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The Anatomy of a South African Genocide

The Anatomy of a South African Genocide: The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples

Mohamed Adhikari
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Ohio University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Anatomy of a South African Genocide
    Book Description:

    In 1998 David Kruiper, the leader of the ‡Khomani San who today live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, lamented, "We have been made into nothing." His comment applies equally to the fate of all the hunter-gatherer societies of the Cape Colony who were destroyed by the impact of European colonialism. Until relatively recently, the extermination of the Cape San peoples has been treated as little more than a footnote to South African narratives of colonial conquest.During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Dutch-speaking pastoralists who infiltrated the Cape interior dispossessed its aboriginal inhabitants. In response to indigenous resistance, colonists formed mounted militia units known as commandos with the express purpose of destroying San bands. This ensured the virtual extinction of the Cape San peoples. InThe Anatomy of a South African Genocide,Mohamed Adhikariexamines the history of the San and persuasively presents the annihilation of Cape San society as genocide.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4400-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-9)
  4. Chronology
    (pp. 10-11)
  5. Definitions of genocide
    (pp. 12-16)

    Genocide is the intentionalaphysical destructionbof a social groupcin its entirety, or the intentional annihilation of such a significant partdof the group that it is no longer able to reproduce itself biologically or culturally, nor sustain an independent economic existence.e

    Genocide cannot happen accidentally. Its execution is deliberate to the extent that there needs to be intent either to eradicate the social group in question or to cripple its social life permanently. The intent need not be explicitly declared and can take the form of an exterminatory attitude, as, for example, within a settler community towards indigenes,...

  6. Introduction: Settler colonialism and San society
    (pp. 17-27)

    In 1998 David Kruiper, the leader of the ≠ Khomani San people, who today live in the Kalahari Desert in the furthest reaches of South Africa’s Northern Cape province, lamented of his people that ‘… we have been made into nothing’ (Crwys-Williams, 1999: 62). The ≠ Khomani San are a tiny remnant of the foraging communities that once inhabited most of the land that currently constitutes South Africa. Whereas Kruiper was voicing concern about the marginalisation of the ≠ Khomani San in post-apartheid South Africa,¹ his judgement applies in an even more literal sense to the fate of hunter-gatherer societies...

  7. 1 Colonial expansion through the eighteenth century
    (pp. 28-34)

    By the start of European colonisation, the San had largely been displaced to the drier and more rugged interior areas by Khoikhoi pastoralists and Bantu-speaking cultivators, both of whom had migrated into the region about two thousand years ago. The first European colonial settlement in southern Africa came in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company set up a refreshment station on the shores of Table Bay. The colony soon started spreading from this base because the VOC, in 1657, decided that allowing independent farmers to work the land was the most expeditious way of meeting the Company’s need for...

  8. 2 The dynamic of conflict on the frontier under Dutch rule
    (pp. 36-59)

    Trekboers, who derived considerable military advantage from their horses and firearms, severely disrupted the lives of foraging communities that had been living in the Cape interior for thousands of years. San and trekboer were bound to clash because they were in direct competition for the same environmental resources, namely, water, game, grazing and access to land, which included the right simply to be in a particular location at a given time. San bands suddenly found that they were denied access to traditional watering places by trekboers who occupied springs and water holes. Trekboer livestock muddied and contaminated water supplies, and...

  9. 3 Attrition under British colonial rule
    (pp. 60-77)

    The dynamic of frontier violence against the San changed at the end of the eighteenth century soon after the British took control of the Cape Colony. An embattled administration representing a bankrupt VOC, facing revolt among citizens, and defeat by the Xhosa was replaced by one that could muster significant military force and was prepared to intervene in frontier conflict. When the British first occupied the Cape Colony in 1795,¹ they were disconcerted by the incessant frontier violence, not only out of humanitarian concern but also because they wanted to maintain social order, and because of the high cost of...

  10. 4 A case of genocide?
    (pp. 78-93)

    In recent years, there has been a growing corpus of scholarly literature that has interpreted colonial exterminations of indigenous peoples as genocide. Much of this writing has focused on the nature of settler colonialism, especially in Australia and the United States, and there has been a distinct tendency to view settler colonialism as highly prone to, if not inherently, genocidal.¹ This discussion has not yet included the Cape San, partly because few South African scholars have worked within the field of genocide studies or systematically applied its insights to local mass killings, and partly because of the marginality of San...

  11. Conclusion: Xaa-ttin’s lament
    (pp. 94-96)

    Unlike farmers, foragers do not want to change or control nature but live in communion with it, harvesting what they need in ways that are in harmony with its rhythms and that demonstrate respect for its precepts. As with all hunter-gatherers, the life-ways of Cape San peoples were closely attuned to the natural environment. They had profound knowledge of the ecology, an intense spiritual connection with their natural surroundings and in many ways acted as its custodians. The intrusion of market-oriented farmers into this finely tuned biosphere in the Cape interior changed it abruptly and irrevocably. The ruinous practices of...

  12. Guide to further reading
    (pp. 97-98)
  13. Sources cited
    (pp. 99-112)
  14. Index
    (pp. 113-120)