Thursday, February 21, 2013



There is nothing wrong with honouring one’s ancestors and using their lives and decisions as guidelines. This guiding principle provides us, therefore, with the necessary framework to investigate the happenings of 500 years ago and its relevance today; for our voices alone are crying of the horrors and outrages committed against our people.

On 1 March 1510 Francisco De Almeida, the Portuguese Viceroy of India, led a punitive expedition against the Goringhaikhoe/ Huri !Xai Khoe (Kaapmans) on Woodstock beach. The gallant Goringhaikhoe acting in accordance with their heroic traditions in the defense of their homeland sent the invaders reeling back in dismay, disorder and defeat. In this battle, the most European loss of lives in a war with the Khoi khoi were accounted for and only after three-quarters of a century were Khoe khoen-European contact resumed.

The KhoiKhoi & Boesman during De Almeida’s time
In the Cape, Francisco De Almeida came in contact with the indigenous people, who were the Khoe Khoe (Hottentots) and the San (Boesman). Latest research indicates that the Khoe Khoen moved away from the hunter-gatherer existence to a cattle herding mode of survival. Academia is split with regards to the origin and the migration route of the Cape Khoe Khoen from the Northern region in Botswana. According to the research done by G.M. Theal and G. Stow it was previously accepted that that the Khoe khoen had its origin in East Africa and from there migrated in a westward direction across the sub-continent to Angola. From there they moved down along the coast of Namibia to the Northwestern Cape, and the Southwestern Cape and then eastwardly to Eastern Cape. Latest research indicate that the earliest Khoe khoen herders moved out of the Botswana region in the direction of Matabeleland then what is today known as Transvaal all along the Harts river till the !Gariep (Orange river). From there the main group spilt in two; one group the forefathers of the Nama moved westward till the mouth of the !Gariep. There the group split again; one moving north and the other south. Last mentioned group would later meet the Cape Khoe khoen north of the Cape. The other group who were the forefather of the Cape Khoe, moved in the direction of the Vis- and Sondags– river, where the group known as the Gonakhoe migrated east, while the forefathers of the Attakhoe, Hessekhoe, Kochokhoe and the Cape Peninsula Khoe khoen traveled west past Mossel bay till in the region of St. Helena bay.

The Western Cape Khoe khoe lived in one of the best places in Africa. Good rainfall and grazing lands secured that the population were fairly high for Khoi khoi standards. They spoke the same dialect, had similar cultural traits, and their lineages of chieftainships were all blood related. The most important groupings in the Cape (or better known as //Hui !Gaeb) were the Goringhaikhoe (who fought the battle in 1510 against De Almeida), Gorachoukhoe, Goringhaikona and other smaller groups, while to the north of Table bay were the Kochokhoe, further north were the Gurikhoe or Carigurikhoe(/Karihurikhoe) or Saldanhars, while the Chainoukhoe and the Hessekhoe’s pastures were from the Hottentots-Holland till Swellendam.

The Boesman/ San were the earliest human community who lived in the sight of Table Mountain (The mountain of the seas - Hoerikwaggo; in Nama huri ╪oaxa coming out of the sea, or “huri” Nama for sea, xkoago for high mountain (/k)ui= mountain/ stone, ╪gō= high). The name suggests they must have probably witnessed or had the knowledge of the rising of the mountain out of the sea. They lived in small nomadic groups engaged in hunting, fishing and gathering field foods and their art dating back to 27 000 years has been described as one of the ‘high points of human visual creativity’. The relationship between the Boesman/ San and Khoe khoen often fluctuated between conflict and collaboration. The Khoe khoen herds often grazed on the hunting grounds of the San and used their water resources often amounting to conflict. Often smaller Boesman/ San groupings attached them to bigger Khoe khoen clans and were later absorbed into these communities, because they were stronger in number and had a more stable economic basis. The Khoe khoen owing to their protein rich diets were bigger in physical appearance than the San due to their adaptation to the pastoral economy. These two are ancestral brothers who initially spilt due to different lifestyles.

Who was Francisco De Almeida (1450-1510)?
Francisco De Almeida was the appointed Viceroy of India; a military genius on land and sea who fought bravely for Portugal in conquering two cities, subduing 3 rulers under Portuguese rule, and conquering the Turks of the Great Sultan by Diu. His conquests amounted in great loss of lives and guaranteed that the Turks never set foot on Indian soil again. He also fought bravely to oust the Moors out of Spain and won great favour with the Spanish and Portuguese kings. He grew up, like most other nobles, and enjoyed his cultural refinement and military training in the kingly court of Afonso V.

Last journey of De Almeida
After handing over his position of Viceroy to Afonso de Albuquerque on 4 Nov. 1509 he boarded the ship Garça. On 19 Nov. 1509 accompanied by the Belem under command Jorge de Mello Pereira and the Santa Cruz under Lourenço de Brito, he set sail on his voyage back to Portugal. They anchored in Mozambique, few days before Christmas, to do repair work on the Belem. He initially decided not to land at the Cape of Good Hope because King Manuel commanded Portuguese ships to pass Table Bay and Mossel bay. After they sailed pass the Cape, it became apparent that all 3 ships needed fresh supplies of water. De Almeida then instructed the ships to turn around and set anchor by Aguada da Saldanha on 20 Feb. 1510. De Castanheda described Aguada da Saldanha as a beautiful river which flowed into the ocean near Cape of Good Hope. Khoe khoen-krale was located nearby the watering hole, which were used by their cattle.

One of the crew members, Diogo Fernandes Labaredas accompanied the Khoe khoen to their kraal a distance of a legua(6,66km) in the region of Mowbray, and received a flat tailed sheep which he in turn gave to De Almeida. Because of the need for fresh meat, De Almeida sent 12 crew members to the kraal along with Labaredas to engage in trading. The Goringhaikhoe was well pleased with the trading goods of the Portuguese and roasted a sheep for them, and also took sheep to an open area outside the kraal for trading. The 12 crew members waited there, while Labaredas was scouting for oxen, which were also taken to the open area for trading. After the trading, the Portuguese were on their way to the ships, when Gonçalo Homem, servant of De Almeida , wanted to “take” / ”kidnap” a Khoe man for De Almeida; apparently to be clothed in European wear & presented with gifts. A skirmish erupted and the Khoe man was injured but managed to signal his colleagues for assistance. Hurrying to the scene, the Goringhaikhoe was upset that their hospitality were so abused and started attacking the Portuguese. Labaredas realizing the difficult position they were in, decided to release the wounded Khoe man and also returned the sheep and oxen but to little or no avail. With great effort they narrowly managed to escape. Returning to their ships with bloody noses and broken teeth, the Portuguese reported to De Almeida lying that the Goringhaikhoe refused to trade their oxen and were responsible for the skirmish.
The Battle at the kraal

Although there were opposition from 3 of his most experienced captains, De Almeida decided to “teach the Khoe khoen a lesson” and to stamp down Portuguese authority. It was decided to launch an attack on the Goringhaikhoe kraal around midnight and on 1 March 1510, 150-200 choice crewmembers were selected to execute the attack armored with swords, lances and crossbows. After sailing with the landing boats towards Woodstock beach, they landed at the mouth of the Saltriver. They were more interested in the loot, in the form of cattle, souvenirs & children, than in the actual battle which they regarded as “childsplay”. At a steady pace they reached the kraal around day break under command of Pedro Barreto de Magalhaes and Jorge Barreto, entering the kraal from two directions. But the attack came as no surprise to the Goringhaikhoe, because 170 confident Goringhaikhoe already prepared with skin-bags wherein stones were carried while their arrows, spears, fire-hardened assegais with iron-tips were carried over their shoulders. The victory of the day before made them self-assured and with these weapons they soon forced back the Portuguese towards the beach.

In spite of the resistance of the Goringhaikhoe, the Portuguese still managed to capture a herd of oxen that was behind the kraal. They attacked the kraaland captured a group of children and women, hurrying towards the beach and their boats. The ensuing Goringhaikhoe attack was of such a resilience forcing the Lourenço de Brito to command his troops to immediately release the loot. Even after the Portuguese freed the children, the brave Goringhaikhoe pushed forward forcing them to release the oxen too. The Portuguese could not come close enough to effectively use their weapons and were no match for the skillful and accurate attack of the Goringhaikhoe spears and assegais. With great strength and precision they flung stones in a sling made from animal-skin carried around their waists. They also had great command over their oxen by means of a series of different whistling techniques and other signs, indicating them to act as barriers or barricades between them and the Portuguese. It was behind this obstruction that the Goringhaikhoe launched their attacks raining assegais, spears and arrows on the retreating Portuguese. Many of them were killed en route to the boats, while some were stampeded by the oxen and others wounded. Those who made it to the beach found the boats were moved to another place by Diego de Unhoa due to the roaring winds .and choppy seas. The light-footed Goringhaikhoe ran circles around the retreating and tiring Portuguese. The nobles put up a brave fight out of love and respect for De Almeida, while the other ordinary men ran ahead. A few managed to chase some oxen ahead of them.

Seeing his country men retreating with some oxen, De Almeida thought they were successful and started moving towards the place where the boats had landed, unaware that de Unhoa moved the boats to a location closer to the watering hole, thus forcing them to move in that direction. Hot on their heels the Goringhaikhoe started mounting another wave of attack moving in between the oxen and with signals brought these oxen to a standstill. Panic-stricken the Portuguese hasten their attempts to move towards the boats and De Almeida seeing the chaos started regrouping his troops to conduct a more orderly retreat. So doing they became easier targets’ for the Goringhaikhoe assegais and stones did not miss. The Portuguese had no answer for the tactfulness and strategy of their opponents leaving bodies spread out over the terrain between the kraal and the beach. As De Almeida was wearing a striking red cloak, all attention was soon focused on him. While he was loosening his neckpiece, an assegai struck him right through his neck. De Almeida’s last command to Jorge de Mello Pereira was to protect the kings flag which he took from him when he died. After the death of De Almeida confusion struck the Portuguese anew and it was a case of every man for himself. In his attempt to retrieve De Almeida’s body Diogo Pires was killed. Later Pereira and Jorge Barreto along with their countrymen tried in vain to rescue his body again, but 20 of them were killed. Everyone who didn’t die was wounded. When the Khoe khoen saw that some Portuguese managed to reach the safety of their landing boats leaving behind the bodies of De Almeida and there country men, they started leaving the beach area.

During the Portuguese defeat on 1 March 1510, the loss of European lives was 50-65; including Francisco De Almeida, 12 captains, a number of prominent nobles, soldiers and sailors. They were all experienced warriors who won numerous battles in the East. This Goringhaikhoe victory ensured that the Portuguese favoured to sail around the tip of Africa for 150 years preferring Angola and Mozambique to acquire fresh water and meat supplies. The Khoe khoen were therefore, mistakenly underestimated by De Almeida and his countrymen and proofed to be great defenders of their ancestral lands in the Cape, //Hui !Gaeb.

In Closing
On this day, 1 March, annually the entire Khoe and Boesman (San) nation should pause, in the round of our daily activities to take stock of the nation, to review the events of the past and to re-dedicate ourselves to the accomplishments of the tasks which lie before us

Xuge ne !khams !na ta da sâ. Toa tama !khams ge. So let’s not rest in this fight. The struggle continues!

Princess Vlei is our link to our humanity and reclamation of our African identity and Self-worth.

Princess Vlei is our link to our humanity and reclamation of our African identity and Self-worth.

 It is with deep pain and disgust that I write this plea to avoid the building of a Mall on the banks of our beloved Princess Vlei. “Skelmpies”, as a kid, I ran to the vlei with my “brasse” to catch fish. I say “skelmpies”, because we all knew the legend of the Khoisan Princess that was raped and lost her love there and how her spirit would take a boy or a man’s life in the vlei every year. When I was a kid I was taught by the Apartheid system to fear anything African, but today I am who I am because of these magnificent first peoples blood running through our veins.

 It is with this knowledge and realization that I now encourage our communities to stand up and make sure that this memory is not cemented away for greed and so-called progress. This heritage is what will stop gangsterism, crime, drug abuse and violence. This knowledge will bring a sense of belonging to the so-called coloured community that is made to feel like immigrants in their own country. This knowledge will give back our connection to the first people of the land and we will reclaim our self-worth. Yes, that very same Princess I feared as a kid, I now LOVE as an adult. It is said that they took her to “Elephants Eye” as a hostage and when she cried her tears formed, ran into and live on in Princess Vlei, Zeekoe Vlei, Rondevlei and Zandvlei. These are stories I wish to tell my children while relaxing along the banks of the vlei, so that they can feel at home. I will tell them that we come from long lineage that stretches back to the beginning of mankind and like those tears our peoples blood are in all people. My children will finally feel equal and part of the human race and not some bastard tribe that Apartheid created. I will tell them that we belong to the land and have to protect it because it is our only home. I will tell them how we were taught to forget and write the San and the Khoi off as uncivilized and child-like by our oppressors because they knew it would destroy our humanity. I will tell them how the Khoi and San live on when we say “er” and “he er” as they mean yes and no in Nama/ “Bushman” language. I will show them Nama words like Gogga, Kriekie, Gwagga, Dagga, Boechoe, Abba, Eina, Aitsa, that are still in the Afrikaans dictionary and how they helped to create that language. I will tell them about the natural fish traps at Kommetjie and the name Hoerikwaggo for Table Mountain and they will be proud. I will tell them how the Khoisan named the Xhosa (which means angry looking man in Nama) and how they shared the three clicks out of four in Nama with them. I will tell them how everyone in South Africa is living on the land of the San and Khoi and how forgetting them, will be like forgetting our common humanity.

As we sit and watch the sun set, I will dig my fingers into the soil and know that I am blessed, for within them lie ancient dormant “fynbos” seeds that can be found nowhere else in the world. As I watch my children play on her banks, maybe she will not take our men any longer, for we have stood up and saved her from being raped this time. Toa tama !kams ge  (Nama for “The Struggle Continues)

 Emile Jansen aka Emile YX? of Black Noise
Born & Raised in Grassy Park, net lanks die vlei
P.O.Box 31184, Grassy Park 7888, Cape Town 8000, 0217060481, 0823958125,