We had the most exciting adventures in Southern Africa in 2017-2018.
OUR DIVERSE CULTURE
Paarl is the third oldest European Settlement in South Africa and is home to a culturally diverse community – the product of a unique history.
The people of Paarl are descendants of the Khoisan, slaves from African and Asia, Dutch settlers, French Huguenots, Jewish immigrants, Italian Prisoners of War, and Xhosa migrant labourers.
The Khoikhoi and San were the first people to utilize the area and original San rock art can still be seen at nearby Wemmershoek and Bainskloof. Originally, Paarl Mountain was named “Tortoise Mountain” by the Khoikhoi.
The Berg River Valley formed the traditional border between the Peninsular Khoikhoi (the Gorachoqua and the Goringhaiqua) and the Cochoqua. The latter group moved their cattle around the various grazing areas of the Berg River and Drakenstein valleys.
The approximately 18 000-strong Cochoqua was one of the richest and strongest of the Khoi tribes, but they were eventually defeated during the second war between the colonists and Khoikhoi and most of their livestock looted.
On the death of their leaders, the tribe dispersed, with some trekking towards the Orange River, while others were in the service of colonists.
The original purpose of the Dutch settlement in the vicinity of latter day Cape Town, was to provide fresh food and water to the ships of the Dutch East India Company, on their way to the East. Founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, built up fresh meat stock by bartering livestock from the local Khoikhoi.
In 1657, Abraham Gabbema led an expedition to find more Khoi groups to barter with and to search for the legendary treasures of Monomotapa. On the day that they arrived in the Berg River Valley, the granite boulders, towards the west side of our town, glistened in the sun and this inspired Gabbema to name this mountain “the Diamond and Pearl Mountain” from which the name Paarl was later derived.
In October 1687, thirty years after the Gabbema expedition, Governor Simon van der Stel granted the first farms to Free Burghers. Twenty-one of these farms were in Drakenstein (Paarl), and five were on the foothills of Paarl Mountain.
When the French Huguenots arrived in the Cape in 1688, some were granted land in the Drakenstein area.
Their intimate knowledge of the wine industry would be instrumental in establishing the now internationally-renowned wine industry of South Africa.
The headquarters of the South African wine industry, the KWV, is situated in Paarl, on one of the earliest farms (La Concorde, as it is known today) to be granted by Governor Simon van der Stel.
The traditional European practice of private land ownership soon clashed with the communal land use of the Khoikhoi. Land was now granted to the French Huguenots and this meant that water was limited and the wild animals that were hunted by the Khoisan, systematically disappeared from the area.
European diseases, such as small pox, further decimated the indigenous peoples. Many of the Khoisan were forced to move to the interior or became labourers for the colonists.
Between 1658 and 1808, some 63 000 slaves were brought to South Africa from different parts of the world, to sow, harvest, and thresh the wheat and also to load wagons, weed the owner’s fields, and look after the livestock. On wine farms they harvested and pressed grapes. Women did housework and in some cases acted as wet nurses for their owner’s children.
Het Gesticht (a small unbaked brick church) was built in 1813 to provide slaves with a place of worship. From 1820, onwards it became known as the Zion Church and is the fourth oldest church building in South Africa.
After being emancipated in 1834, slaves in Paarl were awarded property in the vicinity of modern-day Berg Street and School Street.
In 1958 after the voting age was decreased to 18, the National Party (NP) was able to increase their majority again, this time to 108 seats. Verwoerd, like his predecessors, was convinced that unity between the English and the Afrikaner could be achieved only within a new republic. In January 1960 he announced that a referendum would be held that year on the issue of a republic. It was decided that South Africa, like India, would also try to become a republic, while remaining in the Commonwealth.
At this time in South Africa there were various crises that had an impact on the way that people voted in the referendum. First the Sharpeville Masacre (1960) and the resultant banning of the ANC and PAC. Many gave their support to the NP after this incident as they believed the NP could protect them. South Africa also came under international criticism, and in this atmosphere many felt that some withdrawal from international affairs was best. Other incidents that deeply affected South Africans in 1960 were the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Verwoerd, the Orange Free State Coalbrook mining disaster on 21 January 1960 where 435 labourers were buried alive, and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s ‘Winds of Change’ speech. Their effect was to bring greater coherence and unity amongst white South Africans.
Further reading on these incidents:
The referendum was held on 5 October 1960 and the majority of white South African voters (not just white Afrikaans speakers) were in favour of a republic. Black, Coloured and Indian people were not allowed to vote. Both the United Party and the Progressive Party called for votes against the republic at this time. Some white English-speakers voted in favour of a republic, presuming that this would not affect South Africa’s membership of the commonwealth. The government did not use the two-third-majority rule, but only a simple majority. This went against what Strijdom had believed when, thinking only of whites, he said it should be determined by the ‘broad basis of the people’s will’. The result was 850 458 in favour with 775 878 against, meaning that the referendum was won by only 74 580 votes. In 1961 the monetary system was changed from the British imperial currency to a metric, South African system of Rands and cents.
On 3 March 1961 Verwoerd went to the Imperial Conference in London. His apparent intention was to discuss South Africa becoming a republic while remaining in the commonwealth. At the 1960 Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference the diplomat, Eric Louw had been told that a decision regarding whether South Africa would be allowed to stay in the Commonwealth or not could not be made in advance. The reason for this decision was that it could have been seen as interference with the internal affairs of another country. Verwoerd now needed to obtain a statement on South Africa’s position that would be acceptable to both the Commonwealth and to South Africans. He was however faced by a lot of opposition to South Africa’s apartheid policy. Some countries had been thinking that South Africa should be expelled from the Commonwealth as a result of apartheid, and there had been campaigning in Britain by the Anti-Apartheid Movement calling for this.
The Afro-Asian countries were especially critical of apartheid, with Nkrumah and Nehru leading the discussion. Canada also criticised South Africa openly, and the call was for South Africa to abandon her racial policy. Verwoerd refused and felt that nobody should have the right to dictate to South Africa what actions should be followed. In South Africa even the white parliamentary opposition agreed with him on this point. Verwoerd decided it would be best to leave the Commonwealth before South Africa was expelled or faced even more criticism, and so suddenly resigned on 15 March. It had also become clear by this time that some other countries would leave the Commonwealth in protest if an unrepentant South Africa were allowed to remain.
On 31 May South Africa became a republic, with her membership of the Commonwealth simultaneously expiring. The choice of this particular day was no accident, but was deeply significant in the Afrikaner psyche. The date of Republic day (31 May) coincided with the end of the South African War in 1902, the date of the Union of South Africa in 1910 and the date when the South African flag had first been flown in 1928. The new constitution had been finalised in April, but did not resemble that of the old Boer republics or the 1941 draft as many had expected. It combined the old powers of the Queen and the Governor General and invested them in the new position of State President – a position without a political role and elected by the legislature. Equality between English and Afrikaans was retained.
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My town of birth in 1969-12-16. Rustenburg – North-west Province – South Africa.
Have you tried to learn more about your own town and maybe some mystery there?
Rustenburg is prominent in Afrikaner history. The town was established in 1851 as an administrative centre for a fertile farming area producing citrus fruit, tobacco, peanuts, sunflower seeds, maize, wheat and cattle. On 10 February 1859, the local Dutch Reformed Church community was established. One of the oldest Boer settlements in the north, Rustenburg was the home of Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic, who bought a 5 square kilometer farm to the north-west of the town in 1863. The homestead on his farm, Boekenhoutfontein, is now the Paul Kruger Country Museum. When the Boer and the British came to blows in the Second Boer War (1899), the territory around Rustenburg became a battlefield. The two sides clashed famously at nearby Mafikeng, where the British garrison found itself under siege for months. These battle sites can be explored from Rustenburg.
Before European settlers arrived, the area had been settled by agrarian Setswana speaking tribes for several hundred years after colonising the native pastoralist Khoikhoi people. Rustenburg’s population is primarily Tswana people. Many belong to the Royal Bafokeng Nation, extensive landowners earning royalties from mining operations. The Royal Bafokeng are descendants of Sotho settlers who displaced the local tribes from the region, which they came to call ‘place of dew’ (Phokeng). In the early 1800s, the Bafokeng and other Tswana communities were conquered in a series of devastating wars launched by an offshoot of the Zulu kingdom, called the Matabele. The Boers had also fought the Zulu and Matabele, and so the Boers and Tswana found in the Matabele a common enemy. The Tswana and Boers planned together and worked toward defeating the Matabele from a Sotho-Tswana kingdom to the south, and together, they defeated the Matebele. As the Boers settled in the area, called their settlement Rustenburg because they had relatively friendly relations with their Bafokeng allies in the area, and after the many violent military conflicts with other African chiefdoms, such as the Matabele, they believed they could rest (“rusten” in Dutch) in this settlement, whose name literally means “Resting Town.” Although had already long lived in the area when the Boers arrived, the Bafokeng bought land rights from the Boers, and they purchased their first tracts of land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century from the colonial rulers, some in exchange for serving in the Boer Wars. Although these land purchases were technically illegal, Paul Kruger, who would become a president of the Transvaal Boer Republic, but was then a veld kornet, was friendly to the Bafokeng and helped arrange many of these purchases. The majority of people in the region 20 years after the fall of apartheid still live in abject poverty despite the massive profits yielded by the platinum royalties. This has led in recent years to claims of kleptocracy against the ‘royal’ family and land claim disputes.
Among the first residents of Rustenburg were settlers of Indian origin. One of the first families of Indian origin was the Bhyat family, whose contribution to the city’s history was marked by the renaming of a major streetname to Fatima Bhayat Street in honour of Fatima Bhyat who arrived in Rustenburg with her husband in 1877.
With the arrival and successful farming practices of the Afrikaners (Boers) in the nineteenth century, Rustenburg became a primary agricultural region with vast citrus estates due to the favourable climate and abundant water supply.
Platinum mining in Rustenburg began in 1929, shortly after the discovery of the Platinum Reef by Hans Merensky, later named the Merensky Reef. The town has been transformed from a region recognized around the world since the 19th century for its natural springs and healing environment, as eloquently described in the book ‘Rustenburg Romance’ by author and poet Eric Rosenthal into one of the most polluted environments in the late 20th and early 21st century South Africa. The wanton despoliation of the environment through mining has drawn comparisons to the Norilsk complex in Russia, one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.
With the implementation of apartheid after 1948 life became more severe for ‘non-whites’ with 9 pm curfews and the most stringent enforcement of pass laws in the country. This was welcomed by the mining industry as it gave them a tighter grip on the migrant labour which was the backbone of their operations. Ethnic groups were moved forcibly from the center of town to the Indian, Coloured or Black areas, Zinniaville, Karlien Park and Boitekong respectively. The pass laws were abolished with the fall of apartheid.
The township of Boitekong on the northeast side of Rustenburg has one of the highest incidence of AIDS orphans in South Africa Boitekong was the venue for World AIDS Day commemoration in December 2010. The township is in a geographical area which bears the brunt of the catchment area of the toxic effects of the mining industry coupled with a very poor quality of water supply from the local Bospoort Dam, the water from which was for decades considered too toxic for human consumption until water shortages in the nineties compelled the purification and supply to Boitekong. Life for the majority under the rule of the ‘Royal Bafokeng’ has parallels to the apartheid era. In the Apartheid era, forced removals of old settlements were on the basis of racial divide whereas now it is done for installation of massive mining operations sometimes engulfing entire villages. (see ‘Rasimone’ on Google Earth)
The Royal Bafokeng own the stadium selected as a World Cup 2010 venue, the only ‘private’ stadium that hosted games in the 2010 World cup. The Royal Bafokeng regard themselves as a ‘separate nation’ which is in contradiction to the Rainbow nation espoused by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. This ‘nationhood’ is regarded by many today as a divide and rule tactic orchestrated by the mining conglomerates which has subsequently led to the calls for nationalization of the mining industry by the ANC Youth League.
Agriculture in the region has been in constant decline since the decimation of the vast citrus estates of Rustenburg in the 70’s and 80’s due to pollution from increased smelting and beneficiating processes by mines. There are only a fraction of the original citrus farms remaining.
Comparisons can be drawn between the Klondike gold rush and the events in Rustenburg in the late 20th and early 21st century which led to it becoming one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa.
In 1990, the first post-Apartheid conference between the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa) and the South African churches was held in Rustenburg. During this conference, professor Willie Jonker of the University of Stellenbosch made this confession on behalf of the entire DRC:
“[I] confess before you and before the Lord, not only my own sin and guilt, and my personal responsibility for the political, social, economic and structural wrongs that have been done to many of you and the results [from] which you and our whole country are still suffering, but vicariously I dare also to do that in the name of the NGK [the white DRC], of which I am a member, and for the Afrikaans people as a whole.”
The conference finally resulted in the signing of the Rustenburg Declaration, which moved strongly toward complete confession, forgiveness, and restitution.
In August 2012, South African police fatally shot 34 miners and wounded 78 more during an industrial dispute Marikana miners’ strike near Rustenburg, it was the most lethal use of force by South African security forces since the end of the apartheid era.