Dutch royals confront South Africa’s colonial legacy | ET REALITY


In their first visit to an African country since ascending the throne a decade ago, the king and queen of the Netherlands made a symbolic visit Friday to the Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa, where Dutch settlers once enslaved thousands of Africans and Asians. .

As they entered the two-story building with creaky floors, they encountered members of another royal house: a small group of leaders of the Khoi and San, the indigenous groups who were first displaced 350 years ago by Dutch settlers in the which is today Cape Town.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander formally apologized this year for his country’s role in slavery and colonialism. But South Africa’s indigenous groups and the descendants of those enslaved by the Dutch want a direct apology (as well as reparations) from the Netherlands for the atrocities committed in South Africa during 150 years of colonialism.

“If we look at the devastation created by Dutch colonialism in this part of the world, I think a very specific apology addressed to South Africa can go a long way,” said Nico Botha, head of a newly created commission for the Khoi and San. by the South African government.

The king struck an apologetic tone on his three-day visit to the country, but he did not apologize or make restitution, instead emphasizing that he was there to listen and learn.

“We share a history that, for more than a century and a half, was marked by colonialism, abuse of power and slavery,” he said. “His traces are still visible and tangible in many places.”

The Dutch king is among other European monarchs struggling to find a way to publicly atone for the abuses their ancestors committed during Africa’s colonial era. Later this month, Britain’s King Charles III will travel to Kenya, another former colony, to “deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered,” Buckingham Palace said. During a Commonwealth Summit last year, the British monarch expressed his “personal pain” over his country’s role in the slave trade.

In July, the Dutch king apologized on behalf of his ancestors for his role in the slave trade, calling it a “clear lack of action against this crime against humanity.”

While today South Africa and the Netherlands enjoy close ties, from 1652 to 1803 the Dutch ruled their colony in South Africa with violence. They conquered the San and Khoi, forcing many into indentured servitude. They also captured and trafficked 63,000 people to South Africa from as far away as Indonesia, the island nation of Madagascar and neighboring Mozambique. Many were sold to farmers with land on the outskirts of the city, which is now used as vineyards and orchards. At Slave Lodge, the Dutch East India Company, acting on behalf of the Dutch government and royal family, kept 9,000 people in appalling conditions.

The Indian Ocean slave trade, though smaller than the Atlantic slave trade, was no less brutal, said Shanaaz Galant, who curated the slavery exhibit at the lodge, now a museum. There are still a lot of gaps in the story, Galant said, “because of so much official erasure of who people were.”

While inside the museum, Dutch royals learned the stories of those at the shelter, the group gathered outside said they felt ignored by the visit. Princess Dondelaya Damons of the Griqua Royal House, a Khoi and San clan, implored Dutch royalty to visit the townships outside Cape Town, where descendants of the San, Khoi and slaves still live. .

“We wanted to be compensated with projects, such as hospitals, education and especially our mines, which were taken from us,” he told a television news channel.

The Dutch royals listened to their complaints, keeping their promise to make this an educational tour. It included a trip to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and a visit to Freedom Park, an open-air museum in Pretoria, which traces South Africa’s history of oppression. They mingled with LGBT activists and inspected a green energy project. The couple also met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Your Majesty,” Mr. Ramaphosa said, “I wish to thank you for the apology you have made for your country’s role in the slave trade, including in South Africa. “This was an important step towards promoting reconciliation, restoration and healing of old wounds.”

Khoi and San leaders are also fighting for greater recognition from the South African government, while a new generation of historians is excavating the forgotten history of slavery in South Africa.

The small protest outside the museum was indicative of divisions within indigenous groups such as the Khoi and San. Many consider themselves separate from South Africa’s ethnically black majority and are disillusioned with the ruling African National Congress. Still, many believe their problems began with the Dutch.

Slavery ended in South Africa in 1834, but created a system of racial segregation that eventually became apartheid.

An apology would only have weight if the Dutch “go ahead with something concrete,” said Cecil Le Fleur, a chief of the Griqua people. “Today our people are poor. “They still suffer from the psychological scars of colonialism and apartheid.”

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