The history of white people in South Africa is not a long one. In fact today marks the 362nd anniversary of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. He was the colonial administrator of the Dutch East India Company, tasked with securing the area as a way-station for the trade route between the Netherlands and the East. Jan van Riebeeck, ten years later, went to Indonesia and died in Jakarta in 1677.
Jan van Riebeeck
Two years after his arrival, on 6 April 1654, Van Riebeeck stated:
“Today is the second anniversary of our safe arrival with the ships Drommedaris,Reijger and Goede Hoop at this place through the Holy guidance of God to build this fortress and establish this settlement according to the instructions of our Lords and Masters, and the Lord God has hitherto given His abundant blessing to the satisfactory and successful accomplishment of all these matters. We have therefore, resolved, and also for the first time begun to celebrate this 6th day of April in the name of the Almighty, and henceforth to set it aside for all time as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, so that our descendants may never forget the mercies we have received at the Lord’s Hands, but may always remember them to the Glory of God.”
Painting by Charles Bell of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape
It is right and fitting that this old public holiday has fallen away in the present dispensation, but it is still an interesting facet of our history, and one worth learning about. It is, after all, a part of what makes this nation what it is with all its strengths and weaknesses.