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The South African Story: 4th Edition

The South African Story: 4th Edition

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The South African Story: 4th Edition

Länge:
552 Seiten
9 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 19, 2015
ISBN:
9781311934550
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Ron McGregor is a South African tour-guide and writer. This book - now in it's 4th edition - was written in response to popular demand for a book about South Africa that isn't too weighty or academic. Until recently, there was no such single book, so Ron sat down and wrote it. And, because it was written to entertain as much as to educate, he stuck to his raconteurial style. It's an easy read, but not a shallow one.
Maps and diagrams to accompany the text were produced by graphic-designer Lisa, Ron's wife.
This is not just another guide book - it's a collection of the tales that the author tells as he crosses the country with his travelers. Much of it is historical fact. One reader remarked, "It is the best narrative of South African history I have ever read. It should be in every school curriculum, and compulsory reading for the diplomatic corps!"
However, it's far more than mere history. History doesn't just happen, it happens for a reason - many reasons. Geography, climate and vegetation all play their roles in determining the fates of nations, so these are also covered. There's folklore, and legend, food and drink, and even a guide to vocabulary.
And, of course, there are heroes. From Paul Kruger and Winston Churchill, to Jan Christian Smuts and Nelson Mandela, some formidable actors have graced the South African stage, and they have their chapters in these pages.
From the Dawn of Mankind to the Darkness of Apartheid, and our current faltering steps into the light of liberation, the South African Story tells it all. There's no other book quite like it.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 19, 2015
ISBN:
9781311934550
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Ron McGregor is a freelance tour guide and writer from Cape Town, South Africa.


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The South African Story - Ron McGregor

The South African Story

4th Edition

Ron McGregor

Copyright 2020 by Ron McGregor

4th Electronic Edition

The right of Ron McGregor to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the South African Copyright Act 98 of 1978, and equivalent copyright legislation in other countries where this book may be sold.

All rights reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, or reproduction by any means, physical or electronic, without permission given by the Author.

Cover design, maps and illustrations by Lisa McGregor

First published in South Africa 2010

This 4th Edition published in digital format 2020 by Ron McGregor

ISBN: 978-1-990931-85-7

Smashwords Edition

Smashwords License Statement

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

MAPS AND DIAGRAMS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

1 THE PORTUGUESE

2 PORTUGUESE DISCOVERY TO DUTCH OCCUPATION

3 JAN VAN RIEBEECK: THE RELUCTANT COMMANDER

4 SIMON VAN DER STEL: THE EXTRAORDINARY COUNSELLOR

5 ENTER THE BRITISH

6 ADDERLEY STREET

7 THE CAPE FLATS: PLAIN OF HARDSHIP - OR HOPE?

8 HOW THE MOUNTAIN GOT ITS TABLECLOTH

9 AN ANCHORAGE AT TABLE BAY

10 THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

11 FALSE BAY, TWO OCEANS, THE HOTTENTOTS-HOLLAND

12 SIMON'S TOWN: A LEE SHORE IN WINTER

13 THE FUSS ABOUT FYNBOS

14 THE FIRST NATION AND THEIR DESCENDANTS

15 NAMAQUALAND

16 IN SEARCH OF THE COPPER MOUNTAIN

17 DIAMONDS FROM THE SEA

18 BEATING THE OIL EMBARGO

19 OSTRICHES

20 TAKE ME TO THE WILDERNESS

21 GEORGE REX, FOUNDER OF KNYSNA

22 OLD FOUR LEGS

23 THE SHAPE OF THE COUNTRY

24 THE SUMMER AND WINTER RAINFALL REGIONS

25 THE BLACK PEOPLES

26 BLACK MEETS WHITE

27 TAKING ROOT

28 TRIBAL WARFARE: THE GREAT CRUSHING

29 THE GREAT TREK: INTO THE INTERIOR

30 THE GREAT TREK: INTO NATAL

31 THE GREAT TREK: BLOOD RIVER, AND AFTER

32 DICK KING: THE SAVIOUR OF NATAL

33 SHAKA ZULU

34 THE ANGLO-ZULU WAR

35 THE HILL OF DOVES

36 GOLD IN THE TRANSVAAL

37 THE JAMESON RAID

38 THE ULTIMATUM

39 GOD HOLDS OUT A FINGER

40 A BLACK WEEK FOR THE BRITISH ARMY

41 STALEMATE

42 A TEASPOON OF OIL

43 TURNING THE TIDE

44 THE BITTER-ENDERS

45 THE SMUTS COMMANDO, AND THE END OF THE WAR

46 WHAT PEACE BROUGHT

47 PAUL KRUGER

48 THAT BLOODY WOMAN! - EMILY HOBHOUSE

49 A COLOSSUS CALLED RHODES

50 WINSTON CHURCHILL

51 THE XHOSA CATTLE-KILLING

52 BOTSWANA, LESOTHO AND SWAZILAND

53 A COMPANY OF TRUE AFRIKANERS

54 APARTHEID

55 MASSACRE AT SHARPEVILLE

56 A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

57 THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

58 NELSON MANDELA

59 GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL PARTIES

60 INTERESTING IMMIGRANTS

61 THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

62 THE RIVERS OF JOY AND SORROW

63 TROUT COUNTRY

64 THE CRADLE OF MANKIND

65 THE DELAGOA RAILWAY

66 DOING IT BY RAIL

67 A WAY WITH WATER

68 MAGNIFICENT PASSES, MIGHTY BRIDGES

69 NASTY DISEASES

70 SNIPPETS

71 WHERE ARE WE GOING?

APPENDIX A - GLOSSARY OF REGIONAL NAMES

APPENDIX B - FOOD AND DRINK

APPENDIX C - WHAT TO READ

APPENDIX D - NOTES ON OUR NEIGHBOURS

End of Story

ENDNOTES

Acknowledgements

Selected Bibliography

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MAPS AND DIAGRAMS

Figure 1: The Voyage of Bartolomeu Dias

Figure 2: The Extent of White Settlement (1795)

Figure 3: The Cape Flats

Figure 4: Ocean Currents

Figure 5: The Shape of the Country - Topography

Figure 6: The Shape of the Country - Major Highways

Figure 7: Climate - The Summer Rainfall System

Figure 8: Climate - The Winter Rainfall System

Figure 9: Natural vegetation

Figure 10: Broad overview of land usage

Figure 11: Historic location of ethnic groups

Figure 12: Tribal Warfare – the Difaqane (1821-1837)

Figure 13: Major Routes of the Great Trek

Figure 14: The Four Territories (1884-1994)

Figure 15: The Boer War: Phase 1 – The Boers Invade

Figure 16: The Boer War: Phase 1 – The British Respond

Figure 17: The Natal Campaign: Dec 1899-Feb 1900

Figure 18: The Boer War: Phase 2 – The British Advance

Figure 19: Route of the Smuts Commando

Figure 20: The Nine Provinces (1994 –)

Figure 21: Significant Rivers of South Africa

Figure 22: Regions by their common names

ABOUT THIS BOOK

VISITORS to South Africa expect to see scenery and wildlife. They expect to hear about diamonds and gold. For these we are famous, and the visitor is not disappointed.

But there is far more to South Africa than that. Which leads to a very common question: Is there a book?

Of course there are books. There are plenty of books, covering every possible subject. But it's simply not feasible to buy a whole library. Isn't there just one book?

So I sat down and wrote it. The one single volume that covers just about everything - the history, the climate, the geography, the politics, the people, and more. I called it The South African Story, because that's exactly what it is.

This Third Edition has been updated to reflect recent developments, and expanded to include a number of additional topics.

From a touring perspective, it concentrates on the places most visited by tourists. Each chapter takes the form of a commentary on a place or a subject. Broadly speaking, they are arranged in such a way that they follow the most popular route for first-time visitors. That is, overland from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, by air from Port Elizabeth to Durban, and thence overland to Johannesburg via Zululand, Swaziland and the Kruger Park.

For those able to venture further afield, there are also commentaries on areas like the 1820 Settler country around Grahamstown, the battlefields of Natal and Zululand, and the semi-desert of Namaqualand, famous for its massed wildflower displays in August and September.

Some chapters cover broad topics, such as the Great Trek, the Boer War, Apartheid, and the liberation struggle.

Finally, there are the appendices, which will tell you what we mean when we speak of strange places, like Bushmanland, or strange foods, like bobotie. There is also a guide to further recommended reading.

I have taken great care to be as accurate as possible where history is concerned, but please note that this is not specifically a history book. Over the years I have learned that history often offers differing accounts of the same events, and they cannot possibly all be true. Apart from that, we have our legends and folk tales, which are just as entertaining as history, but certainly won’t earn you a degree in the subject!

At the end of your journey, I hope that you will have more than just memories and photographs. My hope for all who visit South Africa is that they will go away entertained, and enriched, by the South African Story.

When you get home, I would like you to be able to say not only that you saw South Africa, but that you understood it, too.

RON MCGREGOR

CAPE TOWN

2020

1 THE PORTUGUESE

IT’S WELL KNOWN that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to find their way around the Cape of Good Hope and make their way to India. And it’s almost as well known that the driving force behind these voyages was a certain Prince Henry the Navigator, founder of the legendary School of Navigation at Sagres, on the south-western tip of Portugal.

What is not as well known is that Henry himself was not a sailor. He never travelled further than the Straits of Gibraltar. In his lifetime, the ships he sent out did not even reach the Equator, let alone the Cape of Good Hope. And even his School of Navigation turns out to be more legend than fact.

So, from the beginning, this is what happened.

Henry (real name Henrique, of course) was born in 1394, third son of King João I of Portugal. Being a prince meant that he was well-educated and had access to money. Having two elder brothers meant that he would never have to worry about becoming King. He could devote himself to other interests. These interests included spreading Christianity, confounding the Muslims, and promoting the interests of Portugal.

In 1415 he took part in a Portuguese expedition to capture Ceuta, a Muslim trading city on the North Coast of Africa. Ceuta’s considerable wealth was derived from its caravan trade across the Sahara Desert. Clearly, while the desert itself was barren, there lay lands beyond it that were not. This got Henry thinking: if Portuguese ships could sail down the west coast of Africa, they could bypass the desert, and the Muslims, and trade directly with the Africans.

At the time, no European had sailed further than Cape Bojador, less then a thousand miles from Lisbon. Beyond Bojador the sea was said to boil, and men were burned black by the sun. But there were stories, and even maps, suggesting that people had been south of Bojador, and lived to tell the tale.

The Greek historian, Herodotus, describes a voyage of discovery around Libya – as Africa was known to the Greeks. It was commissioned by Necho II, King of Egypt, in 600 BC. To do the work, Necho employed the Phoenicians, the master-mariners of their time. They set out from the Red Sea, sailing southwards. The journey took three years, because they stopped twice to sow a crop and wait for a harvest to replenish their supplies. Eventually they entered the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar, and so returned to Egypt.

"These men- writes Herodotus - reported that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Libya, they had the sun on their right - to northward of them." To which he added, I myself do not believe this, though others may.

A modern day observer will realise that this was indeed possible - but only if these intrepid sailors had made it across the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere. More specifically, if they were travelling parallel to the shore, and westwards, too, they could only have been somewhere between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, where the coastline runs from east to west instead of north to south.

So, unless the Phoenicians were magnificent liars, Africa had already been circumnavigated, clockwise from Egypt. All the Portuguese had to do was repeat the exercise, counter-clockwise from Portugal.

Portugal, and especially the Sagres Peninsula, is ideally placed for the exploration of Africa. Here, in 1419, Henry set up his base. From the nearby port of Lagos he sent out his expeditions, and at his Vila de Infante – the Prince’s Village - he entertained all manner of experts, especially makers of maps and navigational instruments. In time, his establishment came to be regarded as a famous School of Navigation, though it was never a school in the formal sense of the word.

It took 15 years and no end of expeditions before one of Henry’s commanders plucked up the courage to sail far out to sea and so get around Cape Bojador. The sea did not boil, and no monsters were encountered. It was no great feat of navigation, but from a psychological point of view it was a massive step forward.

Further progress was steady, but slow. In Henry’s lifetime his ships reached only as far as present-day Sierra Leone. In other words, they did not even get around the Bulge of Africa.

Henry lived long enough to see the fall of Constantinople, which became Istanbul when the Turks captured it in 1453. This was a key point on the overland trade route to the East, and the Christian rulers and merchants of Europe were not at all happy about it falling into Muslim hands. An alternative route by sea would have been a very attractive proposition. However, even though he is so often credited with the idea, Henry was not in a position to start dreaming of India. That would have to wait until a lot more of Africa had been explored.

Henry died in 1460, without ever learning how far southwards those beckoning shores stretched. Nevertheless, he fully deserves his place in history, for he had set in motion an Age of Exploration, which would not end until there were no more oceans left unsailed, and no more shorelines left unmapped.

After Henry’s death, the throne of Portugal took little interest in exploration. King Afonso V occupied himself with intrigues at court and conquests in North Africa. It fell to private merchants to provide the money for expeditions. In 1473, one Lopes Goncalves crossed the Equator, thus becoming the first European to enter the Southern Hemisphere. No one paid much attention to this achievement, and poor Lopes is almost ignored by history.

In 1481, the young and energetic João II came to the throne. It was he who set his sights on the greater goal – a sea route to India.

In 1482 he despatched an expedition under the command of the very capable Diogo Cão. Like Lopes Goncalves before him, Cão deserves more recognition than he gets. On this first voyage he discovered the mouth of the Congo River and reached the shores of modern-day Angola. He was also the first to employ a new type of beacon provided by the king. Known as a padrão, it was a limestone column, topped by a cross. On one side it bore the arms of Portugal. The other side was left blank for the commander of the expedition to carve his name and the date on which it was erected. These were to be erected on prominent points, as well as the furthest point reached, to claim the land for Portugal, and to serve as markers for future expeditions.

After an absence of nearly two years, Cão returned to Lisbon. The king gave him a knighthood, an annuity, and sent him straight back to Africa to carry on the work.

On his second voyage, Cão reached a point just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, on the coast of what is today Namibia. Here, at the place today known as Cape Cross, he planted another padrão.

He was now six thousand miles from Lisbon, and Africa still showed no signs of coming to an end. He had no way of knowing that, just 900 miles further to the south, there lay the dramatic promontory that marked the south-western tip of Africa. That would be left for someone else to discover. Diogo Cão died at sea, and his ships came home without him.

O salty sea, how much of your salt

Is tears of Portugal?

Because we dared to cross you

How many mothers wept?

How many children cried in vain,

And brides remained unwed,

To make you ours, o sea?

(Fernando Pessoa, Mar Portugues, 1934)

Back in Lisbon, King João was mulling over another interesting proposal. Hanging around his court was a young Italian, Christopher Columbus, who reckoned he could get to the East by sailing westwards across the Atlantic. Joao was interested, but he didn’t let on. He told Columbus that the idea was impractical - and then secretly sent off a fleet of his own ships to see if Columbus was right.

This expedition yielded nothing. After a very half-hearted effort it returned to report that the ocean was endless. But Columbus soon discovered that the king had tried to hijack his idea. He quit Portugal to seek other backing, and eventually found himself in Spain, where he tried to sell his dream to Queen Isabella. Meanwhile, João turned his attention back to Africa.

In 1487, another experienced sailor, Bartolomeu Dias, sailed off into the wide Atlantic, and King Joao sat down to wait. And wait. And wait…

No first-hand account of the Dias voyage has survived. Portugal was not going to share the knowledge of her discoveries with her rivals, and the reports of all these early mariners were jealously guarded secrets of state. Any chance of later generations getting to see them went up in smoke – literally – when the Royal Archives were destroyed by fire after the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755.

Piecing together what we can from surviving records, we know that Dias sailed from Lisbon in August 1487. By December, his two ships had reached Cape Cross, site of the furthest padrão planted by Diogo Cão. From then on, he was charting new territory, and would have wanted to keep close to the shoreline in order to map its course.

Legend tells us that at this point he encountered a fearful storm, which drove him far to the south. The truth is probably less dramatic. It was January, when the prevailing south-easterly winds are at their strongest. It would have been impossible to follow the coastline. If he were to make any progress at all, he needed some sailing space. Somewhere south of the Orange River mouth, he turned his back on Africa, headed for the open sea, and began tacking his way southwards

Thirteen days of beating against the relentless gales brought them to latitude 39 degrees South – straight into the belt of powerful westerlies which would come, in time, to be known as the Roaring Forties. But at least these winds blew in the right direction. Thankfully, the tiny ships turned eastwards, anticipating a swift return to the shoreline of Africa.

They found nothing. After a week of sailing, with hundreds of miles behind them, there was still no sign of land. Africa, that vast continent, seemed to have disappeared!

With fresh water running low, and his crews on the verge of panic, Dias decided to turn north. If that did not bring them back to Africa, it might at least bring them back to Portugal.

After three days, land was sighted. Curiously, this shoreline ran from west to east, rather than north to south. One tale (for which I can find no corroborating evidence) says that Dias plunged his hand into a bucket of seawater. Finding it to be warm, he realised that he must have unwittingly turned some unseen corner of Africa, and was now in the Indian Ocean.

They felt their way along the coast until they found a bay where they could land. A little stream ran down to the sea, and a boat was sent ashore for water. On the third day of February, 1488, the first Europeans set foot on the shore of what would one day be known as South Africa.

They named the place Aguada do Sao Bras - the Watering Place of St Blaize. Today, if you are touring the Garden Route, you will find it marked on the map as Mossel Bay.

The land was inhabited, not by black Africans, but by a race of smaller people, almost copper-coloured in complexion. History would later name them Hottentots. A handful of these came down to the shoreline to see these weird white men from the sea.

On the beach, the two groups eyed each other nervously. The Portuguese made for the stream to fill their water casks. One or two of the Hottentots started throwing stones at the intruders. A panicky sailor loosed a bolt from his crossbow, and a native fell, dying. The others fled.

So begins the modern history of South Africa. It was not a particularly auspicious start.

Dias was keen to sail further. It is not enough to know that you are on the southern shores of Africa. If you want to get to India, you need to find the eastern shore as well. He persuaded his reluctant men to carry on.

They covered another three hundred miles, until Dias could satisfy himself that the shore was curving northwards, pointing the way to India.

With his supplies running out, and his crews on the point of mutiny, he could go no further.

The point where he turned back was almost certainly the mouth of the Keiskamma River, not far from present-day East London. They had been seven months on their journey, and it would take another nine months to get home. They still had to map the huge stretch of coastline they had missed during the outward voyage.

On the return passage, the weather was kinder, and Dias at last saw the Cape - that so many ages unknown promontory that marked the distant end of Africa. It was a most impressive sight. Legend tells us that he named it Cabo Tormentosa – Cape of Storms. The same legend tells us that King João considered this to be too negative a name, and decided that it should be changed to Cabo de Boa Esperança, the Cape of Good Hope.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence for this romantic tale. Diaz may, in conversation, have described the Cape as stormy. However, the most reliable accounts suggest that it was he, and not the King, who came up with the famous name by which it has ever since been known.

The Dias expedition carried three padrões, all of which were erected on the homeward leg of the journey. The first was on a prominence – nowadays known as Kwaaihoek - near the mouth of the Bushman’s River. This is about sixty miles short of the actual turnaround point at Keiskamma Mouth, but is a better place to locate a beacon if you want it to be visible to passing ships.

The second padrão was erected to mark the Cape of Good Hope. No sign of this has ever been found, and it’s anyone’s guess as to where Dias might have considered it safe to risk a landing. All we know is that it was named for San Felipe, who is commemorated on 6 June, so at least we can say with considerable certainty when he was there.

The last padrão was erected near the present day Namibian town of Luderitz, on the promontory now known as Dias Point. A modern cross marks the site.

The Dias expedition returned to Lisbon in December 1488. They had been away for one year, four months, and seventeen days. They had opened the way to India, and added to the map one of its most famous place names – the Cape of Good Hope.

But it was not the southern tip of Africa.

A glance at the map shows that Cape Agulhas, around 110 miles east of Cape Town, is the true southern point of Africa, though not by much. Agulhas, however, lacks the drama of the Cape of Good Hope. It’s a gently curving shore, quite unremarkable from a sailor’s viewpoint. There is no great cape, or promontory, to suggest that you are rounding the southern extremity of a great continent. Were it not for the beacon that marks it, visitors wouldn’t find the place at all.

Agulhas, by proclamation of the world’s geographers, is the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. But it is the Cape of Good Hope – then as now – that has got all the attention. Jutting dramatically into the Atlantic, this is the real corner of Africa, where you turn left for India, Australia, and places beyond.

Having returned safely to Portugal, we may imagine that Dias was eager for a new ship and a more resolute crew so that he could go back and finish the job. Sadly, he never got the chance. As the next expedition was sure to reach India, it would have to be headed by someone of greater political stature. The choice fell on Vasco da Gama, a nobleman, and Dias did not even go on the voyage. He was assigned to trading operations in West Africa – a very responsible position, but rather pedestrian for one of the great explorers of his time.

With Dias having done most of the hard work, da Gama was able to enjoy a relatively straightforward journey. He sailed in July, 1497. By November he had rounded the Cape. On 25 December, he found himself off an unknown coastline which he named Natal - Christmas - in honour of the day. From there he continued safely to India. So it was da Gama, rather than Dias, who got the credit for opening one of the world’s most important sea routes.

Poor Dias! Not only did da Gama steal his thunder, but the Cape seas would later take his life. In 1500 he was posted to Sofala, on the east coast of Africa, to take charge of trading operations. He never got there. On the way, the Cape once again lived up to its alternative name, Cape of Storms, and Dias went down with his ship. Perhaps it is appropriate that his final resting place is somewhere out there, beneath the eternally heaving swells of the South Atlantic Ocean that he did so much to conquer.

Today, you will find his statue on the Foreshore in Cape Town, almost at the entrance to the international harbour.

The Cape of Good Hope itself is at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, 50 kilometres south of Cape Town. Allow a full day for the trip, because there is plenty to see and do on the way there and back.

The Peninsula actually features three promontories, or capes. The honoured title Cape of Good Hope attaches to the western point, which is regarded as the south-western corner of the African continent. It is easily reached by road, and there is a small parking area. Apart from these, and a useful marker board telling you where you are, the site is - thankfully - unspoiled.

The southern promontory is known as Cape Point. This is where the tourist facilities are located. From here, a funicular runs up to the lighthouse at the summit. This light is no longer operational, for the site was too high, and when the mist lay heavily upon the ocean, its beam could not be seen. In 1911, a Portuguese liner, the Lusitania, ran aground on Bellows Rock, which lies, barely submerged, about two kilometres offshore. As a result, a new lighthouse was built lower down. (This unlucky ship should not be confused with the more famous RMS Lusitania, a British liner, which suffered the even greater disaster of being sunk by a German torpedo during the First World War.)

If your travels take you to Mossel Bay, you may visit the Maritime Museum. Here you will find a replica of Dias’ ship - and you will be amazed to see just how small it was. It was built in Portugal to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the voyage. Captain Manuel de Sousa, a South African of Portuguese descent, sailed it from Lisbon to Mossel Bay in 1988.

Beside the museum is a milkwood tree. In front of it stands a statue of Dias – a rather younger Dias than the one portrayed on Cape Town’s Foreshore. There is also a mailbox in the shape of a sailor’s boot.

Legend has it that the first letter ever posted in South Africa contained a report of the devastating storm that had taken the life of Bartolomeu Dias and so many others. It was placed in a sailor’s boot and hung in this tree to await a ship going in the right direction. That makes the tree rather more than five hundred years old.

Subsequently sailors left their letters under flat rocks, upon which they scratched instructions as to where the letter was to be sent. The system was slow, but it worked.

If you mail your postcards in the boot at the Post Office Tree, they will be franked with a commemorative postmark to remind you of your stay. However, postal services are still slow, and there is a good chance that you will get home before your postcards do!

Postscript

And what of Columbus and his idea? Well, Isabella knew little of navigation. She appointed a committee to consider the proposal. The committee took its time, and Columbus quite lost heart. In 1488, King João called him back to Lisbon. The Dias expedition was feared lost, and the King was ready to reconsider Columbus’ plan. And Columbus might well have sailed under the Portuguese flag – until Dias suddenly turned up with his dramatic news.

João promptly lost all interest in a transatlantic venture. Columbus, his hopes dashed yet again, returned sadly to Spain. But back in Madrid, Isabella was spitting mad. Portugal and Spain were great rivals. Portugal could now boast a momentous discovery, and all Spain could show was a committee.

The committee was fired, Columbus was hired, and the rest is history, even if it’s not South African history.

Figure 1

2 PORTUGUESE DISCOVERY TO DUTCH OCCUPATION

THE DUTCH, as is well known, established Cape Town in 1652.

Which raises the obvious question: if the Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover the place in 1488, why didn’t they take possession of it?

They thought of it, but things went horribly wrong.

In 1510, three ships anchored in Table Bay. In overall command was one Dom Francisco d’Almeida. In the Portuguese world of the time he was a Very Important Person Indeed. From one of Portugal’s noblest families, he had gained renown as a soldier, explorer, and chief architect of Portugal’s supremacy in the Indian Ocean. He had just relinquished his position as Viceroy of Portuguese India, and was now headed for home.

As usual, a number of the indigenous people, the Hottentots, came down to the shore. Relations were amicable, and some successful bartering took place.

Then a quarrel broke out. The Portuguese seized a number of the Hottentots and tried to carry them off to the ships. Understandably, the Hottentots objected. There was a minor skirmish, during which the Portuguese lost no men, but suffered a considerable blow to their pride. They retired hastily to their ships, without the precious livestock for which they had bartered.

D’Almeida was inclined to overlook the incident in the interests of future relations. But his men were angered, and persuaded him that these insolent savages should be taught a lesson. The next day he led an expedition of 150 men ashore. The Hottentot encampment was some distance inland, roughly where the university lies today. Leaving the boats to await their return, they marched off.

The attack was successful. The Hottentots fled. The Portuguese rounded up some livestock and a number of children, and began a triumphant march back to the beach. They had achieved a great victory, and the sun had hardly risen!

Unfortunately for them, the Hottentots regrouped and retaliated. With stones and spears, they showed sound military sense, keeping well clear of the Portuguese with their swords and lances. The triumphant march turned into a rout, as the Portuguese abandoned first the captured children, then the livestock, and ran for the beaches, and the boats. But the boats had gone further along the shore to fetch water. The men were stranded on the beach, at the mercy of the Hottentots.

The Hottentots were not feeling merciful that day. The Great Dom Francisco fell with a spear through his throat. Sixty-four of his companions died with him.

If the deaths had been limited to lesser-ranking men - a very expendable commodity in those days - the Portuguese would probably have come back later and tried again. But the death of d’Almeida convinced Portugal that the Cape was far too dangerous a place to contemplate any permanent settlement. They had already established footholds in Mozambique and Angola, and decided that these would suffice as way stations on the sea route to India.

Exit the Portuguese.

In 1580, Francis Drake, the first Englishman to sail around the world, passed by the Cape. The weather was fine that day. Writing up his diary, the ship’s chaplain made a famous observation, which has ever since been attributed to Drake himself:

This Cape is very stately, and the fairest thing we saw in all our circumnavigation of the earth.

So, the Fairest Cape it became, but Drake was a buccaneer, not an empire builder. He sailed on without any thoughts of hoisting the British flag at the Cape.

In 1591 the first expedition of the English East India Company called at Table Bay on its way to the East. After that, the English were regular visitors. Some thought was given to the possibility of establishing a settlement, but nothing constructive was done.

Then, in 1615, the English East India Company came up with the extremely silly idea of persuading His Majesty’s Government to give them a handful of condemned prisoners. Thus saved from the gallows, ten of these were dumped at Table Bay as an experiment to see if the place was suitable for permanent habitation.

These guinea pigs did not fare well. Three of them were rescued by a homeward-bound ship. They were returned to England, where they fell again to stealing, and went to the gallows anyway. Three others were picked up by another English ship and taken on to India. Of the rest, some were killed by the Hottentots, some drowned, and some (according to one Hottentot account) were taken away on a Portuguese vessel.

This was followed by the strange case of the annexation that never was.

In 1620, six ships of the English East India Company called at Table Bay. In command were two commodores, Humphrey Fitzherbert and Andrew Shillinge. They decided that it would be a jolly fine place to add to the British Empire. They also suspected that the Dutch might have designs on the place, and decided to forestall them. They took pen and paper, wrote a proclamation, and marched to the top of Signal Hill.

The proclamation was read out, annexing the place in the name of Britain. A cairn of stones was built, and the British flag was run up. The worthy commodores then boarded their ships and sailed away, leaving the Hottentots, who knew no English, to wonder just what was the meaning of it all.

They need not have worried. Back in England, no one in His Majesty’s Government was in the slightest bit interested in Shillinge and Fitzherbert’s annexation. Their report was left to gather dust. At the Cape, the sun blazed down in summer, the rains fell in winter, and the gales ripped at the British flag. It soon withered and blew away, unmourned.

Somewhat later, Britain decided that a halfway station on the way to India would, after all, be a good idea. However, instead of the Cape, they chose St Helena, an island in the middle of the Atlantic. It was completely uninhabited, so there was no need to dispossess anyone. A very wise choice.

Thus, a hundred and sixty years after the Portuguese first rounded the Cape, no European power had yet taken possession of it. (In those days, of course, the idea that the indigenous people might have a right to it was simply not considered.)

Then, in 1647, a ship was wrecked in Table Bay, setting in motion a process that would lead to the writing of a huge amount of history…

3 JAN VAN RIEBEECK: THE RELUCTANT COMMANDER

THE HAARLEM was a trading ship of the Dutch East India Company. In 1647 she was wrecked in Table Bay. Most of those on board came safely to shore, where they contemplated the gloomy possibility of waiting for months before another ship came by to take them home to Holland.

They salvaged what they could from the wreck, and the Hottentots obligingly provided a few sheep in exchange for trinkets and curiosities. Under the leadership of one Leendert Jansz, the castaways built shelters and began to plough and sow in anticipation of a long stay.

It was more than a year before they were rescued. In that time, they formed a very good opinion of the Cape. The climate was pleasant, the scenery superb, the soil fertile, and the Hottentots friendly and eager to trade.

On their return to Holland, Jansz wrote a report, recommending strongly that the Dutch East India Company establish a refreshment station at the Cape.

The Company (as it was usually called) was a business. It was motivated by profit. Where the British government had shown no interest in Shillinge and Fitzherbert’s annexation (see previous chapter), the Dutch East India Company saw an opportunity to increase the efficiency of their operations. They acted immediately. They were the Company’s board of directors, generally known as Die Here Sewentien - the Seventeen Lords.

A commander was chosen to lead the expedition. First choice fell on Leendert Jansz, leader of the castaways, and author of the report. Jansz, however, reckoned he had done his time in the wilderness. He turned down the appointment, and so lost the chance of being remembered by history. His refusal created the opportunity for a volunteer, albeit a reluctant one.

Jan van Riebeeck, a doctor by training, and more recently an officer of the Company in the Indies, was in disgrace. He had been suspended by the Company for the unpardonable sin of indulging in some private trading for his own profit. He was sent home to Holland, travelling with the fleet that had rescued the survivors of the Haarlem.

He despaired of ever returning to the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by senior Company men in the East. By volunteering for the uncomfortable job of setting up the outpost at the Cape, he hoped to earn his reinstatement.

On 6 April, 1652, his three ships dropped anchor in Table Bay.

He did not like the Cape, or his work here. Fortunately, his contract was limited to just five years. He looked forward to the day when he could return to the Dutch East Indies.

The men he brought with him were not exactly the flower of Holland. They were a dull-witted crew, most of whom who had only signed on for Africa because they could not find work at home.

Wishing fervently that he had a hundred good slaves instead of a hundred bad workers, Van Riebeeck set to building his fort and laying out his garden. A little stream ran from Table Mountain into the Bay. It was hardly a canal, but a road was made on each side, and

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