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Republic of South Africa

Historical Relationship


The historical relationship between the Netherlands and South Africa go back for centuries. It was the Portuguese who first established European contact with the South Africa, when they landed at what they named 'Cabo de Buono Esperanza'- Cape of Good Hope. Following the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602, the Dutch began making regular long-haul journeys to the East, passing through the Cape sea route and using the Cape of Good Hope as a docking station to refresh their food and fresh water supplies, as well as letting the crew rest on land before embarking again. The sailors also used this rest stop as a mailbox, hiding their personal letters and messages under stones- called Poststenen- for other ships to pick up and deliver on their behalf. 


In 1647 Jan van Riebeeck was commissioned by the VOC to establish a permanent and defencable post on the island, to service the needs of the passing ships as well as progress the ambitions of the VOC in this area, allowing them to protect their trading network and assets. By 1652 Van Riebeeck had built a fort at the foot of Table Mountain, which is still in existence, known as Cape Coast Castle, or the Castle of Good Hope. 


Ship repairs were usually carried out at Mosselbay on the East Coast. The surrounding settlement grew properous through the Governor Simon van der Stel, who stimulated and invested in the advancement in agriculture and wine cultivation. New towns were established, such as Stellenbosch and Simonstad, and the Dutch began building domestic houses in a style known as 'Kaap Hollands style', many of these types of buildings can still be seen in and around the Cape areas. 


It was the Dutch who began to transport slaves to the area in the 17th century, importing people from Africa, Indonesia, India and Madagascar as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. 


The British took over Cape Good Hope in 1795 to prevent the territory falling into French hands, following their invasion of the Netherlands, they restored it to the Dutch Batavian Republic for only 3 short years before annexing it entirely in 1806. 


During the 19th Century tensions arose especially between the British colonists, the Zulu people and the Boer communities (settlers of Dutch, Flemish, Germany and French origin). This led to a number of clashes including the first and second Boer war. However, many people claiming ancestry or origins in the Netherlands remained in South Africa still. 


Heritage Cooperation:

Although relations between South Africa and the Netherlands were not close following the Dutch condemnation of the Apartheid Regime, since its end in 1994, cooperation and positive relations have been steadily growing. South Africa is one of the Priority Countries for the Netherlands, in-line with the Dutch Mutual Cultural Heritage Policy, which aims to foster and encourage cooperative and co-creative heritage activities between the two countries, relating to heritage which ties both the history of both the Netherlands and South Africa. 


As well as the tangible evidence for the Dutch in South Africa such as buildings, cemeteries and shipwrecks, there is also important intangible heritage, for instance the Afrikaans language has its origins in Dutch, which is a major factor for collaboration in heritage. 


South Africa has been at the forefront of maritime archaeology on the African continent for over a decade. It holds a unique position at roughly the halfway point between Europe and the East, with some of the richest and most diverse maritime heritage in the world, including almost 3,000 shipwreck sites, landbased maritime sites and a myriad of living heritage relating to the maritime landscapes. 


CIE has an extensive track record working with South Africa centering around themes such as maritime, mutual cultural heritage and world heritage. These activities come under our Core Themes of;

Heritage Awareness,

Culture and Development,

Research and Academic Cooperation.



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