By Arnold Mayibongwe Nkala
In the last article we ended when we had said that the white people who were about to be attacked
by Chief Mkhaliphi and his warriors were the Boers. We also said that before we go deeper to the
story we will firstly get to know who these Boers were and how did it happen that they ended up
entering the Ndebele Kingdom without the consent of the King.
In the year 1602 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, a company called Verrenigde Oosstiendische
Compagnie, or simply VOC, was established in pursuit to monopolise East Asian trade, especially the
spice trade in India. In English terms this company is known as the Dutch East India Company. In that
same year, the VOC opened the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, which was the first formal Stock
Exchange in the world. The VOC listed itself as the first company in the Stock Exchange, making it the
first official corporation in the world to be in the Stock Exchange. The journey to India was so long;
the ships from Europe had to go via Africa. The VOC began to open foreign posts to supply the
Company’s ships with fresh food along the route. This made the VOC to be regarded as the first
formal trans-national company in the world. For example in 1611 it established a post in Jakarta,
while in 1652 it opened a post in the Cape. General Jan Van Riebeeck was appointed to administrate
the Cape station. He went with 90 employees who were mostly of Dutch descent. In 1658 two VOC
ships came with the slaves from Angola and West Africa. They were to be used as cheap labour to
maximise profits. More ships came with other slaves from Indonesia, Ceylon and Madagascar. The
indigenous Khoi-San who were initially friendly to the VOC became resistant after realising that
these strangers from the sea where here to stay and were expanding land. Skirmishes began, leading
the Khoi-San to go inwards.
In the 1680s German farmers arrived in the Cape and were to help in the agricultural sector. On the
22 nd of October 1685 the French King Louis XIV issued an edict called The Edict of Fontainebleau (also
known as the Revocation of Nantes). This law was the official persecution of Protestants; freedom of
religion was no longer allowed in France; only Catholism was made legal. This led Protestant
Christians to either be executed or seek refuge elsewhere. About 200 French Protestants, who were
also called Huguenots (they were mostly Calvinists), sought refuge in the Cape and became part of
the white society. By 1800 the white community in the Cape numbered around 40 000 and had
connected through marriage.
Due to the fact that the VOC was profit driven, not only did it use slaves but it also paid most of its
white workers meagre salaries such that they could not manage to return back to Europe after
retirement. So they ended up staying in the Cape and were later given farms to increase agricultural
products to supply the demanding Cape population and passing ships; hence they became farmers.
In Dutch a farmer is called a Boer. This is how this community of new farmers became known as the
Boers. Since they were now permanently settled, they regarded themselves as Africans, hence they
were also known as Afrikanders and later as Afrikaners. A new language, called Afrikaans, was
formed within this society; it was more of a variant of Dutch with borrowed words from East Asian
slaves and labourers (also called the Malay community) and indigenous Khoi-San and Bantu groups.
Most members of the Boer community were men; hence they started to marry Khoi-San, Xhosa and
Tswana women creating a mixed race group generally known as the Griquas. The reader should
remember that in the last article we said that there was a group of Griqua gangs that used to clash
with the Ndebeles of King Mzilikazi. It is the local women of the Boers who infused some of their
indigenous words into Afrikaans. The Boer community flourished in the Cape; life was good- lekker
lewe as they put it in their language. And the weather was also conducive. So how did this new
ethnic group end up trespassing in the territory of King Mzilikazi if everything was lekker in the
Cape? We will find out in our next article in the following week.
Arnold Mayibongwe Nkala is the author of the Mthwakazi history and culture book titled
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