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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 most prominent being the 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), the Khoisan, Griqua, Bushmen (also known as the San), and some Bantu peoples of South Africa. 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[edit | edit source]

In 1659 the first of a series of armed confrontations over the ownership of land took place between the Dutch settlers and a Khoikhoi clan led by Doman. The dispute was over cattle. In this first anti-colonial Khoikhoi-Dutch War the settlers sought refuge in the fort they had built. The Dutch then erected a series of fortified fences along the Liesbeeck River and an almond hedge in present day Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to separate the Khoikhoi from their ancestral land and from the Dutch. The Khoikhoi were thus restricted in their movement and were forced to use designated gates when entering the enclosed and fortified areas.[1]

Second Khoikhoi-Dutch War[edit | edit source]

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, 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 result in warfare and raiding of livestock, as well as between the Khoikhoi chiefdoms. The Dutch East India Company sent Hieronimus Cruse in 1673 to attack the Cochoqua. 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[edit | edit source]

In 1674 the Dutch East India Company launched a second follow-up attack on the Chocoqua. In that Third Dutch-Khoikhoi War almost 5000 head of livestock in addition to weapons were taken from the Chocoqua. The war continued until 1677 when Governor Bax extracted the submission of the Chocoqua 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]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

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.[2]

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