The Khoikhoi And The Dutch

Khoi Khoi illustration

An illustration found in the 1777 travel diary of explorer and VOC offi cer R.J. Gordon.

With the coming of the Dutch settlement, the Khoikhoi faced a much stronger demand for their cattle. They were now called on not only to feed VOC ships, which arrived in larger numbers than formerly, but also to support the garrison and hospital. Soon the Company would settle free burghers in the vicinity of the fort and further inland. The free burghers would put even greater pressure on Khoikhoi herds, while also encroaching on their pastures and hunting grounds.

While the Company strove to be the sole buyer and to keep prices low, the Khoikhoi tried to protect the viability of their herds by selling only sheep or sickly cattle. Deeply frustrated about the reluctance of the Khoikhoi to trade, Commander Van Riebeeck contemplated enslaving the Khoikhoi near his fort and seizing their herds and flocks. But the Company was anxious to avoid deep entanglements in southern Africa; it had declared the Khoikhoi a free people who could be neither conquered nor enslaved. Somewhat grudgingly, Van Riebeeck abided by this policy, devoting much of his ten year command to intricate diplomatic manoeuvres designed to win the goodwill of at least some Khoikhoi.


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