Khoikhoi-Dutch Wars
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Khoikhoi%E2%80%93Dutch Wars

The Khoikhoi-Dutch Wars were a series of conflicts that took place in the last half of the 17th century in what was known then as the Cape of Good Hope (today it refers to a smaller geographic spot), in the area of present-day Cape Town, South Africa, between Dutch settlers who came from the Netherlands and the local African people, the indigenous Khoikhoi, who had lived in that part of the world for millennia.

The arrival of the permanent settlements of the Dutch, under the Dutch East India Company, at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 brought them into the land of the local people, such as the Khoikhoi (called Hottentots by the Dutch), and the Bushmen (also known as the San). While the Dutch traded with the Khoikhoi, nevertheless serious disputes broke out over land ownership and livestock. This resulted in attacks and counter-attacks by both sides which were known as the Khoikhoi-Dutch Wars that ended in the eventual defeat of the Khoikhoi (who also succumbed to the diseases that the White settlers brought, such as measles and smallpox.) The First Khoikhoi-Dutch War took place in 1659, the second in 1673, the third 1674 - 1677.[1]

First Khoikhoi-Dutch War

Beginning of the War

The Khoikhoi nomadic people were disgruntled by the disruption of their seasonal visit to the area for which purpose they gazed their cattle at the foot of Table Mountain only to find European settlers occupying and farming the land. Their leader 'Doman' lived in the Fort de Goede Hoop at the time. One night Doman left the fort to join his clan where after he led several cattle-lifting excursions against the settlers. In 1659 the settlements farmers protested against the continual cattle theft and called an urgent council meeting with Jan van Riebeeck. The council, consisting of representatives of the Dutch East India Company and free burghers gathered to discuss the protest made by the free burgher farmers. The Company was not in favor for war and the free burghers made it clear that their only desire were to live in peace and trade with the natives, yet they could not endure any more harassment. The free burghers and the Company stated that they could not see any other way to attain peace and quietness in the area than to declare war on Doman's clan. <refname=HisSA>History of South Africa, 1486 - 1691, G.M Theal, London 1888.</ref>

Settlements response

During the event of the council meeting, Doman and his party attacked a farm and murdered the cattle herder, a boy named Simon Janssen. News of the attack reached the fort soon thereafter and panic ensued throughout the settlement. The Khoisan clan called the Strandlopers, who lived near the Fort at the time, fled from Table Valley fearing to get caught up in the conflict. The burghers who were unable to defend themselves were evacuated to the Fort, while guards were stationed to protect the families who remained on the farms. Additional soldiers arrived by ship and guard houses were erected along the border of the settlement. Doman's clan were however difficult to apprehend. [2]

Jan van Riebeeck decided upon the following measures as a temporary measure to make safe the area; deepening the existing redoubts, build additional three watch-houses, put up a strong fence, mounted patrols along the line and Boerboel dogs on farms. The fence line became the official border of the settlement.

Khoisan Involvement

During the war, a devastating virulent sickness occurred among the cattle of the settlers causing the death of at least four out of five of some of the flocks. The settlers instituted a prayer meeting every Wednesday to pray for relief from the dire situation and for victory. Another Khoisan clan under the leadership of Oedasoa, who were also at war with Doman's clan approached the settlers and offered an alliance. The Council decided to accept Oedasoa's advice on expedition matters but not to accept any men from his clan for the purpose of conducting military operations since they felt that additional manpower were unnecessary and costly. The arrival of 105 additional European soldiers greatly strengthened the garrison at the Cape. The additional men enabled the settlers to carry out several expeditions, of which most were unsuccessful. The Council approached Harry, the leader of the Strandloper clan for assistance with regards to expeditions, who pointed out that Doman's people had placed men as sentinels on every hill. [2]


Skirmishes between the mounted patrols and Doman's people erupted on several occasions where Doman's men were defeated owning to the advantage in weapons on the side of the settlers. During a particular skirmish, Doman was wounded and his party dispersed from the area. After the conflict ended, the Strandloper clan moved back to the area near the Fort where they had lived before and a time of peace emerged. [2]

Peace treaty

On the 6th of April 1660 Doman and his followers arrived at the Fort and concluded a treaty. Both parties agreed that neither would molest each other in future and that Doman's people would only enter the settlements territory, and remain on the designated paths as pointed out, for the purpose of trade in order to replace the stolen cattle. It was further declared that the free burghers and the Company would retain ownership of the land occupied by them and that the settlers would not treat the natives harshly for what had happened during the war, upon which all parties agreed.[2]

Second Khoikhoi-Dutch War

In 1673 exploratory excursions by the Dutch into the interior north of the colony, revealed fertile grazing land to the northeast of the Hottentots-Hollands Mountains, which belonged to the Chainoqua, Hessequa, Quana, Cochoqua and Gouriqua Khoikhoi chiefdoms. These Khoikhoi tribes had large herds of livestock and were willing to engage in trade with the Dutch. However, the Dutch terms of trade resulted in warfare and raiding of livestock, as well as between the Khoikhoi chiefdoms. The Dutch East India Company sent Hieronymous Cruse in 1673 to attack the Cochoqua, who were at the time led by the chief Gonnema. The attack was executed on horseback and marked the beginning of the Second Dutch-Khoikhoi War. The Dutch took approximately 1800 head of livestock.[1]

Third Khoikhoi-Dutch War

In 1674 the Dutch East India Company launched a second follow-up attack on the Cochoqua. In that Third Dutch-Khoikhoi War almost 5000 head of livestock in addition to weapons were taken from the Cochoqua. The war continued until 1677 when Governor Bax extracted the submission of the Cochoqua to Dutch rule that was expressed in an annual tribute of thirty head of cattle. That submission paved the way for Dutch colonial expansion into the land of the Khoikhoi.[1]


Some modern scholars have observed that superior war-making ability was not the only means whereby the Dutch forced the Khoikhoi to submit and concluded that:

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries European settlers ousted the Khoikhoi and San from much of the land they inhabited in south-western Africa using a strategic combination of technology and bureaucracy. The settlers possessed a powerful new fighting technology in the form of firearms and horses that enabled them to hold and defend lands taken from the Khoikhoi. The Dutch East India Company legitimised settler occupation of Khoikhoi land by granting them exclusive use of lands they acquired in freehold or on loan. The settlers took advantage of this permissive policy and their connection to the Cape Town bureaucracy to acquire choice watered land in the interior. These lands and the water resources and pasture they contained were denied to the Khoikhoi pastoralists who found it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves in a land in which access to limited water resources was necessary for survival. In a slow, non-catastrophic process the Khoikhoi were gradually squeezed out of the lands they had once occupied as European settlers alienated the springs and permanent water courses. The survivors of this process often became clients of European settlers and applied their skills in animal husbandry to the invaders' livestock instead of their own.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Chronology of the 1600s at the Cape". November 21, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d History of South Africa, 1486 - 1691, G.M Theal, London 1888.
  3. ^ Guelke, Leonard; Shell, Robert (November 21, 2006). "Landscape of Conquest: Frontier Water Alienation and Khoikhoi Strategies of Survival, 1652-1780". Journal of Southern African Studies. Leonard Guelke & Robert Shell (Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 803-824). 18 (4): 803-824. doi:10.1080/03057079208708339. JSTOR 2637105.

External links

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