As far as the Dutch East India Company was concerned, the new settlement was to be no more than a way station for the Indiamen bound on their long journeys to and from Batavia (present-day Indonesia), providing food, water and a place where sick sailors could recuperate. Life was no walk in the park for those first South Africans.
They had left behind them the calm, cultured, well-ordered Netherlands for the storm-lashed edge of the civilised world. They had to build where no White man had built before. The climate was strange; the soil alien; the landscape wild and undisciplined; communications with the homeland at best tenuous.
But, as the months and years rolled by, they became tough and self-reliant. Disease, accident and the indigenous people culled and whittled away those who were not. On April 14, 1657, nine married men were released from the service of the Company, issued with “free papers” and permitted to set up as independent farmers. From that moment, South Africa’s history took on a new and dramatic turn.
The Struggle Starts
The Company had unleashed forces totally beyond its control, the free burghers soon making it clear that they wished to live their own lives, in their own way, in this new country of their own choice.
In 1688 from France came the first Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution. Mostly viticulturists or skilled artisans, they brought with them the grape, so founding one of SA’s greatest and most lucrative industries. They bequeathed us such names as Marais, Fouché, Pinard (now Pienaar), Misnard (now Minnaar), Roux, Joubert, Theron, de Villiers, Crosnier (now Cronje), de Clercq (now de Klerk), Malherbe, du Plessis and du Toit.
In 1795 a new and potent factor entered: the British seized the Cape from the Dutch, thus launching the “century of wrong.” British possession of the Cape was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Soon British settlers were streaming in after the Napoleonic Wars… the beginning of the long power struggle between Boer and Brit and Black.