In South Africa, it is possible to wear strong melanin skin in your anatomy, akin to Coca-Cola, but in the same veins to course the blood of white Europeans. 

Equally it is a fact that many white Afrikaners, with an iota of eumelanin, cannot fully account for their ancestral blood and DNA without mention and direct links to the formerly enslaved well-built West African and Asians traded in Batavia, Bengal and Angola. 

The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie/VOC), established in March 1602, implemented the slave trade in the Cape of South Africa as part of its business strategy to maximise profits from the much-coveted spice trade in East Asia. 

The settlement of the VOC in the Cape in 1652, through Jan van Riebeeck, involved human trafficking of men and women from West African countries. The earlier trafficked men and women were taken from Portuguese slave ships mugged by the Dutch vessel, Amersfoort, in the late 1650s. 

When the VOC executive directors, popularly known as the Gentlemen XVII/Heeren XVII in Netherlands, condoned slave trade in the Cape by the Dutch, along with this came inter-racial sexual engagements. 

One of the famous Dutch East India Company commanders and Cape governors with slave ancestry was Simon van der Stel. He came into the world from the womb and between the thighs of a woman with a history of enslavement. His mother, Marie van Lievens, was a daughter of Monyca da Costa from the Coromandel Coast of South India and Heyndrick Levensz, a Dutch captain in Batavia.

 Monyca da Costa was associated with a group of slave women that were bought by the Dutch East India Company in south India. Simon van der Stel’s grandmother was therefore part of women who were earmarked as future brides of the Dutch East India Company officials. The Van der Stels were considered pure Dutch by some Netherlands chauvinists. 

We now know that the Van der Stels, through Simon’s son Willem, presided over a massive looting and capture in the Cape which seemed to have angered the Gentlemen XVII in Dutchland, thanks to the snitch Adam Tas.

Simon van der Stel was not alone in Black human ancestry. There is the story of Angela from Bengal also known as Angila, Ansiela, Ansla and Hansela. She had arrived in the Cape as a slave together with her husband and three children. Angela was brought to the Cape by a Batavian lanndrost, Pieter Kemp. He then sold the family to Van Riebeeck. 

In 1662 Van Riebeeck sold Angela to Abraham Gabbema, regarded as a deputy to Van Riebeeck. In 1666 Gabbema was promoted to a post in Batavia. He then liberated Angela with her three children. No mention is made about her husband from India. After she was free Angela was given land in Heerenstraat with a title deed signed by one Cornelis van Quaelbergen. 

Part of the conditions for the liberation of a slave included understanding and speaking the Dutch language, being a confirmed Christian and a member of a Church. In her freedom as a Free Black, on 29 March 1668, Angela hired a slave called Scipio Africanus from owner Robert Caracus at 5 guilders a month. Angela is said to have made a living by selling vegetables to ships passing through the Cape. 

In 1669 Angela married a Dutch Arnoldus Willemsz Basson and the interracial marriage produced a child called Willem. Their other children were Gerrit and Johannes. Angela is praised for her diligence in managing the estate of her husband when he died in 1689. Angela died in the early 18th century. 

The estate she had inherited from her husband had grown from 6 495 guilders to 14 808 guilders. Angela’s heirs included Anna de Koningh who was born of her first husband and married to Oloff Bergh. The other beneficiaries of her estate were her granddaughter and grandchildren descendants from her children Elsje Basson and Maria Basson.

One of the most fascinating black female entrepreneurial stories in the 17th century colonial era in the Cape was Maria Everts, known as the “Swarte Maria”. She was the daughter of Guinea slaves, Evert of Guinea and Hoena (Anna) of Guinea. Born in 1662, Maria grew up as a slave and in her life rose to become enormously wealthy and among her assets owned the farm which became what is now known as the affluent Camps Bay in Cape Town. Maria Everts also owned De Mosselbank farm in Klipheuwel, Klawervlei in Darling, grazing and hunting rights in the Sonquasfonteyn field and in the Drooge Valley next to Groen Cloof.

She had prospered in her forties and by 1709 she was reported to have owned 24 cows, 300 sheep and 6 000 vines which produced two leaguers of wine (1 048 litres equivalent) and 16 muids of wheat from her fields. At the time she employed a white servant, owned 10 slaves, two female slaves, seven male and a young boy. 

Maria Everts was in a cohabitation arrangement with the Dutch free burgher, Bastiaan Colyn or Colijn. It is said from a wealth perspective Colijn had nothing on Maria Everts, except for a pistol and other small items. It has been speculated that the two were not in a formal matrimonial structure because Everts had not divorced from her first marriage. The other view is that Colijn might have been attracted to her partly on the basis of her economic standing. 

Described as tall, very dark skinned with sparkling eyes and hospitable, Maria Everts was reported to have had three children all from different European fathers. They were the surgeon William ten Damme, Kraak and Colijn. Outside these three men Maria Everts had married Jacqje Joij van Angola (Jackie Joy of Angola) in November 1679, a well to do former slave of Jan van Riebeeck. “Swarte” Maria Everts died wealthy in 1713 during the smallpox epidemic.

The physiological aerobics between the Dutch men and West African and Asian women can now be linked to contemporary Afrikaner families such as the Basson, Badenhorst, Bantjes, Bergman, Broeders, Colyn, Combrink, Eksteen, Goosen, Jonker, Jonas, Kraak and so on. The system whitened the children born from mixed race. But it was deemed taboo for a black man to be in a relationship with a white European woman. Such was the hypocrisy. 

There were people such as the horny Coenraad de Buys, whose father was a wine grower from Calais in France. Many of the French Huguenots had arrived in the Cape with the Dutch East India Company. When Coenraad de Buys (born in South Africa) grew up he impregnated various black women from multiple nations including abaThembu and the Khoi. His drawers were so loose or he probably never wore them. 

Even as far up as Makhado, Limpopo, Buys’s details are visible, almost300 years later. There is a place called Buysdorp named after him. 

De Buys is said to have been tall and big. When he was in the Eastern Cape one of his partners was Queen mother, Yese (mother of Prince Ngqika). Yese was renowned for her beauty and equally ample. One can only leave it to the imagination of the mind on how the titillating logistics penned out at the set of the sun between the Xhosa Queen Mother and the Frenchman.

The inter-racial mingling was not just Dutch. There were also stories of the 18th century English East India Company ship, the Grosvenor, which was carrying passengers and cargo. When she was wrecked by the Wild Coast of the Cape casting away a number of its passengers, some of the European survivors found refuge with amaMpondo creating what many now see as blue-eyed amaMpondo.

Wasn’t it not amaZulu King, Shaka, who crowned the English traveller and trader Henry Fynn, a Zulu chief, trusted adviser and among other deeds blessed him with many Zulu women?

This is an edited extract from the book Native Merchants – The Building of the Black Business Class by Phakamisa Ndzamela. References for this article were: Boeseken, AJ, Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape; Crampton, H, Sun Burnt Queen; Hesse HF, Die Groep Sonder Grense; Mostert, N, Frontiers and Upham, MG, Uprooted Lives

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Phakamisa Ndzamela

Phakamisa Ndzamela is the author of a newly released book, Native Merchants – The Building of the Black Business Class

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