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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)




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THE NATIONAL QUESTION: Over the last decade I have constantly raised the issue of the failure of the ANC to deal with the National Question. Over the past few weeks suddenly all sorts of people are talking about this failure and indeed about the National Question. Much of the recent use of the term is quite garbled and have simply used this as a label for their cause, rather than understanding the actual content of what  has been a debate in liberation politics since the 1930s. Let me contribute to this debate in the South African context.

Firstly it is important to note that the question of what is meant by the term “Nation” is highly contestable. There are numerous laisser-faire interpretations of the term. In theories engaging the National Question there is also a distinction made between “Nationalities” and “Nations”. The concept of “Nation” particularly as we use the term politically is fairly modern and European and has everything to do with the rise of the “Nation-State” and “Nationalism” in the last 500 years in Europe and spreading out to the colonies. It took shape especially after the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the 30-year-war in Europe, when the concept of “Westphalian sovereignty” was introduced. This concept was exported to Africa with the European carving up of Africa by the British, French, Portuguese, Germans, Belgians, Spanish and Italians. The concept has no real place in San and Khoena culture where it is now vociferously used, and only some similarities can be found among political cultures such as Zulu and Xhosa which moved in the direction of uniting clans and tribes with different histories into singular national groups. Before the Peace of Westphalia in Europe there also was no firm idea of “Nation” and “Nationalism”.

The National Question in South Africa is framed by a simple twist of fate in the form of two forces within colonialism, the Boer and the British, declaring as part of the peaceful ending of their conflict, a territory with defined borders known as the Union of South Africa. In 1961 this territory and its political controllers the National Party founded on Apartheid principles, seceded from being a British Crown colonial state to becoming an independent republic and “South African Nation”, whatever that meant. The notion of SOUTH AFRICA and SOUTH AFRICAN NATION arose out of the Act of Union pretty much like the consequences of the Peace of Westphalia.

From the beginning not all who lived in South Africa had full national status as it would be defined by modern international definitions of democratic nation states. A hierarchy of rights emerged that was based on colour and ethnicity between 1910 and 1950 a system was developed that would in fact deny any semblance of full national status by all persons of colour within the territory, economy and social-political infrastructure of the South African State. Effectively it was a “Whites-Only” state and nation.

Regulated silos of second, third and fourth class status for people of colour, with only token citizenship, was imposed on the majority of inhabitants of South Africa. Four silos determining status were set up to rigidly determine how the lives of each Apartheid defined national group be determined – White, Asian, Coloured and Native. Only the white silo had any form of self-determination.

The Apartheid ideological concept however was a work in progress that developed into a grand scheme within its first decade of implementation. Those categorised as ‘Natives’ would later be collectively labelled first as Bantu and then as Black, with the latter having a very specific ethnic meaning rather than the international meaning when referencing all people of colour. A number of ‘native’ or ‘aboriginal’ peoples were also not included in the ‘native’ silo, but rather co-opted into the ‘Coloured’ silo.

With the advent of Apartheid and in terms of its ‘separate development’ ideology the White minority Apartheid regime determined that a semblance of highly controlled self-determination would be imposed on those labelled ‘Natives’. The Apartheid government unilaterally decided which groups would be recognised as tribal ‘nations’ and what land would be apportioned and which leaders would be recognised and when ‘independence’ for such territories and leadership could be recognised and under what constraints. In this way Apartheid created “Nation-Consciousness” on ethnic formations and promoted ethno-nationalism as their contribution towards resolving the “National Question” which indeed was only a “Question” in the first place because of the unilateral creation by the British and the Boers of a South African state with its diverse collection of people brought together in a modern state construct to resemble the “Nation-States” that emerged in Europe.

A huge conundrum existed in the form of what constituted being labelled and marshalled as ‘Coloured’. Over four centuries up to 1904 a number of peoples with different roots were thrown together in sharing common experiences of enslavement, dispossession of identity, land and resource dispossession, oppression, repression, marshalling, ethnocide and genocide.  A Cape Colony was developed over 176 years at the expense of the indigene Khoena and /Xam people of the Cape. In a series of 15 wars, step by step, over 176 years, what became the Cape Colony was established by ethnically cleansing the Cape of its indigene peoples. Tribal leadership, traditions and infrastructure were destroyed and the people were pacified and turned into labourers or military conscripts. Others fled, constantly keeping ahead of the onslaught until there was nowhere else to move and take up abode. In this process different peoples – Indigenes, Slaves (majority of whom were indigene Africans – others Indigene Asians) found themselves making common cause to survive and integrating at every level.

Indigenes livestock were appropriated and their sustainable livelihoods as once successful farmers destroyed. The original port of Cape Town and its business operations with the outside world was the first to be appropriated from 1652. As all of this was happening to the indigenes thousands of slaves were brought to the Cape from India, Southeast Asia and from Madagascar and Africa. The largest numbers were from Africa and Madagascar numbering some 45 000, plus 17 500 from India, Sri Lanka and Bengal, and 13 200 from a wide variety of countries in Southeast Asia. Their children and children’s children were all born into slavery generation after generation.

When slavery ended in 1834 another epoch started with imported indentured labour largely from Africa and India but also from elsewhere; and alongside that for a range of reasons a wide range of migrants of colour poured into South Africa, peaking with the Anglo-Boer War. Migrants of colour included enforced banishments from territories occupied by the Dutch and later the British from elsewhere in the world, as well as others who freely travelled to South Africa to make new lives, or many sent to South Africa as sailors and soldiers. These migrants of colour came from such diverse places as the Americas and Caribbean through to the Philippines and Southern China.

One category of African slaves and later indentured labourers were from South Africa’s neighbouring Southern African states – Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In time they became cut off from their countries and came to be known as Masbiekers in the Cape. What happened to this wide range of peoples is that by a bureaucratic scrawl of a pen, after a conference of census authorities in 1904, that all were labelled as “Coloured”.

There are over 40 roots of the people labelled “Coloured”. Pacified and detribalised generations of indigene Cape Khoena, the Nama, the Griqua, some of the Korana and the tiny few remnants of people with /Xam ancestry were collectively called ‘Hottentots’ in the 1865 census and numbered around 80 000 making up about 30% of those to be classified as ‘Coloured’ in 1904 when they were collectively brought under the single title of “Coloured’.

Over the following years and by the time that full blown Apartheid was instituted the Apartheid authorities while not recognising these indigenes in the same way that they recognised other indigenous African tribes as ‘Natives’, they did create sub-silos for some within the “Coloured” category when “Coloured” was divided into Cape Coloured, Cape Malay, Nama, Griqua, and Other Coloured. The latter category made room for either ‘Whites’ or ‘Natives’ who had married any of these sub-groups or were their offspring. The actual Apartheid Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act were as clear as mud on these matters. Then there were three categories of Asians – Indians, Chinese and Other Asiatics – the latter being a net to cover any Southeast Asians who found themselves in  South Africa or for Indians and Asians who had married and had offspring with Whites or Natives or Coloureds.

There is much complex history involved in all of this evolution in the politics of nation, nationality, national groups, tribes and clans as well as other identity formations, too long to go into here.

The ANC as a NATIONAL Liberation Movement committed to resolving the “National Question” has failed dismally to deal with one of its core reasons for being. In fact like the National Party it has acted in a typically ethnicist narrow nationalist manner when dealing with this thorny issue and nation-building. It has fuelled the fire of discontent in that it has kept alive the monster created by colonialism and Apartheid which pulls us all apart by holding onto the notions of races and race silos and co-relating this to “National Group” status.

The complexity before us has no ONE-FIX solution, but the point of departure with the past should be to relegate the pseudo-scientific concept of ‘RACE’ to the rubbish bin of history and to stoop entertaining narrow ethno-nationalism which is a twin to racism and will inevitably lead to polarisation and racist agitation.

Secondly in South Africa as framed by what we accepted it to be in 1994 we have to acknowledge that we are a country and state made up of diverse cultural heritages and trajectories of different experiences. There are three basic heritage streams that come together in South Africa – Africans, Asians and Europeans.

With the passage of time these Asians and Europeans developed an African allegiance and many characteristics born out of generations of living on this continent, notwithstanding the tensions and contradictions that arise from their having made their homes in Africa. We thus are faced with acknowledging that the continued use of a race-based framework of “White”, “Coloured” and “Black” is mis-focused and results in us not being able to develop into a modern “Nation-State”.

In terms of historical evolution there can be no question that there are Afro-Asians and Afro-Europeans who over many generations have lived in Africa and have to a large extent become estranged from the homelands of their original ancestors. Acknowledging the cultural reality of a coming together of Africa and Asia, and a coming together of Africa and Europe simply respects that the heritage that each carries from Asia or Europe is very real and meaningful to such people as is their African experience. The adoption of recognition of heritage rather than a white race and an Asian race is fundamental to resolving the “National Question”. Here the dropping of the term “white” allows all regardless of pigmentation, who wish to celebrate both their African-ness however they express this and their European-ness. In fact some now thought of as “Coloured” or “Black” or “Asian” may well see their heritage as Afro-European. People can self-identify.

Others may want to self-identify as Afro-Asian and this too may not necessarily be along the lines today expressed as ‘race’. Self-identification as having an African and European and Asian heritage is an inclusive way in which we can build bridges and build national cohesion. We can also on this basis stand up to racism and beat this demon. In no way does this mean that it seeks to bury disparity and unfair gain because of colonialism and Apartheid. That can more be effectively and more focused be tackled by affirmative action based on class. The vast majority of the underclass and dispossessed of South Africa are people of colour and by focussing on class we are much more effectively and justly able to tackle the inequality legacy of the past.

When it comes to the label “Coloured” we really have to tackle a huge problem and contradiction created by the ANC in around 1958 when it chucked out its founding definitions of what constituted the claim of African birth-right, in favour of a prejudiced statement relegating “Coloured” to be a “non-African minority”. The ANC in 1919 in drafting its founding constitution and adopting the term African to replace the term ‘Native’ emphasised an opposite position to that adopted in 1958 where it said that ANY person who has at least one of their forebears who is indigenous to Africa must be accepted as an African.

Effectively in 1958 the ANC pressured by narrow ethno-nationalism made a huge mistake and it took three decades to rectify this mistake. But the damage had been done and the legacy of that mistake has created a trust deficit. The ANC has also continued to see “Coloured” people as a “non-African minority”, and also as “privileged” even although the social and economic profile shows that all the conditions faced by other Africans pertain to the vast majority of those labelled “Coloured”.  In many ways this demonstrates the adoption of part of the racist Apartheid ideology, whatever reason is used to justify the continuation of this categorisation.

The resolution of the “Coloured Question” within the resolution of the “National Question” must allow people to unpack and adopt their birth-right to a cultural heritage. There clearly are people with an authentic Nama, San, Griqua, Korana, and Revivalist Cape Khoena framework of their cultural heritage and they would at least make up about 30% of those categorised as “Coloured”. Why should these identifiable formations not have the right to be recognised identities within the African family of identities and express their cultural heritage affiliations? But this resolves the issue just for a minority. What about the others?

I would argue that the dominant heritage of the other component is also African and collectively this heritage must be seen as having some traces of Cape Khoena, but also has strong traces of other South African indigenous African formations. Not only that, but through the slave trade and indentured labour system they have tributaries from the four corners of the African continent. The historical numbers show that the dominant tributary among those categorised as “Coloured” is African.

The other historical tributaries that flow into this heritage identity is dominated by slavery and indentureship, and enforced exile. There are other tributaries that are also characterised by various forms of adversity.

A common thread in the heritage of those labelled “Coloured” is a long and conscious struggle to rise above adversities, most of which were induced by colonialism, slavery and racism. It is in the embrace of indigenous Africans in the Cape which was mutually beneficial to Indigenes and Slaves that an African Creole identity arose. When one interrogates this we are simply left with how do we express this heritage as Africans without reference to colour, race and ethnicity. The answer lies back at the first shoreline frontier and the community of Table Bay that established and ran a successfully port operation.

From the turn of the century as indigenes began engaging in trade with the ships frequently dropping anchor in Table Bay and staying over for lengthy periods of time, a new economic and social phenomenon developed. Maritime records show that over 1071 ships carrying 200 000 travellers stopped off in Table Bay between 1600 and 1652, and engaged the trading and other services of the local population largely without adverse incidents. Some from the various tribes on the Peninsular and in the South Western Cape chose to break from tribal life and formed a non-cattle-keeping way of life. Some of these indigenes went abroad to London and Java and trained in servicing the shipping. They also altered their way of life in many respects. They began to mine much-demanded salt for instance for trade with the ships. Human relations as with all port settlements globally occurred at every level including relations that led to procreation.

A collaboration with the English first supported Autshumaoa’s trading community in helping them settle on Robben Island. When they no longer wished to operate from Robben Island they were resettled at the Camissa River mouth – the source for fresh water for the ships. This community of Camissa people, known by other tribal formations as drifters from those communities were labelled as Goringhaicona – the children of the dominant Goringhaiqua tribe on the Peninsula. It was the proto-port operation at Camissa which was the first indigene resource and institution to be taken over by Dutch colonial aggression. The Camissa footprint is the first reference-point for the dramatic change that was to be experienced by the indigenous population.

Slaves, indentures, migrants of colour and non-conformist Europeans all of whom embraced each other, did so on the foundation of the Camissa embrace or Camissa footprint in history. Today this Camissa River still flows through Cape Town but it has been forced out of site, just like the heritage identity of those who were labelled “Coloured”. The Camissa heritage identity is there to be embraced and recognised and offers an opportunity to give a cultural heritage framework to those descendants who rose above adversity, now labelled “Coloured”.

So all people labelled “Coloured” who wish to self-identify either as one of the five indigene formations based on free association or who wish to identify as Camissa, while asserting their African birth-right gives us the basis for resolving the “National Question”.

All who were seen as “Coloured” can chose to associate with the three heritage streams African, Afro-Asian or Afro-European. All are able to celebrate these heritages whether as Africans – Xhosa, Zulu, Korana, Nama, Cape Khoena, Camissa. Tswana etc, or as Afro- Europeans whether of Dutch, British, German or other heritage, or those Afro-Asians who celebrate either an Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian heritage. The UNITY IN DIVERSITY thus becomes a union of diverse cultural heritages and not a separation of South Africans into races. In this way we can resolve the “National Question”.

There can be no justification of panel-beating cultures and heritage into one single new heritage. Our national unity would be based on a common appreciation of and respect for diversity in our national make up based on respect for the human rights of ALL. We are challenged to combat racism and narrow ethno-nationalism. The answer to this is to enshrine respectfulness toward diversity of cultural heritage and to ensure that all South Africans get introduced to multi-culturalism and own our multicultural society.  Multi-culturalism is respect for all cultural heritages within one national framework. This also enhances our respect for international diversity. That is the basis of building a solution to the “National Question”.

Clearly there are other complexities to also deal with. We cannot ignore that various happenings over two centuries and were fanned by Apartheid to create narrow ethno-nationalist tendencies. One cannot wish away the negative growth of ethno-nationalism. Over time this needs to give way to unification of the human family in South Africa.

The starting point is to acknowledge that most of the tribal formations existent in South Africa today and welded into ethno-national entities and kingdoms are a modern social construct rather than age-old constructs and that the world external to South Africa influenced these formations to come into their modern forms. If we deconstruct the Zulu and the Xhosa today we can easily see what those older formations looked like before the wars of consolidation. Some of this took place prior to colonisation and some post colonisation. In the modern era over the last 500 years we have seen this post-Westphalia political construct of “Nations” come and go with new replacing old frequently. Wars altered borders regularly. Do we really need to go through all of this conflict to get to a place of harmonious and respectful relations?

What we see occurring in some corners of those who are labelled “Coloured” is attempts to artificially recreate tribal formations some of which disappeared before colonisation 600 or more years ago and some which were wiped out by colonisation between 1652 and 1828 in the main. We also see a competing for recognition and resources among narrow ethno-nationalist formations and a high degree of unauthentic claims and aspiration to have what other tribal formations have acquired through deals with various political authorities over time. This cannot be good for anybody and this does not contribute to resolving the “National Question” but rather takes us all backwards in the worst possible way. Effectively it is the old buy-in to ‘divide and rule’ of the past.

To resolve that part of the “National Question” that affects memory and allegiance to the cultural heritage of the Cape Khoena (some prefer to use “KhoiSan” – the German anthropological term) we need to establish that this is a vitally important part of resolving the African heritage of a significant sector of those labelled “Coloured”.

There are however differences about how this is resolved. Questions abound. Some of the key planks of strategies adopted are highly questionable and no amount of attempting to bulldoze the broader South African population and institutions to recognise this approach is going to succeed and in fact is doing great harm to the cause. Here are some of the questions:

Do the attempts at reviving long extinct tribal formations, lacking authenticity, help or hinder the cause?  Do misplaced claims of being “First People” or “First Nation” and claims to being “The Only Indigenous People” help or hinder the resolution of the “National Question” and the restoration of cultural heritage? Does the claim that all “Coloured People” are KhoiSan and are the “only True Descendants of the KhoiSan” help us or hinder us in attaining restorative justice for those marginalised and discriminated against because of this indigenous identity?

Does the quest to reconstruct Cape Khoena tribes of the period 1100 AD to 1828 AD assist or undermine the restoration of Cape Khoena revived cultural heritage? These are the questions that need thorough interrogation informed not by cherry-picking at colonial versions of the past, but by a comprehensive and honest look at the past in as many dimensions as can be put together. Does one united organisational formation, for those who have allegiance to revived Cape Khoena cultural heritage, not do more to successfully champion restorative justice, than multiple ethno-nationalist and tribal formations with questionable authenticity and a tendency towards racist outbursts? It is these types of questions that must be considered when we look at the bigger picture of a just resolution to the “National Question”.

Like all other tribal and clan formations of African indigenes in South Africa over the same last 600 years one has seen the bonding together of clans and tribes into larger formations as in the case of the Xhosa and Zulu which are relatively modern entities. This has been the global trend over the last 500 years. The Khoena both in the north – the BaKoni tribes and clans and, in the South – the Cape Khoena tribes and clans had a trend of multiplying by division resulting in vulnerability to becoming part of other formations. Eg: At least 20% of the Xhosa comprise of Cape Khoena absorbed into the ranks of a new formation comprising of Khoena, //Kosa, and various Nguni tribes and clans which became the Xhosa as we know it today. Other Khoena tribes and clans around either side of the Gariep River mixed with the Tswana and the Sotho and the Korana. Indeed it is hard to find Khoena (Khoi) linage that is not part of most African tribes across South Africa. The relatively modern Zulu construct is a mix of Bakoni (Khoena), //Xegwi (Drakensberg San) and Tsonga which gave birth to larger groupings such as the Mthwethwa and Ndwandwe and the many other Nguni formations that drifted southwards or later fled Shaka’s unification drive.

One can track back 12 tribes and clans of Khoena which are part of the base of the modern Xhosa formation, then two in-between tribes, and then a further 8 tribes and clans which faced attrition through the European colonial conquest. These 8 tribes and clans as well as the 2 Xhosa-Khoena tribes fought valiantly against the Dutch and later the British colonial might over a 176 year period when the Cape was ethnically cleansed of its organised social formations of its African population in ethnocide warfare. Besides the 22 Cape Khoena formations alluded to here, there were also 5 more Khoena tribes along the Gariep alongside the Korana (also a Khoena people) to the east, and the Nama to the west (also a Khoena people). The Bakoni all along the Limpopo and across to KZN in the east is a whole story of its own. The Koni people  (Bakoni) were at root Khoena people who had mixed with Sotho people and were the first to be called amaNguni long before this referenced the mix of peoples that became the Zulu Kingdom.  The origins of the Bakoni goes back to the great Southern African  stone-walled settlements that stretch from Mapangubwe all along the Limpopo into Zimbabwe (Great Zimbabwe) all the way to Mozambique. The origins of the Khoena are not in the Eastern nor Western Cape, but rather on the northern fringes of the Kalahari and along the Limpopo. Here local Tshua San not directly related to the Cape San formations known as the /Xam, had relations with East Africans with Nilotic roots, who were pastoralists keeping sheep, and from these relationships around 2300 years ago the Khoena emerged and migrated west, south and east. This history requires much more study but enough research shows us clearly, that although the Cape Khoena were the first people that the Europeans encountered, they were not the “First People of the Cape”, and had indeed over the thousand years before colonisation gradually entered the southernmost territories and through the pastoralism had displaced the /Xam “First People”.

It is important that unauthentic arguments and mythologies designed to create conflict are disposed of if we are to successfully and honestly tackle the “National Question”.  All South African peoples can be proud of the different historical heritage that they share with the Khoena peoples who migrated all over South Africa and left their genetic markers. All South Africans also can be proud of and be respectful of the ancient ancestral ties that we have to the different San peoples of South Africa such as the various We Gai and Eis clans, the Khwe and !Xun, the //Xegwi and the /Xam. Their footprint may be feint today but their winds still blow from afar to inform our present

must, in dealing honestly with the past, note in bold lights when we explore our heritage, that during the 176 years of European ethnic cleansing wars, and immediately after, the original and only “First People” of the Cape – the /Xam (Cape San), were virtually wiped out by genocide attacks by European led Commandos comprising of both European and Khoena (60%) troopers.  There was no direct ancestral links between the Khoena (Khoi) and the /Xam (Cape San).  The /Xam had earlier been displaced from their thousands of years Eastern and Western Cape traditional lands by migrant pastoral groups of Khoena (Khoi) and Xhosa. Post the main genocide thrust against the /Xam people by the Dutch and then British between 1750 and the 1790s, the Nama, Griqua, Orlam, Korana and the British all carried out further genocide attacks on the /Xam (Cape San). By the 1970s only a small handful of very old people existed that had direct links to the /Xam. A few small rural townspeople have indirect tenuous links to the /Xam today. The /Xam or Cape San have been abused by all and continue to have their memory abused today through misappropriation of identity.

The points being made here is that we simply cannot authentically  resurrect actual formations destroyed by ethnocide. It’s a very sensitive arena. I personally see this presently as going down the wrong path which will be self-destructive in the long run and succumb to internal conflicts and divide and rule tactics externally. It is also potentially conflictual with all other people in South Africa, the majority of whom are as indigenous as the Cape Khoena claimants. One cannot just conjure up the past most particularly where one only really has European colonial versions of that past to draw on.

With the tiny San formations, and with the Nama, the Korana (although there are here contesting voices from the traditional Korana region and the Western Cape) and in the case of the Griqua the resolution of their cause can easily be negotiated in terms of the recognitions and cautions given by the IWGIA, the ILO, the United Nations and the ACHIPR.  It is more difficult with those recognised as the Cape Khoena which is highly fractured and have a very poor and disunited understanding of both the meaning and the content of the support by these international organisations and the protocols of responsibility demanded in return for the support. The support of these organisations is termed in referencing the five formations, not as the ONLY indigenous people of South Africa, nor as the “First People” or “First Nations” having exclusive rights from others, but rather as the indigenous formations who are discriminated against and marginalised. There is a huge distinction to be made in this regard. These organisations are not sanctioning a chauvinistic and narrow ethno-nationalist claim of exclusivity. The ACHIPR stresses the following:

“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognizes the concerns regarding use of the term indigenous peoples in the African context, and that there might be a number of issues specific to Africa that need to be discussed in order to reach fruitful common understandings.  Nevertheless,  it  is  the  ACHPR’s  position  that  the  overall  present-day  international  framework  relating  to  indigenous  peoples should be accepted as the point of departure. The principle of self-identification  as  expressed,  for  example,  by  ILO  Convention  169  and  by  the ACHPR’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities is a key  principle  which  should  also  guide  the  further  deliberations  of  the African Commission.

As has been argued, it is indeed a fact that Africa is characterized by multiculturalism. Almost all African states host a rich variety of different ethnic  groups,  some  of  which  are  dominant  and  some  of  which  are  in  subordinate positions.  All of these groups are indigenous to Africa.

However,  some  are  in  a  structurally  subordinate  position  to  the  dominant  groups  and  the  state,  and  this  leads  to  marginalisation  and  discrimination. It is this situation that the indigenous concept, in its modern analytical form and the international legal framework attached to it, addresses.”

The protocols go on to say – “It is of course important that the term indigenous peoples is not misused as a chauvinistic term with the aim of achieving rights and positions over and above other ethnic groups or members of the national community, nor as a term by which to nurture tribalism or ethnic strife and violence.  Needless  to  say,  this  is  absolutely  not  the  spirit  of  the  term.

The  very  spirit  of  the  term  is  to  be  an  instrument  of  true  democratisation  whereby the most marginalised groups/peoples within a state can gain recognition and a voice. It is a term by which those groups – among the variety of ethnic groups within a state – who identify themselves as indigenous and who experience particular forms of systematic discrimination, subordination  and  marginalisation  because  of  their  particular  cultures,  ways of life and mode of production, can analyse and draw attention to their  situation.  It  is  a  term  by  which  they  can  voice  the  human  rights  abuses they suffer from  – not only as individuals but also as groups or peoples.  If  genuinely  understood  in  this  way,  it  is  a  term  by  which  the  groups concerned can seek to achieve dialogue.”

Now as I have previously stated, the San, Nama, Korana, Griqua and Revivalist Cape Khoena have a right to be recognised and not to be marginalised and discriminated against. That is non-negotiable, but in the case of the latter, which is a revived formation the question arises of how they organise themselves optimally and authentically and not in competition with or conflict with other Africans. Once one accepts that we are talking about revival and not the actual past entity, how you go forward has to be carefully constructed, because these groups are reconstructionist exercising self-identification. By taking a narrow ethno-nationalist path  groups actually are doing themselves great harm, besides the fact that they are also impinging on the rights of others and this path is counter to finding resolution of the “National Question”.

The trajectory or path down which most have been going is to try and recreate some of the 30 plus tribes and clans that once existed. There is a failure to understand that many of these formations were simply more recent breakaways from older tribes in a process of multiplication by division, and those divisions were detrimental when they had to face adversaries in the form of the colonial forces. There is also a failure to accept that other Khoena tribes and clans exist within supra-tribes that evolved from the same roots.

The formation of many tribes each with kings and queens or other titled leaders is not the route to follow in resolving a dignified place within the resolution of the “National Question”.  Unauthentic claims of sole indigene status and insult towards others both undermines Khoena revivalism and the ability to find a just and inclusive resolution to the “National Question”.

I support the Revivalist Cape Khoena’s right to exist and to celebrate their cultural heritage like any other tribe, clan or cultural heritage formation. I also support the struggle of the Revivalist Cape Khoena alongside the San, Korana, Nama and Griqua to overcome discrimination and marginalisation. I further support the framework in which this should occur as established by the UN, IWGIA, the ILO, and the ACHIPR.

I don’t however believe that the divisive, exclusionary and antagonistic path that is presently being pursued is in line with the spirit and ethos of the international support for marginalised indigenous peoples in South Africa nor in keeping with the ethos required to resolve the “National Question”. The Zuma government has mischievously played a ethno-nationalist promotion game with these groups and has not been honest in dealing with them. This is largely because they have NOT ADDRESSED THE BIGGER “National Question” within which resolution of the cultural heritage affinity of a possible 30% of those labelled “Coloured” are expressing the desire to be recognised as legitimately self-identifying with each of the five most marginalised groups facing discrimination. Government is also not addressing the practical and material issues of restorative justice that arises out of these cultural heritage groups. The waters are however muddied on both sides when chauvinistic ethno-nationalism is equated with cultural heritage identities.

Effectively at the end of the line government or the state should not interfere in the realm of cultural heritage groups either as patron or as regulator. Self-identification and association an infrastructure is the business of any cultural heritage group. Only the initial issues of restorative justice, requires the facilitation and intervention of government. Such groups as these five as well as the 70% of people who should be able to celebrate their Camissa heritage rather than be labelled as “Coloured” or a “non-African minority”, and also be facilitated in terms of restorative justice, should be accepted as AFRICANS as part of the South Africa family of Africans. That is how we can realise resolution of the “National Question”.

I pose that it is time for the “Revivalist Cape Khoena” (or KhoiSan) to look at the bigger picture presented here if real progress is to be made. Stop the antagonism towards fellow Africans. Stop the unauthentic claim to exclusively being “First People” or “First Nation” – It is just not true and is a stumbling block to progress. Stop equating “Coloured” to being Khoena or San because this is also simply not true. Stop denying other indigenous Africans the fact that they too have Khoena ancestry and ancient links to the various San groups. Fight for recognition as a single united modern association and manifestation of Cape Khoena and build on that reality. Within that formation, not unlike the 200 year old revivalist Khoena formation that we know as the Griqua, the goals of the Cape Khoena are achievable and powerfully so. Within that single association the old tribe names can be honoured as chapters for organisational purposes right down to grassroots level. This makes sense and will achieve a respected outcome.

I reiterate that only one now extinct tribe, the /Xam of /Xam-ka, were strictly  the only “First People” of the Cape who go back thousands of years and all African indigenes in South Africa including the Khoena, other than the !Xam, !Xun, Khwe and //Xegwi, are not indigenous in the old fashioned use of the term; ie. having from time immemorial, existed in a particular sub-region of the continent.

History shows us that the Khoena are a migrant group of pastoralists who evolve from the Tshua or other San groups of the northern reaches of the Kalahari and Limpopo, not directly related to the Cape San. They also evolve from a coming together of East African and Nilotic peoples with a pastoral economy, and those northern San people. The Khoena too are not just the Cape Khoena. Other Khoena, the Bakoni migrated across the west to the KZN east of South Africa as much as the Khoena drifted to the Gariep and through the Eastern Cape down into the Western Cape over more than a thousand years. Most tribes in South Africa have Khoena ancestry and some also have San ancestry. The Khoena wherever they went in South Africa also displaced San hunters by their pastoral practices and the hegemony it created. In the Southeast the Khoena make up at least 20% of the Xhosa ancestry too.

Therefore it is a false fight that is being waged against all and sundry when claims of FIRST and ONLY are made the focus. What should be the focus is to overcome discrimination and marginalisation and that the best way to do this is to establish a modern political framework in the form of ONE association of Cape Khoena People. Once one has such a framework, rather than having multiple claims of heredity leaderships or Kings and Queens et al , the association should have one leadership council of elders. Within that association one could have chapters (rather than recreated tribes) which honour the old tribes by use of their names. It would be invaluable to the struggle against discrimination and marginalisation for such a body to exist and to command respect. To get such respect is not to fight for sectional tribal claims but rather to lead the fight for claims that will improve the position of the communities which members and leaders of the associated come from. Such a united Association could have its own trust, take on the British and Dutch authorities under whose command the atrocities and dispossession took place. It would also be able to more effectively fight for trust land to be used for the homeless and farmless and so on.

Such an association would have its cultural identity and can ally with those with a Camissa heritage focus and support each other. We all can forge a place in a united African family of heritages and in one South African Nation.

The resolution of our “National Question” has to be based on peacefully having ALL South Africans finding a place in a National Framework that breaks away from race and is easily understood even as a child. For me in South Africa I see the focus needing to move from “RACE” and “COLOUR” to mutually appreciated cultural heritage in a diverse society of AFRICANS, AFRO-ASIANS and AFRO-EUROPEANS.  Those presently labelled as “Coloured” can self-identify as they wish and if they see themselves as part of the AFRICAN family, they are able to celebrate either one of the five paths that emphasis wholly indigenous roots, or the Camissa path that recognises the coming together of a range of indigenous roots, with slavery roots and other migrants of colour and non-conformists Europeans in the experience of rising above adversity in Africa. This is a real cultural heritage and does not dwell on race or colour.

This outline could be the basis of finding a practical resolution of the “National Question” in all its facets and put to bed the “Coloured Question”.  South Africa needs to get to the bottom of this subject and come out of this space so that we can unite in a just and respectful manner towards each other. All political parties, churches and organisations should be dealing with this in a visible manner aimed at an outcome. The ANC once championed the resolution of the National Question” and had as core goal, the building of one nation of diverse peoples and our cultural heritage formations and institutions, but dropped the ball and probably made matters worse. We need to negotiate the way forward in an honest, factual and robust manner. These are just a few thoughts on this issue. When in exile myself and my late comrade Mzala Jabulani Khumalo spent a lot of time talking, writing and researching on this issue and the different ways that it has been tackled around the world. The foundation that we wholly agreed upon was that ethno-nationalism was the antithesis of a just resolution to the “National Question” but that the answer was also not the panel-beating of people into an artificial cultural one-ness. Diverse cultural heritage in one country is a social reality of our times and our fight against colonialism and Apartheid was for the freedom of all our diverse people and the recognition of our different struggles against diversity.

I personally celebrate that I am a South African of Camissa African heritage and proud of it. I have friends who are South African of Cape Khoena African Heritage, of Griqua African Heritage, of Zulu African Heritage, of Nama African Heritage and of Xhosa African Heritage. I also have South African friends of Afro-Asian Heritage and Afro-European Heritage. We live in a country as one nation with diverse cultural heritage and are proud of our diversity. This is how I want to see our future. I don’t want a future filled with race and colour labels, nor a future of ethno-nationalism. Can we get there? What do we do that stops us from getting there? The resolution of the “National Question” requires that at the same time we deal with our past injustices and the legacy of disparity otherwise it would be quite hollow. It requires us to be firm in rejecting colonialism and ideas and practices of race superiority. This requires all to have a critical and honest look at many things that many regard as “normal”.



DISPELLING THE BOGUS HISTORY: Just who were the ‘First People’ – the /Xam of /Xam-ka and who all were those we call the Khoena or Khoi & Xhosa – and are the latter related?

I have become very tired – sick and tired in fact – by the succession of false histories concerning who the ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ of the Cape were, and also the misrepresentation of the Xhosa as foreign alien blacks who invaded the Cape, and indeed blanket claims that the ‘Coloured’ people are the Khoena or Khoi and therefore we are the ‘First People’ who demand control of this land.

Much of this is based on false Apartheid and Colonialist history that has unfortunately been embraced by a significant number of our people along with much racism and bigotry.


Having said this I will go on to explain why I say it, but I first want to state that I do believe that there are genuine Cape Khoena or Khoi communities, and when revived memory and organisational forms are done in a proper manner with due regard to the real history and heritage of the Khoena, then I fully support such initiatives. I believe that there is a place for Khoena revivalism of this sort but it certainly is not a solution or appropriate way for all to follow…. And I say this with due respect. Here I note that revival of tribalism as a way forward can and should be separated from reviving heritage and memory and there are many variants of ways in which this can be done.

In some parts of the three Capes there are strong grounds for a revived association of Khoena people and there are serious claims to be considered soberly in terms of restorative justice. Here in particular the recognition of Revivalist Cape Khoena groups as among the five most marginalised Indigene groups who are discriminated against in South Africa must be recognised. However in other parts of South Africa – the Cape Peninsula in particular only a very small minority have Cape Khoena roots and even then it is but part of much stronger roots relating to slavery and various other migrations of people of colour. I have carefully studied the 1865 census and the 1891 which were the most reliable until 1904. In the 1904 census 85, 892 are identified as Cape Damara, Nama, Korana and Cape ‘Hottentot’ (+/- 60 000) as distinct from Coloured/Mixed numbering 279, 662. After the Union of SA was established and had its first census there was only one category now called ‘Coloured/mixed’ numbering 454,959. Thus as a rule of thumb we can extrapolate that just over a million of today’s “Coloured” population have a claim on Cape Khoena ancestry and around a further 400 000 could have mainly Nama, as well as some Damara and Korana ancestry. If we interrogate the figures of the locations of the Cape Khoena of that time a very negligible percentage were to be found from Koeberg to the so-called Hottentot Holland Mountains and across to Cape Point. Over 91% of persons of colour in this area had other historical roots, which I describe as Camissa.

Now to understand firstly who the only ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ of the Cape can be said to be, we have to go a long way back in history to understand this. Through coming to a proper understand of who the /Xam-ka were, we will also come to an understanding of how they were first displaced from the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape by the first migrants – the Cape Khoena pastoralists from the Northwest and their earliest cousins the first //Kosa ancestors (not to be confused with those called Xhosa today). We will also need to look at the much later entry of the Nguni into the Eastern Cape and what truly unfolded there. To be able to understand this we will have to look at who the Nguni were, because there is a lot of confusion about this because of the false Colonial narratives unfortunately embraced by a number of peddlers of psuedo-history. Some of these con-artists cannot tell the difference between Homo Sapiens and Archaic Humans when it comes to archaeological diggings, of which there are a number of sites in South Africa, which are treasure troves that shed light on human evolution.

All of these matters pertain to ancient PRE-COLONIAL HISTORY. There is also a fascinating history between 100 BC and 1300 AD around the ‘Peopling of South Africa, with the coming together of hunters, herders, herder-farmers and farmers in the Limpopo.  From 1300 to 1652 a further fascinating history emerges as segmentation and differentiation spreads among South African indigenes. Thereafter another history begins with colonialism and I have covered this elsewhere in explaining how the Colonists over 176 years involving 15 wars first forcibly removed or pacified the Cape Khoena and then committed genocide on the /Xam-ka ‘First People’ and then moved on in the overlapping 100 years wars against the amaGcaleka and amaRharhabe Xhosa and against the abeThembu and those others referred to as Nguni tribes right through to Pondoland.

Let me start with first explaining that the earliest Homo Sapiens emerged along East Africa around 250 000 years ago, and around 90 000 to 130 000 years ago the ‘real ‘First People’ – Homo Sapiens moved out of East Africa to populate the world and by 70 000 years ago hundreds of small groups of Homo Sapiens were dotted all over Southern Africa, not just South Africa. These and their differences have been genetically mapped with what is called SA dna (Southern African dna) which some refer to by using the anthropological and linguistic terms which is not quite accurate – San or Khoisan dna.

By 40 000 years ago half of these ‘First People’ with as much diversity in way of life as they were in number, had died out. By 20 000 years ago they had again reduced considerably, but hundreds of micro-communities which European anthropologists labelled as San were scattered from the tip of Africa to Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. Only in the very broadest sense can these diverse peoples be regarded as a broad human family of people that anthropologists, linguists and geneticists labelled as San. They commonly engaged in hunting and gathering for subsistence, but as herding entered the Zambezi basin and, to the south, at the Shashe-Limpopo basin, a new southern African herding population emerged whom European anthropologists in the 20th century would refer to as the Khoi. These in turn migrated all over South Africa.

Over 20 000 years, distinctive social identities developed to which archaeologists and anthropologists gave the broad label SAN. But with the huge distances between these different groups each had distinctive names and cultures of their own. Down in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Central Cape the descendants of the first homo-sapiens who we can call ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ were the /Xam and and !Ga !ne and they were far removed from the Tshua and #Hõā San tribes on the Northwestern Kalahari and Limpopo…. As much so as the Scots, Irish, English and French. The Kohena were not related to the Cape San but were part descended from the Tshua people and the herder descendents from East Africa but also with some other admixture who some refer to as Bantu. Indeed very little distinction would have existed between the earliest micro-communities of herders and farmers who made their way into the Eastern Cape around 650 AD. Archaeologists have not found any evidence of herder peoples before that time in the Eastern Cape and certainly not before 1050 AD in the Western Cape. Archaeological finds of Archaic Human hunter-gatherers.

Here it is important that we stop a moment to look at the evolution of humanity as a number of the pseudo-history peddlers do not understand the findings at South African archaeological digs and confuse these with proof of later human developments.

Homo or Human is the genus that encompasses different progressions towards modern humans or Homo Sapiens. This is basic to archaeological mapping.  Several extinct species are closely related and ancestral to modern humans but are not Homo Sapiens – the most notable being  Homo Erectus. The human genus is shown to have emerged with the appearance of Homo Habilis, just more than two million years ago. This clearly is not modern humans, let alone the San, as some lacking understanding of archaeology attempt to project. Even for non-archaeologists like myself this is considered basic general knowledge. Homo Erectus appeared about two million years ago and, in several early migrations, it spread throughout Africa (Homo Ergaster) and Eurasia.

The latter was likely the first Archaic Human species to live in a hunter-gatherer society and to control fire.  An adaptive and successful species, Homo Erectus persisted for more than a million years. About  500 000 years ago Homo Erectus  gradually diverged into new species, most notably Homo Heidelbergensis. It is from this species that both Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis are considered to have derived.

Homo Sapiens which are also referred to as anatomically modern humans   years ago and it is generally agreed that this occurred in Eastern Africa while Homo Neanderthalensis emerged at around the same time in Europe and Western Asia.

It is generally argued that around 130 000 years ago (possibly longer) that Homo Sapiens dispersed from Africa in several waves, Those who dispersed southwards were said to have done so in a gradual drift starting 90 000 to 70 000 years ago. Both in Africa and Eurasia, Homo Sapiens met with and interbred with Archaic Humans (Non Homo Sapiens). The later only died out around 40 000 years ago, with some exceptions being those hybrid species dying out as late as 12,000 years ago.

Now the uninformed read a newspaper article about diggings at Mossel Bay and Blombos Caves and elsewhere where amazing archaeological finds have been made and the erroneously think that all of the findings relating to the Homo genus are Homo Sapien and then jump thousands of years ahead and incorrectly suggest that these findings are of San or the Khoi.

As with the false assumptions made about the path to the emergence of Homo sapiens and the long path from that point to the emergence of San societies and the very much later emergence of Khoi herder societies, there is also many erroneous assumptions that  Archaic Humans did not display make tools etc. The evolution of behaviours is a much debateable subject with much less exactitudes. This subject spans the early stone-age which lasted for around 3.4 million years  and ended in different places between 9000 BC and 2000 BC as the making of metal and metal implements was born. The stone age is divided into early, middle and late stages and likewise with the metal ages.

The caves of the Southern Cape contains Middle Stone Age deposits, and technological insights dated between 70 000 years ago and 100 000 years ago.  This has to be understood in the evolutionary context explained. But it also at different layers expose a Late Stone Age sequence dated between 300 to 2000 years ago.  One has to look at these two periods with very different eyes and the Homo genus of these different periods also require different ways of reading the past. We also have to note that these sites and no other sites have yielded evidence of presence of Khoi Herders in the last thousand years and Archaelogists have been hunting for such evidence for a long time. It is a dead giveaway of pseudo-historians imbued with modern day crackpot ethno-nationist ideas to misrepresent archaeological findings and make statements like “our ancestors were here for hundreds of thousands of years”. Much of what has been discussed here is what we can call pre-history. So back to the focus on history.

The Khoena or Khoi as a distinct people, first emerged 2100 years ago in the Northwestern Kalahari and Limpopo. They separated from the ancestors of the Tshua and #Hõā (distinct San peoples of the area), when pastoral people (herders), descended over 1000 years from East Africa, crossed the Limpopo and brought sheep and a new way of living into the region. Geneticists have also found that the ancestors of these people had also mixed with Nilotic peoples (North Africans from the Nile) who were the ones who introduced sheep to the East Africans. Sheep originate in the Middle East and were conduited down the Nile either through Southward migration from the Middle East or by trading links with the Nilotic people. Some evidence such as the existence of the Lembe with their customs and dna suggests the possibility too of another link with South Africa, but that is another story.

Sheep pastoralism and milk drinking cultures trace along very specific routes and interface with South Africa parallel to the emergence of Khoena people. It is these Khoena or Khoi people who became migrants to the Cape, to join the /Xam ‘First People’ who had been there ever since evolving from the first Homo Sapiens in the area. Indeed the San also have probable linkages with hybrid humans who existed due to inter-relations between Archaic humans and modern humans.

This Limpopo gateway into South Africa tells us a lot about pre-colonial times as it is from here that various people migrated across the Limpopo to KZN and also down to the Gariep River and from there into the Eastern and Western Cape, with a lesser used route also down the West Coast. At this gateway the San of that area and the new arrivals both from East Africa and Bantu from the Great Lakes regions mixed and the Khoena emerged in three formations. One remained around what would become the Kingdom of Mapangubwe, another, moved westwards and southerly into Botswana and Namibia, while others moved Eastwards right through to KZN. There were also those that moved Southwards to the Gariep and then beyond to the Eastern Cape; and finally into the Western Cape by 1050 AD.

By 800AD a powerful African Kingdom developed along the Limpopo with its centre at Mapagubwe made up of a mix of San, Khoena, Bakoni and Bantu peoples.
The Mapangubwe Kingdom presided over by the Tshua San and Khoena Royalty who were held in great esteem by the mixed population of Kalahari Tshua, Khoena, Bakoni and Bantu peoples who all lived in accord. It was an advanced African civilisation of people who lived in stone walled towns, smelted and fashioned golden objects and who likely from evidence found, traded with the East African Coast, Arabs Indians and Chinese in the 10th century. Hundreds of these stone walled city ruins can be found all the way to Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe is just one of these. These people were multi-ethnic and were a combination of of hunter-rainmakers, herders, herder-farmers and farmer-metallurgists. They were also traders and it was from this trading tradition to which the Cape Khoi trace back to, that African trading traditions in the Western Cape (pre-European) evolved.

Further developments resulted in the emergence of the Kalanga peoples whose descendents can be found in the BaTswana, the Sotho, the abaThembu and among the early //Kosa as well as among the Koni civilisation of Mpumalanga. When the Bakoni travelled East into KZN there were another distinct San people, the //Xegwi or BaTwa in that region who were one of the foundation peoples of the new Nguni creation in Southern Africa made up of strands from BaKoni. Abatwa, Khoi and Tsonga. There was never an invasion of Nguni people. The Nguni was a new creation from around 400 AD in South Africa brought about by hunters, herders, herder-farmers and farmer-metallurgists.

Many of the //Xegwi were also assimilated into the Bakoni who themselves then assimilated with Kalanga and later with the Tsonga Bantu tribes who crossed into Northern KZN and indeed crossed too and from across the Limpopo. It is this mixed people who came to be called the Nguni – the Ndwandwe Kingdom and the Mthethwa Kingdom were the most powerful. In the late 18th and early 19th century a revolution took place in this region in which the small original Zulu tribe and Khumalo tribes played a huge role and a new modern national group, the Zulu emerged as a Kingdom.

Through this revolution of the early 19th century known as the Mfecane a number of Nguni tribes – the Ngwane, Qwabe, Hlubi, Bhaca, Bhele, Zizi, Xesibe and Mpondomise were pushed southwards. Only the Mpondo under King Faku, on the Southern borders of KZN, were able to withstand the Zulu forces now operating way out of their rear supply bases.

As a result the Mpondo, Mpondomise, Thembu and Bomvana put pressure on the mixed Cobuqua-Xhosa in the area north of the Kei River. So did other refugee groups who were a mix of Khoena and Sotho (Ngqosini) also fleeing the Mfecane from the surrounds of Mosheshwe’s mountain kingdom which also checked the Zulu advance. This takes us up to the time of Shaka’s death in 1828.

But long before then – some more than 1000 years previously, the Khoena who travelled down southwards from Limpopo and had settled alongside other San formations along the Gariep, and also move further down southwards through the Eastern Cape seaboard into the Western Cape right down into the Cape Peninsula by 1050 AD. Not long after them, probably as the Mapangubwe Kingdom flourished from 800AD there was a trickle of Bantu into the Eastern Cape alongside the Cobuqua. Historians suggest that there was little differentiating between these two groups. This was around 650 AD. They were people who were use to each other over a lengthy period. The original occupiers of the land, the /Xam named these people, the Xhosa. These people spoke a funny mix of Khoena and SiNtu language, and had adopted many of the religious and cultural traditions of the Khoena and San and were thoroughly inter-married with San and Khoena. They were initially also not a kingdom but rather just a small loose federation of clans.

When the Nguni drift occurred and when refugees started pressing down South much later, this pre-Nguni,”Xhosa-Khoena” mixed people came under a much stronger and more well organised Nguni influence both pre and during the the Mfecane. But already there were Khoena tribes further south all the way to the Cape Peninsula by this time.

The Khoena that migrated to the Cape had no direct genetic linkage to the /Xam. It is only in antiquity that there is a connection and that this connection is to the Tshua San. They were thus not indigenous to the area in the old-fashioned use of the term. In modern UN terminology indigenous is used much more broadly and thus Khoena are an Indigene people as much as all whose forebears are Africans on this continent are indigene. But the Khoena certainly are a marginalised Indigene people in South Africa who face discrimination still to this day. That is not the same as being the ‘First People’ in the older sense of the word indigene. The UN and AU and the SA government recognise the San, the Nama, the Korana, the Griqua and the Revivalist Cape Khoena as being  “Indigenous people who are marginalised and discriminated against”.

The Khoena pastoralists nudged out the /Xam and !ga !Ne hunter-gatherer ‘First People’ from their traditional hunting grounds and as pastoralists took dominance of the seaboard areas. The /Xam ‘First People’ were gradually pushed from their traditional lands over a 500 year period to the /Xam-ka area of the central Cape, so that by the time the European shipping started regularly pulling into bays along the coast, the Khoena in the Western Cape and the Xhosa-Khoena of the Eastern Cape were the indigene Africans whom they met.

In the region of the Zuurveld and down to the Gamtoos River the mixed Xhosa-Gonaqua tribe called the Gqunukwebe lived alongside other independent Gonaqua, Damasqua, Gamtoos and Hoengeyqua. The name Gqunukwebe is exactly the same as Gonaqua in a different dialect.

From the Zuurveld area, the following Khoena tribes who had taken over the /Xam lands in the past 500 years were in place at the time of the first European invasion of the Cape. The Gqunukwebe-Xhosa, (Gonaqua, Hoengeyqua, Damasqua,Gamtoos), Outeniqua, Attaqua, Hessequa, Chainouqua, Cochoqua, Chariguriqua, Goringhaiqua and the Gorachoqua. On the western seaboard there were also the Chariguriqua and the Nama. Later some hybrid clans would develop as the result of warfare. In addition to those tribes/clans who over time merged into the ever changing Gqunukhwebe, seven other Khoi tribes merged into the Xhosa confederation even earlier.

Drifters from the Cochoqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachoqua and Chainouqua who changed their way of life and established a new economy servicing European shipping during the 52 years before Jan van Riebeeck were loosely referred to as the Goringhaicona of Camissa. (Goringhaicona meaning “our kin who have drifted away”).

The formation of  the Camissa traders was highly influenced by a number of them travelling abroad and back – long before van Riebeeck’s arrival. Two of the most prominent were Chief Xhore who visited London in 1613 with the English and Chief Autshumao who visited Java in 1631 with the English who assisted him to establish a servicing settlement. These two men were the real founders of the Port of Cape Town which serviced 1071 ships and over 200 000 European visitors before van Riebeeck. Visits ranged from 3 weeks to 9 months in duration. Without us fully understand the significance of this part of our pre-colonial history we can also never be able to navigate our future. It is in this Camissa experience of a new economy and mode of living among Indigenes and how this was crushed that our understanding of our past is greatly enhanced.

The Goringhaicona were not a tribe….. they were a paradigm shift….. a revolution, that was crushed. But that is a story that I have dealt with elsewhere.

The Khoena or Khoi were the first to encounter the Europeans on the shoreline frontier when their ships dropped anchor in search of meat, water, salt and repair materials. When the European settlers came to stay they were highly reliant on the advanced animal husbandry and pastoral skills of the Cape Khoena whose understanding of sustainable grazing, water conservation and insect-borne diseases was invaluable to the European greenhorn farmers. At the time of the first interactions with the Europeans, the Khoena were very successful livestock farmers with tens of thousands of head of sheep and cattle. Indeed the Khoena had introduced livestock to the Cape.

In the Central Cape mountainous area were the bulk of the /Xam and initially the Europeans steered clear of them. From the moment the VOC started a colony they consciously started a process of forced removals or ethnic cleansing of the Khoena communities from what became the Cape Colony and it took the 176 years – so fierce was the resistance. Those that would not be pacified were forced to flee to the Gariep or to join the amaXhosa resistance in the Eastern Cape.

The Cape Peninsula up to the Hottentots Holland Mountains, down through Paarl and the outskirts of Malmesbury to the West Coast, was by 1720, a virtual Khoena-free zone, so bad was the ethnocide implemented. By the 1865 census there were less than 8% of the 85 000 recorded Khoena (Hottentots) in the whole Colony, living in the Peninsula area. Over 90% of people of colour in this area were recorded as slave descendants and descendants of migrants of colour.

The largest concentrations of Khoena were recorded alongside some of the largest concentrations of Xhosa in the Eastern Cape or in the Northern Cape and the West Coast of the Western Cape and the Karoo and part of Hessequa. Smaller concentrations were in the Overberg.

By the late 1600s the Europeans first encountered the /Xam in warfare when some of the Peninsula Khoena refugees team up with these Cape San to resist the Dutch advance. Increased contact was made after the 1740s as the Europeans in their pushing the Khoena out of the Cape began to encounter more and more /Xam inland. But from the 1770s for 25 years the /Xam valiantly held their own against Dutch-Khoena Commandos. The Commandos were under Dutch leadership but about 60% of these Commandos were pacified Khoena and in this period is when the great genocide slaughter of the ‘First People’ /Xam was at its worst.

The Khoena in the Commandos were instructed to wipe out the adult /Xam. Only a few of the children were spared and taken prisoners and shared out to work on white farms alongside slaves and pacified Khoena. The Khoena Commandos were also allowed to take some of the girls as concubines. Both the European and Khoena Commandos favourite aberration was to cut off the breasts of /Xam women to make leather tobacco pouches.

Much of the 30 000 /Xam community were wiped out, with the survivors moving northward short of the Gariep. There by the mid-1800s the British, Nama, Orlams and the Griquas carried on massacring the /Xam. This is the real tragic story of a genocide with many role-players taking part but largely overseen by the Dutch VOC and the British. This genocide spread from the /Xam victims to wiping out many of the Gariep San too.

It is this fact that makes it painful for the collective surviving San peoples across Southern Africa, when Khoena descendant inappropriately use the term KhoiSan, an anthropological, archaeological and geneticist academic term coined by a German anthropologist in the 1930s. It is adding insult to injury. It also adds insult to injury for any group to assume the title ‘First People’ in the Cape because all were migrants who displaced the /Xam.

Let us now just go back again to the pre-colonial period to see a little bit more closely what occurred in the Eastern Cape with the Khoena. As already noted the earliest original pre-Nguni “Xhosa-Cobuqua” were the first already back as far as the 15th century, feeling some impacts of Mpondomise, Mpondo and Thembu engagement with the “Xhosa-Cobuqua” of the area above the Kei River. Gradually assimilation took place with some Nguni offshoots from the Thembus, Mpinga-Ngwevu, Mpondomise, and the Ntshilibe-Mfene-Vundle Sotho, as well as the Ntlane and Zangwa Mpondo , all joining the mix. This was not a sudden event as some postulate but a gradual drift and engagement long prior to the Mfecane. The Mfecane itself precipitated other impacts on the Xhosa.

A trickle became a greater flow when a game-changer occurred much later. The Nguni domination of the federation of the Xhosa-Cobuqua-Nguni clans began with a fratricidal battle between two royal brothers Cira and Tshawe. The heir to the throne, Cirwa, was defeated when Tshawe called on the Mpondomise to come to his assistance. This led to the initial Nguni domination.

But then Tshawe offered sanctuary to a number of Khoena clans and this again balanced the mix. Expediency had most accepting the new arrangement but those who did not voluntarily accept sanctuary under one Tshawe Kingdom were forced into the Kingdom.

But here we need to backtrack a bit. A mythology was created over time by the victors, that does not stand up to scrutiny. The storyline goes that Tshawe’s father was a great Chief called Nkosiyamntu. This seems more to be a storyline to give credibility to the suggestion of an older direct link to the northern Nguni, than what may factually be the case.  The problem is that there is nobody and no record to verify what the facts may be.

Many people have come up with concoctions about when to date the time of Tshawe and nobody has been able to do so credibly with any accuracy, and again we cannot put an exact date on the Birth of Tshawe and the conflict over succession. The best that one can do is to work backwards from the birth of Togu some time in the mid 1660s to mid 1670s given that the death of  his son Tshiwo kaNgconde was in 1702. He was succeeded by Mdange kaNgconde,  and he was succeeded by Phalo kaTshiwo (king from 1736 – 1775).

Thus if Ngconde kaTogu lets say was born in 1670, then his father Skhomo could have been born between 1640 – 1650 minimum. His father, Ngcwangu, in turn could have been born in the 1620s which then has us looking at the 1580s – 1590s at least being the time of Tshawe’s early years.

In 1736 with the birth of the HOUSE OF PHALO the period of ubuTshawe House (approximately 150 years) had seen lots of changes and the submerging of clans and tribes came to reside under ubuTshawe patronage. Casual dabblers in history do not understand what Tshawe means in its use of conferring royal status. Tshawe and the rule of Tshawe when alive and posthumously had become a synonym for royalty and it remained respected even from the time of the new outstanding stamp on royalty – Phalo.

What people also tend to do is to confuse the development of Kingdoms with history. Before Kingdoms were imposed there were just clans and very little rigidity as every clan was a mix of Khoena, Bantu and even /Xam or !Ga !ne to some extent. The “Kingdoms” ideology was often ahistorical, just like today when people are creating kingdoms from thin air, simply because it may result in a government cheque every month and some land and a grandious title. The Xhosa identity was never hetrogenous as is pointed out by Jeff Peires author of “The House of Phalo”. By King Phalo’s time the practice of confederacy by the Xhosa was sealed.

The following Khoena clans joined the Xhosa Kingdom of ubuTshawe in time – the Ngqosini, Giqwa, Cete, and isiThathu voluntarily joined in accepting the ubuTshawe as a royal confederal umbrella constituting a mixed Xhosa-Khoena Kingdom and the customs and language was a mix of Khoena and SiNtu. By Phalo’s time this was entrenched and Khoi merging into the confederation continued. By Ngcwangu’s time in the mid 17th century Peires makes argument to demonstrate that the Xhosa had political ascendancy over most of the coastal Cape Khoi extending to the fringes of the Cape Peninsula. It is my opinion that this is only adequately demonstrated up to the territory of the Attaqua and Hessequa, and only by with mid 18th century during Phalo’s time, even although the Xhosa enjoyed a special relationship with the Chainoqua.

All of this happened some-time before the first conflictual engagements between the colonists and another tribe known as the Gqunukwebe is recorded when a commando of Europeans rode out of Stellenbosch in 1702 and moved up as far as the Zuurveld to raid cattle and encountered these people.

Who were the Gqunukwebe? After Tshawe’s time and before 1700 one of the Khoena clans (which also had a Sotho mix) – the Ngqosini under Chief Tshiwo revolted against the Xhosa Kingdom and made an alliance with a medicine man Khwane who had quietly built up a small Khoena army in the forests over some time. They were victorious and this is how these Khoena Xhosa joined by a number of Gonaqua Khoena people in the forests, formed the Gqunukwebe, (it actually is Xhosa word for Gonaqua) and became the southernmost Xhosa living alongside the Gonaqua in relative harmony. These were the first so-called Xhosa that the Europeans started raiding cattle from when commandos rode out from Stellenbosch in 1700.

The Gqunukwebe became a melting pot for the Hoengeyqua, Gonaquea, Gamtoos and even Hessequa refugees and Confederation military alliance was forged between them all under the elderly Chief Chungwa and the Khoena Chief Klaas Stuurman, and after his death with Chief David Stuurman. This was of course all in the South of the Eastern Cape.

In the north, the end of the 18th century saw the build up to the Zulu Mfecane which also added to the impacts when other Nguni refugees followed – the Ngwane, Bhele, the Zizi, the Hlubi, the Bhaca, the Qocwa and the Mfengu. The Mfecane at this time was preceded by the extension of the Mthetwa Empire, into which Shaka was born in 1787 in a the minor Zulu clan. All of this took place as the Colonial Conquest of the Eastern Cape began. Just as the VOC Dutch wars were starting in the region and then carried on in tandem with the first few British wars that seized Khoena and Xhosa land, so too by 1811 all hell had broken loose engulfing the Ndwandwe and Mthetwa, and within this fray the minor clan of Zulu under Shaka was becoming popular in Zululand. By 1819 Shaka was in ascendancy and in his short reign until 1828 when he was murdered, having consolidated the Ndwandwe and Mthetwas he finished what the Mthetwa Empire had started by expanding control north, west and south. The impact of this on the Sotho, Mpondomise, Mpondos, Hlubis, Bhaca and others put further pressure on the Xhosa pinned between British war and expansion in the South and the refugee groups and upheaval in the north. Colonial historians presented this very differently by projecting that the Xhosa were an Nguni invasion, and quack psuedo-historians punting 21st century ethno-nationalism through a degree of Khoi fakery present the same colonial and Apartheid history as though it were factual.

When in 1736 the House of Phalo emerged it did so with another fratricidal conflict within the Xhosa Kingdom. Next door to the original Cobuqua-Xhosa pre-Nguni were another powerful Khoena tribe – the Inqua also called the Humcumqua. They made a huge political military mistake in the region when they got involved in taking sides with one brother against the other in the Xhosa conflict. The Inqua took the side of the brother that lost and they were conquered in the process.

The Inqua Chief Hinsati made an alliance with the Xhosa King Gwali and gave him protection against his brother Mdange. The latter defeated the Inqua and installed Phalo as King and then assimilated the Inqua clans – Sukwini, Gqwashu and Nqarwane into the House of Phalo. So thereby another whole Khoena tribe with all its clans simply had a name change. They were Khoena or Khoi who suddenly became part of this by now more than 800 year old ever metamorphosing entity called “Xhosa”.

The House of Phalo also eventually split into two antagonistic tribes – the amaGcaleka of Chief Gqaika and the amaRharhabe of Chief Ndlambe. The Rharabe allied with the Gonaqua and Gqunukwebe against the colonists and Gqaika allied with the colonists against the Xhosa-Khoena Confederacy. Two amazing resistance fighters emerged from this alliance under the Rharhabe – General and Itola, Makhanda known As Nxele, whose mother was Khoena and father Xhosa; and Khoena Chief David Stuurman. Bothe ended up together as prisoners of war on Robben Island and both were in the same escape boat that made it to Bloubergstrand. Makhanda unfortunately drowned when the boat hit the rocks. Chief David Stuurman survived but was banished to Australia as a POW convict.

All of the Khoena tribes from the Zuurveld down into the Cape Peninsula had very strong familial links to the Xhosa, who were in fact to a great degree Khoena themselves as well as part Nguni. In modern times we tend to call all of the people of the Eastern Cape Xhosa and then assume all are Nguni. That is much too simplistic and it also feeds into the “Great Lie” that a Black invasion occurred more or less at the same time as a white invasion, and both are aliens to the Khoena.

From this historical falsehood has grown a false Khoena or Khoi separatism, and also the falsehood that the Khoena or Khoi are the ‘First People’ of the Cape, whereas they were pastoral migrants and only the /Xam were the ‘First People’. Besides everything else the commandos who slaughtered the /Xam were 60% made up of pacified Khoena. The few /Xam surviving the 1780s genocide by the VOC Commandos faced further genocide at the hands of the British and the Griquas in the 1800s.

We really need to hit this nonsense on the head fed by historical quakery. It is all based on notions of superiority indoctrinated among ‘Coloured’ people by the colonists and Apartheid racism and bigotry. Our history as Africans is much more complex and integrated than we want to believe. The evolution and the falling away and recreation of tribal and kingdom identities happened before Colonisation and was exploited to divide our ancestors at that time, just as it is dividing us now. And all sorts of opportunists and racists are climbing on board. There should be no place for racism in any united association of indigenes, and these cannot just be open to those labelled “Coloured” when history shows us that only a third of “Coloured” have Khoena heritage and probably an equal number of those today called “Xhosa” also have Khoena Heritage in the Cape. In the Gariep, Free State and right up to Limpopo and then across to KZN, there are also descendants of the Khoena.

The Cape Khoena heritage is real but it has nothing to do with race, colour, features and geo-location. The story is a lot more complex.

If we want to be true to ourselves and to our ancestors we should proceed cautiously and get to first embrace a non-colonial historical understanding of our roots. We also cannot just be trendy and adopt models from Canada, the USA and Australia.
I believe that in going forward and looking at all the components of our heritage that has been forced under this label “Coloured” we must honestly address the past, and there is much research to consult and everyday new information arises. We cannot neatly separate our indigene heritage which some carry in more weight than others from our Slavery ancestry from Africa, India and Southeast Asia, nor from the many other tributaries of migrants of colour whose descendants too were labelled “Coloured”.

I firmly believe that together we should be in exploration mode least fraudulent charletons and the Zuma State bamboozle us all for their own benefit just like previous regimes have done…. And then our people are betrayed. The dead give-away of the false doctrines floating about is that they are firmly a matter of the age old “DIVIDE & RULE”.

One of our old late stalwarts wished to leave a legacy of understanding that he as someone labelled ‘Coloured’ wanted to claim his African-ness by correction the colonial historical nonsense that created a wall between one indigene African people and another.

This colonial lie of “separateness” needs to be challenged at its roots. One of our late old stalwarts believed that we must be honest and face up to history and write our own pre-colonial narratives. Until we do so this notion of ‘Coloured’ superiority will not die out. We are an African people and will never find our African home and African rights if we keep following the ‘white’ lies. We are an integrated African people and separatism is not the answer to our problems. It is when we truly accept our African heritage in all its wonderful facets, and merge this with our slavery heritage seamlessly as the very blood that flows in our veins – then we will find peace and liberation.

He would say, “We have allowed the Europeans world view to become our world view. It is a common argument of the Europeans that where would Africa and South Africa be if it was not for the Europeans skill and hard work. They shout –look what good colonialism has done for you.” The only way to counter this is to stop believing their half-baked stories and making these our own. Look at the pre-colonial situation with honesty.


ALSO SEE POST UNDER PROFILES: Biography of Krotoa – Click Here

Today, Women’s Day – 9 August 2017, I went to see the Movie KROTOA (!Goro/gõas) the story of a young woman who lived just over three decades straddling the pre-colonial period and the period during which the first Dutch VOC colony was established.

I was sorely disappointed at an opportunity lost for communicating an amazing story of our past to audiences in 21st century South Africa. Back in 1985 an amazing source book was produced by Richard Elphick that stands out from all other literature of the period, but in a less severe way, it makes the same mistake that this movie makes. The title of the book actually says it all. It was entitled – “The KhoiKhoi and the making of White South Africa”. It was a filter-lens of looking at the Khoena or (Khoi) through the preoccupation with “White settlement”.

The movie largely looks at Krotoa or (!Goro/gõas) through the ‘White” filter-lens of an absolutely unauthentic romanticised Commander Jan van Riebeeck and adds into the mix a peculiar scenario projecting her rape by van Riebeeck wherein it projects her as being partly to blame and wanting his carnal attention in a yes-no manner. There is no factual basis that Krotoa was raped by van Riebeeck or had an intimate relationship with him. This storyline is based on speculation in the work of Julia Wells as a source. I believe that Krotoa did suffer abuse and rape probably by a number of officials and one cannot rule out van Riebeeck being one of these but I refuse to accept that her life was shaped by an ambiguous speculative relationship with van Riebeeck in the manner portrayed by the movie. This does not do her justice.

The real obvious child-abuse is papered over by the movie presenting Krotoa older than the years at the beginning of her teens and being ambiguous about her feelings around an artificially “young van Riebeeck” in artificially private spaces in the fort.

As a descendent of the woman identified as Krotoa and well versed in the abuse she suffered in her lifetime this movie was an self-indulgent abuse in itself and misrepresentation of her memory in the present on the part of the director, producers and scripters following the same tired old distortions. Effectively it came across as the same framework of Disney’s Pochontas.

The real facts are so accessible that there is no excuse for the gross non-authenticity. I am well acquainted with artistic license, but what I saw was not artistic license but a very similar approach that the Apartheid Regime took in presenting Jan van Riebeeck and Maria van Riebeeck by using the images from a Netherlands museum. Mr Vermuyden and his mistress Ms Kettering, were cast as Van Riebeeck and wife instead of the real Jan van Riebeeck’s image on our banknotes, schoolbooks, coins and umpteen other uses. This is not okay.

The movie as a low-budget production done in a similar vein and on a similar budget to ”Twelve Years a Slave” is greatly lacking as a professional production, but with one redeeming point – an excellent performance by the actress Crystal-Donna Roberts. Deon Lotz in the role of Roelof de Man in fact would have made a much more authentic and well-acted Jan van Riebeeck whereas Armand Aucamp and his script was just not plausible nor authentic. Marcel van Heerden does a good Commander Wagenaar.

I think that Director Roberta Durrant and scriptwriters Margeret Goldsmid and Kaye Williams let down the story badly. A second plus point was the attempt to use the KhoeKhoegowab language alongside Afrikaans.

Some have argued that the Movie projects a feminist perspective. I do not think that it does, other than portraying a strong character – Krotoa. The feminist perspective does not come out from the couple of instances of playing facilitator in bartering. Her real skillsets and greatness can only come out in the negotiations framed by the diplomatic engagements under war and threat of war which is missing from the movie. Alternatively when giving JvR and other officials perspectives in the complexity of the Indigene world, where according to his journal she played him for a fool. Her role as an interpreter, diplomat and facilitator of her people’s interests behind the VOC lines is what brings out the most amazing characteristics of this young woman in a man’s world.

What is perhaps the second most outrageous element of this movie after the misrepresentation of Jan van Riebeeck and of Krotoa’s relationship with him, the fact that one third of her early life is cut out altogether and part of the last third of her life too.

The story of Kratoa involves very different scenarios in each of the three short decades of her life. She died before she turned 32. The first eleven years of her life must have shaped her in an indelible way, but was not looked at. The movie projects Kratoa as being solely shaped by the van Riebeecks. The second decade of her life is the start of the Movie and is all about Jan van Riebeeck and later van Meerhof’s fictitious relationship with her. It was not about Krotoa. The third and most devastating decade of her life is a sanitisation of the cruelty she was put through by the Europeans and the torment she underwent.

Avoided too is the dominant paradigm in all three decades, of being a child, teen and woman of great substance and independence but dominated as being abandoned into the care or wardship first as ward of her Uncle Autshumao, then ward of Commander Jan van Riebeeck, and then first as ward to her husband van Meerhof (as a kind of mider) and second to the new Governor and Dutch Reformed Church Council.

The name Krotoa or !Gora/goas (mispronounced in the movie) means a “Ward” – a child abandoned into the care of others. Indeed in the end her children (a number of s urviving children) are forcibly removed from her and not immediately in her lifetime sent to Mauritius but given over into the care of a brothel keeper, Barbara Geems. Not even the credits acknowledge the names of her children who like her, become “Wards” and what became of them. The movie is a complete whitewash of how early white settler society collectively treated Krotoa, not just the de Man and Wagenaar.

Let me be subjective for a moment. I was a ward four times over before the age of seven, and until I went out to work aged 15 I remained in different wardships. I grew up with both male and female wards. The one thing I know about being a ward, is by the time you are ten years old you would develop skills that are associated with adults and would be very streetwise. You will more than likely have experienced various types of abuse including sexual abuse particularly under certain circumstances. I cannot project on Krotoa what she must have experienced but I certainly can say that she already was her own person by the time of her encounter with the van Riebeecks and she would have been wise beyond her years and broadly experienced.

The early three settlements are not really projected as they were in Krotoa’s lifetime. Firstly the Europeans projected as gentry were not gentry and mostly not Dutch. Again, a picture painted 200 years later by artist Charles Bell gives an imaginary projection of van Riebeeck’s landing at a forlorn Cape met by startled indigenes who engage with elegantly dressed Dutchmen carrying a flag as though this was the first indigene engagement with Europeans, is imaginery and far off the mark. It contradicts an indigene establishment which had been dealing as port reception for Europeans for a half century already, and an Autshumao who had travelled to and trained in Java and was running a great little port business which the English had assisted him to set up.

Some of van Riebeeck’s men came from the Netherlands, but most were from other countries like Germany, France, Prussia, the Baltic, Belgium, France and Scandinavia. They were a roughneck bunch of mercenaries and not a bunch of pious Dutch gentry. They immediately started fights with indigenes and were a big headache for van Riebeeck. They arrived at the beginning of winter and were rained out in a camp alongside the Goringhaiqua also known as theWatermen of the Camissa trading settlement. Van Riebeeck and family probably patched up and made use of Janszens old structure during the building period while his men camped rough with the Goringhaicona. Jan van Riebeeck spent his first two years undercutting Autshumao and squeezing him out of his very real business with the passing ships of other nationalities.

Van Riebeeck and his successor Wagenaar are both projected as “governors” in the movie, which they were not. They were simply Commanders of a start-up VOC project. Simon van der Stel was the first Governor of the Cape that was resident at the Cape. At van Riebeeck’s time the Governor General of Batavia was the Governor of the Cape. This notion of a Governor at the Cape projects the Fort and settlement in much too grandiose a scenario than it actually was at the time.

Throughout van Riebeeck’s time the fort scenario was a cramped and overcrowded place where JvR and his young, sickly wife, his child and two nieces only had two rooms. There were only two old plough horses available and things were pretty rudimentary. After the Dutch failed to win an outright victory in the frst Indigene-Dutch War horses were imported after van Riebeecks time to develop a cavalry so as to gain superiority in war in the future. In the entire first winter of 4 months the roughneck Europeans spent cheek by jowl at the Camissa River village with Autshumao and his Goringhaiqua community. The van Riebeeck family were the first to move into the fort before the building was completed. After moving into the fort now overlooking the Camissa river van Riebeeck gazed out of the window and he says he saw the forlorn figure of Autshumao sitting encamped outside.

In appearance, age and personality, the 33 year old Jan van Riebeeck (38 by the time of the movie timeline), is grossly misrepresented. Van Riebeeck was a stout, balding, rough-faced, hardened VOC employee from a posting in Vietnam and highly prejudiced against indigenous people. He was not a young fresh-faced naive greenhorn needing egging on by Roelof de Man as projected in the movie. We have a good idea about JvR’s outrageous attitude when comparing his counter-report to the VOC after his 18 day visit to the Cape in 1647 to the main report of Captain Janszens who had spent a year at the Cape and recommended that the Indigenes were great people for developing a partnership with the VOC.

Van Riebeeck was disparaging and as a non-first-hand witness and misrepresented his disparaging view of an incident between some of Janszens men and indigenous people, challenging the (just) manner in which the Captain had dealt with the incident. We also know through van Riebeecks letters to the VOC asking permission to enact two draconian forced removals plans to rid the Peninsular of Indigenes, one of which was developing a concentration camp. The movie falsely projects a soft benevolent man young man who falls in love with Krotoa. The primary texts describe van Ribeeck as a – “fiery-tempered, resolute man, in the prime of life, with perfect health, untiring energy, and unbounded zeal”

Maria van Riebeeck, a sickly young woman who died two years after leaving the Cape, had no less than 8 pregnancies, most of which resulted in miscarriage. She had two children of her own to look after plus two orphaned nieces that had come with her from the Netherlands. They were in two cramped rooms. She hardly would have managed giving personal undivided attention to a child servant , Krotoa.

Krotoa too as a lowly servant shared her cramped quarters with at least two other slave women and three other slave children. The scenario at the fort is badly mis-projected. Maria van Riebeeck is projected as a much older woman of stern demeanour. She was a 22 year old who was constantly pregnant. The created conflict and dialogue of Maria van Riebeeck does not make sense, particularly when she has argument with Krotoa as though Krotoa was a baptised Christian which she was not as a young girl. The misrepresentation of Krotoa in her teens projecting her much more womanly than reality is not authentic.

Now there were momentous happenings at the Table Bay settlement during those years. Krotoa would still have been fascinated with the many, and increasingly so, ships coming into the bay and many people coming ashore. Two things in the first five years of her second decade of life would surely have stood out. The first being the arrival of the two Arabus girls of her own age into the van Riebeeck household as slaves. Krotoa would have been pre-occupied to some degree with the concept of slavery and would have been playmates and a confident of these children. I am also genealogically related to both of the Arabus slave children. Did Krotoa have an opinion or two, a question or two? It’s not mentioned in the movie. Then over 400 children from West Africa arrive as slaves and are sick and starving. They are out in the open as there is no immediate accommodation. Van Riebeeck was highly preoccupied with these slave children. It must have been a traumatic experience for Krotoa and the two Arabus girls. Van Riebeeck gave daily rations of tobacco and alcohol to pacify the children. Is this how he also pacified Krotoa and the other slave children in his household? It is likely that both her alcoholism and a legacy of abuse happened to start while the three girls were quite young and while sedated with liquor. The movie projects a false and groundless trajectory instead of these facts that we know.

The projection of Krotoa as flirtatious and having a crush on Commander van Riebeeck to the extent of showing her as engaging in possible fantasising and stimulating herself sexually after being with van Riebeeck and prior to her rape by the Commander was a really terrible projection that was insulting to her memory and to those who hold her dear today. What on earth were the director and scriptwriters up to. I believe that I was not alone in seeing this as abuse as I have picked up the same shock factor from others who have seen the movie.

The ahistorical twisting of the role and story of Krotoa as consciously making a decision to develop a “middle way” between the Khoena and the Dutch so that they may “find each other” was a gross historical misrepresentation and elevates Krotoa into playing a conscious political role that is not corroborated by history.

Likewise to overly emphasise her conflict with Nommoa (Doman) as more than just two competing interpretors on the same patch and elevating this to a broader belief by the Khoena tribes that she was betraying them is not bourne out by the historical record. This again is a white South Africa overlay.

Krotoa’s running away with her uncle and being chased by van Riebeeck to be brought back to the fort is also misrepresented and instead has her returning of her own accord.

The romantic relationship between Krotoa and Doman is complete fiction. It could have worked as a bit of artistic license if it did not destroy both Doman and Krotoa’s real story. Doman’s leadership of the first Indigene–Dutch War and the war itself is written out of the script and replaced by a story of a dejected love-smitten jilted Doman hanging himself. The real dynamics of the War cast both Krotoa and Doman in a very different light.

Autshumao is also projected in a non authentic manner. Noted for wearing European clothes and running a very business-like trading operation he is treated as primitive barterer for trinkets, whereas the entire conflict is around JvR undercutting the business that Autshumao had taken two decades to build up. Autshumao had five different countries as clients and was offering a wide set of services. For instance the Khoena were known for mining salt which they sold. He probably was also beneficiating the goods that he got from the Dutch in trade, which he then sold to other Khoena and exchanged these for livestock. Autshumao building on the legacy of Xhore before him was a businessman of note. He had run a settlement on Robben Island a decade earlier too before relocating to Camissa on the mainland.

Van Riebeeck states clearly in his journal that both he and Autshumao were highly conscious of Autshumao’s proud role as a trading entrepreneur. He says – “Herrie in the meanwhile, priding himself on having originated the incipient trade…”.

Autshumao was the founder of the Port settlement and had become well off alongside another independent Khoena cattleman Aikinsoa through adept trading, mining of salt, loading fresh water, providing meat, running a postal service and assisting ships with getting repair wood and helping in the care of the sick who were sometimes left behind.

Krotoa’s story should have began by giving a more accurate picture of the relatively busy Port of Table Bay in the 1640s. An average of 3 ships a month were stopping in the bay on their way to Southeast Asia and 2 ships a month returning to Europe. These ships were Dutch, Portuguese, English, French and Danish. Krotoa’s story also is the story of the Goringhaicona – a loose collection of people rather than a tribe. Indigene people who had drifted away from other tribes and established themselves at the Camissa River offering a complex set of services to the passing shipping. They had broken with traditional tribal life and the livestock farming economy. Sone of their community and most likely Krotoa too were born of relationships between Khoena women and passing travellers. This is normal life in all ports. The stereotyping of this community as having complete old tribal customs is also not accurate given the kength of time of interaction with travellers, the change in economy, the frequency of interaction, the numbers interacting and the many lengthy recuperation hosting. This community were at ease with European visitors and their languages and had even taken to some of the habits and dress of the visitors. Table Bay was everything that any other normal port was at that time. It wasn’t just a bunch of primitive people floundering about on windswept beaches project as strandlooper beachbums. Unfortunate both White and revivalist Khoena groups by into this historical overlay that hides the nature of the port development over 50 years.

For over 50 years over one thousand ships had been visiting Table Bay and number of the Indigene community leaders had already gone abroad with the Europeans and returned. From accounts of her appearances Krotoa’s mother may well have conceived her after a relationship with a passing seaman. More than 200 000 visitors had come through the Port. This had to have had a huge impact on the Khoena people who seem to have created a buffer community between themselves and their wealth and the shoreline frontier.

Krotoa as her names suggests (The Ward) grew up in the custody of her Uncle Autshumao who had been to Java with the Europeans, was known to wear European clothing and was an adept leader and trader. His trading community had developed many skills including mining for salt, a sought after commodity by passing ships.

Europeans frequently stayed over at Table Bay for weeks and months at a time. Krotoa was greatly influenced and mentored by her uncle. It is likely that she interacted frequently with the Europeans and probably as an inquisitive and enquiring youngster would spend lots of time among the Europeans and be on lookout duty for new ships arriving and race up to her uncle to inform him. She would have learnt a great deal in her formative years including picking up languages. Her uncle looked after her as a ward, and was her mentor and primary teacher in the 11 years before the van Riebeecks arrived.

Krotoa would have mingled with many European visitors and would not have been afraid of them. In 1647 she would have witnessed the wrecking of the Dutch Ship Harlem and been a regular visitor to the temporary fort established on the seashore by the kindly Captain Janszens and his 60 men who lived there for almost a year. It is likely too that in 1648 she may have seen Jan van Riebeeck on his first homeward bound trip when he stopped off for 18 days at Table Bay.

This formative period in her life where a combination of the rapidly changing tribal culture mixed with European impacts on the lives of the Camissa community of Goringhaicona cannot be ignored, as it always has been by white people projecting Krotoa’s life. It is one third of her life which is boiled down to Krotoa and young Doman chasing each other on the beach in the movie.

Krotoa is likely to have met Van Riebeeck briefly in 1648. Prior to coming to set up the colony when Van Riebeeck visited the Cape in 1647 he wrote a counter-report to the report written on the suitability of setting up a Dutch refreshment station and the approach toward the local population as written by Captain Janszens who had been there for a year.

In his three weeks at Table Bay van Riebeeck schemed and consulted behind his back with some of the disgruntled elements under Captain Janzsens command. Van Riebeeck was already in disgrace with the VOC after being found guilty of cheating the company in Vietnam.

Janszens had taken a conciliatory approach to the Khoena who had attacked a couple of Janszens men with good cause. Janzsens had ruled that his men were in the wrong and in his report he explained why to the VOC. In fact he made a case that after living alongside the indigenes for a year he could recommend that they would make good partners in running the business. Van Riebeeck was a nasty fellow in that he wrote a counter approach with an aggressive attitude towards the indigenes.

This was just the start of a consistent negative and punitive approach. Proof of this is in comparing firstly the two different reports, and then secondly examining correspondence by van Riebeeck to the VOC between 1657 and 1659. In these letters his approach is ultra-aggressive.

He proposed that all the indigenes be lured into an area of Hout Bay after a series of fortified redoubts were built to pen them in, as a kind of concentration camp, from where they would be forced to raise livestock for the company and be prevented from exiting. When the VOC rejected this he and van Goens put forward a proposal to create an island out of the Peninsula by digging and flooding a canal running from False Bay to Table Bay. All the Indigenes would then be expelled to the other side. He set in motion a trajectory of ‘Forced Removals’ or ethnic cleansing as the way forward in building a colony.

By ignoring these important documents and simply looking at van Riebeeck’s journals, many have projected van Riebeeck as a harmless and benevolent character, which just is not true. They have also bought into the falsified characterisation of Autshumato as a primitive beach-bum and vagabond. Then of course there is the great plagerisation issue around the physical characteristics of van Riebeeck where a picture of the handsome younger looking Mr Vermuyden was for many decades presented as though this is what van Riebeeck looked like, rather than using the actual portrait of van Riebeeck. The movie bought into this plagerised view of van Riebeeck.

Fort de Goede Hoop built triumphantly on top of Krotoa’s home settlement at Camissa became the first of three colonies – Table Bay Colony; and by 1657 the first Free Citizens were given land further away, headed by Steven Jansz Botma who formed “Steven’s Colony” which had another little fort called Coornhoop; and then another group of Free Citizens under Harmen Remajenne, set up the Harmans Colony, near the Liesbeeck River.

The Goringhaicona trading settlement represents the more accurate opening scenario of Krotoa’s first 11 years of life. The unfolding of the first of the three small colonies runs alongside the second decade of Krotoa’s life when she became a servant at the fort and after the age of 15 an interpretor. The third decade of her life begins with her patron, van Riebeeck and family leaving for Batavia, her baptism and her marriage. With the latter some artistic license can be taken but personally I see no evidence on this being a Pocohontas love relationship.

It was plainly a control mechanism – a marriage of convenience for Krotoa and a trap set by the company, with van Meerhof taking her to Robben Island, abandoning her and getting killed on the expedition to Madagascar.
Perhaps the Robben Island scenario in the movie was the most authentic in the whole movie but then the movie just falls apart and is drawn to a hasty end by cutting many corners. With the wardship of van Meerhof ended by his death abroad. The events leading to the first banishment to the island is papered over and is the second incarceration.

Krotoa is allowed to come back to the mainland where all her troubles get worse. She had been tucked out of site on Robben Island. There were now many more women and many relationships and gentry were emerging and the VOC officialdom more organised. Shipping stopovers were much more at this point.

Krotoa as widow Mrs Van Meerhof became independent of any ward, temporarily, for the first time. She has a thread running through her life of dependencies and disempowerment through wardship, alcohol and indications of sexual abuse. Her life of ostracization from her special place as a career woman of substance and her being shunned by officialdom and branded and standing out as a free person of colour was a lonely cross to bear.

She got caught up in drinking and being taken advantage of by the transient men in the port. The new Commander and the Dutch Reformed Church council seized her children and put them under the wardship of a brothel keeper Barbara Geems. History seems to have created a falsified story of the children being looked after by van Riebeecks niece. Unfortunately this movie adds to the fictions. Krotoa was again removed from society on the mainland and made a prisoner on Robben Island. The views of foreign visitors on meeting her were contradicted by the venomous views of the VOC officials at the Cape. But is not indicated by the movie.

Krotoa died in 1674. Two of her children did go to Mauritius as wards and another two were absorbed as wards into other local freed slave families. There is no record of offspring of thosechildren. The movie final credits make no mention of the facts of Krotoas descendents and jump inappropriately only to mention three prominent white leaders who never acknowleged their ancestry – Kruger,. Smuts and de Klerk. It was insult added to injury to handle the conclusion of the twisting of this story to be barely recognisable by ending in this manner. In so doing Krotoa remained captured by the Europeans in death.

Thanks to the great work of micro historian Mansell Upham we know the following about Krotoa’s decendents.

Krotoa’s children were Jacobus born c 1661 (father not known) died 1685 on a ship returning him from Mauritius; Pieternella van Meerhof vdk born 1663, married in Mauritius to Daniel Zaaijman from Vlissingen; Salamon baptised 1 Sep 1666 had no known descendents; Jeronimus baptised 23 Nov 1670 (father not known); Anthonij baptised 6 Aug 1673 (father not known but lived with the Guinea slave family Everts) died in the 1713 smallpox epidemic; Pieternella, Salamon, and Jacobus were taken to Mauritius in 1677. Pieternella van die Kaap, later married Daniel Zaaijman from Vlissingen. They had four sons and four daughters. Some of the family moved back to the Cape in 1706 and the others to Batavia.

Descendants of Pieternella married European and freed Slave partners, and in the next generations also married partners from the mixed freed slave and Khoena. Krotoa’s descendants can be traced through four of Petronella’s 8 children, through the Diodata girls in Indonesia, and the Bockelenberg, de Vries and the Zaaiman (Zaayman or Saayman) lines in the Cape. Over time many descendants exist among all national groups in South Africa. This would have been a more fitting ending in the credits than the way the movie handled this.


I am a direct descendent of Krotoa via the following route…. My lineage flows fromPieternella Goringhaicona van Meerhof and Pieter Zaaijman through their son Pieter Zaaijman (bn 1688 in Mauritius) and Anna Maria Koopman (bn 1690) and their son Bartholomeus Zaaiman (bn1717) who was married to Anna van Biljon (bn 1724). Their son Bernadus Lambertus Zaaiman (1752) was married to Gertruyda Johanna Willemse (bn 1752 of slave descent) and were the parents of Bartholomeus Saayman (bn 1781) who married Aletta Johanna Cecelia van der Vyver (bn 1781). Their son Barend Saayman (bn 1810) married Gertruida Willemse (bn c 1815 of slave descent) whose daughter Elizabeth Saayman (bn c 1838) married Jacobus Johannes Mellet (bn 1822) and were the parents of my great grandfather Petrus Francois Mellet (bn 1864) married to my great grandmother of European and slave descent). Through my grandfather also PF Mellet and my grandmother Elsie Petronella le Cordier the family line traces through to Johanna Catherina Mauritz aka Caatje Hottentottin Mauritz Voortman (1700) and two of her daughters. Through both the Zaayman-Willemse lineage and the le Cordier – Mellet lineage Krotoa’s line in my family intersects with Khoena, 26 slave lineages and 19 European lineages. A true mix of the Camissa footprint.

I cherish Krotoa and in terms of my syncretic faith, ancestors play a big role in my life and are engaged in my spiritual life. I have spent a long time trying to get to know Krotoa outside of politics, feminism and whatever other straight-jacket. I have wanted to know the person underneath all the overlays. This movie did not help me and indeed just makes getting to know Krotoa much more harder. I heard that some wish to take this movie and subject school children to its distortions. God forbid. This should never happen.

This has been a harsh critique reflective of a harsh experience of sitting through the movie. It was a great opportunity missed by the people who made the movie.

Nobody can dictate to anyone what they can do or cannot do in terms of how they view the past and project it. But this was foolhardy and insensitive in a time where so much information and resources are available and as it stands it is guaranteed to hurt people and to continue to distort. Nobody owns Krotoa and nobody should own her. People interpret the past in various ways and it is up to us to engage robustly to counter one view with another. My counter is that this movie lacked any semblence of authenticity and was insensitive and in projecting the kind of falsehoods that it did. We cannot operate in a manner which further divides people at this time in history but should simply try to provide information that assists people to explore in this time of exploration. We cannot tell people how to think either, presenting a rigid social and political “truth” that we have latterly constructed by self-proclamation either. The facts as we know it with a minimal amount of artistic license and creativity can easily and dramatically provide for a good movie. This one did not get that formular right in my opinion.

There is such an interesting and monumental story to be told and somehow the bottom of the barrel has been scraped in this production leaving none the wiser to who this amazing woman was, what an amazing period that was and how the events of that time impacted on the rest of the unfolding history and on us today.

I am less convinced that Krotoa was some kind of bridge between two worlds and more inclined to think of her as an amazing character who lived and navigated a paradigm shift brought about by her village emerging to become a port for international shipping, and the consequences and impacts of this on her and her world. She remarkably managed the consequences and impacts by positioning herself skilfully in her amazing though short career as diplomat and interpreter, but got felled in her tracks by misogyny, racism and colonial intent.

I wrote a piece on Krotoa some time ago called “Drawing the longbow in the Fort” which is available on my blogsite. It looks at some of the clues that we get in documents that give us a better picture of the person or shines a little more light on her. The title is a description of van Riebeeck’s view of Krotoa using the slang of their time.

Krotoa – the WARD broke into her own and out of wardship but found that she had to pay a huge an unbearable personal price for being an outspoken woman of colour, an indigene woman, an intellectual – in a European Colonial world of men, whose minds were trapped in a belief in their own fallible supremacy.

HIDDEN FIGURES – Addressing the issue of the missing Khoena (Khoi) in the history books by examining census records Century

THE FACTS OF THE SPREAD OF THE KHOENA ACROSS THE CAPE COLONY IN THE 1865 CENSUS noted as the first professional and comprehensive census. Formal histories propagated argue that the Khoena (Khoi) were wiped out in a smallpox epidemic and is still a popular myth among some who do not know about the 170 years of forced removals and resistance wars.


Of all the census up to 1904 this one most comprehensively records the Khoena and locates them across both the Western District of the Cape Colony and the Eastern District.

In 1891 they dropped the separate ‘Hottentot’ figure in favour of ‘Mixed’ or ‘Coloured’. In 1904 they again record ‘Hottentot’ and thereafter it is just ‘Coloured’ that is recorded. In the 1875 and 1891 Census one can visibly see the drop in the standard of the census particularly around differentiating between Khoena and ‘Coloured’.

However by looking at these figures and most particular the 1865 Census we are able to effectively demolish a number of myths about indigenous people. By 1865 the conditions were better for taking a professional census and adverse reports to the British Parliament by the Indigenous People’s Protection Society in London had put on the pressure to gather more reliable information about the peopling of the Cape Colony up to the Gariep or Orange River. It is also the first census that records the Xhosa population in the Eastern Cape under colonial control.

The census dispels three myths which still underpins Apartheid and Colonial propaganda passing as history.

1)  That the Khoena (Khoi) people were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic or even by the 170 years of ethnic cleansing wars. The census records the widespread existence of Khoena (Khoi) numbering 52 637 in the Western District of the colony and 28 961in the Eastern District, alongside White, ‘Coloured’ and Xhosa communities. That is 81 598 Khoena (Khoi) indigenes whom we were told in our history books had been wiped out by smallpox. These are official census figures which break down town by town across the Cape Colony. WE WERE TOLD BLATANT LIES.

2) Now these figures also demolishes another popular lie that says ‘COLOURED PEOPLE ARE THE DESCENDANTS OF THE KHOENA AND SAN & THE ONLY TRUE DESCENDENTS OF THE “FIRST PEOPLE” OR “FIRST NATION”. The 1865 census clarifies that not all ‘Coloured’ people, or even a majority of ‘Coloured’ people are descendants of Indigenous peoples. The notion of being the “First People” or “First Nation” is also an erroneous one, but let us park that critique for a moment. For both Western and Eastern Districts of the Cape Colony in 1865 it was recorded that there were 81,598 Khoena (Khoi) to 132,655 descendants of slaves, indentured labourers, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour. (38,2% Khoena to 61,8% other).

3) The former figure largely applies to the larger part of the old Cape Colony and to rural localities. For the area of Cape Town, from Cape Point to Koeberg and Durbanville and through to Paarl and the town of Stellenbosch and foothills of the Hottentota Holland Mountains incorporating the Cape Flats which hold the largest numbers of people classified as ‘Coloured’ – the truth is that very few can claim to be Khoena (Khoi) and probably none can claim to be San. In this area less than 10% of people are descendants of Indigenes and it is highly likely that those making such claims are denying their real ancestry and making a false claim. The trend of a drift from rural to urban areas after Proclamation 50 in 1828 had reached its peak and was rapidly decreasing from 9,4% on the Cape Peninsular and surrounds to nearer to 5% by 1904. Even if we said that there would always be a degree of a drift from rural to urban and added a 100% top up to account for error, that would still be 10%, with 90% being descendants of Slaves, Prize Slaves, Indentures and other Migrants of colour. This definitely challenges claims by the urban population of Cape Town through to Stellenbosch and Paarl as being the descendants of indigenous peoples. Of course this does not include all claimants, but the likelihood is that those would be able to prove family movements from rural to urban in the last century plus the 10%. It is also possible for people with no ancestral roots to Indigenous people to find a home in revivalism, but they need to be very careful of making outlandish personal claims. It is for this reason that I always advise groups to make community claims of restorative justice and not personalised claims.

4) A study of the figures showing a close proximity of Khoena to the dispersal of the Xhosa, and the figures of each of these communities and the proximity across the Colony of Slave descendants must put paid to the erroneous “us and them” arguments where Khoena (Khoi) revivalist groups make claims of Xhosa and other being alien invaders of the Lnds of Indigenous Peoples. At a generous interpretation that those among those labelled ‘Coloured’ who can claim to be direct descendants of Khoena Indigenes across the greater Cape colony this would be no more than around 38%. But among the Xhosa people around 20% could make the same claim to be Khoena and San direct descendants. It is therefore conclusive that “coloured” people who may have claims cannot say that they are the only people who can say they are the descendants of Indigenous Peoples. In Town it is even more stark where only 10% can make this claim. In fact there probably is a greater percentage of Xhosa people in Cape Town, than “Coloured” who can make such a claim.

5) Finally the only direct descendants on non-migrant people in the Cape were the Cape San or /Xam who were mercilessly the victims of post-colonial genocide by Europeans and pacified collaborator Khoena (Khoi) rather than at the hands of the Xhosa. The Early Xhosa and Khoena (cousin groupings) lived in relative coexistence with the Cape San in pre-colonial times, even though there was a degree of displacement of the hunter-gatherers by the herder-pastoralists and agriculturalists. A number of signs point to the original Xhosa being a pre-Nguni migrant people who were alongside and integrated with the Khoena migrants who had made their way down from the Kalahari and Limpopo districts to the Gariep, and then migrated through the Eastern Cape and into the Western Cape by the first millennium (100AD) The remains of verified royals in the mixed San, Khoena and Bantu community of the stone walled towns and Kingdom of Mapangubwe, through dna testing are shown to be of San and Khoena origin, but are buried with their golden symbols of royalty in Bantu ritual style. This shows exactly the opposite of a people subjugated by alien invaders. It shows that the San and Khoena were held in high esteem. Everything that we know now about history contradicts the contorted histories and claims of “First People” and “First Nation” and the painting of other Africans as aliens. Our history and heritage is much more integrated and complementary. More accurately the “First People” who track back to a long time prior to any of the different formations to emerge as those we refer to as San, 40 000 years ago, (many of who are extinct groups), and certainly much further back in history than the Khoena who emerged as a social formation 2500 years ago. What is amazing and should be our focus in terms of social history, is what was that very mixed and advanced civilisation that stretches across a few hundred stone city and town sites stretching from Mapangubwe, Great Zimbabwe and Thulamela sites across Southern and South Africa long before colonial incursion of the Europeans. A civilisation where San and Khoena had pride of place and were looked up to by a range of other peoples.

Our history is much more complex than the ethnic short cuts that we take and therefore we should be much more sensitive in how we express ourselves on these matters. These figures below help us to understand where the descendants of Indigenous peoples would be located today and the dispersal and strongest localities of descendants of the Camissa footprint (slaves, prize slaves indentured labourers and other migrants of Colour). Interestingly this census tallies with dna testing in rural and urban communities and also with the historical timeline of events. The identity of the people of greater Cape Town is rooted strongly in the diverse peoples who came here either as slaves or as migrants of colour and who were embraced by early Khoena inhabitants at Table Bay – the people of Camissa.

For a copy of the 1865 census – CLICK HERE;view=1up;seq=7

Over the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries there are few figures for Khoena and San, and by the time reliable figures for Khoena briefly started to be recorded, the San survivors were down to three and then two digit figures as a result of genocidal practices by Europeans and Khoena against the Cape San (/Xam).

Cape Colony 1806 1821
Slaves & Free Blacks 30 200 28 414
Khoena* 18 000 14 739

*In 1806 this broke down to 500 in the greater Swellendam District; 5000 in the very large greater Stellenbosch District; 8 947 in the Gamtoos and Graaff Reinette District; and others scattered along the Western Frontier. The Khoena are noted as ‘Baster Hottentot’.  In 1821 the figure provided is the combination of adult pacified Khoena and Khoena plus a small number of captive San children who were recorded as Apprentices.

Western  District Cape Colony 1865 1875 1891 1904
‘Coloured’* 69 139 70 010 166 300 161 269
Khoena ** 52 637 50 637 ——–   30 624

*‘Coloured’ = People of the Camissa Footprint (Slaves, Prise Slaves, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour. From 1875 inclusive of separate figure artificially created for ‘Malays’)

** Khoena (Khoi) are noted in census as ‘Hottentot’. In 1891 Khoena are not noted separately, but in 1904 they are noted separately for the last time. Also included from 1904 are all of the African indentured labourers and former African slaves known as Masbiekers.

In 1865 the population of the Cape Town Municipality:
White 15,118 4,600 born in Europe
Coloured 12,451 Former Slaves, Prize Slaves, Indentured labour –  their descendants

536 born elsewhere

Khoena 628 Noted  as ‘Hottentot’
Black 274 Noted as ‘Kaffirs’
In 1865 the population of other parts of Cape Peninsular/Koeberg,/Tygerberg/Blouberg/Durbanville:
White 9,748
Coloured 8,540 Former Slaves, Prize Slaves, Indentured labour –  their descendants
Khoena 1,452 Noted  as ‘Hottentot’
Black 497 Noted as ‘Kaffirs’

Out of 22,981 people later to be categorised in future census as ‘Coloured’ in the greater Cape Town areas up to but not including Malmesbury in the West and Stellenbosch in the east only 2080 were recorded as ‘Hottentot’   now noted as Khoena (Khoi)

In Stellenbosch and Paarl the figure for ‘Coloured’ was 14,610 and or Khoena(Khoi) it was 550.

The overall total for the Western Division of the Cape Colony however shows 69,139 ‘Coloured’ to 52,637 Khoena (Khoi) and shows the spread from Malmesbury and Piketberg  to Namaqualand on the West and to the extremities of George, Knysna Oudshoorn and Mossel Bay in the East, giving a breakdown for 20 districts that made up the then Western Cape.

Thus for the Western and Northern Cape the largest numbers of Khoena/Khoi are found in the rural districts.

The figures in the Greater Cape Town, Cape Flats and surrounds right through to and including Paarl and Stellenbosch is  really quite a small figure. There were 33, 961 descendants of slaves, indentured labourers, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour, compared to 3,630 Khoena (Khoi). Ie: 90.4%  other as compared to 9.6% Khoena.

In the areas outside of the Cape Town, Paarl and Stellenbosch arena there are 58% Khoena (Khoi) to 41,5% ‘descendants of slaves, indentured labourers, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour,

In the Eastern District of the old Cape Colony for both rural and urban districts there were 28,961 Khoena (Khoi) to 63,516 descendants of slaves, indentured labourers, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour.  (31,2% Khoena to 68,8% other)

For both Western and Eastern Districts of the Cape Colony in 1865 it was recorded that there were 81,598 Khoena (Khoi) to 132,655 descendants of slaves, indentured labourers, Free Blacks and other migrants of colour. (38,2% Khoena to 61,8% other)

Those making wild claims and claiming emphatically that they are the true descendants of the Khoena and San are challenged by these facts which suggest that most (not all) making such claims in the urban are unlikely to have any Khoena or San roots. Those who claim equally erroneously that the Khoena (Khoi) were wiped out also need to go back and revisit the distortions that they have been exposed to.

So where do we have to look for the concentrations of people who do have the strongest claims to Khoena (Khoi) ancestry?

The largest concentrations of Khoena (between 2000 – 5000 per locality) in the Western and Northern localities of the old Cape Colony are in Malmesbury, Clanwilliam, Namaqualand, Frazerberg, Calvinia, Caledon, Swellendam, Riversdale George, Oudshoorn. There are a further ten localities where there were between a few hundred to over 1000 at the time of the census. The largest concentrations are as follows: Namaqualand (5019); Oudshoorn (4846); Malmesbury (4083); Clanwilliam (3991); Riversdale (3845);George (3138).

The largest concentrations of Khoena in the Eastern District of the old Cape Colony was in Humansdorp, Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, Alexandria, Albany, Bathurst, Peddie, Victoria East, Stockenstrom, Fort Beaufort, Beford, Cradock, Middleberg, Graaff Reinette, Murraysberg, Richmond, Hopetown, Colesberg, Albert, Aliwal North, Queenstown. Each of these have sub-localities too. The largest concentrations of Khoena (Khoi) in the eastern District was Uitenhage (3810); Graaff Reinette (2772); Stockenstrom (2205); Colesberg (2054). The large Khoena numerics are all in areas where there were a large Xhosa and ‘Coloured’ numeric recorded too. The Western District by far had more Khoena than the Eastern District, but in the largest concentration of those labelled ‘Coloured’ there were negligible numbers of Khoena – namely Cape town from Cape point to the Hottentots Holland through to Paarl and through to Koeberg.

What is particularly disconcerting in going back to look at these fascinating primary source documents, is that nobody has used a comparative study of census records to refute an obvious set of lies put into the public domain by colonial academia.

While at some levels this challenges the irresponsible and crude element in Khoena revivalism, it does however strengthen the arguments of the more responsible elements. But to all within the revivalism sector there has to be some rethinking about some wild claims and antagonisms expressed. In another article that I will still post, I will look at the international organisations fighting for indigene rights who have been supportive to indigene and indigene revivalist movements in South Africa. In my opinion if the revivalist movements in South Africa continue to travel down an insulting, non-authentic  and racist road, these organisations will cut their ties and support. In my forthcoming article I will share the cornerstones of their support and show that many here are breaching these indefensible tenets of the Indigenous People’s movements by deviant behaviours.

Khoena Revivalism if properly self-managed can for many be a liberation experience. One Khoena Revivalist movement has existed for over 200 years – namely the Griqua who at that time were faced with all the same questions that people face today. Their form of revivalism was not fractured into many splinters as is todaty’s movement and much could be learnt from their trajectory…. Both from the one serious split that occurred and from some other negatives, but also from the many positives that they have experienced over the years. Personally revivalism of ethnic groups is not the choice that I would make, but I can respect it as a legitimate choice for many. I would encourage others to also see that while for the majority of us this is not the way forward, to please also show respect to those make this choice. To those who have made this choice I would encourage authenticity in revivalism and oppose ludicrous claims and racist attitudes. This will only retard your forward movement and result in losing support at home and within the international movement in support of Indigenous people. All Africans in South Africa are indigenous people. The difference between others and the san, Korana, Nama, Griqua and Revivalist Khoena is that these face marginalisation and discrimination as indigenous groups. It would be good if all of the two sides of the divide respect this, because this is the grounds for international support.


Almost 200 years ago a figure very much similar to Nelson Mandela died in an escape bid of prisoners from Robben Island when he perished in the sea just off Blobergstrand not far from where I live.

Descriptions of Makana (also sometimes spelt Makhanda) and stories of him, even those written by his enemies describe him in the same glowing and respectful accolades that today are presented about Nelson Mandela. His life followed a very similar trajectory too. Makana’s War was the 5th of nine amaXhosa Resistance Wars in the Eastern Cape and was the last of the 15 Khoena and San Wars of Resistance of the then defined Cape Colony.

Makana the great resistance warrior and prophet was brought to Camissa (Cape Town) as a prisoner of war and incarcerated on Robben Island. The warrior-prophet Makhana carried both the heritage and tradition of his Khoena mother and his amaXhosa father. He was born of a Khoena woman and died amongst his Khoena kin when Chief David Stuurman’s escape boat capsized in the waves. As much as Makana is a hero of the Eastern Cape amaXhosa he is a hero of the Khoena of Camissa (Cape Town). His lifetime friend and fellow resister made it to shore but was later captured and exiled to Australia. It was David’s second successful escape from Robben Island – the only man to have done so successfully.

In 1980 in an ANC guerrilla camp of Umkhonto we Sizwe at Quibaxe in war-torn Angola an MK guerrilla soldier Barry Gilder alias Jimmy Wilson, guitar in hand, belted out a popular song and the other combatants sang along with the chorus…..

“Two centuries before this one; In Africa’s southern lands
A war was just beginning, that would put blood on many hands….
Every struggle has its heroes – this song is about just one
Makana of the Xhosa, who drowned off Bloubergstrand

Swim Makana, swim Makana, swim Makana, swim
On the shore where we wait, our children go thin
Come Makana, come Makana, come Makana, come

I hear you, said Makana, to the voices in his head
But the water’s growing higher now, I am as good as dead
New people will come to lead you, and many will die
Before the spirit of Makana will at last be home and dry….

Makana, the powerful spiritual leader, an ‘Itola’ who arose from humble roots to lead his soldiers 200 years ago in the attack on Grahamstown, and who drowned in an amazing mass escape from Robben Island imprisonment, still commanded the hearts of his soldiering people in the same drawn out anti-colonial resistance struggle of the latter 20th century.

James Read the missionary described him as: “a stout and handsome man, who commands respect.”

British soldiers said of him, “we were surprised at his lofty demeanour and appearance.”

John Campbell the missionary described him as “a fine figure of a man, measuring six feet and two inches in height and had many marks of old cuts, or wounds, on different parts of his body, especially behind his shoulders. He had a kind of tattooing in the form of a cross, under his breast.”

The writer Charles Lennox Stretch described him as “adorned with “bracelets made of coarse hair which hung from his arms, but he especially valued his ivory arm-band, the insignia of a very great man amongst the amaXhosa.” Stretch also estimated Makana’s height to be six foot and four inches.

In his work ‘Frontiers – The epic of South Africa’s creation and the tragedy of the Xhosa people’ Noel Mostert draws on all of these descriptions of Makana when he said, “he had … forceful presence and physical impact. He stood six foot six, and was stout and handsome. His demeanour was reserved, solemn and abstracted. He impressed all who came in contact with him by his dignity …”

These are all very familiar descriptions of Nelson Mandela, the leader and national hero of our times.

The man thus described also had a number of names and much mystique surrounded him. Two centuries later his name still commands awe and respect. Makana, (also written and pronounced as Makhanda), was also known as Lynx, and Nxele (the ‘left-handed one’). Perhaps the name Lynx was derived from an Anglicisation of the Dutch word ‘links’ meaning ‘left’ referring to Makana’s left-handed disposition or perhaps it was from the stealthy Cape Caracal wildcat with its lynx-like looks and sometimes apparition-like sudden appearances as if from nowhere. Like the Caracal, Makana was also given to wandering around in the wilds, often deep in contemplation.


Makana is said to have been born somewhere along the Qhagqiwa river (Swartkops river) near to Uitenhage. His father was an amaXhosa man by the name of Gwala from the amaCwerha clan and his mother was a Khoena (Khoi) woman of the Gonaqua clan. The people of this area of the Eastern Cape were strongly rooted in a mix of amaXhosa and a number of Khoena clans with longstanding roots in the district – the Gonaqua, Hoengeiqua, Inqua and others, and one cannot always easily separate out the two cultural streams that merged in the south eastern Cape. Today the amaXhosa have as much claim to Khoena and San roots as do people labelled “Cloured” yet the latter reject any association with their amaXhosa cousins.

The date of birth of Makana cannot be pin-pointed with accuracy, but if one works from the time that Makana said he held discussions with Dr Johnnes van der Kemp, an equally fascinating rebel missionary from the Netherlands, and was in a position to present him with a cow around 1800 as a young man then his birth would date circa 1780. Long before Dr van der Kemp launched his missionary work amongst the Khoena and later established the mission at Bethelsdorp, he first spent a year amongst the amaXhosa, being the first missionary to do so. Unlike other missionaries van der Kemp discarded his European dress and wore similar garments to his African brothers and his theology to was highly influenced by indigene perspectives. This resulted in rejection and ridicule by the colonists who were also enraged at his defence of indigenes and his rejection of slavery. It is during this period when van der Kemp first was in contact with the southernmost amaXhosa that Makana says he met him.

Makana’s father Gwala died when he was a young boy and thus he was brought up by his mother and came under a strong Gonaqua traditional influence. She had a reputation as a spiritual diviner and medicine woman. Makana’s persona as one later to be recognised as an ‘inyanga’ was rooted in the early guidance of his mother and in his Gonaqua roots. The amaXhosa also particularly held the Khoena and San spiritual guides in high esteem. This traces far back to the old Mapangube Kingdom going back to the tenth century where the mixed Khoena-San-Bantu community were governed by the only verifiable Khoena and San Royalty (as per dna testing of two royals buried per Bantu custom but having dna matching Khoena and San. No other evidence exists that Khoena and San south of Mapagubwe ever had royals, other than colonials temporarily labelling some as such for mischievous ends.

Makana’s mother’s influence held sway largely in his formative years and early teens. Thereafter the broader mixed amaXhosa-Khoena society of the Gqunukwebe (Gonaqakhwebe) community, and then the Rharhabe Xhosa and other influences around him would dominate his life. Makana grew up in a period where there was much fluidity within the Zuurveld and the FishRiver areas with constant mobility over fairly wide distances. Another display of his Khoena roots was Makana’s tendency to wander around and to spend much time in the bush away from human settlements.

Life was punctuated by one dramatic event after the other in the region and traditions were assaulted and open to remoulding. There also was a great mixing amongst amaXhosa, Khoena, missionaries, runaway slaves known as Drosters, Boers and later the British in South Eastern Cape. This turbulent period would have a tremendous influence on the young man. When his father died, Makana’s mother took him and his siblings to the FishRiverValley where they lived with his foster father Balala in the vicinity of what was to become Glenmore.

Here Makana was schooled in the traditions of the amaXhosa and their traditional leaders. As a commoner he found his way into the presence of the royal leaders and their advisers, rapidly rising to becoming an advisor, an appointed chief and military commander. During his days as a wandering preacher an incident had occurred where he came under assault from a gang of detractors and was rescued by one of Chief Ndlambe’s councillors Qalanga. It was this patron who introduced Makana to the great royal chief and one time regent of the Rharhabe, Ndlambe who first conferred upon Makana the special status that launched his resistance career.

Makana’s spiritual calling and reputation was the key to providing the means for this social mobility. The captivating message of the missionaries and the advantages that they offered also meant that any inter-locater between the missionaries or their message and the chiefs, would also build a degree of power and influence.

A number of such inter-locators emerged over the years, the most important of these being Ntsikana and Makana who soon became rivals. Ntsikana, represented a strong bias towards the missionaries and the purity of their message which effectively was useful to colonial interests. Makana on the other hand crafted his Christian message to synchronise with the interests of his traditional society in a form of Liberation Theology. In taking the latter role Makana was to become demonised by the mainstream missionaries, their inter-locaters and converts and, much of what he stood for was distorted over time. Ntsikana became strongly associated with Chief Ngqika who would play a collaborator role and Makana with Chief Ndlambe and the amaXhosa resistance.


Much of the writing to which any researcher will turn, involves a litany of statements, maligning Makana and painting him as a lunatic and trickster. Modern writing often simply reflects this image, not stopping to question that much of mainstream writing reflects the views of his opponents and their opposition to African traditional belief systems and a culture that they believed to be uncivilised and evil.

There are however a number of other researchers and evaluators of Makana who present a different picture. In most recent literature Max du Preez presents Makana as one of the ‘tricksters’ and curiosities of history based largely on the first school of writers who range from the biased missionary and colonial commentators to those who first begin to break with this tradition. Even although he frames his story based on these writings, du Preez however still pauses momentarily to cast some questioning of the claims that Makana was a madman.

In contrast, Julia Wells in her work which more thoroughly explores Makana, the legend and the man, she opens her readers up to those particularly amongst black researchers and commentators who view Makana differently and also offers her own unique and refreshing perspectives.

Particularly in times of conflict, even a cursory glance at world history will reflect a degree of the “barmy” in any of the most prominent leaders on the global stage. In South Africa in the conflicts of the 1800s Sir Harry Smith may well be described as being “as mad as a March hare”, but history does not project this as his defining characteristic in the same manner as it does when it comes to portraying Makana as having a touch of lunacy and being a trickster. Colonial history in South Africa often maligns opponents of colonial expansion.


Makana, well known for his enquiring mind and for matters spiritual, was influenced to a degree by his contact with particular missionaries such as the Dr van der Kemp of the London Missionary Society. Dr van der Kemp was also considered eccentric and had a reputation amongst his European detractors for his respect for African traditions and in his having strong non-conformist millennial theological leanings.

Dr Johannes Theodorus Van Der Kemp established himself in the region in 1799 when he first went to live amongst the amaXhosa. He later built up a missionary settlement on the little Swartkops River which became known as Bethelsdorp. It is likely that he first met Makana at the time when he inter-acted with Ngqika and Ndlambe. It is interesting to note that Dr van der Kemp was a latter day convert to the missionary calling and had formerly also been a soldier. This soldier-prophet concept would not have been lost on Makana. Dr van der Kemp was an abolitionist and a harsh critic of the colonial authorities and the cruelty of the Boer frontiersmen. All of these things would have fascinated the mind of Makana who always spoke highly of van der Kemp.

But Makana has over the years often been overly associated with the missionary millenarian tradition to such a degree that it clouded evaluation of his role in the resistance to colonial expansionism. Julia Wells in her work on Makana sounds a caution that we should not look at Makana as simply being a half-finished product of the missionaries but be bold enough to look at him as a self-made man.


Evaluation of Makana’s role in history was largely cultivated by his Christian detractors and by propagandists justifying the British conquest of the peoples of the Eastern Cape and their genocidal and scorched earth practices while twisting the causes for the wars that raged through the region for over 100 years.
Makana’s beliefs are misrepresented as a mix of witchcraft, exploitation, abuse of religion, manipulation and the irresponsible duping of his people. Many myths, untruths and distortion overlay the evaluation of his life, which later researchers have challenged. Much of the derogatory assessment arises from contestation by Christian contemporaries where a debate, which still rages two centuries later, took the form of so-called civilisation versus backward heathenism, or European notions of culture versus perceived African backwardness. A range of respected researchers effectively counter the colonial smearing of Makana.

This defamation streak unfortunately smothered and covered up a campaign of conquest accompanied by violence against Africans which adopted genocide proportions, including naked land grabbing and the subjugation of the amaXhosa by a powerful British imperial force. By painting Makana as a false-Christian and a barbaric threat to the civilising mission, his role as freedom fighter and champion of justice, was effectively covered up. It has much parallel with the white South African smearing of Mandela and their opponents as being terrorists – something that even those among the white ‘opposition’ parties in the Apartheid era also expressed even while contradictorily championing Mandela and other political prisoners human rights. Opposition party leaders branded Mandela a terrorist but differed only from the National Party Regime when they said that nonetheless his human rights must be respected as a prisoner while at the same time saying that he held the key to his own freedom if he would only renounce “Armed Struggle”. Makana faced these same contradiction from the colonial authorities in his day.

In the first two decades of the 19th century during this intense period of the British assault on the amaXhosa, which was rooted in the earlier Boer vs amaXhosa and the long history of wars against the San and Khoen that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the Western Cape of all Khoena and San tribes. The conflicts in the Zuurveld arena of war first began in the decade before his birth and it is from this arena that Makana made an indelible mark on resistance history. He stood out as occupying the position of ‘Itola’ where he was recognised as being both a spiritual and military leader in service of Ndlambe, the one time regent of the Rharhabe, one of the highest of the traditional leaders in the region.

This was remarkable because the fact was that Makana was a mere commoner who rose to this role from amongst the lower echelons of society. He was not born a Chief nor a Royal. Julia Wells points out that the traditional role of ‘Itola’ amongst ‘Inyangas’ was never really understood by historians evaluating the life of Makana. At best it was seen as a ‘war-doctor’ or ‘warrior-priest’. But by the time of his death, Makana was held in similar esteem as any of the royals of his time, though not a royal nor heredity chief.

History shows him to have been both a pioneer of the independent African Christian tradition and a traditionalist. The huge following of African Independent Churches such as the ZCC and others today are accepted as a normal part of modern South Africa, but in Makana’s time he was portrayed as demented and as a blasphemer because of his early Africanist challenge to mainstream European missionary defined Christianity.

Makana was highly attuned to the inter-connectivity of everything in life, animate and inanimate, the elements, fortunes and afflictions, to the human spirit. The human spirit too was inter-connected to the ancestral spirits, and the ancestral spirits provide access to Qamata or Thixo, in which all things seen and unseen found union. Makana challenged both the European Christian message and the amaXhosa traditional belief system by referring differently to the almighty, as Mdalidipho and used the name Taay for Jesus. He spoke of having a special personal relationship with Taay whom he referred to as his brother.

Makana’s spiritual awareness struck everyone who met him and was commented upon by the missionaries as being striking, but his special gift was the manner in which he could inspire others to follow a spiritual path which was not simply ‘other-worldly’ but which could be applied to the struggles of their lives in the here and now.

In the face of the colonial onslaught Makana provided hope and a sense that the power of the nation could be mustered to counter attack an evil that had befallen his people. Everything that we know about Makana suggests that he held awareness that the Khoena and amaXhosa faced a major crossroads in time and that the new challenge of British colonialism was the greatest challenge ever faced by his people. It is recorded that many attested to Makana having the prophetic gift of being able to see future events and the gift of healing.


At some stage in his early youth Makana had also regularly come into contact with Boers on their farms and perhaps had even briefly worked on a Boer farm. He was known to have had a strong understanding of Christianity and white culture even before his later contact with missionaries not so much as a result of having been taught but rather gained through interaction and experience. The term Christian and Boer, were at this time both used as an almost ethnic group term, for Europeans, by them and by the Africans. In itself this was problematic for those at the receiving end of proselytization because where did this leave the black convert?

Makana furthermore had first-hand knowledge of the mistreatment of black people by the Boer farmers, the Christians, who wanted black people to accept their Christian message but not to have equality with the white man. Makana had a deep sense of justice and injustice which he recognised in Christian teaching but at the same time could see great contradictions between these teachings and the Boers who had adopted the term Christian as a kind of ethnic identity. In the British he saw another face of Christianity where this powerful military force saw their imperial majesty almost as the representative of Christ on earth. Makana could see that politics, military action and religion had a special and powerful relationship. He sought to apply this same formula of a relationship between the political, military and spiritual, to amaXhosa resistance and advancement.

Makana and all of the amaXhosa had a clear understanding that the British and the Dutch before them were seeking to take their land from them. From the late 1760s when the Boer trek farmers started moving into their lands until the brutal expulsion of the Gqnukwebe and other amaXhosa from the Zuurveld in 1812, the Europeans had made it clear that they coveted the amaXhosa territory.

Makana was known to wrestle with these issues and had begun to weave a syncretised union of some elements of the Christian faith with traditional African belief systems. This may have indeed been the best way that he could see of immunising his people to what he recognised as the beguiling and disarming message of the missionary advance guard of British imperialism, while at the same time taking advantage of some of the very real benefits to be had by engaging with the missionaries and at least part of their message.

Makana was astute in being able to distinguish that there were very different schools of thought between different missionaries, showing respect for the teachings of Dr van der Kemp in particular. He further went out of his way to engage with a wide range of others, particularly the Military Chaplain van der Lingen, in Grahamstown. The latter interactions are particularly interesting in that some may well characterise Makana as the Military Chaplain of the amaXhosa.

Makana may have been one of the first indigene proponents of African liberation theology and black consciousness. At one stage in his life he practiced a quasi-indigenous form of evangelism which had the missionary James Read impressed, bemused and befuddled all at the same time.

As such he was the one to take the gospel (albeit according to Makana) to Chief Ndlambe and his people. He did this in a manner which literally assumed the roles of John the Baptist, Jesus the preacher and Saint Paul where he acted out the message and did not simply convey it as a detached messenger. Makana’s African style of bringing across the message of Christianity incensed the European church who saw it at best as a false Messianic enactment and at worst as blasphemous. This is a very similar reaction to the spread of Voudoun, Santeria and Dukun through the colonial world of the Americas and Caribbean where Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths such as Islam were over-laid with elements of African and Eastern animist belief systems as a result of the African and Asian diaspora brought about by the slave trade.


Makanda was not the only unusual commoner of his time to engage as an advisor to the chiefs. Hermanus Ngxukumeshe Matroos the son of a slave who had sought refuge amongst the amaXhosa and free-Khoena later also rose to the rank of adviser and military leader. Likewise, the rebel Boer non-conformist Coenraad de Buys who had as one of his many wives, the mother of Chief Ngqika, had also risen to the role of adviser. There was further, a number of Khoena leaders who would interact with and ultimately share a fate with Makana in being imprisoned together on Robben Island – amongst these namely, Khoena Chief David Stuurman and fellow combatant in the Khoena Confederacy, Hans Trompetter. Makana had one of Trompetter’s sisters as a wife. These relationships between Makana and resistance contemporaries were complex. There was none of this modern day antagonism between Khoena (Khoi) and San which is a perversion of history.

There were also a number of white rebels who made common cause with the amaXhosa and rebel Khoena in the region too. Besides the already mentioned de Buys, there were men such as the German, Klaas Liebenberg, Irishman MacDaniel, and Boers – Bezuidenhout and Faber. Makana was held in high esteem by all of these.

The unfolding drama of the Zuurveld conflict and the successor frontier wars threw Makana into the role of warrior leader amongst other notable warrior leaders. They all graduated from lower level resistance conflict with the Boers to having to stand up against the full might of the British Empire as the invaders implemented a scorched earth approach to establishing control over the whole of South and Southern Africa.

Makana however stood shoulders above all in that he led a full frontal attack by 10 000 warriors on the British garrison town of Grahamstown. It had all of the hallmarks of a major military battle from its early espionage and intelligence gathering to its planning and implementation. It was also both a symbolic target and a military target. If Grahamstown had been successfully seized by the amaXhosa the course of history may have been very different.

Grahamstown was named after the man considered by the amaXhosa to be the butcher of the Zuurveld, Colonel John Graham. He had arrived in the Zuurveld in 1809 and launched the scorched earth campaign of genocide proportions in the region with gusto and great brutality. Under orders of Lord Caledon, with massacre and destruction, he blazed a path through the Zuurveld wiping out and pushing back all amaXhosa in his path, even those working on white farms. Orders were given to shoot any Xhosa person on sight and by 1812 he had succeeded, where each of the previous three frontier conflicts with the Dutch had led to failure by the authorities to halt the expulsions of Boers from the area by the amaXhosa.

The battle of Grahamstown was thus highly symbolic and offered an opportunity to literally ‘do a Colonel Graham’ on the British.

The South Eastern Cape Zuurveld had been argued by the Europeans to have been an ‘empty land’ – an argument which in modern times evaluation of the facts is easily proven to have been a popular historical untruth. Stellenbosch based commandos had done sorties as early as 1702 into the South Eastern Cape region and come across amaXhosa long before the trek Boers. AmaXhosa oral history tells us that the Imidangwe clan lived around Graaf-Reinette before 1700. In the 18th century long before the trek Boers arrived the Kucha and Ntinde clans entered into an agreement with Chief Gola of the Gonaqua Khoena where they purchased the area between the Fish and the Sundays rivers for 800 head of cattle which the Gonaqua then took to Bruintjies Hoogte. It was these Gonaqua here at Bruintjies Hoogte that were the first to receive the onslaught of trek Boer incursions. When the first Boers started arriving in the Zuurveld around 1770 its mixed Khoena-amaXhosa inhabitants lived with them in peaceful coexistence. But then more and more arrived and they started to want to lay down their rules. The Indigene inhabitants also disapprovingly witnessed how they treated their slaves and pacified Khoena labourers on their farms. Furthermore they were using Indigene labourers who were not properly rewarded and they did not respect indigene grazing rights for cattle and indeed coveted their cattle.

The first approach of the amaXhosa was to use their traditional method of cattle reeving to caution and punish the Boer farmers for their transgressions. This entailed stealing cattle through raids and then returning it in a show of strength as to establish who was in charge. When this failed the amaXhosa took to expelling the Boers from the area at different periods and going to war, where after negotiated treaties established frameworks of rules. These became known as the first three frontier wars of resistance. In all the Khoena and amaXhosa de facto won the day. The colonist farmers did not have the mass professional soldier and cavalry advantage that would come later with the British. It was those advantage that would be the game-changer.

In 1799 Chief Nlambe led a mass movement into the Zuurveld to join his resident brother Mnyaluza to strengthen his hand. In coming together to make a stand they also joined up with a revolt by the southern Gqunukwebe (the mixed amaXhosa –Khoena) and the Khoena Confederacy under Klaas Stuurman of the Gonaqua Khoena of the Gamtoos who had been forced into slave labour conditions and brutalised by the Boer farmers. The amaXhosa clans and Khoena joined forces to expel the Boers from the Zuurveld in the third Frontier war of Resistance and were largely successful in this endeavour against the weakened Dutch and the temporary occupying British government troops. Many runaway slaves given sanctuary by the amaXhosa also participated in this resistance.

The period 1800 to 1809 was a time when Makana prospered and earned respect as a leading figure amongst the amaXhosa. Allied to Chief Ndlambe, this was the learning ground for the young prophet Makana who was emerging as an important advisor to the Chief and one who was in turn influenced by other warrior contemporaries in times of war. From 1807 to 1810 Ndlambe had a relatively free reign in the Zuurveld after Ngqika had been defeated in the Thuthula civil war. Makana made his full transition to prophet-warrior during the period from 1811 to 1812 when he bore witness to the brutal wresting of the lands of the amaXhosa from them by Colonel Graham’s troops.

Ndlambe and his people were impoverished by the scorched earth campaign by Colonel Graham and driven out of the Zuurveld to east of the Fish River to become completely reliant on King Ngqika.

At this time after the war, Makana held a mass ceremonial cleansing service and traditional slaughter of cattle on the beach at Gompo Rock near today’s East London, where he called on the people to reconnect with their ancestors so that the dead may arise to infuse their spirit of resistance with new life at this most terrible moment in the history of the amaXhosa. The nature of this traditional ceremony was greatly distorted by missionaries and colonial commentators.


The character of Makana was also moulded by his experiences in being caught up in the civil conflict within the Rharhabe amaXhosa. Like any large family the Rharhabe had its own inner family disputes. In a complex extended family such as the royal family with its many structures and subjects scattered over a wide area, family disputes were easily able to descend into broader civil conflicts. The complexity of the regional environment and new social forces in the midst of the Rharhabe contributed to escalating disputes and conflicts which well may have otherwise died down quickly. Social change within the Rharhabe and broader amaXhosa society was a further contributor to civil conflicts becoming drawn out. The principal characters in the conflict were Chief Ndlambe and King Ngqika.

Like most family disputes there were ebbs and flows in the Rharhabe disputes with relatives and counsellors coming in from the wings to put out the fires. At times Ngqika was in ascendency and at other times Ndlambe was on top, with each having very low points at different stages. Over time ‘blood is thicker than water’ and what at one time may seem insurmountable, at another, a resolution was able to be found. Even at the height of their conflict, stepfather and uncle Ndlambe, and stepson and nephew Ngqika, there was always an awareness of being part of the same royal family and communications remained open. Ndlambe was not just Ngqika’s father’s brother, he was also stepfather to Ngqika because Ndlambe had taken his brother’s wife a his own. Perhaps these dynamics also played itself out with Ngqika being 4 years old when his uncle and stepfather became regent. The regency rule continued until 1796 some 13 years later.

The roots of the conflict go back to the social change within the amaXhosa after King Phalo had passed away. and the single royal lineage gave way to two branches of the amaXhosa in the form of the great house of the Gcaleka’s and the right hand house of the Rharhabe. This also had a territorial dimension and a period of adjustment played itself out over a few generations. Hardly had this began to settle, when King Rharhabe died and his heir Ngqika was too young to rule. Rule was thus exercised by his uncle regent. Together with his councillors the regent ruled for 13 years until Ngqika came of age when he completed his initiation into manhood. This scenario was unsettling given the new regional dynamics with the white settlers.

As with many impetuous youth, there was still a way to go in terms of maturing and the polishing of character but the 17 year old Ngqika was eager to demonstrate his mettle to his fellow graduating initiates. He wanted people to know immediately that he was the new authority and he also wanted the colonial authorities to recognise the same.

While it was vital to the Rharhabe that some form of continued sharing of authority and good counsel between Ndlambe and Ngqika had to hold at this time of intrusion by the colonial forces, the concept of sharing his stage with stepfather Ndlambe could not be seen as an option by Ngqika. He overstepped the mark in terms of due respect and protocol by humiliating his stepfather after Ndlambe had very amicably handed over to the young King shortly after he had been inaugurated. It was this initial act of a brash and inexperienced youth that soured relations between the Ngqika and Nlambe and led to a lifetime of a peculiar conflict between the two.

The problem could have been easily mended by councillors on both sides but the young King was peeved that many of his subjects had decided to move off with the former regent when he left the Great Place.

When Ndlambe protested at his humiliation, Ngqika retaliated to teach his uncle a lesson to ‘know his place’. At a later stage when conflict had receded, Julia Wells in her comprehensive research, quotes a story where Ngqika is purported to have told his uncle, “When you were my tutor, you taught me to be a generous king, and since I became King I hope I have taught you to be a faithful subject.” Julia wells also makes the observation that regardless of their conflicts, Ndlambe still showed due respect to Ngqika as King and that Ngqika still turned to Ndlambe for advice.

The youthful Ngqika was also the first of the amaXhosa leaders to have to deal with the Europeans – the Boers, the missionaries, the Governors from the Cape and the British soldiers. It was a huge responsibility and nothing could have prepared him for this task which called for great wisdom. The civil conflict which went on for 24 years, played into the hands of the British forces with their ‘divide and rule’ tactics and posed one of the greatest threats to amaXhosa social cohesion in times of war.

The differences between the two royals were differences around respect for protocols, and difference of young and old, stepfather and son and of divergent styles. It also became differences of tactics on how to deal with their common enemy. These differences at times crossed the threshold of the acceptable in broader amaXhosa society at crucial points in time with devastating consequences for both leaders.

Makana entered this mix as spiritual adviser to Ndlambe while Ngqika took on another dynamic young preacher as his spiritual advisor, namely the evangelist Ntsikana. And thus emerged yet another dimension, of different approaches to the Christian faith that had been introduced. Ngqika and Ndlambe’s conflicts slowly began to include a playing out of a spiritual war between their two proxies Ntsikana and Makana. Each was proponent of diametrically opposed interpretations of the Christian faith. They also differed in their approaches to the colonialists. Makana’s war started as a war of words, ideas and spiritual expressions.

As councillor to Ndlambe, Makana inevitably became a warrior in this civil conflict and it in turn dovetailed with his anti-colonial resistance.


In January 1818 Major Fraser set out across the FishRiver to attack Ndlambe but had a rude awakening when his small commando found themselves almost surrounded by 2000 warriors and had to beat a hasty retreat. To impress his superiors Major Fraser set upon his own British allies – Ngqika’s Rharhabe and, robbed them of a couple of thousand head of cattle. This outrageous act of blunder ended up temporarily uniting the followers of Ngqika and Ndlambe against the British, as anger spread through the territory. King Hintsa and the Gcaleka and, their neighbours the Tembus, were also drawn into what began to emerge as an anti-British amaXhosa and free-Khoena confederacy of the aggrieved. The ferment included a number of Khoena groups as well as fugitive slaves who had fled their masters in the Colony.

One of the latter groups allied with amaXhosa Chief Kratu. They made common cause under the direction of Khoena leader Klaas Geswind in a plot to attack Uitenhage and kill the hated Landdrost Cuyler. The plot was uncovered and Klaas was tried and hanged while the other co-conspirators were sentenced to imprisonment on Robben Island.

The confederacy of the aggrieved did not hold together and instead of a focus on their British enemies, a civil conflict panned out between King Ngqika who had become distrusted and isolated and the rest of the allies led by Ndlambe. The culmination of this civil conflict was that King Ngqika, the collaborator,was defeated at Amalinde in November 1818.

Faced with this situation King Ngqika appealed for British support against Ndlambe and in December 1818 Ndlambe was attacked in a devastating raid by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brerton. The British knew that the weak underbelly of Ndlambe and his people were the cattle herds on which they relied for sustenance. The aim was to starve Ndlambe and his people into submission. The British attacked the cattle herds of 25 000 head of cattle, destroying some and capturing the rest which they handed over to King Ngqika. The amaXhosa were united in their outrage about this raid which caused great suffering amongst many people as it impacted negatively on the livelihoods and sustenance of Ndlambe’s people.

Julia Wells in her excellent appraisal on the lead up to the attack on Grahamstown, elaborates in fine detail on these events and argues that the Fraser and Brerton incidents became the rallying point for the ensuing war of Makana and the attack on Grahamstown. She shows how neither Makana nor the amaXhosa started the fifth frontier war but it was rather these two significant attacks by the British that unleashed a state of war in which the battle of Grahamstown became the most significant of battles. The Fraser and Brerton events provided an anchor for the orations of Makana which had people near and far spellbound and fired up.

This climate produced the perfect storm where Makana’s spiritual, oratory and military skills came together at the right time and place as he became respected in the role of Itola. His became the rallying call for all freedom loving amaXhosa to join in the war. The amaXhosa had gone through 40 years of land grabs and suffered aberration upon aberration at the hands of the Boers and the British. Makana made a rousing call for united action by all of the aggrieved and promised to raise a force like no other to ensure a British defeat such as they never experienced before in Africa. His objective was to halt the British advance and to drive them out of the land.

But Makana was not just talk. He was a planner and intelligence chief too. He was also a strategist. He was not interested in carrying out a simple raid. It was his belief that a major demonstration of conviction and strength was needed to teach the British a lesson in war.

In the first four months of 1819 Makana launched a preliminary offensive of some note in the Zuurveld, expelling settler farmers in his path. He conducted over 21 raids and battles. This was both the curtain-raiser to the Grahamstown attack and also the decoy. Furthermore it was a means to collect the material resources to produce and build up the weaponry for the attack on Grahamstown. The logistics of the Grahamstown battle was a huge challenge against which Makana’s abilities must also be evaluated. Julia Wells in her comprehensive research on this period calls this the ‘guerrilla warfare’ stage of Makana’s war. This ‘war of the flea’ wore down the British quite considerably. Makana’s raids and battles in the Zuurveld over these four months forced the British to change their military leadership and to adopt new tactics. This was how Lord Charles Somerset ended up appointing Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Willshire as British military commander on the frontier.

Julia Wells in her research points out those traditional accounts of these times that focus only on the Grahamstown defeat of Makana which attempt to paint a distorted picture of a ‘foolhardy’ attack without any context. She demonstrates the need to separate out colonial traditionalist, missionary influenced African traditionalist, revisionist, African liberationist, and post-revisionist research traditions in arguments to analyse the life, times and war drama of Makana. A detailed rebuff of many disparaging arguments on Makana and his role using a narrative of the events, which cross-references a wealth of previous research and commentary, results in the interestingly new and refreshing conclusions by Ms Wells.

Ultimately it is proven that the lens through which one examines the available resources is what determines the outcomes of all research and commentary on Makana. It is from such an approach that Makana emerges as a truly remarkable and most understated man.

On the amaXhosa side of the war, Makana held the position of ‘Itola’ and shared the command of the Grahamstown battle with Chief Ndlambe’s son Mdushane. Chief Phato the son of Chief Chungwa of the Gqunukwebe and King Hintsa of the Gcaleka also played leading roles in mobilising for the attack. Up to 10 000 warriors were amassed and thousands of spears and other war-gear had to be produced for the battle. This mammoth event was organised secretly whereby the amaXhosa maintained the element of surprise. Makana also commanded spies amongst the British in Grahamstown to provide intelligence.

Makana through one of his agents in Grahamstown, Hendrik Ngcuka, provided false intelligence to the British on amaXhosa intentions. As a result of the false information the British forces were depleted of a quarter of its garrisoned fighters as these rode off to investigate Ngcuka’s story.

The rallying point for the battle was the secluded Icibilentonga pond some way from the FishRiver en route to Grakamstown. From the rallying point the amaXhosa had to march over 20 kilometres to the outskirts of Grahamstown largely by cover of night. By dawn troops of warriors were within five to ten kilometres of Grahamstown. Makana moved around to motivate and address the troops of warriors throughout the night and at dawn met with the other chiefs to give final command and direction to detachments and squads. He was to take the lead on horseback with a small, and the only, cavalry detachment.

When the amaXhosa appeared at Grahamstown on 22 April 1819, the town’s inhabitants and the British commanding officers were completely surprised and taken aback. This was even although British frontier commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Willshire had received a cryptic war-protocol message from Makana on the previous day as a warning on the pending attack. His message to Willshire was that he would be joining him for breakfast. Willshire had shrugged it off with an ‘oh yeah’ response, saying that Makana ‘would find him in all readiness’. Effectively he arrogantly did not believe Makana.

The element of surprise was not absolute in that Makana did not carry out a night time attack as he easily could have done. The attack on Grahamstown carried a deliberate message of a nation aggrieved at being invaded and it was clear that in terms of the protocols of war Makana was wanting to make a statement in this regard.

It was pure arrogance on the part of the British that they were unprepared for the battle for Grahamstown. The garrison was spread out all over the Grahamstown surrounds. Willshire himself was some five kilometres out of town and literally had to race back to town with only ten minutes to spare before the first attacks were launched.

By all accounts the amaXhosa attack was not a wild move on the town. It carried all the hallmarks of good planning, supported by intelligence and an analysis of enemy tactics. The amaXhosa used conventional battle tactics, encircling Grahamstown and attacking on its weakest side where the British had not expected them to have attacked. The amaXhosa attacked in formations and pinpointed their targets.

The weakness of the amaXhosa is that they did not have modern weaponry in the form of guns and artillery, nor did they have sufficient cavalry to breach the enemy’s defences. They had also not chosen to use the surest tactic which would have resulted in the sure defeat of their enemy – namely a night time assault. The only weaponry that they had was their spears and cowhide shields. British cannon loaded with shot and shrapnel wiped out wave upon wave of warriors as they attacked. Cannons on high ground and at the defence lines took out numerous warriors with each blast while marksmen picked off others. Only the small squad of cavalry led by Makana came anywhere near to hand to hand combat but also had to retreat in the face of cannon fire.

The pressure that the British faced was that some of their defence lines were cut off from supplies of powder and munitions. The warriors just had to keep up the pressure for long enough and keep drawing British fire until their foes munitions were spent. At the same time the amaXhosa had to keep their casualties low. This tactic would have worked had it not been for the sudden and opportune involvement of a factor that no intelligence would have foreseen.

A Khoena trader and collaborator with the British garrison who had been some distance away was drawn to Grahamstown by the noise of the cannon fire. Jan Boesak was a man who was highly experienced in warfare and also knew the amaXhosa leaders by sight. The British garrison was also Jan Boesak’s bread and butter as he supplied them with buffalo meat. He and his men broke through the amaXhosa lines and connected with the mounted Cape Corps to whom he provided leadership. They now constituted a formidable force of mounted marksmen. Boesak’s men started picking off the known amaXhosa leaders and through their high speed mobile troops brought in a support dynamic to the artillery. At the same time the supply lines between the munitions and the artillery cannons was opened by one of the civilian women in Grahamstown. These two actions closed the only tactic for success still open to the amaXhosa who were then forced to retreat.

Illustrating the success of the divide and rule tactic, the British were successful largely due to the intervention of the collaborator Khoena free-trader Jan Boesak and the conscripted Khoena of the CapeCorps. The Battle of Grahamstown had Khoena on both sides and Makana as already emphasised himself was part Khoena through his mother’s heritage. The Khoena amongst the amaXhosa were amongst the bravest and most effective warriors.

The victory of the British at Grahamstown was decisive in the 40 year struggle of the amaXhosa to hold on to the Zuurveld. The frontier would be pushed back effectively to the Keiskamma River, with the territory between the Fish River and Keiskamma River becoming a ‘neutral’ British regulated territory. Four more major frontier wars would ensue over another 60 years. Makana lost no esteem in the great battle of Grahamstown. Indeed, instead his name became legendary and inspirational to liberation fighters over the next two centuries.


Makana’s War carried on for five months after the battle for Grahamstown and was fought bitterly with much losses on both sides. In August 1719, a couple of days after the decisive defeat of Ndlambe in a major battle in the Fish River Valley, Makana shocked Andries Stockenström by walking into his camp at Trompettersdrift in an act of surrender.

Makana was said by Stockenström to have ‘displayed an air of pride and self-possession.’ He was prepared to sacrifice his own liberty and possibly his life to take the heat off his people. Makana had clearly thought out the surrender which also seemed to take the focus off British attempts to hunt down Chief Ndlambe. It was further also Makana’s attempt to invoke the protocols of war through a negotiated end to the war by the vanquished. It was perceived that a better deal could be negotiated with the respected Stockenström rather than with Willshire with whom there was no trust. His councillors soon emerged to conduct negotiations. But Stockenström advised that only Willshire could preside over a formal surrender and any negotiations.

The British had no respect for this scenario and immediately incarcerated Makana in preparation to have him removed from the region. There was no way that the honourable public enemy number one, the Kaffir Chief Lynx, as they called him, was going to be allowed to walk away. They also declared that all the leading amaXhosa and Khoena chiefs were wanted persons and issued an order to the population to deliver them up dead or alive.

It was a dramatic moment with Makana making it quite clear that he was not captured but that he was volunteering to lay down his arms. He boldly stated “People say that I occasioned this war. Let me see if by giving myself up it will restore the peace.”

Stockenström declared Makana to be a prisoner (of war) and handed him over to Makana’s arch enemy, Lieutenant Colonel Willshire who took Makana to Grahamstown before moving him to Uitenhage, whereafter he was held on the ship HMS Nautilus. He was then transferred to the ship HMS Redwing and shipped off to Cape Town by sea. In Cape Town without any trial or sentence Makana was removed to Robben Island and isolated some distance away from the other prisoners.

Makana’s enemies even feared him when he was their prisoner. Makana was kept prisoner in a small house near the harbour at the bottom of the garden of the whaler John Murray’s house. Makana’s quarters was around a kilometre and a half from the male prisoners quarters.

The underlying truth of Makana’s comment indicating that he rejected that he was ‘the cause of war’ and by the sarcasm of saying ‘let us see whether giving myself up will restore the peace’ was demonstrated by the fact that war was to break out four more times over the next 60 years, long after his death. Makana’s War was however a defining moment in the conquest of the amaXhosa. In a smaller but equally bold re-enactment, an attack was made on Fort Beaufort 30 years later led by Hermanus Ngxukumeshe Matroos who lost his life in that attack.

After his surrender and the colonial declaration that he was a prisoner, Makana made two escape bids and was captured each time. His fighting spirit continued.

As a result of Makana’s war the British found that the only way that they would be able to hold onto the Zuurveld and effectively take over all of what they called Xhosaland, would be to flood the area with thousands of British settlers who needed to lay down permanent roots. Thus in 1820 shortly after the end of Makana’s war over 5000 British settlers poured into the extended Cape Colony and took over the traditional lands of the amaXhosa.
Under the British, black South Africa experienced a much worse and more intense colonial onslaught carried out by ruthless and well organised military invaders, such as never been seen during the Dutch colonial period.


With the cream of the crop of resistance leaders incarcerated on Robben Island, an escape plot was initiated by Khoena leader Hans Trompetter, the brother-in-law of Makana, and a break-out organising group was formed which was made up of Hans Trompetter, Johan Smidt, William Holmes and Abraham Leendert.

Makana was not part of the organisers because he had been isolated from all of the other prisoners and was held in a small building more than a kilometre and a half from the others. It is a sign of Makana’s esteem that one of the first actions taken by the rebels was to go and find him and to release him. It is speculated that the organisation of the breakout took quite a few months.

In the dark hours of the morning of 9 August 1820 Smidt attacked and seized the weapon of a sentry on duty. In carrying out this action Smidt then freed the other prisoners and they took over the armoury where they distributed arms and ammunition to the rebels.

Now armed, the group released more prisoners amongst whom was Makana and Khoena Chief David Stuurman who was ill at the time. Hans Trompetter and a group of eight amaXhosa prisoners of war had formed a squad to rescue Makana from his place of internment in the garden enclosure at Murrays House.

By this time the garrison was awakened by the commotion and a short but intense fire-fight ensued with injuries on both sides in this battle. One soldier was to die of his wounds in that fight. After the skirmish with the garrison, there was a group of 26 amaXhosa and Khoena rebels, plus two European convicts and 2 slaves, who then seized 3 whaler boats after they took over John Murray’s whale house for the escape across the sea..

Johan Smidt took charge of one boat of ten persons; the second boat of ten was under the control of William Holmes and the third boat of ten was under Hans Trompetter. Also on this third boat was Makana and David Stuurman. Only Smidt’s boat made it safely to shore with all ten landed.

In the case of Holmes boat, all but three of the ten perished in the sea. Trompetter’s boat capsized in the rough surf off Bloubergstrand and this is how Makana met his end along with five others on board. Only four, including Trompetter and Stuurman survived. Makana it was reported by the survivours, brave to the end, clung to a rock, shouting encouragement to his comrades, before he was consumed by the sea and drowned.

Fourteen of the 30 escapees drowned in the escape bid. Two more were killed by those who tracked them down. Only two persons evaded capture. Twelve escapees were finally put on trial. All were given heavy sentences; even some of the dead. Khoena Chief David Stuurman had twice escaped Robben Island, so he was thus sentenced to deportation to Australia where he died in 1830.

After this event, because of his larger than life reputation amongst the people including his own family, Makana was believed to be alive and at large, even for many decades after.In death he became more of a legend. His long lifetime walk to freedom had come to an end, but his spirit kept marching on in new generations. “Come Makana, Come Makana Come Makana Come!” Comrade Jimmy, an MK liberation bard in the 1980s, reflected that the spirit of Makana was alive as ever. In many ways Makana reincarnated as Nelson Mandela and finally Freedom did come.


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