Portuguese in Southern Africa, Slavery

Portuguese explorers had reached the kingdom of the Kongo by 1483. Eight years later a Kongo embassy went to Lisbon, and by 1506 the Kongo king was baptized as Afonso I; the Portuguese renamed his Mbanza capital São Salvador.

Portuguese explorers had reached the kingdom of the Kongo by 1483. Eight years later a Kongo embassy went to Lisbon, and by 1506 the Kongo king was baptized as Afonso I; the Portuguese renamed his Mbanza capital Sao Salvador. The Portuguese tried to impose a feudal hierarchy on this king. They sent an embassy to Ngola in 1520, and Balthasar de Castro was held captive for six years. In 1526 Afonso complained to his “royal brother” in Lisbon that their population was being depleted as people were captured for slavery; but he was not able to expel the Portuguese. Raiding the country for slaves made enemies in Mbundu; four to five thousand slaves were being shipped annually from the Kongo. In 1532 Portugal required that all trade with the Ngola be through the Kongo.

Ngola Inene requested missionaries in 1557, and three years later Jesuits arrived with ambassador Paolo Dias; but the next year the Ngola stopped cooperating with the Portuguese and held the Jesuits captive until 1565. Afonso II became Kongo king that year but was killed at mass. Jaga cannibals invaded the land west of the Kwango River and sacked Sao Salvador in 1568; but the Kongo kingdom was defended by 600 Portuguese musketeers from Sao Tomé, reinstating Kongo king Alvaro I in 1574.

In 1571 the Portuguese chartered the royal colony of Angola (named after the title ngola) around Luanda, and three years later colonizers set out to settle in western Kimbundu. The Jaga turned toward Angola and eventually settled in the area by the Kwango they had conquered from Yaka. The Portuguese also wanted the silver from the Ndongo mountains; a century of wars over this began in 1575, causing Ndongo to become depopulated. Paolo Dias de Novais had tried to found a colony on the coast of Ndongo for mining silver in the Cunza valley; but this failed, and Luanda became a center for the slave trade instead. The Portuguese suffered major defeats by the Ngola in 1585 and five years later by a coalition army of Ndongo, Kongo, Matamba, and Jaga. About 1600 a Luba king named Kibinda Ilunga moved west and founded a new state among the Lunda in the south by the Kasai River. The Portuguese sent reinforcements, and in 1607 Angola governor Manuel Pereira Forjaz was able to make peace with Mbundu for four years; but his successor Bento Banha Cardoso launched campaigns against Mbundu and their ngola. By 1612 the Portuguese were shipping about 10,000 slaves a year from Angola. In 1618 Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos invaded the heartland of the Ndongo kingdom and destroyed the royal compound.

Kongo king Alvaro II (r. 1587-1614) asked for technical assistance from the Portuguese but got little. Alvaro III (r. 1614-22) brought in the Jesuits in 1619, and their influence began to surpass that of the mestizo clergy. Kongo and Angola quarreled over Luanda Island, and in 1622 Angola governor Joao Correia de Souza invaded the Kongo, trying to gain more slaves and territory with mines. Mbundu queen Nzinga Mbande (1580-1663) became the ruler, and the next year she went to Luanda to negotiate peace, trade, and less slave capturing. The Portuguese governor baptized her; but Portuguese troops helping her fight the plundering Imbangala warriors resulted in the Kimbundu fleeing to the east, where she settled in Matamba. The Imbangala established the state of Kasanje in the Kwango valley. The wars between Angola and the Kongo would go on for a half century.

Early in the 17th century the Dutch had developed trade in Sohio, the western province of Kongo, and in 1641 a Dutch slaving fleet captured Luanda. Queen Nzinga protected Matamba from the Portuguese by making an alliance with the Dutch. In 1648 Salvador Correia de Sa came from Brazil and drove the Dutch out of Angola, forcing Nzinga to retreat back to Matamba, which developed into a commercial center that included the slave trade. In 1651 Portuguese king Joao IV exempted Capuchins from laws against foreigners in his empire as long as they asked his permission and sailed from Lisbon. Capuchins and the Jesuits studied Bunda and other native dialects, and Vitralla published a short grammar. In 1655 Nzinga sent warriors to attack a small Christian tribe led by Pombo Somba on the Kongo border; but she repented and made peace with the Portuguese. She persuaded her witchdoctors to accept her Christian faith. Lisbon ratified the treaty in 1657, and Nzinga was baptized again at Luanda. In 1664 Ndongongola Ari II by defeating local chiefs took control of trade routes in order to tax caravans between Luanda and the Kongo; but in 1671 the Luanda governor captured the Ndongo royal family and sent them to a monastery in Portugal, building a fort in their last capital.

Garcia II (r. 1641-61) consolidated power over Kongo. He invited Italian Capuchins in 1645. When Georges de Geel was killed in 1653 for interfering with local shrines, Garcia protected the Capuchins. Garcia tried to make peace with Luanda governor Salvador de Sa, but they could not agree. Garcia died and was succeeded by Antonio; but at Mbwila (Ambuila) in 1665 the Angolan army of 360 Europeans and 7,000 Africans defeated and killed Antonio and 400 Kongo nobles. In 1670 another army led by the Portuguese was defeated at Soyo in a failed attempt to conquer Kongo. By then the Kongo region was exporting about 15,000 slaves each year. The Catholics preferred to sell slaves to the Dutch, because they took them to the Spanish Indies, and in 1687 the English Royal African Company complained to the Ngoyo kings they were being charged higher prices for slaves. Two years later when the Soyo army attacked Ngoyo, British marines tried to help defend Ngoyo but lost their artillery. Soyo and Ngoyo made a treaty in 1690, and the British merchants were allowed to stay in Ngoyo.

In 1701 Soyo prince Antonio III wrote to the Pope, asking him to over-rule the Angola bishop and allow them to sell slaves to anyone. The war resumed. An old woman named Mafuto had a vision of the Virgin and claimed that Jesus was angry at the people of Kibangu and Pedro IV for not restoring the city. In August 1704 20-year-old Beatriz Kimpa Vita fell sick and then claimed that she had been taken over by saint Antonio (Anthony). She criticized the greed and jealousy of Capuchin priest Bernardo de Gallo and protested that Pedro did not occupy Sao Salvador and end the war. She preached that God cares more about intention than rituals such as baptism, and her following grew, sending out other Antonios. She modified Catholic teachings to support African saints and a nationalist movement. Although she taught chastity, Beatriz had two abortions and then a son. On July 2, 1706 she and her son were burned to death by order of the royal council; even her bones were burned so that no relics would remain. The wars and slave trade continued, and many of the slaves exported were Antonians. In the next decade British traders exported more than 65,000 slaves from this region. The Kongo kingdom broke up into local chiefdoms until the Kimbangu defeated Joao Manuel II and put Pedro IV on the Mbanza Kongo throne at Sao Salvador in 1709. In 1716 Joao II reclaimed the Kongo throne.

In 1765 the Holo signed a treaty recognizing the sovereignty of the Portuguese, agreeing to allow freedom of religion, access to missionaries, and not to fight against Matamba. During the 18th century the Portuguese exported between 5,000 and 10,000 slaves per year from Luanda. Independent slave trading by people in Ovimbundu through the kingdom of Sela provoked the Portuguese to wage war against Ovimbundu for three years starting in 1774; but the Ovimbundu’s Mambari caravans continued to prosper, as they used their military skills to raid for slaves and cattle. In the second half of the 18th century an estimated 50,000 guns were imported into this region.

Joao V (r. 1706-50) had reigned over the Portuguese empire in relative peace, but changes in Portugal under King José (r. 1750-77) stimulated Angola to favor large Lisbon companies. The dictatorial Sebastiao José de Carvalho e Mello wanted to combine the power of the Inquisition with secular control, as in England. The Jesuits in Brazil opposed slavery, and in 1758 he expelled the Jesuits from the Portuguese empire, affecting Angola, the Zambesi, and Mozambique. They had done much good work educating Bantu tribes and were missed. Tribes in the Inhambe fields revolted and massacred a town. Francisco Innocencio de Sousa Coutinho (r. 1764-72) encouraged commerce with Portugal and Brazil and tried to diversify the Angola economy with an iron industry, cotton production, a soap factory, and salt pans. He favored paying both whites and blacks fair wages. Lencastere became governor in 1772 and implemented Carvalho’s order to make sure all education was in Portuguese and Latin and to destroy all religious materials in the natives’ own language. Finally in 1777 Carvalho was removed from office, and the Angola chronicle recorded it as a time of redemption and joy. The new bishop resumed the teaching of the Kimbundu language in 1784. Although the Portuguese banned the hunting of slaves by Africans or Europeans, African prisoners of war and convicted criminals could be sold as slaves. At the end of the century the slave trade with Brazil still accounted for 88% of Angola’s revenues, while ivory exported to Portugal provided less than five percent.

On the east side of Africa the Portuguese occupied Mozambique Island in 1507 and built Fort Sao Sebastiao there in 1558, sending settlers up the Zambezi River to Sena and Tete. The Mutapa emperor ordered Conçalo da Silveira killed in 1560, because he believed the missionary had led Portuguese invaders. A year after Sebastiao became king of Portugal in 1568, he sent Francisco Barreto to govern Mozambique and to explore the mineral resources of the mwanamutapa kingdom. In 1573 the Portuguese gained gold mines in a treaty with Nogomo, who wanted a garrison near his capital at Masapa and trade with the coast. In 1585 Portuguese soldiers tried to punish a Makua maurasa (chief) for his ravaging the coastland; but the Makua slaughtered most of the detachment and established their capital at Tugulu (Uticulo), which governed Macuana for three centuries. After mwanamutapa Gatsi Rusere (c. 1589-1627) succeeded Nogomo, the Zimba attacked his territory in the Zambezi valley in 1592. When a tribe attacked his gold fields five years later, a domestic conflict provoked a rebellion led by Matuzianhe. Gatsi Rusere got assistance from Portuguese traders at Masapa, Tete, and Sena, and after 1599 he allowed the Portuguese to enter his kingdom with guns. In 1607 the trader Diogo Simoe Madeira persuaded Gatsi Rusere to cede the mineral wealth of his kingdom to the crown of Portugal.

Luba kings rose to power in the Kongo grasslands in the 16th century. Some of them wandered to Malawi and shared their form of government. The main Malawi chief was called kalonga after a Luba hero who led a migration. Kalonga Mzura sent 4,000 Malawi warriors to help the Portuguese fight the Shona during their invasion in support of mwanamutapa Gatsi Rusere south of the Zambezi in 1608. The same year the Makua helped the Portuguese defend Fort Sao Sebastiao from a Dutch siege. The Portuguese returned the favor by helping the Malawi against Mzura’s rival lundu. However, after Gatsi Rusere died, Mzura led the Malawi across the Zambezi, expanding his territory toward the seaboard of Mozambique. In 1628 an army of 250 Portuguese and a reported 30,000 Africans defeated Gatsi Rusere’s successor Kapararidze, and the next year they killed many chiefs and took power from the mwanamutapa, making a treaty with Mavura, whom they put on the throne. In 1667 the Portuguese official Manoel Barreto reported that the main reason the gold trade had declined was because violence by the Portuguese against the Africans caused them to leave. In the 18th century the Portuguese believed that the Malawi kalonga had diminished influence also.

Further west the Portuguese did not penetrate the Urozwi of Zimbabwe until after the Nguni invaded in the 19th century. In 1684 their changamire (ruler) Dombo drove the Portuguese out of Sena despite their guns. This enabled the mwanamutapa to invade the western territory of the Urozwi; but in 1693 the mwanamutapa and Urozwi joined together and killed many Portuguese soldiers and settlers at Dambarare. Yet in 1750 Sena governor Francisco de Melo e Castro praised the peace and security of the kingdom ruled by the changamire. Mozambique captain general Baltasar Pereira do Lago (1765-77) supported missions and hospitals but had to build a fort at Mossuril to respond to Makua raids. He said that the changamire treated the inhabitants of Zumbo with the “most civilized justice.” Pereira had been exiled to Africa by Carvalho and was ordered to double the duties on ships going from Mozambique to Delagoa Bay, enabling foreign ships to undersell the Portuguese. Carvalho gave extensive instructions but little practical support. Arabs and Banyans were prohibited from entering Mozambique from India.

The Portuguese began trading for ivory from the interior as far west as Zambia when they founded a market at Zumbo in 1714. Feira was established across the Dwangwa River in 1732. Portugal granted prazos (estates) to settlers to encourage colonization, and these prazeros assumed the power to wage war, impose tribute, and exploit the labor of the Makua, Manganja, Sena, Kalanga, Tonga, Tawara, Nsenga, and the Tumbuka. About 1740 they began mining gold north of the Zambezia in the kingdom of Undi, who had conquered the Nsenga. As the gold and ivory trade declined, the Portuguese turned more to the slave trade, which dominated the Kilwa market after 1770. In 1798 Francis de Lacerda organized the opening of a trade route from the Zambesi to the chief Kazembe with the goal of reaching Angola, but he died of malaria along the way. The chaplain Pinto replaced him, and Kazembe persuaded them to leave their gifts with him and turn back. Fear of an invasion by the French or English prevented another expedition for several years.

South of Zimbabwe lived the Tsonga, Venda, and the Sotho, who believed that their well-being depended on the health of their chief. The Nguni cultivated the soil, and the Khoikhoi kept herds and hunted along the southern coast of Africa. In 1488 Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias met the Khoikhoi, and he named the Cape of Good Hope. In 1500 he erected a cross but died in a storm. De Almeida, the Portuguese viceroy of India, was killed fighting the Khoikhoi in 1510 at Table Bay. The pastoral Khoikhoi were called Hottentots, and the short-statured San, who primarily hunted and gathered, were called Bushmen. The English explorer James Lancaster began bartering with the Khoikhoi in 1594. Cornelius Matelief was the first Dutchman to barter for sheep at Table Bay in 1608. The Khoikhoi bartered cattle for copper and then brass. When the prices went up, a Gorachouqua Khoikhoi named Goree was abducted in 1613 and taken to London. He begged to return to his warm country. In 1617 he persuaded the English to give their convict settlers guns to fight his enemy, the Cochoqua. The outnumbered British withdrew; but Goree got the Dutch to raid the Chochoqua. Goree still preferred the English, and in 1626 Dutch sailors killed him for refusing to trade with them. A Khoikhoi named Autshumao went on a ship to Java about 1631 and learned English. He was called Harry and passed messages to English travelers at the Cape until he died in 1663. The Dutch ship Haerlem was wrecked at Table Bay in 1647, and the sailors built a fortress on the beach.

In 1652 about ninety men led by Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at Table Bay for the Netherlands East India Company (VOC). Vegetables and fruit were cultivated to help prevent sailors from getting scurvy. Riebeeck was forbidden to capture slaves, but they began importing slaves from Angola and Guinea in 1658. That year free farmers went on their first strike against the Company, and the next year Goringhaiqua interpreter Doman led a Khoikhoi rebellion against Dutch encroachment. The Dutch built a stone fort, planted an almond hedge, and brought more settlers. In July 1673 Jeronimus Cruse raided Cochoqua livestock, taking 800 cattle and 900 sheep. This and more land seizure provoked the second Khoikhoi war that lasted four years. Horses imported from Batavia (Java) gave the Dutch a military advantage, and in June 1677 Cochoqua chief Gonnema promised to pay an annual tribute of 30 cattle. By 1679 the European population was up to 259, and Cape governor Simon van der Stel (1679-99) founded Stellenbosch to expand the colony.

In 1685 visiting commissioner Hendrik van Reede noted that 57 children had white fathers; so he decreed that male slaves could buy their freedom for 100 guilders at age 25 and females at 22 if they could speak Dutch and joined the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1688 two hundred Huguenots were granted land, mostly at Franschhoek. Unable to compete in the labor market against slaves, Dutch “trekboers” with Khoikhoi servants began wandering outside of the Company’s control to find grazing land and water for their livestock. In 1690 four slaves revolted at Stellenbosch; but three were killed, and the other was imprisoned. Runaways and slaves caught stealing were often hanged. A slave using violence against an owner could be tortured on the wheel that broke bones. Laws against sexual relations between white men and slaves were often broken, and Europeans occasionally married African women. Disobedient slaves could be flogged.

Wheat was exported, and in 1700 the Dutch East India Company permitted grazing cattle outside the settlement. The first lethal clash between Dutch cattlemen and the Xhosa (called Kaffirs) occurred in 1702, and the Company reimposed the ban on trading with the Khoikhoi for two years. The ban was lifted in 1705 until 1727, after which private cattle bartering continued illegally. Farmers complained that Governor W. A. van der Stel (1699-1707), son of his predecessor, and his officials were violating the VOC regulation that forbade their private farming or trading even though anyone who objected to this corruption risked being sent to a penal colony such as Mauritius. In 1707 the seventeen directors of the Company ordered officials not to farm. Every free man between the age of 16 and 60 was enrolled in the militia, which had 513 European men by 1708. In 1713 a smallpox epidemic started from laundry brought by a passing ship. The Africans were decimated, while 110 Europeans also died of the plague. Too much wheat and wine caused a price slump, and by 1717 the Company stopped allowing farmers to immigrate into the Cape colony. The Company maintained a monopoly on all commercial activity and fixed prices.

As the increasing numbers of trekboers let their livestock graze further, the game animals departed, causing the San people to begin raiding the invading herds. Since the trekboers had firearms, the San were easily defeated. The San lost their usual livelihood, as did the herding Khoikhoi, who were reduced to being servants; these people merged and were called the Khoisan. In 1724 the Company opened a slave station at Delagoa Bay, but in the 1730s most slaves were imported from Mozambique and Zanzibar. In 1728 Dutch farmers killed twelve Khoisan while taking back 23 stolen cattle along with 62 Khoisan cattle. The Company directors ignored appeals to return the Khoisan cattle. In 1732 the quitrent system of land tenure was introduced. After the Company prohibited stock bartering in 1738, Estienne Barbier escaped from prison and led ten farmers in violent disobedience for a year before he was arrested and eventually executed. Also in 1739 the trekboers broke their promise to share the spoils of looted cattle with the Khoisan. Swartebooij complained to the VOC directors, who backed down and awarded the Khoisan share to the trekboers. A bloody battle ensued in which Swartebooij and a hundred Khoisan were killed as hundreds of cattle were taken. After 1740 the Khoisan in the colony could no longer herd livestock but had to serve as laborers. The Swellendam district was established in 1745. The continued importation of slaves made them more numerous than the Europeans by 1748.

Cape Town had no newspaper, although Governor Ryk Tulbagh (1751-71) founded a library and promoted the scientific study of plants and animals. In 1754 the Khoisan raided farms in Roggeveld. In 1765 the Meermin left the Cape and purchased slaves from Madagascar. Allowed to work, the slaves got weapons and took over the ship; but most were recaptured at Cape Agulhas, and they were taken to Cape Town. After trekboers crossed the Gamtoos River in 1771, clashes with the Xhosa worsened. The Khoisan, caught between the colonists and the Xhosa, resisted the trekboers. The Xhosa were ruled by Phalo from about 1730 until he died in 1775. His son Gcaleka defeated his brother Rharhabe but died in 1778, succeeded by Khawuta, who ruled only the Gcaleka faction as the conflict continued. By 1778 the trekboers had reached the Great Fish River, and Cape governor Joachim van Plettenberg tried to set the eastern boundaries with Gwali chiefs. Two years later Van Plettenberg took in the Zuurveld even though it was not yet occupied by Europeans. The Gonaqua claimed they occupied the land, and the Gqunukhwebe said they had bought some of it from the Khoikhoi. Commandant Adriaan van Jaarsveld led his commandos in 1781 to evict the Gwali, who believed Van Plettenberg had agreed in 1778 this was their land. When Dange chief Jalamba refused to leave, Van Jaarsveld scattered gifts of tobacco and then had his men open fire on the Dange. Most of the surviving Xhosas left, and the commandos killed many Ntinde who did not. Rharhabe and his heir Mlawu were killed in a war against the Thembu in 1782; his followers divided when the regent Ndlambe came into conflict with the young Ngqika.

In a secret meeting at Cape Town four hundred burghers signed a petition to the governor asking to send a delegation to the 17 directors in Amsterdam with economic proposals. Because officials were underpaid, corruption permeated the Company. Farmers also complained of heavy taxes. The Heren 17 did not respond until 1783, when they exonerated the officials; the only major concessions allowed free trade with foreign ships and the purchase of surplus produce at fixed prices, though after Company demands were met. The Cape exported much wheat to the eastern Dutch empire until war with England stopped this in 1781. The Company complained the Cape colony caused large deficits.

In 1786 Moritz Woeke became landdrost of the new eastern district named Graaff-Reinet after Governor Jacob van der Graaff and his wife Reinet. In 1789 Ndlambe and Langan attacked the Gqunukhwebe, who crossed the Fish River and occupied the land. Woeke let them remain, and conflicts arose. Trekboer Coenraad de Buys abducted the wives of minor chiefs. When Cape authorities refused to aid the burghers in controlling the angry Gqunukhwebe, the farmers led by Barend Linderque made an alliance with Xhosa leader Ndlambe. The battles resulted in many thousands of cattle being stolen, and farmers fled west. Woeke’s secretary Honoratus Maynier led the Graaff-Reinet commandos, and the Cape council sent a force from Swellendam. The Gqunukhwebe led by Tshaka tried to flee east but ran into Ndlambe’s Xhosa, who killed Tshaka. Maynier’s force killed many Gqunukhwebe and made off with 8,000 cattle. Tshaka’s son Chungwa agreed to a truce but still claimed that his father had bought the land from Ruiter. By now Ngqika was 15 years old, and he attacked and imprisoned his regent Ndlambe. In these frontier wars during the last ten years of the Dutch East India company’s rule to 1795, a reported 2,504 “Bushmen” were killed and 669 were captured, while 276 colonists (mostly Khoikhoi) were slain.

At a meeting in February 1795 burghers calling themselves “patriots” expelled Maynier and other officials from Graaff-Reinet. Cape authorities suspended the supply of ammunition to the district. A commission sent to investigate was expelled by armed burghers for refusing to act against the Xhosa in the Zuurveld. The burghers no longer recognized the VOC; as this rebellion coincided with the overthrow of the Dutch monarchy by the French and the British takeover of Cape Town, they asked the British to appoint magistrates. They could not agree, but lack of gunpowder and lead forced the burghers to recognize the authority of British general James Henry Craig by 1797. Craig replaced the high court commission with a senate of six burghers chosen by the governor. The British increased official salaries and reduced perquisites to reform corruption, and they abolished the brutal tortures used against suspected and convicted criminals.

Two years later Adriaan van Jaarsveld was arrested for forgery in connection with a loan. He was set free by fellow burghers. After General Thomas Vandeleur arrived with a “Hottentot” Cape corps, the rebels led by Marthinus Prinsloo and Coenraad de Buys surrendered and were imprisoned. Maynier was reappointed landdrost and had Fort Frederick built at Algoa Bay. During the first five years of British rule, government attempts to collect annual rents helped provoke these rebellions. In 1800 Ndlambe escaped to the Zuurveld. In trying to bring order to the Zuurveld, Vandeleur persuaded Khoikhoi leader Klaas Stuurman to lay down their arms and move to Algoa Bay, where the governor’s secretary John Barrow tried to keep them apart from the trekboer families seeking protection. Chungwa stayed in the Zuurveld, and he was joined by 700 Khoikhoi fleeing the trekboers. Armed burghers objecting to Khoikhoi soldiers in Graaff-Reinet provoked another frontier war that lasted until 1803.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login