 who accepts its principles, policy and programs and is prepared to abide by its constitution and rules.” The 1958 ANC Constitution also acknowledged “the right of all members to take part in elections and to be elected to any committee, commission or delegation of Congress.”

The late Prof Jack Simons, activist, historian and ANC/MK Political Commissar indeed outlined these facts in his paper produced in June 1985 which influenced the Kabwe Conference debate – THE FREEDOM CHARTER, EQUAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOM.

In the same paper Comrade Jack Simons also clarified the ANC had prior to 1943 been an organisation where membership had been restricted to indigene Africans only but that the ANC’s historical position of how it defined ‘Africans’ was as being inclusive of ‘Coloured’ people. He says, “The ANC Constitution first published in 1919 provided…that individual members all required to belong to the ‘aboriginal races of Africa’. This proviso was interpreted to include ‘Coloured’ on the assumption that ancestors of at least one parent were aborigines.”

In practice there were prominent ‘Coloured’ ANC members from the beginning in the ANC and indeed who held office in the ANC without any restriction as per the examples of Cape leaders such as Johnny Gomas and James la Guma who also served in the leadership of the National Liberation League and other organisations.

The ANC furthermore worked closely with other Cape leaders of the African Political Organisation (later called the African Peoples Organisation) such as Matthew Fredericks, Ojer Ally and Dr Abdurrahman. The naming of this institution clearly spelt out the deeply held belief in the “Coloured” communities of being AFRICAN.

But the ANC regardless of its non-racial constitution, post 1943, in practice still did not attract many “Coloured” members outside of Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, Worcester, Paarl and some quarters of Cape Town.

Although there were whites, mainly communists and a few liberals, who worked closely with the ANC, they too did not join the ANC at this time, but this is not because they were not allowed to join. Indians too, collaborated closely with the ANC and influenced it strongly but joined the South African Indian Congress. So, de facto, there was a tendency towards tactically operating in separate silos but cooperation between those silos.

Pragmatically or tactically it was from these practices on the ground that a Coloured People’s Congress and the white Congress of Democrats was formed as a means to reached out and draw these communities in close cooperation to the ANC. It was from this that the Congress of the People emerged in 1955 and it adopted the FREEDOM CHARTER which Jack Simons used to anchor his ground-breaking paper of 1985. Their argument was that the tactics towards unity had created Unity in Action and had in fact triumphed over the colonial and Apartheid strategy of “Divide and Rule”.

Today we celebrate the 58th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter adopted on 26 June 1955 and have cause to reflect on our achievements and failures regarding resolution of what we came to call the National Question.

The political approach of establishing “group” congresses and a Congress of the People was one of strategy and tactics and not an end in itself. It should be noted that these tactics was heavily criticised from a number of quarters at the time and it certainly did court problems over the decades that followed, some of which we still sit with today. On the positive side it united a broad cross section of people across the Apartheid ‘Race’ silos in very successful resistance movement that was victorious in forcing the Apartheid Regime into negotiations. But on the negative side within a few years this tactical action became entrenched as a rigid outlook among people in all of these formations who began to accept this silo approach as “the Congress way”.

It was not the “Congress Way” in that it was moving in the direction of Apartheid multi-racialism as different to non-racialism or anti-racism. There was a fairly strong core within the liberation movement across political formations, including within the ANC that champion ethno-nationalism where only those African identities recognised by Apartheid as “Native” or “Bantu” were considered to be African or “Black” in the Apartheid ethnicised version of that term. Thus an active push emerged to de-Africanise those the Apartheid Regime classified as “Coloured” people.

The colonial and Apartheid system had created a common label  of “Coloured” for the descendants of a range of indigenous African tribes – the Nama, Korana, Damara, Griqua, San, Cape Khoi as well as those who had some Khoi ancestry as well as substantial African creole ancestry which some of us refer to as Camissa heritage – 70% African slave ancestry mixed with 30% Indian and Southeast Asian Slave ancestry; and including African and Asian indentured labour ancestry and some admixture of non-conformist Europeans. Both the Genocide and Ethnocide faced by the indigenous tribes of the Cape and the crime against humanity – Slavery – faced by these people is the well documented worst experience of all Africans during the first two and a half centuries of colonisation in South Africa.

In 1904 within the official Cape Colony census a figure of 85 892 persons broken down the figures for each town noted those classified as “Hottentot” (Khoi) and included Africans of Nama, Korana, Damara, Griqua, San, and Cape Khoi identity. (this would be around 1 million today) The same census noted 288 151 people of “Mixed/Coloured” classification referring to descendants of former Slaves, Free Blacks, Masbiekers, “liberated Africans” from both East and West Africa, Indentured labourers, migrants of colour, and with some admixture of Khoi and European. The Masbiekers were Slave descendants from East Africa, as well as English speaking Southern African indentured labourers from outside of South Africa. Most original Masbiekers came from Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Limpopo province, Mpumalanga province and KZN province during the period 1780 – 1870s.

In the 1911 census after the formation of the Union of South Africa, these indigenous tribes called “Hottentots” and these “mixed” descendants of African roots and Asian roots were thrown together under a single classification as “Coloured” numbering 454 959. The predominant identity of the people classified “Coloured” was African but was artificially separated from other Africans simply as a buffer tactic by white people who translated this into physical manifestations of buffer townships.

It is out of this tactical “divide and rule” environment by the European colonialists and the counter tactics of the unity building process using group platforms that the “Narrow Ethno- Nationalist” tendency gained traction from the late 1950s onwards taking a militant stand of de-Africanising those labelled “Coloured”.  Alongside this progression of events, unlike the “Coloured” people who joined the ANC and also developed tactical formations like the non-racial African Political Organisation, National Liberation League and United Front, the longstanding South African Indian community had established its own Indian political formations which made an alliance with the ANC in the famous Doctors Pact. Then too, a white liberal-left organisational formation called the Congress of Democrats allied with the ANC. The ANC then took an initiative to encourage leaders in the “Coloured” community to create a tactical formation called the South African Coloured People’s Congress, but it closed down within 9 years for various reasons.

ANC from late 1959 onwards the ANC lost sight of the past valiant history of Africans labelled as “Coloured” and began to adopt this way of thinking that ghettoised “Coloured” people, referring to them as a non-African minority.  From this the false notion, it began to be said that the ANC is not an organisation that was open to all and had a restricted membership. And this was what Professor Jack Simons, the popular MK political commissar, spoke out against and wrote about in the lead up to the Kabwe Conference.

The mythology that led to the de-Africanisation of “Coloured” people was enhanced in 1969 after the Morogoro conference when a split took place and the small “Group of Eight” ethno-nationalists were suspended and formed the ANC-African Nationalist. But these were only a small group and within the ANC the broader supporters of this antagonism to “Coloured”, White and Indian participants in the liberation movement continued to uphold the ethno-nationalist approach. The notion of “Coloured” as “Non-African” evolved further when antagonisms to the Black Consciousness Movement surfaced and was seen as a threat to the old guard. The ANC fundamentally were scornful of the notion of a single identity of all oppressed black people, meaning “all people of colour” as elaborated upon by Steve Biko. The ANC had become comfortable in using the same multi-racial silos that was used by the Apartheid regime. Contrary to the core black unity approach of the Black Consciousness Movement which was incorrectly interpreted as a platform that was more aligned with the PAC and the ANC-AN, the ANC took a scornful approach. The Apartheid regime after the national youth uprisings in 1976 and 1977 in a rather successful tactic repealed the use of the term ”Bantu” (which had succeeded the term – “Native”) and replaced it with an etnicised version of the term “Black” now meaning only those tribes that the Apartheid regime deemed to be Africans. The ANC in a sop to the ethno-nationalists in its ranks and those suspended ANC-AN thus came up with the formulation still used today – “the oppression of blacks, Africans in particular”. In a stroke it adopted the Apartheid de-Africanisation of “Coloured” people.

To legitimise this move, it argued that “Coloured” people were junior beneficiaries of Apartheid and had not suffered as much under colonialism and Apartheid as those tribes recognised as “Blacks” (Natives/Bantu) during the long history of colonialism in South Africa. The ANC effectively did what the Apartheid National Party did. It airbrushed history in favour of an ethno-nationalist base. This effectively resulted in spreading the seeds of counter ethno-nationalist movements among those tribes forced under the label “Coloured”. The ANC also effectively entrenched the Apartheid philosophy of multi-racialism and “Apart – ness”.

It all started when the ANC took an ultra-cautious approach to ensure continued unity in 1969 at the Morogoro conference to ensure that no further damage was done by the “gang of eight”. Progressives in the ANC conference tactically agreed that under the circumstances, leadership of the National Executive Committee would in practice be restricted to exclude ‘Coloured’, ‘White’ and ‘Indian’ members until further review. By this time the ANC was on the cusp of re-affirming leading organisation status in the national liberation struggle. The left supported this move even although there was some discomfort. For the first time the ANC was also attracting larger numbers of “Coloured” supporters and also for the first time, larger numbers of white supporters. Due to the waves of imprisonment and exile, these were joining the ANC as members too. Indian South Africans now no longer had an Indian Congress, so they too were joining the ANC and because of the pressures from the ethno-nationalist right it had a tricky balancing act to perform. All of these had also answered the call to arms and had joined Umkhonto we Sizwe. The realities on the ground were bringing change into what was a fairly conservative movement in the 1960s and early 1970s. The ANC became very adept at managing change and was harsh on any deviation from from its compromise positions.

By the time of the Kabwe Conference in 1985 the ANC had thoroughly reviewed the tactics of the mid 1950s and the interim restrictions on who could be in the executive and weighed up the dangers posed by some of the interim restrictive measures adopted which ran contrary to the ANC constitution. Thus the ANC returned to fully upholding the principles of open membership first established in 1943 and re-confirmed in 1958. But the culture had already become deeply entrenched and would rise to the fore under Jacob Zuma in later years.

As far as those labelled as ‘Coloured’ were concerned, many voices in exile, in MK, in the underground inside South Africa and in the Mass Democratic Movement and the Trades Union Movement were also in no mood to accept the notion that they were a non-African minority as a few over-amplified voices within the ANC were increasingly labelling ‘Coloured’ people.

In terms of the 1919 Constitution of the ANC, people classified by the colonial and Apartheid authorities as “Coloured” had a long history of placing emphasis on the fact that most had indigenous or aboriginal bloodlines, as well as African slave bloodlines, besides having some Asian slave roots and a degree of European roots. But just as Walter Sisulu declared his African roots and the culture of his mother, despite having a white father, people labelled “Coloured” who were in the liberation movement emphasised their pride in being just as African as Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana and other national groups. Some began to have a discourse as to how this could be expressed in a manner that was not ethnic or ‘race’ or colour orientated, but focussed on a rich African heritage as descendants of indigenes and slaves. While some were comfortable with the term “Coloured” these were mainly the older generation. All however were agreed that a people, culture and heritage did exists that was as legitimate as any other African social identities and heritages such as Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi et al. It would take some time and for freedom to be realised for this to crystallise into two streams. One stream being those who wished to simply have their indigenous identities restored to the pre 1911 identities and then those who began to say that they have a Camissa identity. In both cases, other than those tiny delinquent elements on the fringe and who indulge in fakery, the two streams both claim the same overarching affinity to being Africans.

Those labelled as ‘Coloured’ were particularly proud to proclaim their Indigenous ancestry and strongly believed in black unity of all Africans. As descendants of South Africa’s oldest foundation indigenous peoples, they rejected the crass notion that somehow lumped them as non-Africans alongside whites, and played into the hand of Apartheid divide and rule ideology.

This notion of “Coloured” as non-African however, post 1994 became more and more vogue in the ANC and led to policies of exclusion which disempowered ‘Coloured’ people and to the practice of aberrations. This in turn led to a huge backlash of “Coloured” people towards the ANC. Because the ANC leadership became very much out of touch with the feelings of people on the ground it has led to the ANC being seen as no different to the Apartheid regime. Unfortunately there are some “coloured” people in the ANC who are not willing, informed or able to speak truth to power. Regardless of loss of support the ANC leadership remains deaf to the pleas of community leaders and rather listens to characters with little standing in communities. All of the hard work that Oliver Tambo had done to build strong and deep alliances between those labelled divisively as ‘Blacks’ and ‘Coloureds’ began to unravel.  All of the hard work of Reg September, Alexa la Guma and the sacrifice of life by Dulcie September, Basil February, Ashley Kriel, Robbie Waterwitch, Colleen Williams and others to build support in “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi communities has been squandered by the ANC marriage to Apartheid “divide and rule” approaches that it adopted. The ANC simply poured old wine into new wineskins. This unity needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

Post 1994, more and more ‘Coloured’ people felt “othered” and rejected as past ANC constitutional principles and acceptance of “Coloured” as Africans waned in favour of separate-ness policies and practices as communities were now labelled as a “Non-African Minority”. With de-Africanisation linked to the Apartheid phrase “oppressed blacks and Africans in particular” which has become the badge of narrow ethno-nationalists in the ANC, the black unity dream of Steve Biko was shattered. “Coloured” or Camissa people had happily supported Affirmative Action as necessary for correcting white domination and black social and economic exclusion, but had never supported the adoption of the very same Apartheid silos which separated “Coloured” people from being beneficiaries of our liberation struggle, as some kind of ‘race’ set apart, now being used as a tool for implementing Affirmative Action and BBBEE. The notion of ‘Coloured’ being a ‘race’ is complete nonsense. Shamefully the courts had to rule on this matter and the ANC government was shown to have adopted Apartheid reasoning, but has not apologised and continues with what “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi communities regard as insult and oppression.

The skewed reasoning for excluding ‘Coloured’ people from the umbrella of ‘African’ went something along these lines:

It is said that because the colonialists and Apartheid architects favoured some limited privileges for some “Coloured” people as part of their “divide and rule” tactics, and that this tiny beneficiary sub-set also included collaborators, therefore all “Coloured” people should not be considered as Africans nor benefit in the same manner from restorative justice and economic redress. This of course ignores the fact that limited benefits and collaboration was extended to and engaged in by all other Africans in the form of those who were part of Bantustan infrastructure, the SADF, SAPS and the security police, who benefitted handsomely and made up much larger numbers. It is a fallacious argument. Those labelled “Coloured” can actually show a history of genocide, ethnocide, land and livestock theft, gruesome tortures and executions over 176 years of resistance wars that is much worse than that endured by any other society in the resistance struggle. Post 1994 no redress of this long legacy of Colonialism and Apartheid has been offered to “Coloured”, or Camissa and Khoi communities. It is a blot on our liberation struggle to be marginalised and discriminated against in this manner.

Save for a very tiny middle class, most “Coloured” people were as poor as other Africans, unemployment was as high and access to education was the lowest in the country, and most are still at the receiving end of exploitation by those who had always exploited them. Recently released statistics shows an alarming picture of “Coloured” people being no better off than other Africans and in some areas doing worse than most. The past and present are so similar that NO HOPE prevails.

“Coloured” people were and continue to be treated like slaves in rural areas, were subject to mass forced removals, loss of homes and income. job reservation, even although there were a few relatively insignificant variations to that of other Africans, put a ceiling on progress. Homelessness and landlessness affected most “Coloured” people adversely and little or nothing has been done to change this with many now on waiting lists that started 30 – 40 years ago. This still continues for most.

In saying this, nobody can deny that in the Western Cape in particular, that a tiny “Coloured” middle class with a strong consciousness around the need for education made some major advances despite the adversity of Apartheid and, that the Apartheid regime did their utmost to try to win these over and engaged in much manipulation in doing so. But likewise the resistance from this quarter to Apartheid machinations was equally strong. The ANC under Oliver Tambo had a focus that was always on the latter resistance rather on the quislings which benefitted from Apartheid. The ANC post liberation betrayed Tambo’s embrace of “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi people. There were also always that rump which preferred being 2nd class to Baas rather than 1st class to their fellow Africans, but they do not define the majority. Some amongst the latter are today very keen on developing an ethnic party or throwing their lot in with the DA. But most “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi led the same oppressed lives that their fellow Africans led and engaged in the same struggles.

There was no rationale for treating one African group identity different from any of the others. While some suggest that “Coloured” people were too close to whites, every African community and not just “Coloured” people had some degree of collaboration under colonial and Apartheid circumstances. Remember the Mfengu. Why should some Africans, belonging to an “othered” group, be singled out for perceived punishment and enforced dispossession of their African identity. The vast majority of ‘Coloured’ people were oppressed by Apartheid and showed their rejection of the Apartheid tri-cameral elections where the maximum participation was around 5%. But  the ANC today suffers from amnesia.

Comrade Jack Simons warned against ethnic tendencies and said that once the genie of ethnicism is let out of the bottle and given any credibility it will turn into a demon which will spread and negatively infect everything. This genie will begin creating clones. Ethnicism will begin to fight ethnicism with new forms ethnicism. The history of racism and Apartheid can easily metamorphous into fascist Ethnicism. We see signs of this developing all over in South Africa and most strongly here in the Western Cape. We need to change our way of doing things before it is too late. In commemorating the 58th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter and in the run up to the next general election we need to start seeing some leadership on this issue. Alas no leadership seems to be forthcoming and people keep trotting out the same tired old mantras. I have requested an opportunity sometime soon to discuss this with the President; so concerned am I about the road we are presently travelling down in this regard.

We must not let bitterness set in and “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi people should not be pushed away from the ANC into the arms of their oppressors by the use of spurious, divisive and indeed ethnic arguments. This is not the tradition of the African National Congress. Likewise I would caution that for “Coloured” or Camissa and Khoi people to respond to their real concerns by retreating into an ethnic laager as some are doing will only spell disaster and lead to further marginalisation. There is no other way than to have national dialogue on these matters. Leadership has been lacking within ‘Coloured’ communities and has been replaced by ethnic orientated experiments. True leadership must be shown by opening up dialogue and this should include the airing of grievances in a mature manner aimed at finding solutions. These issues go way beyond party politics and can never be dealt with by the formation of ethnic political parties as touted by some.

The ANC use to vigorously debate the National Question and it is high time that we return to this debate and dialogue with affected communities on this issue, lest an injustice continue.  Vital to the resolution of the “National Question”, and indeed the “Coloured Question” is the issue of restorative justice regarding land, dispossession of livestock and the means to farm, homelessness, humane urban environments, education and being true stakeholders in our society.

The most progressive of the arguments, still relevant today and elaborated here, were championed by the late veteran ANC activist, Prof Jack Simons in 1985 and it won favour at Kabwe. One of the tenets of the ANC is to successfully build one united nation on the ruins of colonialism and Apartheid. You cannot do this by pouring new wine into old wineskins. You cannot use Apartheid methods to transform. You cannot repeal Apartheid laws but then use the very definitions of those repealed laws to manipulate those unrecognised as an African people, the Camissa and Khoi. It is time for us to be clear that in rejecting white baasskap, privilege and continued domination, we do not accept the Apartheid framework of four race-based silos in going forward towards a new South Africa and in our quest to build a just society where all are equal. We must be extremely careful not to elevate tactical tools to become ends in itself. In so doing we must better develop our tools of restitution, restorative justice and corrective action and we must make the space to develop a new South African. The ANC needs to hear the cries of “Coloured” people, the Camissa and Khoi People, who are proud to have a history of rising up above adversity, who are proud of our Khoena, San and other African indigenous roots and proud to have survived slavery. We all deserve a better future and release from the chains of the colonial and Apartheid past. Let’s embrace dialogue to ensure a non-racial future….. or is it already too late. Has the genie of ethno-nationalism taken control?

Patric Tariq Mellet  –   26/06/2013

Os is!  We are!

CAMISSA HERITAGE: Indigenes, Slaves, Indentured Labour and Migrants of Colour at the Cape of Good Hope

(A paper produced for the McCormick Wright Scholars South Africa visit)
© Patric Tariq Mellet (January 2017)


The USA and South Africa share a little known set of ties that bind us in the form of the historical connection with what was the first multinational company with two branches – the United Dutch East India Company and the United Dutch West India Company linked by the slave trade and their Dutch colonial settlements of New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York) and the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town).

McClean[1] tells us that the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam imported the first 11 slaves in 1626 and by the time New Amsterdam was ceded to the English in 1664 and became New York, there were 800 slaves of which 375 were Africans. Some 80 years later slaves were 20% of the New York population. A story is related by Mosterman[2] about one of the New Amsterdam slaves, Anthony van Angola, just as Boeseken’s[3] list of slaves bought and sold at the Cape shows us that there were many Anthony’s van Angola at the Cape.

In 1657, we are told by Schoeman[4], there were 15 slaves at the Cape of Good Hope and by the following year another 402 slaves, mainly children from West Africa joined these. They had been captured at sea after the Dutch battled two Portuguese vessels, and seized their slave cargo, and so began the trajectory of slavery at the Cape of Good Hope.

In the entire period of almost 200 years of slavery at the Cape, over 78 539 new imported slaves were sold in Cape Town and their children, grandchildren and descendants all led lives of enslavement. For 150 years the Cape census shows that there were more slaves than Europeans in the colony as illustrated by  Giliomee and Mbenga[5] using the 1798 figure of 20 000 Europeans to 25 754 slaves and 1 700 Free Blacks in the Cape Colony (Indigene figures are not given). Shell[6] further outlines for us how by the year 1769, creole or locally born slaves had reached 50% of the entire slave population.

Today scholars on slavery in the USA have a great awareness of the Atlantic slave trade and academics such as Eltis & Richardson[7] point out that 12,5 million Africans were taken across the seas to the Americas with almost 2 million losing their lives at sea.

Few however know about the Indian Ocean slave trade from East Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The Indian Ocean slave trade made up of slaves from each of these areas, where Allen[8] shows that an estimated 542 688 slaves, possibly double this number, from the Indian Ocean arena were also taken to the Americas. He further illustrates this as a sub-set of the 1,692 500 to 2,123 000 slaves in total that were captured in this arena. The balance were exported to other destinations – mainly to European colonial settlements in India and Southeast Asia. The European colonial footprint was an expensive one paid for in the slave currency of human misery.

Allen[9] also shows that of the total figure, there were 937 000 who were controlled by the Arab slave trade and taken to Arabia, Persia and India, while the rest were controlled by the European slave traders. There was also a huge loss of lives at sea which would radically up the total. Those slaves shipped in the Indian Ocean arena, show between 8.3% to 53.3% loss of life while at sea according to Allen[10]. Most people around the world do not associate slavery with slaves being taken to Africa or to Persia, India and Southeast Asia. Where ever slaves were transported and sold, to greater or lesser degrees, the harsh treatment was the same. The family and homeland connections of these people were cast to the winds that blew across the globe and somewhere in those winds there are the connections to those of us who descend from this slave trade in human beings.

Once the English had taken New Amsterdam from the Dutch, the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) became the major focus for their directors in the Dutch States General. New York then developed on a different trajectory and Dutch interests focused on the Cape of Good Hope and their substantial colonial footprint in Batavia (Jakarta) and elsewhere in India and Southeast Asia.

When the Dutch and other Europeans decided to settle at the Cape of Good Hope, Schoeman[11] notes that their Commander, Jan van Riebeeck lamented that the taming of the harsh terrain was not something that his European officials could tackle and requested slaves to be sent by the VOC, so that this hard work could be undertaken. The motley band of Europeans were either unwilling to do this work, or they did not have the strength and skill to work the land. Like the experience of the Dutch in New Amsterdam, the indigenes were not interested in assisting Dutch as labourers and the VOC saw the pitfalls of enslaving the local people and forbade this option.  Differently from the New Amsterdam scenario however, was the fact that in the Cape of Good Hope, in time, the Indigene interests and Slave interests, and people, bonded closely.

The Dutch had attempted to establish other colonies along the African coast and in Madagascar without success. It was slavery that became the great game-changer in South Africa. Without slavery on the one hand and the crushing and appropriation of the indigenes and their livestock, the Dutch settlement would have surely failed.

Boeseken[12] lists all the transactions of slaves at the Cape between 1658 and 1700 and from this and other records we know that the slaves brought to the Cape through the Indian Ocean Slave Trade included people from: India, Bengal & Sri Lanka; Surat, Bombay, Goa, Calicat, Cochin, Tuticorin, Malabar, Coromandel, Negapatnum, Tranquebar, Pondicherry, Palacat, Masulpatam, Colombo, Galle, Bengal.

Slaves were also brought from Southeast Asia; Arakan – Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Tonkin (Hanoi Vietnam), Malacca (Malaysia), Macao, Deshima (Japan), Formosa (Taiwan), China, Indonesian Archipelago (Indonesia, Borneo, Celebes, Ternate, Ambon, Banda, Roma, Boeton, Moloccas, Rambon, Boegies, Timor, Alor, Solor, Bima, Bali, Soembawa, Java, Madoera, Flores, Sumatra, Djambi, Nias, Padang).

From Africa and Madagascar slaves were brought from – Benin, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique (including southern Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia), Mombasa, Zanzibar, Madagascar (Antogil Bay, Sante Marie, Manajari,  Matitana, Augustine Bay, Radama Bay).

Lluis Quintana-Murci, Christine Harmant and others[13] in the American Journal of Human Genetics demonstrate that “Coloured” genetic enhancement is more diverse in admixture than any other part of the world. Many other more meticulous and larger studies, such as that of Soodlal[14] also establish the same result and these genetic studies are further complemented by a combination of academic research and genealogy as demonstrated by Delia Robertson[15] and the Firsty Fifty Years Project a project collating Cape of Good Hope records.

The abolition of slavery took place in 1834 and was effected in 1838 at the Cape of Good Hope, but ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to pour into Cape Town until 1856 and were only freed from compulsory apprenticeships, known as indentured labour, by around 1870.

The majority of Cape slaves were Africans from other parts of Africa but as will be demonstrated in this paper the Indian and Southeast Asian slaves made up a substantial two fifths part of the slave population. In time the differences among slaves in terms of culture and origins disappeared into a creole or locally born identity, which together with other tributaries, this paper deems to call Camissa heritage. Notably this term neither references race, or colour, nor ethnicity. It simply demonstrates that a distinct African people emerged at the Cape bonded by a common historical experience constituting a heritage. This was no different than the emergence of a modern Xhosa  heritage framework or modern Zulu heritage framework.

Cape Town and the farmlands and small towns were all built on slave labour. Slaves were bought and sold and faced all sorts of abuse as the property of their owners. De Kock[16] graphically gives accounts of scourging, dismembering parts of the body, impalement, drownings, burning at the stake, crucifixions accompanied by humiliations of every sort. These were all punishments or executions faced by slaves.

The enslaved were restricted from free movement, branded, carried passes and restricted as to what clothes they could wear and went barefooted. The United Dutch East India Company had the largest slave holdings at the Cape but colonial citizens, European and Free Black (a tiny community) could also own slaves. Manumitted slaves were the bulk of the small early Free Black community where often former slaves (manumitted slaves) bought their kin and friends, to be able to free them. The worst suffering among slaves was at the hands of European farmers in remote farmlands.

Slaves did revolt en masse on notable occasions, but often the most common revolts were running away, arson or acts of defiance. Escaped slaves integrated with refugee indigenes from the ethnic cleansing wars of the Cape and, there also were pacified Khoena indigenes who integrated with slaves on farms in the colony. Both the indigenes who ran away and, escaped slaves, fled to the Gariep territory on the Northern Frontier to live alongside the Namaqua and the San groups of the Gariep where Penn[17] gives us an insight into the free communities that were established.

Worden[18] takes a look at the seamless transition from slavery at the Cape to the apprenticeship system and, indentured labour system after 1838.  Saunders[19] then shows that there were those farmers who immediately sought West African labour to replace slaves and Watson[20] gives us a comprehensive look at the post slavery dynamics and the move toward farmers engaging indentured labour from Africa beyond the Cape Colony borders and much further afield, more especially the same countries where slaves had been brought from.

Slavery was succeeded by an “Indentured Labour System” which was slavery by another name, even although people were no longer called slaves nor could be bought and sold in the same manner as previously done. ‘Prize Slaves’ also known as ‘Liberated Africans’ became the soft target for cheap and unpaid labour that resulted in unfair contractual relationships that often lasted beyond 20 years. These were slaves liberated by the Royal Navy from slaver ships they challenged on the high seas. These ‘Liberated Africans’ were brought to the nearest English colony, branded and placed with farmers as indentured labourers.

Large numbers of indentured labourers were brought to the Cape from different parts of the world, from St Helena, across Africa and through to India and the Indonesian Archipelago. Other free travelers of colour also came to the Cape and this increased as the diamond and gold rush occurred and when wars broke out between the British and local white settlers who had established independent republics. Indian and Chinese labourers were brought into the Natal Colony and the Cape Colony and Transvaal Republic to work on diamond and gold mines and also on the sugar and other farms. Later during the Anglo-Boer War more migrants of colour arrived as soldiers and trackers, such as the Aborigine Australians researched by Scarlett[21], some of whom remained behind after the war. All of this is the background and summary of what follows and also contextualises a more complex and elaborate story.

The labour force in the Cape Colony, particularly on farms, post-emancipation from slavery, were those already caught up in an apprenticeship system – namely pacified indigenes called “Hottentots” (Cape Khoena).

The indigenous people of the Cape and their fate as a result of colonisation by the Dutch

Cape Indigenous people descendants with a direct lineage connection to any of the five most discriminated against and marginalised, account for around 30% of those classified as “Coloured” if one consults the 1865 census figures for ‘Hottentots as distinct from “Others” later referred to as “Coloured”.  The five groups here refer to the San, Namaqua, Griqua, Korana and the Revivalist Cape Khoena.

Today the indigenous peoples found to face discrimination and marginalisation are organised in surviving indigenous tribes and also by revivalist Khoena activist groups and re-created tribes aiming to secure their rights. Then there are also many of those sharing some indigene heritage who take a different approach and prefer to celebrate their indigene heritage inclusive of other indigenouse African tribes too and along with their slave and other ancestors of colour (the Camissa footprint).

Both of these approaches enjoy legitimacy, although some elements of the former take an ethno-nationalist approach and have adopted historical distortions and dubious exclusive claims.

The entire story of what happened to the indigenous people of the Southwestern Cape is long, detailed and complex, thus here only a brief introduction on the pre-colonial and post-colonial story can be told.

The meeting of Indigenes and Europeans in the modern period first occurred early in the 16th century. Johnson[22] comprehensively covers the death in battle in 1510 of the greatest Portuguese general of the time, Francesco d’Almeida and his entire command of 70, many senior military officers, being killed when the indigene Khoena (Khoi) people repelled them after the Khoena (Khoi) had been violated.

As a result, European engagement in Southern Africa with indigenes was minimal for over a century. But from 1600 as the United Dutch East India Company made trade breakthroughs in India and Southeast Asia, the Europeans were frequent visitors to the Cape.

Initially the five European powers respected the proto-port of the Cape of Good Hope, developed and run by indigenes. Until 1652 there were 1071 ships dropping anchor in Table Bay and trading with the indigenes as shown by maritime historian Knox-Johnston[23]. Ship stayovers could be anything from a week to more than six months or more and for the last decade prior to 1652, Gaastra and Bruijn  [24]provides tables of shipping movements allowing us to conclude that up to three ships a month were dropping anchor at Table Bay.  Mellet[25] in a paper focussed on the story of the foundations of the port of Cape Town shows how all this all changed when the Dutch seized the trading operation at the Camissa River run by the Camissa community (Goringhaicona) in 1652.

To contextualise the the term ”Camissa” it is noted that the terms ‘//ammis, gammis, kamis or kamma’ is the root for “Camissa” and is from the language of the Nama and !Ora according to Haacke and Eiseb[26] who define the term as a fresh-water river. The river in Table Bay is noted by the Portuguese as “Aguada de Saldanha” (water of Saldanha – the word “Saldanha” was original Portuguese name for Table Bay). The Dutch similarly later named this same river as the Soetwater Rivieren (Sweetwater) and referred to it in documents as Fresh Water, as distinguished from Zouten Rivieren (Salt River) ref: Hondius[27]; The Khoena did not have affectionate or honorary place names as in the European tradition. Indigenous words used, were utilitarian and simply descriptive or for oral route-mapping.

Moodie[28] tells us that Governor-General van Goens in 1682 notes that the inland Khoena refer to a fresh-water river as ‘Camissa’ or ‘Cumissa’. These indigene names, pop-up elsewhere, all meaning the same thing – fresh water. For example Raper[29] explains – Tsistsikamma = tse-tsesa + kamma  means ‘clear water’, ‘place of much water’ or ‘place where water begins’.  Thus the river providing drinking water in Table Bay was referred to as ‘//amma’ and the term ‘Ssa’ referred to those who foraged or fished as this community did when not trading – thus the people of the water and the river itself came to be called Camissa. The Cape Peninsula was known to the indigenes as //Hu !Gais who associated it as central to their survival and very being. The river ran from Table Mountain which was called Hoerikwaggo, and into the sea.

The Camissa community were originally members of various tribes who had broken away from tribal life to establish themselves as entrepreneurs and traders, and facilitators in a new economy that met the needs of the passing sea traffic. Then there were other individuals like Ankaisoa we are told by Elphick[30] who also broke from tribes to establish themselves as independent settled livestock farmers. The dramatic increase in shipping and regular contact with Europeans had effectively resulted in a social revolution and introduced new ways of living and a new economy with the exchange of commodities. This is not appreciated by many historians and those who play out a recreation of the Khoena in the 21st century. Such people lock-in the Khoena, to eras long before, and buy-in to a notion of Khoena being perpetually and absolutely locked into a bubble in time. A proper evaluation has to follow the course of changes over history to all of South Africa’s people.

From the indigene side they also began new economic activities such as salt production to meet the needs of the ships. For a while, the latter were assisted by the English, to operate from Robben Island, but after a short while they asked the English to assist them to re-establish themselves on the banks of the Camissa River in Cape Town.

Other indigenes referred to them as the Goringhaicona while the Dutch originally referred to them more accurately as the ‘Water People’ (Watermans). There is record that a number of these people were taken abroad to familiarise themselves with European culture and for training. Elphick[31] relates that two of these people were Xhore who had been taken unwillingly to London and back in 1613 -1614, and Autshumao who was taken to Java and back in 1630.

Elphick[32] sums up the dynamic at the Cape Of Good Hope at this time in saying, “In a sense, the VOC Company’s frontier had reached the Peninsulas [indigenes] fifty years before the Colony was established.” In this paper frequent mention will be made of this as the “Shoreline Frontier”.

Hondius[33] and Theal[34] record that in 1652 Jan van Riebeeck and a large party of diverse Europeans working for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) arrived and established a permanent settlement. The site that the Dutch strategically chose to establish a fort was exactly where Autshumao and his people had established their proto-port trading operation – on the banks of the Camissa River.

In doing this the Dutch also seized control of the primary source of fresh water supplies for ships. In the first eight months after Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival, he built a fort right on top of Autshumao’s village, which had hosted him and his men. Van Riebeeck[35] notes that after he had moved into the fort he could still see the forlorn Autshumao encamped by the river.

One entry in Van Riebeeck’s journal[36]  makes it very clear that both van Riebeeck and Autshumao were highly conscious of Autshumao’s proud role as a trading entrepreneur at the Camissa trading post. He says – “Herrie in the meanwhile, priding himself on having originated the incipient trade…”. Elphick[37] in his comprehensive story of the Khoena (Khoi) people of the Cape makes it very clear that Autshumao (Herrie) saw himself as “offering services to the Dutch and the English” as told to a French vessel that engaged him at the Cape.

The Dutch effectively put Austshumao and his people out of business and this was the first act of colonial aggression. Once the Dutch had succeeded to destroy this new indigene economy they turned their attention to subjugating the three primary tribes in the region, pacify them, divest them of their herds of livestock and reduce them to labourers – the Gornghaiqua, Gorachouqua and Cochouqua.

Mellet[38] in his paper on “the 15 Cleansing Wars” shows that this was the beginning of 176 years during which wars were waged by the Europeans on Indigenes in the Cape to establish the Cape Colony. These wars are detailed by Penn[39] and this then dovetailed with 9 wars between the Indigenes and first the Dutch and then the British in the Eastern Cape, which is comprehensively covered by Leggasick. [40]

In the wake of each war, large numbers of Europeans were brought in to settle the land and slaves and pacified Khoena were used for the back-breaking work required to break virgin territory. In the Eastern Cape the Xhosa and Khoena had long previously developed the land for productive farming of crops and had handsome herds of cattle and sheep. This land was was seized and occupied once military might put the residents to flight.

There were three families of African indigenous peoples in the Cape territory when the Europeans colonised the Cape.

The first were the /Xam ‘First People’ and other now extinct San who had lived in the area for thousands of years (Deacon & Deacon)[41].  A comprehensive study of the many distinct San tribes in Southern Africa is provided in the only work that has been done by the San themselves with the editorial assistance of Le Roux and White[42] and older historical research by Bernard[43] who gives further perspective, and Stow[44] who looks at the ‘intrusion of the Hottentots and Xhosa into the hunting grounds of the ‘Bushmen’, and Smith[45] who looks at how the pastoral herders emerged.

The second of the indigenous African peoples are the Khoena (or Khoi), who were not ‘First People’ of the Cape, whom numerous scholars and latest research corroborates had gradually migrated from the northern reaches of South Africa around a thousand years before the Europeans arrival. They were not directly related to the Cape San people and through their pastoral activity they displaced the San from the coastal areas. The most comprehensive work which illustrates this was done almost four decades ago by Elphick[46] and the most up to date genetic research by Schlebusch[47] (Schlebusch[48]) and archaeological works by Morris[49] and Bousman[50]  clearly corroborate the migration of the Khoena (Khoi) from the Northern Kalahari, Limpopo and possibly Zambia and Zimbabwe, to the Eastern and Western Cape.

The third indigenous African people were the Xhosa people who were formed from a combination of a trickle of early Bantu migrants of at least 1200 years ago also like the Khoena having migrated in a slow drift to take up residence alongside the Cobuqua Khoena and integrating with them around the Kei River.

Although the ignorant in South Africa continue to trot out the falsehood of colonial history that says South Africa was mainly an empty land, this theory was finally conclusively debunked by Shula Marks 28 years ago.

She pointed out that carbon dating has been processed from the Early Iron Age sites stretching over central, eastern and southern Africa. She went on to show that the first Iron Age African farmers were in South Africa from around 300 AD and not from the 15th century as an invading black horde as is often claimed.

At that time Marks[51] further stated that, ‘The earliest dates we have for the Iron Age in South Africa go back to 1200 years before the Portuguese rounded the southern tip of the Continent of Africa.’ Subsequently fourteen years after the Marks paper, Miller & van der Merwe[52] show that the dates could push back even earlier. This suggests that there may not have been much of a gap at all between Khoena and the early //Kosa (named as such by the Khoena and San) entering the Eastern Cape. By 800 AD the whole of South Africa was populated by Africans of diverse roots and this intricate mix of people were in no way comparable to the European colonial invaders of the 17th century.

Around 12 Khoena tribes and clans over time had joined with the //Kosa and were later joined by the Nguni peoples who arrived in the Eastern Cape from the 14th century onwards. These together became the Xhosa. A picture of this coming together is provided by Peires[53] in his comprehensive history of the Xhosa in pre-colonial times.

The Khoena (Khoi) tribes and clans within the Xhosa are the Cobuqua, Inqua, Sukwini, Gqwashu, Nqwarne, Cete, isiThathu,Ngqosini, Gonaqua, Gamtoos, Damasqua,Hoengeyqua and the mixed Xhosa-Khoena Gqunukwhebe.

Peires[54] gives us clues, as does Elphick[55], that the earliest Bantu migrants probably around 800 AD into the Eastern Cape were called the //Kosa by the Khoena (Cobuqua) and San (!Ga !ne of the Kei area), and these merged. Over time in different epochs there were twelve distinct Khoena (or Khoi) tribes and clans in the Eastern Cape region, who also merged with later Nguni people who arrived in a slow migrational drift into the Eastern Cape (Many broke from the Xesibe, Baca, Bomvana, Mpondo, Mpondomise, the Thembus and Sotho tribes and clans). These would form the Hose of Phalo, Gcaleka Xhosa, Ngqika Xhosa and Ndlambe Xhosa. This is well illustrated by Parsons. A further mix of Southernmost Xhosa with the Gonaqua, Gamtoos and Hoengeyqua, is shown by Pieres to have resulted in the formation of the Gqunukhwebe, another mixed Xhosa-Khoena tribe who with the onslaught of the Dutch settlers followed by the English, merged with the Ndlambe Xhosa.

Parsons[56] shows that these Nguni were also a mix of Khoena known as the Bakoni who migrated from the Limpopo region to KZN and integrated with the Tsonga and //Xegwi (KZN San) to form large and small Nguni peoples. Large tribes developed like the Mthwethwa and Ndwandwe who were later welded into a relatively modern formation called the Zulu kingdom.

Geneticists show us that the diverse San tribes of Southern Africa were once many very distinctly different groups who shared genetic and linguistic markers for which a German anthropologist in 1935 created a catchall term to collectively describe them as the KhoiSan.

There was never actually a tribe or people called KhoiSan but this academic term has gained currency in time and some revivalists express themselves as such to demonstrate a pride in the connectedness they have with the ancient deep and distant world before the last 2500 years ago. But the reality  is that this connectedness is shared by most tribes in South Africa and no one group can claim exclusivity in this regard. Some have stronger connections than others but all connectivity ranges between 5% and 30% with a stronger reflection in Mtdna than Y-dna. The story of what happened to realise this result is a gruesome and shameful story. Commando militia of which 60% were pacified Khoena (or Khoi) once having massacred all adult /Xam (Cape San) people in each genocide extermination raid, were allowed to take a few of the children to be placed as apprentices on farms and were allowed to take the girls as concubines.

The website clarifies the issue of terminology and its history in this manner “In 1928, German explorer and anthropologist Leonhard Schulze coined the term ‘Khoisan’ to refer to both the Khoe herders and the San hunter-gatherers. An influential South African anthropologist, Isaac Schapera, used this term in 1930. Schapera was under the misapprehension that the Khoe and San peoples spoke languages from one family. He applied the term to both the physical characteristics and the languages of the indigenous peoples. Today, San people prefer to be identified by as San or by their ethnic community names. In South Africa, some people who are reclaiming their ancestry refer to themselves as Khoesan. WIMSA recommends that where researchers wish to refer to the common gene type of the indigenous peoples or to the language stock, they should use the spelling Khoe-San.”

There can be no doubt that revivalists recreating Khoena tribes or associations in the 21st century cannot lay claim to being “First People” because this would be at the expense of the real “first People” of the Cape – the /Xam, exterminated in genocide meted out jointly between the Europeans and the pacified Khoena.

Around 2500 years ago migrating East African pastoralists with Nilotic roots, bringing sheep with them, entered the arena of Zambia, Zimbabwe, the northern Kalahari (in Botswana) and Limpopo and mixed with the Tshua and other San of that region and from this there evolved the Khoena (or Khoi) people as the first pastoralist communities of South Africa.

But very quickly along the same corridor, other livestock-keeping people of Bantu or Sub-Saharan African dna entered the region around 300 AD and like the Khoena also set out in an Easterly and a Southerly direction.

The Khoena (or Khoi) developed a number of original names as they migrated out of the Kalahari and Limpopo. Those going west became the Namaqua with its various subdivisions and those going east along the Limpopo became known as the Bakoni. Those that went southwards first settled along the Gariep River becoming the Naugaap, Namnykoa, Kaukoa, Aukokoa and much later various groups of Korana (which were a combination of old Gariep Khoena and and post-colonial refugee Khoena (Khoi) from the Cape. Those that went further Southeast to the Kei River and beyond emerged as the Cobuqua and the Inqua both of which merged into the Xhosa. Their story of merging into the Xhosa is shown by Peires[57] and by Elphick[58].

As offshoots from the Cobuqua and Inqua travelled further south and down into the Western Cape there was multiplication of tribes by division with the emergence of new tribal names for those tribes gradually splitting as they grew bigger and drifted further south. The Khoena tribes in the Zuurveld area and just south of the Zuurveld merged over time into the Gqunukwebe Xhosa who in turn merged with the Ndlambe Xhosa. The Southern and Southwestern Khoena (Khoi) are those who were the first to take the brunt of the colonial onslaught.The Khoena (Khoi) at this stage had habitat in the Southwestern Cape and it is they whom the colonialists first clashed with.

These were the Hessequa, Chainouqua, Attaqua, Cochouqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachouqua and the Chariguriqua who were a set of client peoples working for the Namaqua in the Northwestern Cape. Already mentioned were the Goringhaicona who were not a tribe but rather those people who drifted away from tribes to form the proto-port Camissa community. Five scholars read together give us a comprehensive picture of this evolution of societies in South Africa – Parsons[59], Elphick[60], Peires[61], Penn[62] and Adhikari[63]. The latter specifically looks at the /Xam or Cape San and their demise as a result of genocide, and who all participated in their extermination. (Adikhari read with Penn paints a relatively comprehensive picture of what happened).

The indigene /Xam ‘First People’ or Cape San people were gradually pushed out of their coastal lands first by the Khoena (or Khoi) migrants and then the Xhosa expansion. There was some level of relationships involving procreation that also resulted in admixture of the /Xam with the Khoena and Xhosa but, the overall relations was dominated by increasing levels of aggression from the Khoena. The /Xam people faced aggression from every other group in the region and this heightened to genocide when the European expansion occurred as elaborated by Penn[64] and Adikhari[65]. By the late 19th century the /Xam had largely been exterminated and today only much feint lines within other people remind us of their existence and these are to be found in very specific rural communities. The pacified Cape Khoena, the Nama, the Griqua, the Korana, the Orlam, the Tswana and Sotho, like the Dutch and the British all treated the /Xam and other San people of the Gariep like vermin and participated in the genocide against them.

This is just a short overview and does not go into great depth, but the overall picture shows that in South Africa over a long period of time there was a great coming together of different people that created all of the tribes and clans of South Africa’s indigenous African population.

Under Apartheid the state fanned antagonisms and created a false historical framework that sought to separate Khoena and San identities from Bantu identities and promoted the falsehood that only some within the constructed “Coloured” identity were the true descendants of the San and Khoena (or Khoi) and that these are jointly the ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ and the ONLY indigenous people of South Africa. This contorted construction is a falsified history that has gained currency among some and can be tracked back to those conscripted pacified Khoena in colonial militias and also later in the Apartheid Defence Force.

A challenge exists today to convince those that are distorting history and heritage for short term individual gains that they are actually doing a huge disservice and harm to the cause of getting South Africans, government and the international community to understand what restorative justice means for marginalised indigenous communities and our ability to bring the San, the Revivalist Cape Khoena, Griqua, Korana, Nama, Slave heritage and heritage of migrants of colour from the margins into the centre of appreciation of heritage and culture.

Today outside of the falsehoods which only serve to taint the cause, there is a genuine Cape Khoena (or Khoi) revivalist movement (some prefer to use the German anthropologists academic  term – KhoiSan), which seeks to restore the memory of the Khoena (or Khoi) who were subject to ethnocide in the Cape, by restoring some of the traditions and infrastructure of their ancestors.

It is unfortunate that within this arena we see conflict and fractures that impact heavily on their ability to present a united position. The role of warped histories has lent itself to these divisions as has divisive racist tactics of narrow ethno-nationalists and people who argue that “Coloured” people are the only true Khoena (Khoi). This goes outside of the realm of revivalism and becomes a claim that as such the claimants are the only true “First People or Nation”.

Notwithstanding this deviation, the Cape Khoena revivalists deserve to be recognised as facing discrimination and marginalisation and, this has been underlined by the UN and a range of other international bodies. Along with the San, Nama, Korana and Griqua, the Revivalist Cape Khoena are recognised as being indigenous people facing discrimination and marginalisation in South Africa. ie: Among all the indigenous African peoples of South Africa, these five indigenous groups face marginalisation and discrimination.

This recognition does not extend to arguments that these are the ONLY indigenous Africans in South Africa nor does it recognise that these are the ‘First People’ of South Africa or the Cape as this would sanction a false historical assessment and would violate the rights of others who also descend in part from the diverse San and Khoena communities of Southern and East Africa. The UN,ACHPR, ILO[66] and other bodies recognising the issues of those marginalised communities facing discrimination does not sanction chauvinistic and racist approaches and language used by those subscribing to narrow ethno-nationalism who have nestled themselves within an otherwise genuine movement for restorative justice.

The vast majority of those who have been classified as “Coloured” while having some Khoena (or Khoi) ancestry as well as San/Southern African genetic markers, also have African heritage that goes beyond the borders of South Africa into the rest of the continent and includes linkages to other African indigenous people of South Africa. They also have Indian and Southeast Asian ancestry as well as more than thirty other tributaries to their ancestral heritage.

The term “Coloured” is a bureaucratic meaningless and race-focussed term imposed by colonialism and Apartheid. In this paper this tapestry African heritage is referred to as Camissa heritage. This non-racial term projects a heritage of a local people who emerged from a complex set of circumstances with a common history of facing the huge adversity of slavery and conquest and then Apartheid, has a long thread of rising above adversity. This paper describes this heritage in all its facets.

What remains to be said, is that once there was a huge African society living in stone walled towns stretching from Mapungubwe in Limpopo through Zimbabwe to Mozambique. This constitutes an unfolding story of exploration of a site and history which was covered up for many years by the Apartheid order. There are a range of perspectives that are aired by Shadreck Chirikure, Peter Delius, and others[67] which shake previous histories of South Africa to its foundations.

Mapungubwe shows an advanced South African multi-ethnic society that existed from around 900 AD to 1300 AD when something happened suddenly to bring this stonewalled settlement and its society and the up to 400 other such sites to an end. The movement of Khoena and early Bantu migrations southwards are likely to have been around the early years of this society and Elphick[68] demonstrates bonds and trade linkages that go all the way back to the north from the Cape Peninsula. There is a ‘primitivism’ and ‘noble savage’ overlay on Khoena history, which downplays African social history, social formation, trade and civilisation which unfortunately some revivalists play into. This locks in the Khoena for all time into a distant past and does not recognise that all over the world all societies go through changes and modernisation. It is this non-recognition and dumbing down of some indigenous peoples, particularly in Africa, that leads to marginalisation.

Around 700 years ago something happened to lead to the demise of the Mapungubwe society. It all requires much more research. Evidence shows that gold was smelted and fashioned objects created. The graves and remains of the revered leaders of this society have produced KhoiSan dna but the burial positions are that associated with Bantu burial. All indicators are that this was a very mixed society of San, Bakoni and Bantu.

Mapungubwe holds a huge challenge for further exploration and holds the key to many questions in African social history in South Africa. Under colonialism and Apartheid African social history was almost totally ignored and South African museums did not cover social history and entirely had exhibits of pre-colonial South Africa only of an archaeological nature dealing with stone-age and iron age-people. At best the notion of the ‘noble savage’, part human and part animal was entertained.

As much as the shoreline frontier and the Camissa experience defines a coming together of tributaries to identity so does the Mapangubwe society offer us a means of exploring the ties that bind us as Africans in this part of the continent. This is the antithesis of Apartheid and all forms of ethno-nationalism that have arisen out of colonialism and Apartheid ideologies.

The political consciousness of resistance to oppression among the indigene Khoena and Xhosa as well as among the broader people sharing the Camissa footprint took many forms – all out resistance wars, anti-conscription movements, slave uprisings, the establishing of the Griqua revivalist formation, the emergence of theologies of liberation at mission stations, the formation of political movements and much more. This however is a subject of its own and is made up of great feats of heroism. Both the common experience of oppression and the initiatives to resist this oppression gave substance over four centuries to the emergence of a definable people and cultural social heritage that stands out today in South Africa, as the heritage so poorly labelled “Coloured”.

Slaves and Migrants of Colour who crossed the Shoreline Frontier

The majority of the population of the Western Cape (65%) are descendants of three main roots but also includes an element of European ancestry. The latter is a combination of non-conformist Europeans who integrated with people of colour as well as Europeans who violated people of colour.

The first of the three roots are Cape indigene peoples /Xam, Khoena (Khoi) and Xhosa (mix of early Bantu, Khoena, /Xam and Nguni). In the Northern Cape The Tswana and the Sotho also were part of mixed social relations with the Khoena and San peoples of the Gariep.

The second root is Cape slaves of whom 45 000 were from other African countries, 17 500 from India/Sri Lanka/Bengal, and 13 300 from a wide range of countries in Southeast Asia. These first generation slaves and their creolised descendants over 200 years made a huge impact on Cape identity particularly as indigenes were subjected to ethnic cleansing wars by the Dutch over 176 years.

The third root people are a range of migrants of colour from many countries across the world – Indentured labourers from diverse neighbouring African countries, Indonesia, China, Batavian Peranakan Chinese, West African Royal Navy Seamen, Australian Aborigines, St Helena island, the Philippine refugees, sailors from the Caribbean, Zanzibari Seamen, Lascar sailors, Passenger Indian/Bengali merchants, African-Americans, North Africans and Middle Eastern migrants. But of all of these it was the slaves and the slavery system that most shaped the people of the Cape and its society and relations. The events that played out in the Cape also indelibly affected the whole of South Africa and its political trajectory.

The fourth and lesser root must also be acknowledged where during the first fifty years of European settlement and in the preceding 52 years when Table Bay was an indigene run proto-port, there is substantial records of relationships, resulting in procreation, between Europeans, indigenes and slaves and this continued to a lesser degree right up to the time of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, the Population Registration Act, and the Group Areas Act, in 1950 by the Apartheid government.

Much is recorded in South African history about the migrations and fortunes of European waves of settlers – Dutch, French, German, British and others, but there is very little amplification about the many thousands of migrants of colour, forced or free, who arrived on ships from across the seas – up until the end of the 19th century more migrants than the Europeans. This is particularly the case with the large numbers of Sub-Saharan Africans commonly referred to as Bantu migrants who were assimilated into the population that the British would label ‘Cape Coloured’.

This seaborne migration to which Harries[69] in part refers, of tens of thousands of Sub-Saharan migrants was an inconvenient truth that contradicted the oft emphasised halting of the Bantu migratory drift in the Eastern Cape that meshed the amaXhosa and the Khoena (Khoi) – Cobuqua, Inqua, Gonaqua, Damasqua, Hoengeyqua and Gamtoos, in the territory between the Sundays and Gamtoos Rivers.

Migrants of colour, some brought as captives and others travelling voluntarily from other parts of Africa and Madagascar, and the Mascarene Islands; St Helena, Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Formosa); India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh; and from as far as Borneo, the Philippines and China. They were slaves, banished exiles, convicts, seamen, soldiers, adventurers, refugees, indentured labourers, merchants and economic migrants. Some had the misfortune of their ships being wrecked and then fortunately surviving and being taken in by indigene communities.

Yap and Leong Man[70] make some interesting statistical points that in census figures for 1865, some 213 years after European settlement, the Cape Colony had a population of 500,000 of which only 181 600 were white and the overwhelming majority were people of colour largely labelled ‘Coloured’. They also point out that for the British Natal Colony the population was 278,806 with fewer than 18,000 being white inhabitants with the large majority Zulu and a substantial proportion being the thousands of newly arrived Indian indentured labourers. Migrants of colour thus greatly outnumbered European migrants but their stories seldom feature in historical discourse.

In South Africa, free people of colour representing these migrant traditions were called by a colourful array of names each carrying a story –  Mardijkers, Bandieten,  Masbiekers, Peranakan and other  Chinese, Orang Cayen Muslim Exiles, the Saints of St Helena, Manillas from Philippines, Lascars, the Negro Americans, Caribbean’s, Indentures, Prize Slaves or Liberated Africans, Kroomen, Seedies, Zanzibaris, and Oromo.  These terms and the origins of many of the people of the Cape rarely emerge in heritage discourse or social history.  The administrative race term ‘Coloured’ likewise does not capture this amazing tapestry culture cradled by what can be called the Camissa embrace. (see ‘Story of a Port’)

This diversity of peoples largely integrated with the Khoena indigenes of the Cape and to some extent with other African communities in other South African ports and villages along the coastline. The integration of this element of South African history and heritage between the two poles of the indigenes and the Europeans can be called ‘the missing middle’. Because of the lack of information in the public domain and the fact that there is no memorials, imagery and literature that celebrates this huge element of ancestral heritage there is a skewed tendency for some to say that the ancestral heritage of those labelled ‘Coloured’ can simply be reduced to a Khoena and San (/Xam) heritage, with a minor element of Asian and European ancestry.

Gaastra and Bruijn[71] elaborate on the extent of shipping over two centuries from 1600 until the first British occupation of the Cape in 1795, saying there were  9, 641 outward bound shipping movements via the Cape to Southeast Asia, of Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, Danish and Ostend vessels besides those of other nationalities. They also give an indicator of the return traffic by telling us that the VOC outward bound figure alone was 3,358 vessels. Of the VOC outward bound vessels only, Gasstra and Bruijn[72] tell us that over 1 million travellers made their way to Southeast Asia.  There was much more shipping in the 19th and 20th centuries as sail gave way to steam and larger numbers of people travelled the seas. What rarely comes to light is that the crews of these vessels often comprised of a large component of people of colour.

While the vast majority on board the outward-bound vessels were soldiers, significantly large numbers were also passengers, and on return voyages from the east significant numbers of those passengers were also slaves considered to be cargo, as well as free passengers of colour and African and Asian crews. Many of these remained at the Cape and through this port gateway became part of South African ancestry.

In pre-modern history Knox-Johnston[73] 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[74] 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 around AD 700 and in 2003 the author built a replica that successfully proved the possibility of rounding the Cape at that time.

Knox-Johnston[75] 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. Archaeology at the Mapangubwe site in Limpopo Province indicates that a huge and extensive advanced African society lived in over 200 stone cities and towns stretching from South Africa’s Northern provinces through to Mozambique and evidence shows trading contact with the Arabs, Indians and Chinese. The society at Mapangubwe was a mix of Khoena(Khoi), San and Bantu.

The Arab travellers of that time referred to the South African indigenes as Wak Waks, differentiating these from East and Northeast Africans whom they referred to as the Zanjis, a term also meaning Black Slaves and a variant is the name for dog in East Africa – bazenji.  The term Zanj became the basis for the naming of Zanzibar by slave traders and some South African political groups in modern times dubiously adopted the variant Azania in honour of the briefly successful Zanj slave uprising as covered by Rodrigues[76] in chronicling the short-lived successful revolt of African slaves against the Abbasid Caliphate, which took place from 869 until 883 starting at the city of Basra in Iraq. The term Zanj and its variants pops up in all the centres of slavery from Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia and China.

Menzies[77] 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 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.

In the modern period we know that according to Gaastra and Bruijn[78] 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 according to Allen[79], slaves from West Africa taken to Southeast Asia and from Southeast Asia and East Africa on westward bound journeys. It was during those years that indigenes at the Cape would first have encountered the European practice of slavery and seen slaves. Those indigenes that had travelled abroad to London, Java and Batavia as shown by Elphick[80] and others would also have had close encounters with slavery and all that it entails and, brought these stories back to the Cape.

We can only speculate as to whether any of those slaves were brought ashore at the Cape at that time, but what we do know is that there were many shipwrecks  particularly on the wild coast and around Table Bay where people of colour, presumed to have been slaves or Lascar seamen did come ashore. Crampton[81] and Vernon[82] show that evidence does exist that people of colour as well as Europeans were shipwrecked, made it to shore, became accidental settlers and assimilated into indigene populations.

Vernon[83] chronicles many of these earliest shipwreck survivor stories from the 16th century in some detail too. According to SA Tourism[84], 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 the survivors of those wrecks assimilated into local indigene African communities. A significant number of the wrecked ships both prior to and post the 1808 abolition of slavery, carried slave cargoes and Griebel[85] notes that sales of slave survivors took place in contravention of the ban on importing slaves. Walker[86] notes four slaver ships that wrecked off the Cape Peninsula coast over the 50 years from 1794 of which surviving slaves remained at the Cape of Good Hope. Griebel[87] elaborates on one of these, the Sao Jose which in 1794 had both the largest loss of life – 200 and, the largest number of survivors – 300.

The first migrants of colour post 1652 were individual Mardijkers, according to Shell[88] – individual foreign-born settlers not of European origin. Shell tells us that often non-European Batavians accompanied VOC officials to Europe and the VOC instructed van Riebeeck that on their return journey to Batavia when they arrived at the Cape he should persuade them to remain at the Cape and earn their living as Mardijkers. While it would seem that not many took up this opportunity nor did the Dutch at the Cape pursue the idea, the records as illustrated in Shell’s footnotes do show evidence of Mardijkers settled at the Cape.

The original Mardijkers were Southeast Asian Catholic converts on the island of Ambon who after the Dutch took over, were converted to the Reformed Church. But throughout the VOC footprint in Southeast Asia the term took on the meaning of creole free-persons of colour – some freed slaves, and later did not necessarily mean that Mardijkers had to be Christians or Ambonese.  Upham[89] notes the first record of a person likely to have arrived as a Mardijker at the Cape as Anthony de Later van Japan (also referred to as de la Terre, or as van Bengale) one of the husbands of the slave convict who also attained her freedom – Groot Cathrijn  van Bengale.  Mahida[90] also notes that among the first soldiers brought to the Cape by van Riebeeck to ensure defence of the fort were Mardijker soldiers. He makes an assumption that these would have been Muslims but there is no record to underpin such an assumption.

At the Cape for over 150 years the idea of importing Mardjiker settlers  en masse was often considered but never implemented. But according to Schoeman[91] throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, a trickle of these foreign born Mardijker freemen did settle and in the Cape and this meshed with the people categorised as freed-slave/Free Black.

Mardijkers were also well known as soldiers across the VOC world footprint and as previously stated are likely to have also been amongst the VOC soldiers at the Cape from earliest times of settlement. Shell[92] notes that later when the Cape established the Javanese Pandoeren Corps which fought at the Battle of Blouberg they were sometimes referred to as the local version of Mardijkers but among them too there could also have been foreign born Mardijkers evidenced by surnames.

Schoeman[93] tells us that in the first six years after establishing a foothold at Table Bay the Dutch are recorded to have had eleven slaves with them of whom eight were women and children. With the exception of one from Madagascar and two from Abyssinia, the others were from India and Bengal.

Schoeman[94] elaborates on the dramatic change to slave numbers in 1658 when two VOC ships intercepted Portuguese ships and seized their slave cargoes and brought them to the Cape. These were West African slaves numbering 402 survivors in total and of these slaves 172 were sent on to Batavia and the rest sold at the Cape of Good Hope. This was probably the largest single offloading of slaves at the Cape and they are part of the ancestry of every South African community regardless of state categorisation labels today.

How many enslaved people were brought to the Cape?  The most accurate figure would conservatively be around 78,539. To arrive at this figure one has to consult a number of works.

Shell[95] researched that 62,964 slaves were recorded to have been forcibly brought to the Cape between 1652 and 1808 by means of an iterative calculation on the population of all Cape Slaves of each VOC census year.  He also broke these figures down to percentages – Africa/Madagascar 51.5%, India 25,9% and Indonesia (Southeast Asia) 22.7%. This of course cannot discount that others may have been informally brought to the Cape. Other researchers provide evidence of at least another 15,539 slaves being brought to the Cape first by the British during the first occupation and then after the British take-over until 1856 but, record keeping on slaves had become blurred by then, making this too conservative a figure.

To unpack the figure of 15,539 slaves Saunders[96] puts the figure of the African ‘Prize Slaves’ brought to the Cape at over 5000 from 1806 until 1840 and Harries[97] logs more than another 4000 during the 1840s. Over the next period until 1856 a decreasing stream of ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to trickle into the Cape. It is hard to say how many but we can at least factor in another 1500 especially when we consider that many ‘Prize Slaves’ first taken to St Helena were then sent to Cape Town. Harries[98] also notes that during the first British occupation of the Cape between 1795 and 1803 the Royal Navy deposited 2000 slaves at the Cape, and captured from enemy shipping.  In the same period he noted 1,039 slaves from Mozambique were imported into the Colony under British administration before returning the Colony to the Batavian Republic administration. It can further be gleaned that number of slaves totalling in the region of 2000 were survivors of shipwrecks.

Gonzalez[99] tells us that during the whole slave trade period (until 1860), around 909 slave ships transported slaves from Southeastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands to the New World often via Cape Town. He says that 661 ships disembarked their cargoes in Brazil and 523 during the nineteenth century. It was some of these ships en route to Brazil that were wrecked or captured in Cape waters.

Many of the shipwreck survivors were sold privately at the Cape, such as that publicised when the Portuguese ship Pacalt Real was wrecked in 1818 at Woodstock beach carrying 171 slaves some of whom perished. This would contribute to the conservative estimate of other informal and unlawful importation. Walker[100] notes a number of slaver shipwrecks in addition to the Pacalt Real. Unlike the 1794 wrecking of the San Jose where 300 lives of the slaves were saved and 200 lives lost, in the cases of the three ships wrecked, in each of those cases the slave ‘cargos’ were all saved. These were probably disposed of at that stage just like the Pacalt Real, where Griebel[101] explains that the slaves may have been sold privately in contravention of the protocols governing importation of ‘Slaves’.

To gain a better idea of how many slaves existed during the slave era at the Cape one has to look beyond the imported figure and also include the children, grandchildren and descendants of slaves over that 183 year period and beyond until the last Liberated Africans were actually freed. One also has to aggregate the de facto slavery of turning the surviving Khoena and San into ‘apprentices’ in the course of the 176 years of war that pushed out indigenes from the Colony, and of course the de facto enslavement of Africans in the frontier districts and the new Boer Republics as elaborated by Eldridge & Morton[102]. The figure of the enslaved in South Africa would easily be more than three times the 78,539 imported slaves noted in this assessment. The impacts of the years of slavery and then emancipation on social relations on the 19th century is examined in depth by Dooling[103] who shows just how much of a paradigm shift occurred when slaves and indentured labour began to be called “Coloured”.

A breakdown of the figure of 78,539 imported slaves, the forced migrants that came from across the sea, using the three geo-locations of origins if one factors in the post 1808 African slaves and recalculates using the percentages of Shell’s pre-1808 slave imports – then one arrives at Africa/Madagascar (60,70%), India/Sri Lanka/Bengal (22.06% %) and Southeast Asia (17,24 %).

It should be noted that the aggregation of the Malagasy slaves with mainland Africa is not just that Madagascar is part of the SADC geo-political region of Africa but also because most slaves taken by the Dutch according to Wiestra & Armstrong[104] were bought from the Saklava along the Western coastline who are largely descendants of East African and in the Journal of the Cape slave ship Leijdsman are variously described as ‘black negroes’ and ‘swarte caffers’.  A few of Southeast Asian and Arab descendent are also likely to have come from the eastern coastline. The later mass important of African indentured labour would push up the Bantu migration which assimilated into the population labelled ‘Coloured’ by at least another 15%.

Shell[105] gives an overview of the diversity of origins of all the slaves and Allen[106] complements this work by showing the diversity of the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asian component. The latter ranged as coming from Rakhine (Arakan) in Myanmar to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Indonesian Islands, Borneo, Philippines, Formosa through to Southern China and Deshima in Japan. The toponym of ‘van Bengal’ given to many slaves in fact may refer to the long ‘Bay of Bengal’ coastline rather than just to what we today call Bangladesh.

Distortions in South African historical narratives inaccurately referred to the enslaved as ‘Malay’ slaves and the Cape Malay identity is a constructed identity. In reality a minor number of slaves may have come from the Malay Peninsula. Haron[107] looks at this critique of the constructed Cape Malay identity through a the engagement of a range of scholars who subjected the term to scrutiny and notes the political division of people classified as ‘Coloured’ on religious lines with an artificial ethnic overlay. The term Cape Malay as used in the Cape had more to do with the widespread use across Southeast Asia in the shipping industry of the hybrid Portuguese-Meleyu language and for Europeans at the Cape to call all slaves from the Southeast Asian region, Malays, because of the language.

The majority of the 17,24% Southeast Asian component of slaves can be traced to a range of islands in the Indonesian Archipelago and the rest from a diverse array of countries in the region. However it is important to note that many Cape slaves carrying the toponyms of large slaving stations such as Batavia, Java and Colombo may indeed have been brought there from elsewhere along the long coast of the Bay of Bengal from India to Siam (Thailand) or from elsewhere in the archipelago. Also it must be noted that up to 50% of the populations in Batavia, Sumatra and Java were Chinese and creole Chinese known as Peranakan. This all affects the background or origins of those brought to the Cape.

Andaya B & Andaya L[108] give us a full appreciation of the source territories for slaves and exiles brought to the Cape from Southeast Asia. By also consulting Allen[109] one can come to a full appreciation of the history of slavery at the Cape of Good Hope VOC outpost in relation to the entire Southeast Asian area. He covers the slaving patterns and the proximities of the Dutch factories and colonies, as well as areas of warfare and famine.  Particularly of interest as exposed by Allen[110] is the role played by the Mascarene Islands and Zanzibar as a halfway-house for slaves from East Africa and from Asia.

The African slaves at the Cape were largely from Angola up to Guinea in West Africa, and in east and central Africa from Mozambique up to Somalia and inland to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo and across to Madagascar. Harries[111] notes that these African slaves were formally classified as ‘Coloured’ when the first census of the new Union of South Africa said that Mazbiekers should be classified as ‘Coloured’ rather than as Natives. Prior to this Harries[112] conservatively estimates and notes that the over 25,000 Masbiekers who came to the Cape between 1770 and 1880, whether slave, Prize Slave or Indentured labourers were originally referred to as ‘rightless natives’ before being classified as ‘Coloured’. We will return to the origins of the Masbiekers later.

Besides the huge number of ‘Prize Slaves’ and Mazbieker and other Indentured labourers in the Cape Colony, significant numbers also went to the Natal Colony such as the Zanzibari African ‘Prize Slaves’ who are the forebears of the distinct Zanzibari community in KZN today.  SA History Online[113] refers to the British Consul-General of Zanzibar, John Kerk, who suggested in a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, that a temporary arrangement could be made whereby the liberated slaves from Zanzibar could be brought to Natal to be apprenticed to the European sugar planters. The first group of freed Zanzibaris, numbering 113, mainly Muslims arrived at Port Natal in August 1873. Another 81 more Zanzibaris arrived a year later. Pereira[114] tells us that up to 1880 there were 600 African Prize Slaves who were brought to Natal (KNZ), some of whom were referred to as Zanzibaris and others as Seedies. A Government Notice, No 142 of 1873, said that all Prize Slaves in Natal were to be employed in Public Works, but in practice they divided them equally between Public Works and private individuals as indentured labourers. The Zanzibari Africans, largely Muslims, were also classified as ‘Coloured’.

The facts outlined here in brief underline that the term ‘Coloured’ made no sense because a significant proportion of those so classified were clearly Bantu or Sub-Saharan peoples from an array of African countries.

The children, grandchildren and decedents of slaves until the 1834 emancipation from slavery was announced and then effected in 1838, were all born into slavery. From the end of the 1760s according to Eldridge & Morton[115] almost 50% of slaves were locally born with this increasing to 72% by the Emancipation from slavery, and already by the 1740s over 30% were locally born.

Prize slaves on being brought to the Cape Colony were not set free. They had to undergo many years of indentured or apprentice labour which was pretty much the same as slavery. For many, this ended only around 1860. Rowoldt-Shell[116]  relates how one exceptional group making up the last of the Prize Slaves were brought to the Cape as late as 1890.  In 1888, the Royal Navy had intercepted a slaver dhow in the Red Sea, liberated the Oromo child slaves on board and took them to Aden. They were later joined by other liberated Oromo child slaves at the Free Church of Scotland mission. In 1890 sixty-four of the Oromo children were sent to the Lovedale Mission in the Eastern Cape Colony where they were baptised as Christians and completed their education. Many of the children died over the next couple of decades. Some were repatriated and others remained on in South Africa. Former political prisoner and prominent academic – the late Dr Neville Alexander’s grandmother was one of those Oromo children.

This array of slaves with different origins, and their descendants embraced indigenes and indigenes embraced them. Within a generation or two the creole slave offspring of indigenes, slaves and indentured labourers from different parts of the world had a new African culture born in South Africa and some European non-conformists also embraced these creole people and their culture. The river running through Cape Town which had been home to the Khoena and the port formed by that early Camissa community, those called the Goringhaicona, was the gateway of this coming together resulting in what can be called the Camissa Footprint.

The “Camissa footprint” refers to the first small indigene community of Garinghaicona who left their traditional tribes and ways to establish a proto-port settlement at the mouth of the Camissa River (which still flows underground in Cape Town) where they serviced international shipping for the years prior to European colonisation. They were the guardians of the “shoreline frontier” which was first to fall to colonial conquest. These Camissa people were the first to embrace slaves and other migrants. It is thus a more befitting and all encompassing, non-racial term, to reference the diverse roots of people of colour than the colonial term “Coloured”. Through explaining the story behind the term Camissa which is the indigenous name for fresh water one is able to explain the different tributaries of colour and the common experience of rising above adversity, slavery and colonialism. The only non-derogatory term ever used by the Europeans was prior to European settlement when the port was a free African port, when they called the indigenes “Watermans” – the people of the water. The analogy of the covering over of the Camissa River and its over 40 springs by infrastructure and superstructure of the modern city, resonates with the covering over of a wonderful African identity by layers and layers of colonial lies and coverups. Expressing oneself proudly as an African of Camissa descent, and proud to be born of a people who rose above adversity is certainly preferable to the term “Coloured”.

The original captives brought to the Cape had been made slaves under varying circumstances in their homelands. We can learn much about Cape slavery by becoming acquainted with the complex circumstances at that time in the African, Indian, Bay of Bengal, and South East Asian arena as elaborated in the works of Andaya B & Andaya L[117], Allen[118] and particularly Ward[119]. Most people today are surprised when they learn that Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are also places from which slaves were taken to the Cape. When one looks at the toponyms of the first slaves imported the names, van Arakan, van Burma, van Siam, van Tonkin highlights markers for these identities as can be seen in the lists of slaves in ‘Slaves and Free Blacks of the Cape’ by Boeseken.

The Dutch VOC had factories in all of these places. Ayutthaya in old Siam was a major trade city where the Dutch had a factory alongside all of the other powers. Siam (Thailand) was an independent un-colonised country but where one third of the population were slaves, some of whom found themselves on the world slave market. Rakhine state (Arakan) in Myanmar was a major market place for slaves across the Bay of Bengal arena. When Mayanmar and Siam went to war, or Siam and Khmer of Cambodia went to war, thousands of war captives became slaves in the process. Once enslaved people were force marched across these vast territories and many were shipped out to other European slave trading markets. Although Indonesia and Sri Lanka did provide many slaves for the Cape, the slaves that came out of the big slaver holding areas – Batavia,  Java, Colombo, Galle were not necessarily from those areas but rather from many of these conflict areas where centuries old slavery was entrenched.

For a better idea of the circumstances behind the diverse African and Madagascan component of the slaves – Zimba, Alphers & Isaacman[120] should be consulted. They elaborate on the deceptiveness of assuming that Masbiekers were just Mozambicans. The imperial presence of the Dutch and other Europeans in East Africa, the Indian sub-continent and throughout Southeast Asia linking in to very old networks and traditions of enslavement, resulted in millions of people in the Indian Ocean domain being taken away to slave in far off lands by use of sea migratory routes. Popovic[121]  elaborates on the old slaver networks into which the Europeans tapped which can be traced back to the world’s biggest trading city of Basra in Iraq back from the 3rd century right through to the largest 9th century Zanj slave revolt – the largest ever slave revolt recorded.

In summary, people were enslaved through four main means – taken as war captives and sold; kidnapped by slavers and pirates and sold; sold by families in debt-bondage; or individuals giving themselves en masse over into slavery from famine and natural disaster hit areas, so as to survive. Over the last 1500 years, with a few isolated exceptions, the enslaved were largely Africans and Asians.

The sea and the maritime conveyances moving between continents revolutionised and speeded up the scattering of people and the crossing of many a frontier coastline where the captives had no choice but to integrate with their captors and the indigenes of those new lands. It also resulted in a revolution in linguistics that created hybrids in language. Different languages travelling by sea jumped their ethnic origins and, meanings of terms creolised which later would become the dominant meaning with older meanings receding into the sands of time. When scholars of etymology and linguistics indulge in rigid interpretations of words and attempt to pin these down to only having legitimacy in original ethnic form, in defiance of the definition of etymology and by ignorance of the paradigm shifts in migration by sea – it stymies social enquiry.  One finds this tendency among those arguing on lines of ethnic purism.

The migrations of people of colour to the Cape by sea were a paradigm shift from natural overland migratory drifts. This resulted in dramatic and fast relocations of people and cultures into a new environment and the engagement and dramatic impact on the identity of indigenes under colonial assault in this far off land. It also dramatically affected linguistics as ships and slaver stations mirrored the ‘Tower of Babel’ story.  In South Africa at the Cape a while a new people and culture was in creation as a result of these migrations and the colonial turmoil, many modern Nguni tribal formations and kingdoms were still in their infancy and would take many decades over two centuries to emerge as the groups like that of the Zulu, which could only be identified as such in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In South African history and anthropological studies the mistake has often been to simply look at cross land migratory patterns in pre-colonial settlement. This gives a skewed view for instance of the Bantu roots in the Western Cape which creolised with Asian slaves and indigene Khoena. It is so skewed that a Bantu presence in the Western Cape is erroneously only considered to have occurred in the late 19th century and this is a persistent myth. Little attention too is given to the pre-colonial social history of the Bantu and hybrid Bantu-Khoena-San formations making up much of the population in eastern South Africa that emerged over 2000 years. This too is drowned out by the European ‘discovery narrative’ and the false notion that all persons of colour who were not purely Khoena or San only arrived in South Africa at the same time as the Europeans or later – the so-called “empty land” historical narrative.

With sea travel, a large wave of Africans arrived in the Western Cape from west, central and east African countries, first as slaves and then as indentured labour. It is interesting to note Harries[122] showing that these Africans merged into the population categorised as ‘Coloured’ and that by the time of the new British administration over half of the slave population were ancestrally Africans. Numerically the imported slaves and the indentured labourers alone greatly outnumbered the original number of indigenes who were in the Cape before the arrival of van Riebeeck, and their being driven out through the 176 years of ethnic cleansing wars. Then of course all of the other migrants of colour must also be factored in and this contributes to understanding why 65% of the population of the Western Cape today are people categorised for largely political and expediency reasons as ‘Coloured’.

The story of the people of colour who migrated to South Africa is however not just the story of slavery. A range of other migrants of colour also came across the seas to the Cape. Many came voluntarily, except for some others also forced into exile from their homelands by the VOC, or sent as convicts from the VOCs eastern colonies to serve their time at the Cape. Most of these exiles and convicts never returned home.

Other migrants of colour were refugees and others adventurers, traders and economic migrants. Here one can identify the groups such as the Mardijkers, Free Blacks, some of whom we have already covered, as well as those having an array of names such as Bandieten, Political exiles, Peranakans, the Saints, the Manillas, the Masbieker Indentures, other Indentures, the Kroomen, the Seedies, the Lascars, the Oromo, passenger Indians, the black diaspora from the US and the Caribbean – all of whom made their homes in the Cape before the 1910 Act of the Union of South Africa. These collectively constitute figures that rival those of the various waves of European migrants. Interestingly post 1994 the waves of economic migrants from exactly the same feeder countries from the slavery era, indentured labour era and other free migration areas of the past have continued to arrive as migrants unabated.

Most South Africans have been unaware of how big a part of our heritage and identity these tributaries are and the significance of the infusion of these tributaries into the existing indigene Khoena footprint at the Camissa gateway, particularly during the 160 years of war, genocide and dispossession that was taking its huge toll on the numbers of indigenes and their culture within the ever expanding Cape Colony.

The migration of people of colour via the sea seems to have escaped anthropologists, historians and until now, archaeologists – largely because maritime studies of the movement of people, conveyances and trade goods had been glossed over by a focus on the European “discovery narrative”. By factoring in the maritime perspective as a study of the movement of conveyances, humans, and cargoes along migratory sea-routes it changes many aspects of the dominant narratives of South Africa and particularly addresses the missing part of the history and heritage of people of colour.

The facts relating to migrants of colour in all its variant cameos is, is what we can call the ‘missing middle’ in the  story of the populating of the Cape, where the European settlers and the Indigenes are but the two poles of our heritage narrative.

In the census figures for two centuries at the Cape there was always a category of people called the ‘Free blacks’ which has already been touched on in part. This was recognition that a class of people of colour were distinguishable from slaves and indigenes. There were a range of people who fell into this category which has received poor attention from historians. As previously elaborated, people of colour who had freely made their way to the Cape as – sailors, soldiers and traders were referred to as Mardijkers. But Free Blacks were also manumitted slaves who either had bought their freedom or were gifted their freedom or had completed the required timeframes of enslavement determined by policies governing Christianised ‘halfslag’ slaves.

Alongside the so defined ‘Free Blacks’ were others who would also fall under this census category but were indeed only at the Cape due to force. These were those who were banished as exiles from VOC colonies and conflicts in the east because they were resistance figures. They all emerged from resistance to Dutch colonialism. Ward[123] in dealing with networks of empire and imperial sovereignty gives a comprehensive overview that assists in understanding what happened in the Cape Colony which was an outpost of the VOC Empire. Without understanding this context and what it means for migration and identity formation at the Cape it is really not possible to understand the history and heritage story of the Cape, leaving most with simply a caricature of those times.

The VOC found it convenient to use the Cape of Good Hope as a place of banishment and punishment particularly for resisters and convicts. Three groups of resisters were targeted in the main. These were the Indonesian and Javanese Muslim religious leaders, Indian and Singhalese resisters to Dutch colonisation and the Chinese resisters from Batavia where the Dutch had carried out a huge massacre of middle-class creole Peranakan Chinese and Chinese settlers. These exiles made a huge impact on our heritage. The exiles were often highly educated, politicised members of leading families, captured after colonial wars of conquest or to appease allies of the Dutch in India, Sri Lanka, the Bay of Bengal territories and the Indonesian Archipelago.

The Indonesian and Javanese exiles known as Orang Cayen and also as Auliya (Sufi Patrons or Saints) who through their missionary work among local slaves, often holding  Animist, Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic tenets of faith, laid the foundations of today’s Muslim community in South Africa. Most slaves brought to South Africa were not Muslim but many rather converted to Islam at the Cape. Islam offered many of the traumatised slaves a means to find social cohesion and a sense of freedom even although they were in a life of bondage.

In a crescent across the Cape Peninsula and on Robben Island the markers of the religious-political exiles of the East called Kramats can be found in the form of the burial shrines. The most prominent of these is that of Sheikh Yusuf al-Maqasari at Macassar. Sheikh Yusuf was banished to the Cape in 1694 with a party of 49 family, personal slaves and followers. Ward[124] tells us that Sheikh Yusuf like many other Free Blacks and exiles was also a slave-owner. Gillomee & Mabenga[125] note how his home in Macassar Downs became a meeting place for runaway slaves and those who had taken the Muslim faith. They also note that nearly 3000 convict labourers had arrived from Southeast Asia to work on the fortification and harbour works and that the core Imam community was drawn from these convicts. Convicts or ‘Bandieten’ most of whom were not originally Muslim were another big part of the migrant community of colour and proved a fertile ground for the missionary message of Islam. Among the convicts were many who would be considered to be Peranakan Chinese who made up over 50% of the populations where the Dutch VOC footprint was strongest in Southeast Asia. From that early group of exiles numbering 50 and subsequent leaders forced into exile, Islamic Focus[126] notes that Muslims were 1,000 in 1800, grew to 3,000 by 1820 and 6,400 by 1840. Today the Muslims community of faith in South Africa are around 1,7% of the total population, largely concentrated in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The Kramats continue to receive pilgrims in the Sufi tradition not just from across South Africa but from all over the world. Such was the influence and impact of these holy men also sometimes known as Auliya. Today a significant proportion of the descendants of slaves and indigenes make up the Cape Muslim community. The vast majority of the enslaved were not Muslims from Southeast Asia and India but through the missionary efforts of the Indonesian political-religious exiles they became what those of the Muslim faith would call ‘reverts’ to the faith. In Islam it is believed that all of humanity are born to the embrace of Islam but not all are conscious of this status. When a conscious step is taken to embrace the Muslim faith such people are called ‘reverts’ as it is believed that they revert to Islam rather than convert as in other faiths.

From the earliest period of settlement by the Europeans, Chinese convicts and indebted Chinese were brought to the Cape as ‘Bandieten’.  Others came to the Cape as free traders and others as enforced exiles. They were employed as fishermen, basket-makers, and masons. Yap and Leong Man[127] show that these Chinese of the 17th Century, though not slaves, were treated no differently and many remained at the Cape long after their sentences concluded, dying far from home and loved ones. From the beginning the Chinese were singled out and discriminatory and restrictive laws applied against them.  In their work on the history of the Chinese in South Africa Yap and Leong Man[128] note that the probably first Chinese man at the Cape was a convict Ytcho Wanko and one of the first ‘Free Black’ Chinese was Abraham de Vyf also known as Tuko de Chinees who was accepted into the Reformed Faith and baptised in 1702. But these authors point out that besides the Chinese prisoners, other free Chinese traders, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, ship’s chandlers came to the Cape but faced huge hurdles, and discrimination. Not all remained.

Ward[129] shows that from the time of van Riebeeck, the VOC had an itch to send what they called ‘industrious’ Chinese to the Cape Colony because of their many talents, but various political fears stood in the way. Ward points out that although the desired Chinese settlers were not sent to the Cape, many Chinese exiles and convicts were sent to live out their lives in the Colony.

Vermeulen[130] tells us that under Governor General Adrian Falckenier of Batavia, conflicts between Dutch and Chinese increased in 1740. Somers[131] provides us with some first-hand accounts of the atrocities. In September and October of that year a massacre of up to 10,000 Chinese began and spread over the next two months. Over the next two years Ricklefs[132] further elaborates on an alliance of the Chinese and Javanese who engaged in a resistance war with the Dutch. Both prior to and after these events, Chinese and Peranakan Chinese were deported in large numbers and some were murdered and thrown overboard at sea. Armstrong[133] calls this period “a terrible tragedy perpetrated by a weak and corrupt colonial power”. Paasman[134] tells us that the Dutch referred to the Chinese as the ‘Jews of Asia and they were subject of racist and restrictive measures taken by the Dutch wherever the two nationalities co-existed. The VOC colonial power at the Cape of Good Hope could equally be described as weak and corrupt and guilty of meeting out inhuman tragedy against the indigene population. The genocidal practices of the Dutch in Southeast Asia mirrored that practiced against the San in the Cape whom the Dutch often referred to as ‘Chinees Bossiesmans’. According to Kemaseng[135] only 3000 Chinese survived the Batavian massacre.

Dobbin[136] quotes the Governor General van Outhoorn in 1698 to give us a sense of the identity formations that emerged in Indonesia as a result of Chinese migration. She refers to a Chinese community in Batavia whose forebears were Hokkien Chinese but through intermarriage with Indonesians became known by the creole name as Peranakan – meaning locally born children of Indonesia. Most of these Peranakan had pre-Islamic South China animist folk religion beliefs with a syncretic Buddhist mix. They also had a degree of Dutch ancestry through intermarriage. The Peranakan and Hokkien Chinese made up 50% of the populations in Java and Sumatra, and by 1740 they were numerically larger than the Dutch in Batavia who feared their growing power. Mingham[137] adds to Dobbin’s descriptions to give us an in-depth picture as to how important the Chinese communities were in Dutch occupied Indonesia. They were industrious and entrepreneurial and were great farmers, traders and administrators. It is surprising that South African history is not more vocal about the Chinese in the Cape which would have been much more of a factor than is given credit simply because of the huge numerical and social influence these had in Dutch Southeast Asia and the widespread Dutch intermarriage with Paranakan in that part of the world. The Cape Colony fell under the VO Governor General in Batavia.

Just Prior to and after the Chinese uprising in Batavia and Java following a massacre of 10 000 Chinese settlers, the Dutch started deporting Chinese merchants from Batavia.  These Chinese deportees to the far reaches of the VOC Empire were considered to be trouble makers and treasonous.  Among these were the majority creole Chinese whose forebears were from Fukien and were known in Batavia as Paranakan. Some were deported to the Cape of Good Hope. Armstrong[138] puts the figure for Chinese deported to the Cape or who arrived freely during the entire VOC period at 350. This is probably too low but the figure would not be radically higher. Armstrong suggests that at any one time during the VOC period there was likely to have been at least 50 Chinese identified as such in Cape Town.

According to Harris[139] the population for the entire census of the Cape Colony in 1891 was 1,527,224 of which 215 were recorded as Chinese and only 6 Chinese recorded for the City of Cape Town with the majority being in Kimberley. This census figure certainly was ridiculously low, when one aggregates the steady trickle of migrant Chinese numbers recorded in their research as entering the Cape by Yap and Leong Man[140] between 1810 and the 1880s, with around 80 in Natal. By 1899 some Chinese were also among the refugees who fled the Anglo-Boer War from the ZAR to the Cape but this cannot account for the huge jump in figures presented by the authorities in the next census, probably correcting the early inefficiency. Perhaps what most illustrates my scepticism about census figures is that the 1904 census records 329 Chinese in the City of Cape Town whereas a decade earlier the record shows 6 Chinese, then suddenly also in 1904, when the Chinese exclusion Act was introduced in the Cape, the entire Chinese population in the Colony was put at 1380, some six times the number of a decade previously.

Census figures, since the first ‘official’ census of the Cape Town Municipal district was taken 1865 under the British Administration, must be treated with caution if not suspicion but it does provide some sort of yardstick. The 1865 census according to Worden, van Heyningen and Bickford-Smith[141] said that the total population was 28,400 with 15,100 being white, 4,600 of these being born in Europe. Then 628 in the census are categorised as ‘Hottentots’ and 274 categorized as ‘Kafirs’. A total of 12,400 are simply categorised as ‘Other’ of which 536 are said to have been born ‘elsewhere’. When one cross-references these census figures to other figures of arrivals, particularly persons of colour, there are clear contradictions.

The Chinese at the Cape were a small community who were seen as ‘Free Blacks’ and had their own burial ground. Yap and Leong Man[142] sketch a short social history and show how the Chinese married or co-habited with slaves and freed slaves. The offspring of these relationships are another tributary of the Camissa footprint and their descendants were later labelled ‘Coloured’. Likewise with the descendants of the Chinese craftsmen and farmers brought to the Cape from 1806 after the British took over. Their handiwork exists to this day. After 1834 many Chinese indentured labourers were brought to the Cape from St Helena. Yap and Leong Man[143] show how throughout the 19th century a steady trickle of Chinese workers flowed into the Cape and then into the Natal Colony alongside the Indian indentured labourers. They also point out the further migrations of Chinese mainly from Guangdong that flowed into the Cape and Natal from the 1860s and 1870s due to political and economic ructions and natural disasters in China. The new waves of Chinese in 1904 numbered over 806 in the Eastern Cape and 328 in Cape Town. They were subjected to many restrictions and indignities including special pass laws for Chinese.

The Chinese were completely barred from the OFS but with the gold rush Chinese also made their way in larger numbers to the Transvaal Republic where besides prospecting they became farmers, traders and artisans. These too soon found themselves subject to discriminatory laws and became victims of harsh racism. But these Chinese settlers took the hard knocks and prospered. Everything changed for the worse when as elaborated by Yap and Leong Man[144] the dire need for cheap labour on the gold mines saw 64 000 Chinese brought over to the Transvaal until black labour could be coerced to work on the mines. Most of these Chinese were repatriated but over 2000 remained in South Africa greatly boosting the Chinese permanent migration presence. Chinese economic migrants continue to come to South Africa ever since. The difference between the earlier migratory period and the post 1870s migrations is that the latter remained as an identifiable Chinese South African community even three or four generations later while the former assimilated into the Camissa footprint that officialdom labelled ‘Coloured’.

Within the first fifty years of European settlement at the Cape, indigenes, escaped slaves, rebel ‘Free Blacks’, and non-conformist rebel Europeans making common cause with the others, trekked away from the Cape Colony boundaries to various usually mountainous spots but mainly to the northern Gariep territory to establish communities free of the VOC and later British governing authorities.

Penn[145] gives a little window into this mix of people who were largely led by surviving Khoena and integrated with the Nama, San and other indigene groups along the Gariep River. Drossen was the Dutch word for ‘runaway’ and collectively the desertion phenomenon was referred to as the flight of the Drosters. As such this has a pivotal role in creole group identity formations of Orlam groups in the Gariep region. These include the Orlam Afrikaners, Orlam Springboks, Basters, Witboois, some of the Gora groups, and the Griquas. Various Droster manifestations are dealt with in a piecemeal manner by many published studies, but there is no comprehensive account of the Droster phenomenon in its entirety and its effect on identity formation. Penn[146] also points out that both the parameters of what constituted Drosters and the term itself evolved in meaning from the pre 1720 period and the post 1720 period.

The Droster phenomenon is a most important facet of modern identity formation as it brings a range of people of colour together using old indigene culture as the cement that binds. Among those who joined the Droster migration to the Gariep were also migrants of colour who had come from across the seas and rebel Europeans who assimilated into the new formations. In the Gariep region there was much greater social cohesion and community organisation among the Khoena and this provided a firm foundation for assimilation into a regional Khoena identity whereas in the Western Cape it was in the inverse. The clearest examples of proto modern national group formations are that of the Griqua and the Orlam Afrikaner formations. The Griqua even pipped the Boers in establishing the trappings of a proto modern nation-state, even although short-lived as a British Protectorate.

Related to both the slave era and the period after the abolition of slavery was the means used by Britain to ensure an end to the slave trade – the Royal Navy. After 1840 the Royal Navy established patrol ships based at Simonstown, St Helena, Zanzibar and Aden, largely policing the then outlawed slave trade. The patrol ships and these bases were primarily crewed by West and East African sailors. Many of these, known as Kroomen, Seedies  and Lascars, also settled down and married locally. We can turn the clock back even further to note older visitations to South Africa’s shores of Lascars and other black seamen and to those shipwrecked on the Wild Coast prior to European settlement. This almost 500 years of seamen of colour being part of our ancestral heritage seldom features large in our heritage literature but they were an indelible part of our past and their bloodlines run among all South Africans including indigenes. The story of these will unfold later as this story of migrants of colour further unfolds.

St Helena Island shares a long history with South Africa through connections that go back to the 1620s. Like the Cape Colony the larger part of its population were made up of slaves and indentured labour, alongside the European settlers and troops – mainly English. There were no indigenes on the island. The slaves and indentured workers were from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and many from China. St Helena after 1834 sent a number of Chinese from St Helena to South Africa as indentured labourers. These together with other St Helenians who had migrated earlier and later were known as the Saints.

St Helena became a first stop for anti-slaver Royal Navy patrol ships where they disembarked liberated Africans or ‘Prize Slaves. Many of these liberated slaves would inevitably also be sent on to the Cape Colony.

Significant numbers of St Helenians first came as part of the English naval and armed forces in the two British invasions of the Cape at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Some of those St Helenian forces stayed on at the Cape after 1806 followed by the settlement at the Cape of Chinese St Helenians of 1834 with the encouragement of the British authorities.

Then later in the eighth decade of the 19th century and into the 20th century, over a period of time, over 2000 more Saints came to the Cape and Natal as indentured migrants. Some were white and some to use the British classification used on St Helena Island, were ‘Coloured’, but all thought of themselves as British. The harsh reality of South African racism soon was brought to bear on the migrant Saints. Schulenburg[147] tells us that large assisted migrations from the island began between 1871 – 1873, as a result of depression on the island following the opening of the Suez Canal. These migrations continued well into the 20th century.

Many Cape families share an ancestral heritage with the Saints and these Saints too had a tapestry heritage. It is amazing, and suspiciously so, that whereas both the St Helena and Cape Colony administrations were British that it is difficult today to find detailed and coherent records for the different St Helenian migrations and settlement in South Africa. It seems like there has been some kind of cover-up, for whatever reason – perhaps the thwarting of possible later claims to British citizenship. Camissa embraced the migrant Saints and they embraced the Camissa footprint. Like with the records of the many other diverse generations which passed through the Camissa gateway into South Africa, the many descendants of the Saints had little evidence of a connection. Today one will hear, “In our family they say we have a connection to St Helena but that is all I know”.

At the same time that the Saints were coming to the Cape so were the largest groups of migrants of colour known as the Masbiekers. The Masbieker heritage stands out as the least talked about element of Cape heritage, yet it is one of the strongest in many family lineages affecting many more people than want to acknowledge it. Masbiekers flowed across our shoreline frontier into the embrace of Camissa both as slaves and as indentured labourers from the 1780s well into the 1880s. Without the sea-route between Mozambique and Table Bay this very large element of heritage roots in South Africa may never have happened.

Whereas there had over centuries been a very gradual migratory drift first over 300 years and then over another 900 years across land into the whole of South Africa by sub-Saharan peoples from the Great Lakes region, the maritime route resulted in the fastest and most revolutionary relocation system. By the time of the European permanent settlement at the Cape, Bantu migrations fused with Khoena and San ancestry developed over 1,000 years as far down the east coast as the borders of today’s Western Cape Province. At the same time as the establishment of van Riebeeck’s settlement of Europeans, numerically larger numbers of West African Bantu migrants arrived in the Western Cape as slaves, as early as 1658.

The Masbiekers were East and Central African slaves and indentured labourers who came to the Cape largely as agricultural labour in the rural areas of the Colony and as labour for Public Works and the Cape Town dockyard. They came via Mozambique – thus the name Masbieker, but these included Mozambicans, Malawians, Zimbabweans, Zambians, Tanzanians, possibly Congolese as well as people from the northern areas of KZN.  Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[148] explain that the term ‘Masbieker’ was a stereotype created by the Master class for a creolised group of African slaves. They explain how most Masbiekers did not actually come from Mozambique or even East Africa but were captured all along the Zambezi River and even further inland. The Masbiekers were effectively a creolised new creation born of many different tribespeople thrown together through slavery.

In the Cape the Masbiekers integrated with other slaves and with surviving Khoena and San. Communities in the Swartland, Paarl, Worcester, the Karoo, and Overberg, today labelled ‘Coloured’ have as part of their heritage – a strong Masbieker infusion. So do many of those in Cape Town where Masbieker influence was strong in District Six and Bokaap and across the Cape Flats. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[149] give us an amazing insight into the Masbieker culture and how this slowly melted into the formal category of people identified as ‘Coloured’. They provide cameo stories how freed Masbieker slaves settled on the slopes of Lions Head, and became Anglicized through the Anglican Churches in the City Bowl area – St Philips, St Pauls, St Marks and St George’s Cathedral.  Many took on very English surnames. The role of the Cowley Fathers in this process and the economic crossover of Masbiekers into fishing, trading and hawking is well documented.

Masbiekers were used extensively for the most back-breaking work on farms and in public works and the docks. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[150] describe the Masbieker identity development in detail and show how it is the Masbiekers who introduced the Ghoema or Ngoma to Cape culture. They also describe the conditions of their capture, brutal transportation first across land and then sea. After 1870 Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[151] tell us that there was a renewed call for Masbieker labour at the Cape, this time as indentured labourers. This new wave of Masbieker migrants negotiated with the Portuguese at Lourenzo Marques (Maputo) was largely Mozambicans and went to Natal as well as the Cape Colony. Those sent to the Cape Colony just for the period of 1879-1880 numbered over 2000 just to give an example of how large the migrant groups were, with most coming from Inhambane. Some of the migrants coming to the Cape also did not come through agencies but made their own way to Cape Town. They not only worked on the farms but also on Kimberley mines and as railway-line workers, dockworkers and public works labour. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[152] note that after six years this mass importation of Masbiekers concluded and that only seven percent of those eligible for repatriation ever went home.

The Masbieker identity comes to mind when evaluating a story covered by a television news journalist during South Africa’s first democratic non-racial elections in 1994. The journalist was interviewing a would-be voter in Lavender Hill about his voting intentions. The voter was a man who was very dark in appearance and with strong African features. He gave his name as Mr Kaffertjie Swart. On asked as to who he was going to vote for he stated “Ek gaat stem vir die man met die bles”. That is, he would vote for the bald headed man – de Klerk. When asked why, he stated  – “Eka willie dat ‘n Kaffer lanksaan my bly nie. De Klerk sallit nie soe laat gebeur nie”.  (He did not want those whom he saw as ‘Kaffers’ living next door to him and de Klerk would ensure that this does not happen).

Here was a very dark man with African features and with a derogatory first name meaning ‘Little black heathen’ and the surname ‘Black’, who did not want people he derogatorily identified as ‘Little black heathens’ living next to him. Foreigners found this amazingly weird and asked why he was classified as ‘Coloured’ rather than as ‘Black’.  The Masbieker story and the stories of slavery and other migrations of people of colour was used to explain the phenomenon experienced by the foreign observers.

Another large tributary of African people in our heritage in the Cape were those called ‘Liberated Africans’ or ‘Prize Slaves’ also called ‘Prize Boys’ and ‘Prize Girls’ to which previous detailed reference has been made. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[153] in their work on slave routes and oral traditions provide the most invaluable information on understanding where slaves referred to as East Africans or Masbiekers  and East African ‘Prize Slaves’ actually originate on the continent.

As already earlier explained enslaved people from West Africa and East Africa were seized by the Royal Navy patrols after the abolition of slavery from slave-trader ships on the high seas post the 1807 abolition of slavery by the British Parliament.

Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[154] explains how the ‘Prize Slaves’ were indentured first into the army, navy and government service and then into private contractual labour with colonists. They also show how this meshes with the Masbieker story and how settlements of ‘Prize Slaves’ sprang up in the area known as Black Town in Simonstown and in Papendorp which became Woodstock.  The authors quote that in 1843 the British Parliament bizarrely stipulated that all ‘Prize Slaves’ had to be branded with a mark on their upper right arm with “a symbol of freedom” and registered, following which they were to be publically auctioned as apprentices. ‘Liberated Africans’ were far from liberated. It was slavery with the same practice under a different name.

Initially the ‘Prize Slaves’ were indentured as apprentices for 14 years and then in the 1840s it was reduced to five years. All ‘Prize Slaves’ had to be apprenticed within a 20 mile radius of Cape Town, except of course those who were taken to Durban, whom were there called Zanzibaris. Between the period 1808 and the 1860s thousands of African ‘Prize Slaves’ were brought to the Cape Colony and became part of the population that were classified as ‘Coloured’. But this also gave birth to another part of the story of migrants of colour – the story of the black seamen in both the Royal Navy and the merchant marine.

The dedicated Royal Navy squadrons charged with the task of liberating slaves only began their work in earnest after 1840. The ‘Prize Slaves’ were then taken to Royal Navy bases at St Helena, Zanzibar, Aden and of course Simonstown

Davey[155] gives us a picture of the Royal Navy (RN) anti-slaver patrolling operations on the high seas along the African coastline, and shows how much the RN relied on African sailors – Kroomen, Seedies or Lascars from West Africa, East Africa and India respectively. Also among the seamen were other Asians such as the Manilla men from the Philippines. The RN seamen of colour were based at the Simonstown dockyard for almost 100 years. Many of these sailors did not return home but lived and died in Simonstown and they married and had children with local women. Their gravestones remain as markers in Simonstown, boldly emblazoned with the word KROOMAN denoting that they were from the Kru tribe. Some helped to build the Royal Observatory alongside the Liesbeeck River. The late great professional dancer and choreographer Christopher Kindo was a descendent of the Kroomen. Many in Cape Town share this heritage.

Pereira[156] provides an excellent overview of how the Masbiekers, Prize slaves, Kroomen, Lascars, Seedies and Zanzibaris relate in the maritime environment and at the Cape of Good Hope.

One of these groups of seafarers of colour who are part of Cape and Natal ancestral heritage – the Lascars are in fact more associated with the merchant shipping crews but also served in the Royal Navy. Jaffer[157] indicates that Lascars serving as sailors from 1600 onwards would have come to South Africa from Eastern India and Bengal but also included people from Arakan in Myanmar, Indonesia, China, the Middle East, Mauritius, Madagascar and East Africa. The term Lascar was generally applied to sailors or militiamen of colour and originates in Arabic military terminology – Al Askar.

Lascars were usually to be found working on English merchant ships where poor and cruel working conditions often forced them to jump ship in British Ports – Table Bay and Durban being two such ports. Lascar involvement in South African heritage occurs much earlier than even van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape. Here reference is made to seafarers who experienced shipwrecks on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. But then Lascars continued coming to the Cape right into the 20th century.

Vernon[158] says of the Lascars that crews were treated so harshly and when ships were wrecked, few felt loyalty to those in command. In contrast they were treated well by indigenes and assimilated into their communities in the Eastern Cape. Lascars are associated for over three centuries with the English East India Company and other commercial and naval British sea traffic of later years. Lascars also served on British troop ships transporting soldiers for the Anglo-Boer War. Thousands of Lascars settled in England and but a number also settled in the British colonies such as the Cape Colony. They are among the ancestors of many South Africans labelled as ‘Coloured’ as well as the amaXhosa.

For a long time most people knew very little about the Kroomen of Simonstown except that there were these West African seamen with strange names that were there with the Royal Navy and their gravestones are in the Simonstown Graveyard carrying a mysterious inscription – KROOMEAN. There were also a few photographs which remained as markers of their time. Then Joline Young at UCT  undertook the mammoth effort to bring together the limited and scattered jigsaw of information to tell the hidden story of the Kroomen heritage in the Cape.

Young[159] tells us that the Kru or Kroo were a West African people who have a long history of being recruited as seamen by the Europeans. The ethnic Kroomen were coastal people from Sierra Leone/Liberia. Most Kru villages  became part of the new Liberian State. The term Kroomen however covered both these ethnic Kru and another group – the Settler-Liberians. The latter were made up of freed slaves who had been liberated by the Royal Navy anti-slaver squadrons as well as Black Loyalists who had sided with the Crown in the American War of Independence and had settled in Freetown. The ethnic Kru had long developed seamanship and navigational skills acquired through mastering canoe travel on the difficult local sea. As such they were in great demand by European shipping.

Young[160] explains that the British Royal Navy in particular had found a huge attrition rate of their sailors on African and Asia voyages whereas sailors from the Kru withstood the heat, rough seas and illness much better. The Kru were also highly resistant to being enslaved and even although they had previous assisted European slaver ships they were recruited for the new Royal Navy anti-slavery vessels. Perhaps their intimate knowledge of the salve trade was seen as an advantage. It would definite seem that the Kru sailors tackled their new role passionately and with great seamanship.

The first Kroomen to be employed by the British Navy in Simon’s Town arrived on the HMS Melville in 1838. For almost 100 years these Kroomen were integral to the Simonstown Naval Dockyard. Though great efforts were made to contain the Kroomen and segregate them from freed slaves and from other South Africans of colour, many lived out their lives in the Cape, married and had children in their new abode. Some of the Kroomen left the dockyard and the seafaring life on the high seas and worked as craftsmen and builders on the Royal Observatory project at Liesbeeck.

The Kru and the Lascars were not the only sailors of colour to work at the Cape and settle at the Cape. They were joined by the Seedies who were largely East African sailors. Pereira[161] tells us the term “Sidis” derived originally from the Arabic ‘Seyyedi’ meaning Lord, and referred to Africans in Islamic northern India. These Africans who now see themselves as Indian are very much a part of modern India today but their roots were from among the Ethiopian Habshis. Some of the African slaves freed by the Arabs rose to become senior military lords.  In  the  early  seventeenth  century  the Sidis served in the naval fleets of the Western coast of India first as slaves and soldiers and others a free  crewmen  and  even  as commanders.  The European fleets including that of the Dutch also began employing Sidis when they entered the region.

The term Seedies in the East African and South African context was certainly influenced by the Sidi experience of India but these Seedies had a different history. Pereira[162] explains that three types of freedmen employed by the Royal Navy: Africans liberated by the navy and  employed  directly;  Africans  liberated  and  taken  by  the  Royal  Navy  to  be  employed  in Bombay  and  the  Seychelles;  and  manumitted  Africans employed  in  the  ports  of  East  Africa.  All of these men were termed ‘Seedies’ by the Royal Navy. Pereira[163] said that the term ‘Seedies’ came to denote Moslem seamen originally from the Swahili coast, especially Zanzibar, particularly sailors and harbour workers. He says some 46% of Royal Navy Seedies were Muslim. He also tells us that the Royal Navy term ‘Seedie’ was changed  to  ‘Somali’ on May 14, 1934 at the Court of Buckingham Palace because most recruits were now from Somaliland. The terms referring to Royal Navy African servicemen of Colour thus had some fluidity. The Seedies like the Kru had around a 100 year history with Cape Town where their role initially was also the halting of slave trading on the Indian and Atlantic coastline of Africa.

There was also a meshing of the term ‘Seedies’ with the term ‘Zanzibaris’ and after a major strike in Cape Town in 1884 when there was a labour shortage Pereira[164] says several hundreds of these Zanzibari – Seedies were brought to South Africa and housed in stables at Hope Street, from which they were put to work in the City. These also married locally and merged into the population labelled ‘Coloured’.

Then there are those we call the Manillas – the refugees from the revolutionary uprisings in the Philippines in the latter half of the 19th century who were part of a global diaspora spanning thirty years of upheaval in that part of the world. They largely settled in Kalk Bay but as time passed their descendants spread across Cape Town. Many today carry their surnames such as Fernandes, de la Cruz, Flores, Manuel, Padua, Pascal, Palma, Garcia, Torrez, Bonaventura etc. Filipinos themselves were of mixed ancestry including Chinese, Indian, Spanish and Philippine Indigenes and here in South Africa they inter-married with descendants of an array of indigene Africans, and with diverse slaves, indentured labourers, Kroomen et al.

Over the troubled and extended revolutionary period in the Philippines from 1860 to 1880 the Manillas trickled into the Cape as word spread by the first Filipino, Felix Flores, who arrived in Cape Town in 1863. By the time of the successful revolution led by the Katipunan and the La Liga Filipina, the Manila chapter of the Propaganda Movement and its rebel army, the Manillas of the Cape were well settled in their new home and their children were Capetonians. In the late 1890s Spain was finally expelled from the Philippines.

In the middle of the revolutionary period in 1870 and 1872 respectively, the Labios Revolt and the Cavite Mutiny, saw a dramatic increase of Filipino exiles arriving in the Cape. By 1882 there were 68 Manilla families in Kalk Bay. In 1898 the Primera Republica Filipina was established by Emilio Aguinaldo and a new Philippines Republican Army replaced Spanish military control. By this time Cape Manillas had fully embraced Cape Town as their new home.

Staunchly Catholic and imbued with revolutionary nationalist and anti-imperialist sentiments these Filipinos had fled to England, Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa. The catalyst was the execution of three of their leaders – revolutionary priests Burgos, Gomez and Zamora during the Cavite Mutiny against the imposition of a new tax, led by resistance leader Sergeant Ferdinand la Madrid, against Governor General Rafael de Izquierdo.

Price[165] relates how the founding father of the Manilla community, Felix Florez came to be in Cape Town. Felix was born on Panay Island in the Philippines in 1844 and arrived in Cape Town in 1863. From a photograph of Felix on board a vessel it would seem that Felix Florez arrived on the CSS Tuscaloosa. This was a vessel seized as spoils of war by the CSS Alabama and commissioned into the Confederate Navy of the rebel Confederacy at Civil War with the Union of States in North America. The two ships had sailed down the Latin American coast and on to the Indonesian and Polynesian islands before arriving with much fanfare in Cape Town with some of the crew jumping ship and settling at Church Haven on the West Coast.

Felix would have boarded the ship as it passed through the Philippines where it took on extra crew. The Royal Navy at Simonstown seized the CSS Tuscaloosa to return it to its rightful owners, while the CSS Alabama continued on to France where in French waters a sea battle ensued with a Union ship and the Alabama was sunk. The Crew of the CSS Tuscaloosa were thus stuck in Cape Town for a while and this is when Felix fell in love with what would become his new home. He also spread the word to others in the Philippines.

Adams[166], a descendent of the Manillas, tells us that Felix set up a shop in Kalk Bay and married the daughter of a German Count and a Masbieker former slave. Their business supplied the arriving migrants from the Philippines with provisions, fishing gear and he organised accommodation too. Felix was the godfather of the community. The community spoke a mixture of Spanish, Tagalog and English and soon began speaking their own comical version of Afrikaans. Felix Flores had four daughters and a son. One of the daughters, Franzina, married Christiaan Adams a likely descendant of a slave and Passenger Indian, Free Black.

Post the emancipation from slavery in 1834 a labour crises developed in the Cape so that in addition to ‘Prize Slaves’ and the St Helenian Chinese being used as cheap indentured labour, Cape farmers were assisted to bring in in indentured labourers from Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Huge numbers of these economic migrants settled in the rural areas and farmlands of the Cape and largely integrated into the populations labelled ‘Coloured’ in those areas.

The story of the Mozambique element and St Helena element of these Indentured labourers has already been elaborated on, but each of the other migrant groups has their own story too. Clements Kadalie, who founded the biggest Trades Union Movement for much of the first half of the 20th century – the Commercial and Allied Workers Union was a Malawian migrant dockworker at the turn of the 19th/20th century.  The Kadalie descendants were classified ‘Coloured’.  Similar cameo stories exist for those from Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Abdullah Ibrahim earlier known as ‘Dollar Brand’ South Africa’s most renowned Jazz pianist with a worldwide following, is a descendent in part from a BaSotho migrant of that time.

As migrations from the Eastern Cape to meet the need for both farm and urban labour also grew, so new locations sprung up and over time the African indentured labourers from outside of the Cape Colony integrated with amaXhosa labourers in the Western Cape as well as with Sotho, Tswana, Korana and Xhosa communities elsewhere.  Many also often integrated into communities classified as ‘Coloured’. During the Apartheid era many of these descendants were classified as “Other Coloured” as were others who appeared to be white but were evaluated as being part of those categorised as ‘Coloured’.

The amaXhosa relationships with the Khoena (Khoi) in the Western Cape go back in time to before European explorers set foot on the shoreline-frontier. The Khoena in their own gradual migratory drift from the northern reaches of Botswana met the migratory drift of Nguni speakers in the Southeast and often formed integrated communities together.

Besides the fact that old kinship ties existed between the Khoena (Khoi) and amaXhosa, around the year 1700 European cattle raiders first engaged the Khoena-Xhosa communities in the northeast region of the Western Cape.  Since that time amaXhosa made their way into greater Cape Town and this picked up during the so-called frontier wars when prisoners of war were shipped by sea to be interred in Cape Town and, labour gangs were brought to work at the docks. They too inter-married and had children across the ethnic lines demarcated by officialdom. There had also always been inter-marriage between Khoena, San and amaXhosa as attested by DNA studies and by isiduko records. Indentured labour, followed by migrant labour systems, resulted in much crossing of tribal and clan lines and Camissa was embraced and Camissa embraced all of these in return.

The arguments of Nguni being invaders from north of the borders of South Africa does not hold much historical credibility. The Nguni-speakers with a diverse array of tribes and clans developed in South Africa and one component of their make-up descends from the Tsonga in Mozambique, but other elements include the Bakoni, the Khoena and the San. The migratory movements were rather gradual natural drifts much like that earlier made by the Khoena, rather than invasions. There are around 12 Khoena tribes and clans who integrated into the Xhosa people as can be seen in the narrative of ‘The House of Phalo – A history of the Xhosa People in their days of Independence’ by Jeff Peires. While there are some classified as “Coloured” who claim that only those categories as “Coloured” are the true descendants of the indigene Khoena (Khoi), such claims are rooted in Apartheid and colonial narratives and not in fact.

The southern amaXhosa are a people with multiple roots much the same as those labelled ‘Coloured’ and indeed the two are cousins sharing many of the same ancestors. The DNA of Nelson Mandela on the Mtdna side was the same markers for Khoena and San while on the paternal side Y-dna was found to be that of sub-Saharan Africa (Bantu). Likewise with the test results of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he too found that he has Khoena and San DNA.

Soodyall[167] shows that similarly in those self-identifying as ‘Coloured’ the DNA testing of a large sample base has shown that marginally more people testing have Sub-Saharan African DNA (Bantu) markers to Southern African DNA markers (Khoena/San). The study was done by the UCT based Human Genome Project in cooperation with the National Health Laboratory Service and School of Pathology at the University of Witwatersrand, headed by Prof Himla Soodyall. The study had a sample base of 483 people in 2008, broken down to segments self-identifying as Black, ‘Coloured’, White, Asian and some not wishing to identify with any of these terms. There were 107 who self-identified as ‘Coloured’.

In fact DNA makers show an almost exact pattern to the story being related here of the Camissa footprint or ‘Coloured’ ancestry in terms of Khoena, San, Nguni, Sub-Saharan, Indian and Southeast Asian roots and that European and Eurasian roots also are part of the story but is not the dominant  elements that many believe it to be. The following Khoena tribes reside within the Xhosa people – Cobuqua, Cete, Ngqosini, Giqua, Inqua, Gqwashu, Nqarwane, Sukwini, isiThathu, Gonaqua, Hoengeyqua, Gamtoos, Damasqua; and in the case of the Chainuqua these were also fairly integrated. The Xhosa Gqunukhwebe and the Gonaqua were fairly absolutely integrated, sharing a variant of the same name.

Over the entire 18th and 19th centuries there was a constant trickle of sea-conveyance passengers of colour who migrated to the Cape to start new lives. Those that stood out the most were passenger Indians and Bengalis who came to the Cape and applied themselves to all sorts of trades from shoe-making, tailoring and barbering to running fruiterers and general dealerships. But by the 1860s indentured labour became the greatest lure to South Africa from the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka and thousands of labourers were brought to work on the sugarcane plantations of KZN. While in the Western Cape which had 200 years of forced and voluntary Indian migration, most assimilated into the creole Camissa footprint, in KZN it was different in that the waves of Indian sub-continent migrants kept a strong distinct Indian cultural identity even though most in time became fairly cut off from India as a South African Indian identity emerged.

Vinson[168] tells us that from the 1780s more and more ‘American Negroes’ – African Americans and Caribbean sailors, missionaries, adventurers, musicians, political activists, newsmen and tradesmen made their way to South Africa and settled. The Kokstad Advertiser and the South African Spectator were two examples of newspapers started by African American journalists. The American Negroes as they were called at the time were part of the Gold Rush and they opened hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Vinson[169] elaborates that the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and the National Baptist Convention (NBC) were both established by an African American missionary presence in South Africa. He also uncovers a number of race incident conflicts in which court action and US government intervention was brought to bear. Lewis[170] elaborates how with the American Negroes came the political tradition of  Pan Africanism and the ideas of Marcus Garvey, Booker Washington, du Bois and others and this had a profound impact on the emerging political movements such as the CMP&PA, CPVA, APO, SANNC, and ICU. He goes on to highlight the contributions of two men who stand out in terms of their political influence in the Cape – Francis Zacharias Peregrino and Henry Sylvester Williams. Peregrino was born in Ghana but came out to the Cape from the USA where he ran a newspaper in New York State, while Williams came from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Many South Africans labelled ‘Coloured’ also have an ancestry component which goes back to the ‘American Negroes’ from USA and Caribbean.

It is important to note that this is an ongoing story but today refugees and economic migrants come by road, air and sea and include a great number of migrants of colour from exactly the same regions that slaves were taken and brought to the Cape. Today 38 million people travel in and out of South Africa annually and a significant percentage have permits and visas allowing long term and permanent stays. Many other illegally enter the country and over time they and their offspring assume South African identities. Stowaways enter South Africa’s ports that are fairly porous gateways for migration despite measures by authorities to try and secure these. Trotter[171]  tells the story of the many ‘sugar girls’ plying their prostitution trade in South Africa’s port cities. This inconvenient truth and the offspring of these relationships with seamen is yet another element of our heritage roots that cannot be factored out of the maritime migration story.

In searching for a way of simply presenting the story of the coming together of people of colour crossing the frontier shoreline and embracing the indigene people at that shoreline, who were forced from their traditional lands by a frontier which rapidly changed shape further and further northwards and eastwards, a simple symbolic set of stone steps in District Six offered itself as a tool of explanation.

Mellet[172] developed a useful educational tool using this District Six imagery to explain the heritage of those labelled ‘Coloured’ and offered a collective rallying point for self-identification of an important South African sub-identity in the form of the ‘Camissa Footprint’. By using the iconic ‘Seven Steps of Stone’ from District Six as a symbolic matrix tool, the heritage and identity in the Cape, and indeed across South Africa, is explained in the form of seven steps or tributaries to an identity that officialdom labelled as ‘Coloured’.

The ‘Seven-Steps’ tool also links very well into the symbolism of the Camissa River and its many tributary springs across the City Bowl of Cape Town. Each of the Seven Steps recognises one aspect of cultural heritage – The Indigenes, the slaves, the non-conformist Europeans, the ‘Free Blacks’, the Drosters, the Exiles and Refugees, and the Indentures and Economic Migrants. Each step, like all of the springs that link to the main Camissa River, constitute many cameo stories as outlined in this short study. Some today may have one or two of these tributaries in the ancestral heritage, others may have more and some may have all seven. Even the latest migrants have a place on the Seven Steps of Cape Identity.

The Camissa embraced all of those who crossed the shoreline frontier and the challenge exists for modern day generations of descendants to rediscover the Camissa within themselves and thereby celebrate wholeness. It is all of these tributaries together and the story of each woven like threads in a tapestry that constitute a coherent social history in the Cape and across South Africa.   Indigene forebears at a time of assault and all sorts of pressures reached out to these other victims of colonialization and the slave trade and the integration processes became part of the strategy for survival. The lack of acknowledgement of this part of heritage needs to be addressed in heritage discourse as does many more elements lost between the cracks of history. There is a binding tie between indigene struggles for survival and that of the migrants of colour in all their diversity. Over time these struggles meshed as did these peoples.

Migrations forced and voluntary, by people of colour, still flow across that first frontier – the shoreline frontier and continues to enhance our society. Camissa will embrace these too and in time these will embrace Camissa. We need to be careful of bigotry, xenophobia, racism, tribalism and ethno-nationalism and nativism. This is all cut from the same poisonous cloth soaked in a toxic broth. This is not heritage and the difference between these toxic tendencies and heritage should never be confused.

Many pathologies play out among people in antagonisms between various groups – the artificial black and bruin (brown) arguments are a part of these, as is the notion of white purity, and even the concepts of ‘First Peoples’ and ‘First Nations’ are questionable concepts. Signs of habitation by the first peoples of antiquity dot our landscape across southern, eastern, western and central Africa and most modern groups in South Africa today link back to these antiquity people.  Today those few descendants in surviving San communities who are traced directly to the pre-colonial communities known as San, /Xam or Bushmen, are the closest that anyone in modern times can be said to relate directly to the first people in South Africa. The Cape San suffered extermination as no other group did, as the facts carefully brought together by Adhikari[173] illustrate the anatomy of genocide. When others for modern political purposes attempt to blur this terrible historically documented reality with bizarre claims, it adds insult to injury. No modern grouping can justifiably claim to wear the mantle of First Nation or First People without denying the defining character of genocide visited on the Cape San and the various role-players that participated therein – European, Khoena and Nguni. Many however do have some San heritage across all modern groups and this should be celebrated and cherished and those small surviving San communities isolated in South Africa and numerically larger in neighbouring states deserve to be respected and supported by all. Crude ethnic revivalism can and has sometimes undermined historical events and added a modern dimension to the injustices of the past. It is a ground upon which all should tread carefully if true respect is to be shown to ancestral heritage.

Indigene heritage can and should be proudly celebrated but not in a chauvinistic manner, nor around notions of ‘purity’.  Ethno chauvinism and Ethno-Nationalism does a great disservice to the memory of Khoena and San in South African social history. Most often when many populist arguments are closely examined, one finds ideologically skewed influences in understanding history and false social constructs that are revived over and over again. This is a hangover from colonialism and Apartheid. [174]

The kaleidoscope of roots elaborated on in this presentation requires more amplification in our society because it offers a legacy second to none and an opportunity to move beyond notions of singular and pure identities. This approach can liberate people rather than drive people into opposing enemy camps. It certainly offers those labelled ‘Coloured’ an opportunity to embrace a different way of looking at identity or more accurately at the identities we carry. In this context many can celebrate Indigene identity as the cement that binds all other elements in birthing a unique African identity among many others. The multi-faceted story of the Camissa Footprint brings indigene history and heritage together with the history and heritage of migrants of colour giving all a cornerstone for understanding what has been labelled as ‘coloured’ identity. While indigene roots cannot be the single defining attribute, it is the most important foundation from which social history proceeds and is framed.

The descendants of the migrants of colour who came across the seas and integrated with indigenes and fought exploitation and discrimination against all odds, emerged as a people from the footprint of Camissa. Their heritage is not an ethnic nor race heritage but rather a heritage made up of a valiant set of experiences of a creole people of Africa whose forebear rose above all sorts of adversity. These are the Camissa people.



  • Lenses on Cape Identities – Exploring Roots in South Africa; Book (2009)
  • The Winds Blow from Afar: How social formations of the San, Khoena and the Southern Xhosa came to have first habitat in the Eastern, Western and Central Cape. (2017)
  • Story of a Port: The Camissa Foundation of the Port City of Cape Town (2016)
  • Ethnic Cleansing: The time of the 15 wars – 176 years of indigene resistance 1652 – 1828 (2017)
  • They came from across the seas: Migrants of colour who crossed the Cape shoreline frontier voluntarily or as captives (2017)




[1] Maclean Maggie; History of American Women; Slavery in New Amsterdam 1625 – 1664; (2008);

[2] Andrea C. Mosterman; Slavery In New Amsterdam; Museum of the City of New York; Frederick A O Schwarz Children’s Centre; file:///C:/Users/Pat/AppData/Local/Temp/MCNY_Educator_Resource_Guide_Lesson4_0-1.pdf

[3] AJ Boeseken; Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape 1658-1700; Tafelberg Pub (1977); Cape Town

[4] Karel Schoeman; Early slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717; Pgs 27 – 49 and Chapter 2 The first slave imports 1658; Protea (2007); Pretoria

[5] Hermann Giliomee & Bernard Mbenga; New History of South Africa pg 59; Tafelberg Pub (2007); Cape Town

[6] Robert C-H Shell; Children of Bondage – A social history of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1838 pg 47; Witwatersrand University Press (1997): Johannesburg

[7] David Eltis & David Richardson; Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade; pgs 197 – 270; Yale University Press (2010); New Haven

[8] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 22; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[9] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 24; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[10] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 149; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[11] Karel Schoeman; Early slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717; Pgs 25 – 32; Protea (2007); Pretoria

[12] AJ Boeseken; Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape 1658-1700; Tafelberg Pub (1977); Cape Town

[13] The American Society of Human Genetics; Strong Maternal Khoisan Contribution to the South African Coloured Population: A Case of Gender-Biased Admixture; The American Journal of Human Genetics; Elsevier Inc (2010) Authors – Lluis Quintana-Murci, Christine Harmant, Hélène Quach, Oleg Balanovsky, Valery Zaporozhchenko, Connie Bormans, Paul D. van Helden,Eileen G. Hoal,Doron M. Behar

[14] Prof Soodyall Himla; Final Report – Living History Project (2008); National Health Laboratories Service & School of Pathology; Johannesburg

[15] Delia Robertson; First Fifty Years – a project collating Cape of Good Hope records;

[16] De Kock Victor; Those in Bondage – An account of the life of the slave at the Cape in the days of the Dutch East India company (1963); Union Booksellers; Pretoria

[17] Nigel Penn; The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century; Chap 5 – Societies of the Orange River; Double Story Books (2005); Cape Town

[18] Nigel Worden; Between Slavery and Freedom: The Apprenticeship Period, 1834 to 1838; Worden and Clifton Crais, eds., Breaking the Chains: Slavery and its Legacy in the Nineteenth Century Cape Colony (1994); Witwatersrand University Press: Johannesburg

[19] C Saunders; Between Slavery and Freedom: The Importation of Prize Negroes to the Cape in the Aftermath of Emancipation; Pg 37; Kronos, 9 (1984)

[20] R L Watson; “Prize Negroes” and the Development of Racial Attitudes in the Cape Colony, South Africa (2000); History Department – North Carolina Wesleyan College; Southeastern Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS); Western Carolina University; Cullowhee NC.

[21] Scarlette Philippa; Indigenous Histories; Aboriginal Trackers: Boer War; (2013); Canberra, Australia;

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[23] Knox-Johnston R; The Cape of Good Hope – A Maritime History; (1989) pg131; Hodder and Stoughton; London

[24] Patric Tariq Mellet; STORY OF A PORT – The Camissa foundation of the Port City of Cape Town; (2016)

[25] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 217; Johannesburg

[26] Haacke and Eiseb;  A Khoekhoegowab dictionary with an English-Khoekhoegowab index; 2002: 246; Krὃnlein and Rust 1969: 80

[27] J Hondius; A clear description of the Cape of Good Hope (1652); As in Master S (2012). Pp 4-5. The first stratigraphic column in South Africa from Hondius (1652) and its correlatives.

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

[29] P E Raper; Dictionary of Southern African Place Names (1987). Johannesburg: Lowry Publishers. Available:

[30] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 91 ; Johannesburg

[31] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pp 78-86 ; Johannesburg

[32] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 85 ; Johannesburg

[33] Jacodius Hondius; A clear description of the Cape of Good Hope (1652); As in Master S (2012). P4. The first stratigraphic column in South Africa from Hondius (1652) and its correlatives.   

[34] G M Theal; History of South Africa 1486-1691; (1887). P 34; Swan Sonnenschein & Co; London

[35] van Riebeeck Jan; Journal of Jan van Riebeeck; Volume 1656-1662; Edited by H.B. Thom (1954) and translated by J. Smuts. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.

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[37] Elphick Richard; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa;  Raven Press (1985) pp 84, 85; Johannesburg; read with Raven-Hart. Before van Riebeeck pp 129,138,143-4, 148-9,153.

[38] Mellet Patric Tariq; ETHNIC CLEANSING: THE TIME OF THE FIFTEEN WARS – The 176 years of Indigene Resistance 1652 – 1828 (2017);

[39] Penn Nigel; The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century; Chap 5 – Societies of the Orange River; Double Story Books (2005); Cape Town

[40] Leggasick Martin; The struggle for the eastern Cape 1800 – 1854 – Subjugation and the roots of South African Democracy; Democracy in Africa Series Vol 1; (2010); University of the Western Cape; KMM Review Publishing; Johannesburg

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[42] le Roux Willemien & White Alison Edt; Voices of the San; Letloa Trust (2004); Kwela Books; Cape Town

[43] Bernard Alan; Hunters and Herders of Southern Africa – A comparative ethnography of the Koisan peoples; (1997); Cambridge University Press.

[44] Stow G; The Native races of South Africa – A history of the intrusion of the Hottentots and Bantu into the hunting grounds of the Bushmen (1964); Struik; Cape Town

[45] Smith Andrew; On becoming herders – Khoikhoi and San ethnicity in Southern Africa; (1991); African Studies 50 No:1

[46] Elphick Richard; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa;  Raven Press (1985); Johannesburg;

[47] Schlebusch Karina et al; Mtdna control region variation affirms diversity and deep sub-structure in populations from Southern Africa;BMC Evolutionary Biology (2013)

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