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Article
Settlers, Farmers, Khoe
Settlers and the Khoekhoe Farms Warfare Slaves Arrive
The Settlers and Khoekhoe
The Khoekhoe watched the arrival of Van Riebeeck without apparent concern. In various clans they numbered between 4,000 and 8,000 in the region of the Cape Peninsula.

Khoe culture laid great emphasis upon the ownership of animal stock - by which a man's status was determined. Leadership therefore rested upon retaining large private herds. These also served for food and barter with other clans.

However, there was no concept of the private ownership of land. The Khoe were semi-nomadic and each clan followed its own traditional migratory circuit.

Three different Khoe clans used land around the Cape Peninsula to graze their herds of cattle and sheep. Land was shared and groups never spent more than a few months in one area. They expected the Dutch to do the same - that they would remain for a while and then sail away, as they had always done in the past.

During the first year of VOC occupation, bartering continued as it had before with passing ships. But as the Khoe continued on their normal migratory routes they found the area of the gardens enclosed by thorn trees and soldiers warned them off camping near the fort. The Khoe threatened to invade the castle, and the Dutch backed down.

The Dutch pressed the Khoe to trade more and more animals, but the Khoe refused, since their leaders feared that further losses of cattle would diminish their political status. The Dutch did not understand this and took the refusal as a slight.


The Dutch already held the Khoe in contempt. Recalling previous hostilities, Van Riebeeck wrote 'they are not to be trusted, being a brutal gang.. our people have been killed' (Worden et al pg 16). But he bided his time until strong enough to enforce his will upon the Khoe.

Meanwhile, his men kept sheep on Robben Island and hunted seals, penguins and wild animals, dramatically reducing the herds of antelope. Nevertheless, with hard labour, disease and harsh weather their position and morale became critical. Supplies of food had to be sent by the VOC to save them.
Farmers Claim the Land
The VOC intended the Cape station to produce goods not available from the Khoe such as bread, wine and vegetables and to supply firewood and workshop facilities. As relations with the Khoe deteriorated it was clear that the small settlement at the Cape was precarious and that to be able to supply its own needs and those of passing ships, the settlement would have to become larger and develop several farms.

Thus it was agreed that some men should be released from their contracts to become private farmers ('free burghers') and sell their produce to the trading station. It was a fateful decision, that would inexorably lead to colonial development. In due time these men became known as 'Boers' (farmers).

Warfare
The first nine free burghers were allocated 20 acre plots along the Liesbeeck river at Rondebosch in 1657. This was important grazing land on the migratory routes of three Khoe clans, and as they arrived in early summer, they broke down the new hedges and grazed their cattle on the farmland - not recognising any right to private land ownership.

Tensions mounted. By the end of 1658 there were 51 'free burghers'. In 1659 open warfare broke out and lasted a year. Inevitably, the Khoe, lacking guns, came off worse. Van Riebeeck determined to secure the peninsula and so in 1660 built watchtowers and planted a wild almond hedge (a section of it's thick tangle still grows in Kirstenbosch gardens) - he thus enclosed 2,430 ha (6,000 acres) and excluded the Khoe from vital grazing land and water supplies.

War with the Khoe broke out again in 1673 and continued until 1677. The Khoe clans, divided and overwhelmed, could not protect their herds and they were raided by the settlers. If they were caught attempting to re-capture their stock, they were chained, branded and imprisoned on Robben Island by the VOC.


Without cattle Khoe leaders lost authority and the clans disintegrated as social structures. Families dispersed. Some fled into the mountains to join the San. Others lost their pride and offered to work as shepherds for the Boers.
Slaves are Brought to the Cape
Van Riebeeck was determined to complete ambitious capital projects. He needed to finish the fort, work the gardens, build a strong jetty and develop infrastructure. All of this required timber, which was not easily available and the small forests nearby were rapidly depleted. He sent woodcutters to Hout Bay and sent for non-indigenous trees and planted them in Tokai.

With large on-going capital projects, security problems, farms and gardens to be worked, sickness and mortality, Van Riebeeck faced acute labour shortages at the Cape. The Khoe refused to work for the settlers and sailors were reluctant. Therefore, van Riebeeck requested the VOC to send slaves to the Cape, another fateful decision.

The first shipload arrived from Dahomey (Benin), and then more from a captured Portuguese ship carrying Angolans. More slaves were brought from Madagascar and Mozambique. In coming years many more slaves, convicts and political prisoners arrived from VOC bases in India, Ceylon and Indonesia.

Soon, there were as many slaves as Europeans, with more imported continuously, although with a high slave mortality there were always roughly equal numbers of slaves and Europeans in the colony. In total, sixty thousand slaves were imported to the Cape between 1658 and 1807, the most common single origin being Sulawesi (Celebes) in Indonesia.


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