II.6 The Cape of Good Hope

Fifty years after its foundation, the VOC established a permanent provisioning station, later Cape Town, at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Five years later, vegetable growing and cattle farming were privatized, leading to a greater influx of independent farmers, the so-called Boeren. This colony of free burghers expanded in the late seventeenth century and founded new settlements like Stellenbosch and Paarl. Settlements also expanded in the eighteenth century and four districts were created: Kaapstad, Stellenbosch, Swellendam and in the east Graaff-Reinet.

Agricultural expansion and outbreaks of smallpox epidemics were catastrophic for the original Khoikoi tribes. The influx of thousands of slaves from the East African coast, Madagascar and the Nusantara region contributed to the growth of a mixed society based on forced labour. In 1795 at the request of the Dutch Head of State or Stadhouder Willem V (reigned 1766-85/1787-95), who feared a French invasion ordered by Napoleon, a British naval fleet forced the last Dutch governor, Jan Willem Janssens (in office 1805-1806), to surrender.

The connection between Batavia and the Cape was important to the VOC ‘Network of Empire’. The return fleets, which usually sailed at the end of the year from the Sunda Straits to the Cape, usually carried dozens of private slaves, convicts or political prisoners. This contributed to the establisment of the first Muslim community in South Africa, which was substantially strengthed by the exiled Makassarese ulama Shaykh Yusuf who lived on the farm Zandvliet (renamed ‘Makassar’, now in the world-renowned Constantia Vineyard) from 1694 until his death in 1699.