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History South Africa

South Africa

Jan van Riebeeck

  Van Riebeeck was born in Culemborg, Netherlands as the son of a surgeon. He grew up in Schiedam, where he married 19-year old Maria de la Quellerie on 28 March 1649. She died in Malacca, now part of Malaysia, on 2 November 1664, at the age of 35. The couple had eight or nine children, most of whom did not survive infancy. Their son Abraham van Riebeeck, born at the Cape, later became Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. 


Joining the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) Dutch East India Company in 1639, he served in a number of posts, including that of an assistant surgeon in the Batavia in the East Indies. He subsequently visited Japan. His most important position was that of head of the VOC trading post in Tonkin, Vietnam. However, he was called back from this post as it was discovered that he was conducting trade for his own account.

In 1651 he volunteered to undertake the command of the initial Dutch settlement in the future South Africa. He landed three ships Dromedaris; Reijger and Goede Hoop at the future Cape Town on 6 April 1652 and fortified the site as a way station for the VOC trade route between the Netherlands and the East Indies. The primary purpose of this way station was to provide fresh provisions for the VOC fleets sailing between the Dutch Republic and Batavia, as deaths en route were very high. The Walvisch and the Oliphant arrived later in 1652, having had 130 burials at sea.

Arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town painted by Charles Davidson Bell

  Van Riebeeck was Commander of the Cape from 1652 to 1662; he was charged with building a fort, with improving the natural anchorage at Table Bay, planting cereals,fruit and vegetables and obtaining livestock from the indigenous Khoi people. In the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town there is a Wild Almond hedge still surviving, that was planted on his orders as a protective barrier around the Dutch settlement.  
  The initial fort, named Fort de Goede Hoop 'Fort of Good Hope' was made of mud, clay and timber, and had four corners or bastions. This first fort should not be confused with Redoubt Duijnhoop or the Cape Town Castle. The Castle, built between 1666 and 1679, four years after Van Riebeeck's departure, has five bastions and is made of brick, stone and cement. Zacharias Wagenaer laid the cornerstone of this castle.  
  Van Riebeek was joined at the Cape by a fellow Culemborger Roelof de Man (1634-1663) who arrived in January 1654 on board the ship Naerden. Roelof came as the colony bookkeeper and was later promoted to second-in-charge.Van Riebeeck reported the first comet discovered from South Africa, which was spotted on 17 December 1652.


In his time at the Cape, Van Riebeeck oversaw a sustained, systematic effort to establish an impressive range of useful plants in the novel conditions on the Cape Peninsula , in the process changing the natural environment forever. Some of these, including grapes, cereals, ground nuts, potatoes, apples and citrus, had an important and lasting influence on the societies and economies of the region.

  The daily diary entries kept throughout his time at the Cape VOC policy provided the basis for future exploration of the natural environment and its natural resources. Careful reading of his diaries indicate that some of his knowledge was learned from the indigenous peoples inhabiting the region.He died in Batavia ,now renamed Jakarta on the island of Java in 1677.

In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route

  Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the southwesterly migrating Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, were fought over conflicting land and livestock interests.   

The discovery of diamonds, and later gold, was one of the catalysts that triggered the 19th-century conflict known as the Anglo-Boer War, as the Boers original Dutch, Flemish, German, and French settlers and the British fought for the control of the South African mineral wealth.

Cape Town became a British colony in 1806. European settlement expanded during the 1820s as the Boers and the British 1820 Settlers claimed land in the north and east of the country. Conflicts arose among the Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaner groups who competed for territory.Great Britain took over the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795, to prevent it from falling under control of the French First Republic, which had invaded the Dutch Republic.

Given its standing interests in Australia and India, Great Britain wanted to use Cape Town as an interim port for its merchants' long voyages. The British returned Cape Town to the Dutch Batavian Republic in 1803, the Dutch East India Company having effectively gone bankrupt by 1795.

Depiction of a Zulu attack on a Boer camp in February 1838.

  The British finally annexed the Cape Colony in 1806 and continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa; the British pushed the eastern frontier through a line of forts established along the Fish River. They consolidated the territory by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament stopped its global slave trade with the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and then abolished slavery in all its colonies with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.  
  In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka.Shaka's warfare led indirectly to the Mfecane "crushing" that devastated and depopulated the inland plateau in the early 1820s. An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele people created a larger empire that included large parts of the highveld under their king Mzilikazi.  
  During the 1830s, approximately 12,000 Boers later known as Voortrekkers, departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control. They migrated to the future Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal regions.  
  The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces and the Orange Free State Free State.The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration.  
  This intensified the European-South African subjugation of the indigenous people. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British.  
The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions.

  The British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and new strategy in the Second Boer War (1899–1902) but suffered heavy casualties through attrition; in spite of which they were ultimately successful.   
  Within the country, anti-British policies among white South Africans focused on independence. During the Dutch and British colonial years, racial segregation was mostly informal, though some legislation was enacted to control the settlement and movement of native people, including the Native Location Act of 1879 and the system of pass laws. Power was held by the ethnic European colonists.  
  After four years of negotiating, the South Africa Act 1909 created the Union of South Africa from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on 31 May 1910, eight years after the end of the Second Boer War.  
  The newly created Union of South Africa was a British dominion. The Natives' Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; at that stage natives controlled only seven per cent of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased.  
  In the Boer republics, from as early as the Pretoria Convention (chapter XXVI).In 1931 the union was effectively granted independence from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster.  
  In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking "Whites". In 1939 the party split over the entry of the Union into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party followers strongly opposed.  
  In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule. The Nationalist Government classified all peoples into three races and developed rights and limitations for each.  
  The white minority controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalised segregation became known as apartheid. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, comparable to First World Western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy.  
The 1820 Settlers
  Were several groups or parties of white British colonists settled by the British government and the Cape authorities in the South African Eastern Cape in 1820.   
  Many of the Settlers were very poor and encouraged to settle in an attempt by the Cape government to close, consolidate and defend the eastern frontier against the neighbouring Xhosa peoples, and to provide a boost to the English-speaking population.

  It was one of the largest stages of British settlement in Africa, forming the Anglo-African cultural hot-spot Albany, and thus a milestone in the forming of the Anglo-African people. For many years, Albany remained an "Anglo-Saxon island" in a predominantly Xhosa and Afrikaans-speaking country - with its own distinctive local culture.  
  Initially, about 4,000 Settlers arrived in the Cape in around 60 different parties between April and June 1820.  
  The Settlers were granted farms near the village of Bathurst and supplied equipment and food against their deposits, but their lack of agricultural experience led many of them to abandon agriculture and withdraw to Bathurst and other settlements like Grahamstown, East London and Port Elizabeth, where they typically reverted to their trades.

  A group of the 1820 settlers continued on to Natal, then a part of Zululand, home of the Zulu people. At the time, King Shaka ruled the territory with highly-trained warriors. Leaders of the Natal settlers requested permission from Shaka to stay on the land. When the king witnessed the settlers' technological advances, permission was granted in return for access to firearm technology.  
  According to genealogist Shelagh O'Byrne Spencer, among 1820 Settlers who moved to Natal were "John Bailie, the founder of East London, and Charles Kestell, after whose son, the Revd John Daniel Kestell of Anglo-Boer War fame, the Free State town of Kestell is named".


They are commemorated in Grahamstown by the 1820 Settlers National Monument, which opened in 1974. A living monument, it hosts plays, musical performances and cultural events.





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