by: Attaqua Ethel Williams Herandien

“Slaves without masters” The Erasure of Indigenous History

Why are they resented and rejected by indigenous people?

Pre- colonial nations Attaqua, Chainouqua, Cochouqua, Gorinchaiqua, Gorachouqua,Gariguriqua, Hessequa, Sonqua are commonly known as the original nations of the Cape.

The Griqua was named by a British missionary, Reverend James Campbell in 1813 and their nation was established as political , not a cultural group in1886.

They were historically called Baastard Hottentots, Basters, Rehoboth Basters, Oorlam Sprinboks, Oorlam Afrikaners, Drosters, Bergenaars and Coloureds.

Batavian exiles and convicts including Creole Chinese,Masbiekersand indentured labourers from  St. Helena joined them.

Griqualand West, Griqualand East and Griquatown were awarded to them for their deadly frontier wars against indigenous people.

Despite rejecting their ethnicity in favour of the European fathers, and having children among themselves, many still carry indigenous DNA.

By 1717 there was an imbalance in the ratios of both enslaved and settler women. 15 000 enslaved women and girls were imported from East Africa, Madagascar, Indonesia and India. “Liaisons” between locally born French Huguenots, German and Dutch settlers and free slaves were encouraged.

In December 1658, a mixed group of Heeren Seventien employees, captured and enslaved people and convicts escaped. In March 1660, another group of 41 including free burghers, convicts and enslaved people escaped the settlement .

From the early 17th century, Dutch soldiers kept concubines and sex slaves.

Sexual Exploitation in the Cape, included “property” being forced to have sex with the “masters’ guests and they were rented to passing ships. The children born out of the exploitation of Captured and indentured women were enslaved.

Slave owners preferred light skinned slaves ,exploiting women’s reproductive systems, even if it meant fathering children himself, to improve their brood of “livestock”. Light skinned slaves had a higher monetary value and served as a status symbol.

The Dutch also bought Asian women on slave markets where they were advertised as “brides for sale”.

Just over 1000, captured people and indigenous women, are recorded to have been married to settlers between 1652 and 1795, while only two former enslaved men, married settler women.

The British and Dutch coloniser refused to provide their offspring citizenship, their father’s legal and social status. They became known as Basters or Baastards.

However, on European settled farms, they were given more skilled jobs such as craftsmen, and transport riders.

This created a billigerent group that harassed and murdered indigenous communities. Known as,  “Marauding blacks” they were joined by shipwrecked Maroons, Oorlams Afrikaners and Droster (colonial officers) , free and manumitted slaves, banished khoi and San, knegts, fugitives and convicts. With the blessing of their settler relatives, they became liquor traders, slave and horse raiders, trading with passing ships in the Cape and the West Coast. They reported to their Cape masters/relatives on land they considered Terra Nullius, inalienable and no-mans’ land available for settlement of Trekboer and British.

As early as 1687, this incoherent group gifted 6 fattened oxen to the Commander at the garrison requesting a treaty with the Dutch Coloniser.

The colonial settler, in response to the indigenous resistance, conscripted these people, who considered themselves superior, into their commandos. They readily abandoned their exploited and marginalized societies in favour of ruling over them..

The Griqua was promised autonomy by the British for carrying military burden and acting as a buffer between colonial settler and indigenous resistance.

The Griqua’s first leader born in 1711 Adam Kok, left the Cape with approximately 3000 people, was a Captain (kaptein).

Kapteins (Captains), hereditary positions, were first recognized by the Heeren Seventien and then the British as supervisors of servants and enslaved people. They were the confidential employees, often treated as family to their masters.

Laws designed to control and enslave indigenous people, such as Vagrant laws, baptism laws, pass laws, Inboekstelsels, the Caledon Code, Apprentices of Servants Act and Caledon Code, indenture of children, did not apply to descendants of Europeans. They were allowed to buy alcohol, tax Africans in “their” territories.

Although the Dutch and the British found the Griqua “uncivilized”, they were important and useful in ensuring security. They became known as the most economically advanced non-European group.

Whereas Africans identify themselves by the lineage, through their nations and clans, the Griqua has historically emphasized their European ancestry, adopted their religions and stayed loyal and allied with the European. They were mostly Christians and they music consist of 17th century Dutch hymns and their motto remain “Groei in Geloof” (Growth in faith)

Clothing was used to distinguish different subordinate people as there was very little difference between slaves and free people. Enslaved men were not allowed to wear hats or shoes. Indigenous people continued to wear wool and leather.

Since they did not have a language they, readily adopted Dutch and then Afrikaans as their language.

The Griqua, were easily identifiable dress-code was similar to Dutch trekboer with wide brimmed hats and patchwork except they were not allowed to wear coloured silk, hooped skirts, fine laces and decorations on their hats. Imported enslaved people were provided either with uniforms

By the 19th century they had colonized and settled on indigenous land, setting up states inland and in South West Africa-Namibia.

While indigenous people engaged in more than 160 years of resistance wars, the Griqua were raiding their kraals for women, children and livestock and protecting the trekboere.

They supported the British in their frontier wars and were described as independent British allies.

Along the East Coast they traded ivory, slaves, gold, cattle, wax and skin and women and children with the Europeans in exchange for alcohol, weapons and fabric.

By 1790, their slave raiding expedition included the Rolong, Tlhaping, Hurutshe and Ngwaketse communities on the Orange River.

The Griqua did not value San life. In Philloppolus, the San, under British protection, were in servitude of the Griqua from 1826. Their animosity towards the San led to regular deadly attacks by their commandos, driving them off their land.

In 1859 John Mackenzie wrote about the Griqua “they might be good, intelligent and wealthy, but they were only Bastaards and Hottentots after all”.

On a visit to Phillipolus in the 1930’s, a visiting missionary Eugene Casalis noted that “The Griqua made too much of their white blood in their veins and showed themselves haughty and tyrannical towards the blacks”.

The San living under the Waterboer Captaincy were better treated due to Andries Waterboers San Heritage


Griqua names like Le Fluer, Kok, Barendse, Waterboer, Phillips, MacKenzie are prominent in all spheres on post-Apartheid decision making.

The Griqua depend on political cohesion rather that bloodline, clan or nation and ancestral land, unlike indigenous people.

Forged from different of descent, unlike indigenous people these “neither native nor settler” or Indigenous Settlers” do not represent any ethnic groups.

In 1950, the Colonial Apartheid Government forcibly assimilated indigenous nations with bloodlines and clans still intact, with incoherent groups that included self-identified Coloureds and Griqua. These laws, the Population Regulation Act and Group Areas Acts, De-Africanised and demoralized indigenous people further.

More than 100 000 people applied for reclassification with an overwhelming amount of self -identifying coloured and Griqua applying to be classified as white. Very few were approved.

Where in America the “one-drop rule” was applied, Apartheid used the criteria of “appearance and general acceptance and repute.”

Griqua leaders like Adam Kok 1, Adam Kok 2, Cornelius Kok Barend Barends, Andries Waterboer, Andries Le Fluer, are still glorified by their people, despite their shameful history.

It is therefore of no supervise that the descendants of the Griqua would support the establishment of a brand new indigenous group the “ Camissa People” 170 years after the establishment of the Griqua Nation in 1848.

The imposition of this three year old Camissa group as indigenous, includes a Museum in the garrison of Jan Van Riebeeck, while there is no dedicated indigenous Museum in South Africa, erases the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape.

The appropriation of Khoi Ancestor Krotoa as the ancestor of the new ethnic group erases her revolutionary history against the Dutch Coloniser and dismisses the pre-colonial history of the Goringhaiqua, Goringhaichona, Choch-qua and other nations.

The AmaMpondomise people have launched a land claim for the land that Adam Kok and his Griquas appropriated and settled on in 1862 with the support of the British.

Despite their continued historical proximity with settler colonialist, they can be found discussing the future of indigenous people on the highest level of government.

So who are the people calling on coloureds, brown people and the Khoisan to unite?

A Coloured “Electoral Bloc” was established by controversial politicians like former Premier of the Western Cape Peter Marias- Brown empowerment Movement, Gayton McKenzi- Patriotic Alliance, Khoisan Revolution and the Griqua Royal House to consolidate coloureds.

The Cape Succession Group, Gatvol Capetonians led by Fadiel Adams, who claim that the Xhosa of which many are descendants of Indigenous South Africans, are settlers have been agitating for a  “coloured revolution” since 2011.

The Cape Party is calling for a referendum for the Cape to become an independent Country.

The recent announcement that indigenous people will be able to “tick” Khoi-San on the Cencus2021 forms is their doing.

Indigenous people have long called for this 1928 term, which was coined after the German genocide of the Herero and Nama, to be scrapped, yet they continue their erasure of indigenous voices.

The appointment of a “Steering Committee for the Implementation of National Khoi and San Heritage Route” in 2021,  is another such instance where the Griqua speaks for indigenous people who they previously hunted and traded as slaves, erasing indigenous history.

Neither the Griqua, nor the new Camissa group has a history of consultation with indigenous people.

In 2018, the Khomani San distanced themselves from self-proclaimed Ruler, King Khoehaba Calvin Cornelius, who has no bloodline or history in their community, yet called on Parliament of vacate parliament with a view of establishing Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape up to the Fish River, a “Sovereign State of Good Hope”. The Royal House of the Khoisan, which he claims to represent, is illegitimately representing indigenous people.  “Khoisan” is not an ethnicity, but a homogenization of 1928.
Pre-colonial groups have remained united throughout 270 years of genocide, land grabs, homogenization and marginalization through awarding us stewardship, indigenous knowledge of land, our communities and the ecosystems. No matter where they find themselves in the world, from Namibia, Canada to New Zealand, indigenous South African is deeply rooted in the heritage and culture.

Those who have rejected and dismissed their blood line, clans and heritage by supporting colonial settler in ethnic cleansing, are mobilizing into new settler ethnic groups, further erasing ancient knowledge and traditions, while new titles are invented daily.

Who and why are these people calling for Brown People, Coloureds and “Khoisan” people to unite?

Cure with Kindness!