Greenmarket Square, Cape Town. By Johannes Rach, 1764
Slavery in South Africa began at the same time as colonisation in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck, the representative of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC), arrived in Cape Town to set up a refreshment station.
Van Riebeeck arrived with two slave girls from “Abyssinia” (Ethiopia). But Van Riebeeck’s arrival did not signal the “coming of the white man” as colonialism is often characterised. South Africa had a presence of white European and Asian people living there long before the first colonists.

There were numerous shipwrecks along the coast, and white people and Asians and Africans enslaved on the ships were often stranded in South Africa for long periods of time before being rescued. A number of Asian people and whites joined the local Xhosa communities permanently and along the coastal areas where Xhosa and Khoi people lived, intermarriage with the local population resulted in a number of clans and large family groupings. (This history is almost unknown in South Africa, as is much of its history of slavery.) In a number of cases white Europeans refused to return to the colonial outpost in Cape Town or to Europe when rescue ships were sent for them.

This Article by Karin Williams was originally published on Media Diversified.

Rounding the Cape Town area was crucial to Europe for the sea route to Asia, but shipwrecks happened often. The seas around South Africa’s southern tip are treacherous and its proximity to Antarctica greatly influences the winter weather, often resulting in severe winter storms. The southern tip of Africa also has numerous false bays, thereby making it a very dangerous sea crossing1.

The country’s south, particularly around Cape Town, also served as an informal postal system where European ships left messages for other carriers who came by and before colonisation some indigenous Khoi people spoke some French as a result of their contact and trade with the European sailors.
In the early years, 80% of slaves to South Africa came from India (this included Sri Lanka). Slaves would continue to be brought from India, but over the years other regions of the world also gained importance. Over the period of slavery, enslaved people came from four main regions:

    Africa (including Mozambique and East Africa): 26.4%
    Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues): 25.1%
    The Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka (Ceylon): 25.9%
    The Indonesian archipelago: 22.7%

These percentages, however, do not reflect the full range of where enslaved people in South Africa originated from.
Click Here to Continue Reading the Origional Article by Karin Williams on Media Diversified.