The first colonist

I found this in a comment on IOL, apparently it appeared somewhere on Facebook originally.

After president Jacob Zuma’s downright idiotic statement two weeks ago that all the problems in South Africa started with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652,

I have been noticing quite a number of Jan van Riebeeck profile pictures, cartoons and T-shirts going about. As could be expected – I would personally consider doing anything civilised to annoy Jacob Zuma as well.

But I think one should have one last word about this and then we can focus on the future again, instead of doing the ANC thing of dwelling in the past for ever. They have started with blaming apartheid for everything until they realised that some of us actually remember the years of apartheid and might not be as foolish as the majority of KFC-eating, my-vote-for-a-free-yellow-tee-shirt, snorting and dumping rubbish in the streets-voters are. So now he tried to blame a section of history which nobody can remember first hand. Stuuuuupid! Europeans actually had the skill to write and record journals, and if the president bothered to read one or two from time to time, he might not make such a fool of himself. But I understand he said once that he is not one for reading much. That is very obvious, I fear.

The president passed standard 3 at school, I understand. Which explains his lack of knowledge, because the old standard 5 history text book was the one which taught us that Jan van Riebeeck was sent to the Cape to establish a halfway station for the trade ships of the DEIC (HOIK or Vereenigd Oost Indische Compagnie). There never was the intention of colonising or settling. Uncle Jan wanted to open a tuck shop, not take over the (non-existent) government! We know that all too well, because he sent out only a few expeditions to trade cattle with the Khoi-groups in the Peninsula and allowed the first free citizens to measure out small farms only after a lengthy correspondence with Amsterdam. He left the Cape after a decade, never to return and never to look back.

No, if Jacob Zuma wants to blame the first Dutch “settler” we must look at the arrival of the last Commander of the Cape who also became the first governor in 1679. This was the man who started building the strong sandstone fortifications of the Castle of Good Hope, who measured out farms, planted endless avenues of trees, started new enterprises, in particular viticulture, and within three weeks after his arrival visited all the outposts of the Cape. On the 3rd of November 1679 he arrived at a lovely spot nestled in the mountains by a river and decided to establish a “colony” of people there and to build a new town. This was a very clear indication that this man, Simon van der Stel, who named the new town, Stellenbosch, after himself, intended to stay and to create a new nation.

It is ever more obvious as he, after his retirement, never left the Cape but went to live on his farm, Groot Constantia, despite the fact that his children all returned to the Netherlands. He lived for another 14 years before peacefully passing on, loved and respected and known as “Father Simon” by the people of the Cape – black and white alike. Simon van der Stel, the first colonialist…

Now, before you decide that you had the wrong spirit exorcised and that Jan van Riebeeck was only a visitor while Simon van der Stel was the bad guy who brought the white man to this country: Here is a little challenge for you, mr Zuma.

We have no reliable portrait of Simon van der Stel, only a description which tells us that he was short and stocky with very dark hair, oriental eyes, small flat nose and a yellowish complection. And you know why that was? No, of course you don’t: In the records of the Dutch East India Company Simon van der Stel is described as “mestizo” – non-white. His mother was the daughter of captain Hendrick Lievens and a Batavian slave woman Mai Monica da Costa van Java.

You see, president Zuma, your first European coloniser wasn’t even a white man. In today’s South Africa he would be regarded as a Coloured person. So question is now: Are you going to exorcise the spirits of the ancestors of the Coloured people and tell them how unwelcome they are? Or of Indian South Africans whose ancestors originated from the same region as Simon van der Stel’s?

Mr Zuma, children should never play with matches, nor idiots toy with history….


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