Runaways sometimes formed their own ‘colonies’
— two, which lasted the longest, were high on Simonsberg above
Stellenbosch and at Cape Hangklip on the eastern rim of False Bay.
‘colonies’ grew gradually from a group of people who, intent on
escaping, equipped themselves with plundered firearms or implements and
stole a few cattle or sheep. Secure on the remote mountaintops, they
grew crops and grazed their flocks and herds.
a commando arrived on the scene, which brought an end to the
settlements. Those who survived the onslaught were severely punished for
first slaves at the Cape came mainly from West Africa — particularly
Guinea and Angola. Later, expeditions were dispatched to bring slaves
from Mozambique and Madagascar. The most highly prized, however, were
those from the East — such as present-day Java, Bali, Timor, the
Malayan Peninsula and China. Slaves were also imported from India,
particularly Coromandel, Malabar and Nagapatam.
slaves carried names given by slave-dealers or their owners. Slaves
owned by the Company often retained versions of their real names,
usually with spelling errors made by the Company’s clerks, such
as Sao Balla, Revotes Kehang Orlndebet Chemehaijre. Privately owned
slaves were generally called Anthony, Jan, Pieter, Anna or Catrijn. They
also received classical and biblical names, such as Titus or Rachel.
Others were named after the months of the year, especially April,
September and October. Their ‘surname usually referred to their place
of origin, as in Paulus van Malabar (Paul of Malabar) or Lisbeth van
Bengalen (Lisbeth of Bengal), while those born at the Cape were known as
‘Van de Kaap’ (of the Cape).
is difficult to assess precisely what the effects of slavery were on
slaves themselves. Fear and insecurity, at the very least, were their
lot. But of their lives and feelings — and those of successive
generations — we know little, just incidental information gleaned from
an examination of the records of the Council of Justice.
1659 Van Riebeeck possessed a total of 18 slaves, two of whom came from
Guinea, one from Madagascar, three from Bengal, and the remainder from
Angola, Van Riebeeck’s personal preference. He was particularly
prejudiced against slaves from Guinea and Madagascar, believing them to
be ‘unreliable’ and likely to desert.
trade with the West African coast did not last long, however: another
private Dutch empire, the West India Company, had sole rights to trade
— including slave trade —
as far south as Angola and did not hesitate to remind its rival, the
East India Company, of the fact. (For a brief spell, the West India
Company actually laid claim to the Cape settlement.) So Van Riebeeck and
his successors were obliged to look to the East, and many slaves were
dispatched from the coast of India, from such places as Coromandel,
Malabar and Nagapatam.
extensive interests in the East Indian islands, and a trade centered on
Batavia (Java), the Dutch rounded up slaves from Bali, Batavia itself,
Macassar, Timor and, on the mainland, from Burma, the Malayan Peninsula
and China. Ships’ officers returning from the East often invested in a
few slaves which they resold at a profit at the Cape. Slavers bound for
North or South America and the West Indies were also induced to part
with a portion of their cargo at the Cape.