SOUTH AFRICA TABLET: 1649: Talk of occupying Table Valley

by Time Traveler

The Portuguese, who were the first Europeans to visit the shores of South Africa, did not attempt either to form a settlement or to carry on commerce below Delagoa Bay, and a century and a half after their occupation of Sofala had never penetrated beyond the coast belt of any part of the later Cape Colony west of the Umzimvubu river. They were mere traders, and the Hottentots not only had nothing which the Portuguese wanted to purchase, but were regarded by them as the most ferocious of savages, with whom communication should be avoided.

The Dutch, who wrested from them the traffic of the East, for a long time had no thought of colonisation either, but from the entrance of these people in the Indian seas the south-western part of the African continent acquired an importance it never had before.

The Portuguese ocean road was almost invariably west of Madagascar, consequently they did not need a refreshment station between St. Helena and Mozambique, but the Dutch, who passed south of the great island, required one at the turning point of the long sea journey between Holland and Batavia.

Owing to this, their fleets were in the habit of putting into Table Bay for the purpose of obtaining news, taking in fresh water, catching fish, and trying to barter cattle from the Hottentots, which they were not always fortunate enough to procure.

On the 26th of July 1649 a document setting forth the advantages that might be dreived from the occupation of Table Valley was presented to the directors of the Amsterdam chamber of the United Netherlands chartered East India Company.

It was written by Leendert Jansz - or Janssen as the name would be spelt now - and bore his signature and that of Nicolaas Proot. The style and wording of the document show that its author was a man of observation, but it contains no clue by which his position in the Company's service can be ascertained.

He and Proot had resided in Table Valley more than five months, and they could therefore speak from experience of its capabilities.

Reference: History and Ethnography of Africa South of the Zambesi by George McCall Theal.