Until a lion learns to write, the story of hunting will always glorify the hunter. This African proverb tells the story of the native South Africans perfectly. Native South Africans are a strong community, but their voice is rarely heard. The history of South Africa generally includes the story of the Dutch and how they “helped” South Africa. The Dutch came to South Africa to build a rest stop for the Dutch East India Company ships. The Dutch needed to get around the Cape to points in eastern locations. The Dutch came to Cape Town South Africa in 1652 and the Dark Continent would never be the same. The Dutch moved native Africans off their own lands, began wars and skirmishes, enslaved many native Africans and shifted the entire country's economic situation.

A great deal can be learned from the 2013 book, South Africa Dream Trip, by Lizzie Williams, about this time period. According to Williams the Dutch East India Company trade vessels first began using the Cape as a refreshment outpost in 1652. The history between the Africans and the Europeans started out pretty civilly. The outpost supplied ships on their way to Asia with fruit vegetables and meat so the sailors could recuperate. At first “every inhabitant was a company servant” and the Dutch did not envision the settlement growing into a larger community. In the beginning the Dutch traded with the local Africans peacefully. Williams states, “fresh supplies had been either delivered by sea or brought from the Khoi groups living in and around the Cape.” Independent settlers known as burgher’s numbers increased with the arrival of new settlers from Holland and “Huguenots fleeing French anti-protestant legislation,” according to Williams. Many of the Dutch settlers complained that the land available was insufficient to meet their agricultural demands so they raided land along the Valley to farm. The new farmers were ordered to sell their products only to the Dutch and not with the local Africans. This started what would be many years of resentment by the Africans of the encroaching Europeans. Many conflicts began with the local Africans who lost grazing pastures as settlers slowly started to occupy their land. In her book Williams states, “ this early expansion and subjection of the Khoi were the seeds of a whole long history of dispossession of the established population of South Africa.” The Dutch shifted the entire country's economic situation with their desires to expand, giving little regard to the native Africans who had lived there for thousands of years. The Dutch simply moved in and took over. This area of Africa have been inhabited for thousands of years. Many believe that Africans in this area may have been one of the first humans on earth. The Dutch were arrogant and felt entitled. The Dutch claim they purchased the Cape district that included Table Bay from the Khoikhoi with Brandy, tobacco and bread. By the 1700s the Boers occupied most of the farmland around Cape Town. By the end of the 18th century almost all of the native Africans had been “absorbed into the settler economy as servants”, pushed into poor pasturelands and desert areas, or “exterminated” according to Williams. In a mere 100 years the Dutch had nearly destroyed an indigenous population that had lived in the same area since the beginning of the human timeline.

Skirmishes started small with individual farmers fighting for the rights and eventually grew to all-out war. According to South Africa History Online the native African Khoikhoi felt the Dutch would “eventually deprive them of their valuable pastures and watering places”. The Dutch “encroachment and expansion into areas around Table Bay and beyond “ resulted in many conflicts with the Khoikhoi, according to SAHO. The lack of pastureland for cattle between 1654 and 1659 resulted in a skirmish known as the first Khoi-Dutch war that lasted between 1659 and 1670. The Khoikhoi “were lacking firearms and unwilling to storm the central Fort “ according to SAHO and the war “ended in a stalemate”. The Khoikhoi never stood a chance against the well armed Dutch. European explorers “crisscrossed the country side “of South Africa pushing the native Africans further and further away. The further the Europeans went into Africa the worst life seemed to get for the native populations. According to SAHO “many Khoi groups sided with the Dutch against the Cochoqua ” in the second and third Khoikhoi-Dutch wars. The second war lasted until 1677 when the Cochoqua agreed to work with the Dutch “pursuing escaped slaves” and allowing Cochoqua “to aid white hunters”. By the 1700s the Dutch occupied most of the farmland around Cape Town. Most native Africans did not want to work for the Dutch so the Dutch simply took their lands and left them unable to care for themselves. The Boers were racist and believed that they were superior to the Africans in every way. The Khoikhoi were pushed into working for the Dutch to survive. Many Africans deep-rooted hate and mistrust of Europeans persist to this day.

The Dutch attempted to negotiate to get cattle and labor from the South Africans but when negotiations broke down slavery was implemented. The Dutch found that the indigenous Africans who had been in the region for a thousand years were an unwilling labor force. The website Geni has an extensive history of Dutch run slavery in South Africa. According to Geni “the VOC gave permission to import slaves to the Cape in 1654.” Figure 1 illustrates what countries the slaves in South Africa were imported from. Dutch settlers imported slaves from other parts of Africa, Malaya and India establishing the dominance of whites over nonwhites in the region. Geni notes, “The first slave ship arrived in March of 1658.” From 1710 on the adult slave population outnumbered the adult colonial population by as much as 3 to 1. Figure 2 demonstrates the increase in slave population between 1652 and 1795. According to the Geni website, “Between 1658 and 1808 an estimated 63,000 slaves were imported into the Cape “. They were housed in fenced, patrolled barracks. Slaves were treated with oppressive conditions and constant surveillance. The only thing that kept the Europeans from killing the slaves is that it was too expensive to replace them. Slaves were property and families almost never stayed together. “Although slave trading was abolished in 1808” Geni notes that many slaves once freed were “poverty-stricken and left destitute”. Slavery reshaped all of South Africa and its effects are still felt today.

The Dutch believed that they were “doing God's work and civilizing the Africans” according to South African history online. The native Africans will struggle for the next 200 years fighting rampant racism. Nelson Mandela was elected Prime Minister in the first election for all races in 1994. The Dutch history in South Africa often gets glossed over in the tourist guides to the area. You do not have to look far to see the remains of the crumbling slavery barracks or the mixed children brought to the world through the rape of enslaved women. You can visit beautiful European towns and massive cemeteries where misbehaving slaves were routinely buried in heaps. The glossy tourist guides will tell you of the European infused restaurants in the brightly colored African villages. Africans have not forgotten their history and neither should we. The African proverb, until a lion learns to write, the story of hunting will always glorify the hunter, should serve as a reminder that if you do not know your past it can be rewritten for you. People of South Africa understand their past and it is our responsibility to make sure it never happens again.

Works Cited

"Afrikaners." About.com Geography. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

"The Dutch Settlement | South African History Online." The Dutch Settlement | South African History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

"The History of Apartheid in South Africa." The History of Apartheid in South Africa. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

"History of Slavery and Early Colonisation in South Africa | South African History Online." History of Slavery and Early Colonisation in South Africa | South African History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

"A Military History of South Africa; from the Dutch-Khoi Wars to the End of Apartheid." Reference & Research Book News. N.p., 1 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

"Slavery in South Africa | South African History Online." Slavery in South Africa | South African History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.

"South African Slaves." Geni_family_tree. Geni Africa Project, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

"SouthAfrica.info." A Short History of South Africa. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Williams, Lizzie. South Africa Dream Trip. Bath: Footprint, 2013. Print.


The Slaves in South Africa Were Mainly Brought in From India, Malaya, Mauritius, East Indies, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, Mozambique/Madagascar

Source: South Africa History Online


Fig.2. South African Population 1652–1795


Whites Free Burghers + Servants


Total Whites +Slaves

Free Burghers


Total Whites +Slaves +Soldiers





















































Source: “Slavery in South Africa/South African History Online.”