The Fourth Voice in the Heritage of Simon’s Town: PRIZE SLAVES

Kidnapped and captured, released and enslaved,
Free men or prize slaves or cargo for sale,
Simon’s Town took us and kept us a while,
Free Blacks were brothers in Black Town then.
Home was Luyolo, where Zola* was born.
Children in Sayer’s Lane played and were free.
Kloof was their playground; St Francis their church.

Fate was not done with us: forcibly moved,
Townships awaited us far from our homes,
Ripped from our roots, we were not left in peace.
Kidnapped and captured, released and enslaved,
Free in our minds, but just cargo to move.
Justice must come, or our souls will not rest.
Justice must come; we have waited enough.


*Zola Skweyiya, Cabinet Minister from 1994 to 2009.


Slavery was abolished in 1834 and the abolition was implemented at the Cape of Good Hope about four years later. “Prize slaves” were slaves liberated by the Royal Navy from slaver ships of countries that still allowed slave trading. The Royal Navy ships would challenge them on the high seas and confiscate their human cargo. These ‘Liberated Africans’ were brought to the nearest English colony, branded and placed, usually with farmers, as indentured labourers. This was a kind of compulsory apprenticeship.

So ‘Prize Slaves’ or ‘Liberated Africans’ unfortunately became victims of the demand for cheap or unpaid labour, which resulted in unfair contractual relationships that often lasted beyond 20 years.

Large numbers of indentured labourers were brought to the Cape from different parts of the world, from St Helena, all over Africa and from India and the Indonesian Archipelago. ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to pour into Cape Town until 1856 and anything from 8,000 to 12,000 were brought in total. They were only really freed by around 1870.



Camissa People: Cape Slavery and Indigene Heritage. PT Mellet.

The Third Voice in the Heritage of Simon’s Town: THE MUSLIMS


Third Voice     The Muslims
by Melanie Steyn

We have a saint, but not from St Helena,
A Tuang, a sufi, Anthony to you,
A royal, a Sultan, now do you see?
Kaharuddin came in seventeen something
A prisoner of the Dutch, so afraid of
Resistance in Indonesia.
Here, read the Kitaab, translated at last,
It tells how he came, Sheik Yusuf his leader.

And where the museum stands today
They kept him imprisoned In Simon’s Town.
But friends were not far; they helped him escape.
They kept him alive in Antonie’s Gat,
And he and his children taught us the way.
Above Goede Gift is their Kramat:
The peace of Allah is palpable there.

The Islamic Mosque, Nooral, Light of Peace,
Our spiritual home, is precious to us.
We kept to ourselves; we offered you wares.
We traded and served; our kids played with yours.
So how did we hurt you? What did we do?
Our women so modest. We lived without wine.
But no, we’re not white, so we had to leave.
Yet we will make duas, even for you.

Sheik Yusuf, the ruler of Gowa on the Islands of Celebes in South East Asia, was also the brother of the Sultan of Macassar. In 1646 Yusuf went to Bantam in Java to spread the Islamic faith, where he married the daughter of Abdul Fatah, the Sultan of Bantam. He supported his father-in-law against the Dutch East India Company (VOC)  in the struggle to gain a trade monopoly.

The Dutch captured and imprisoned him, first in Batavia and then in Ceylon, but afraid of his influence, they banished him and his immediate followers, 49 persons in total, to the Cape. The contingent was initially accommodated in the Castle. In 1694 the Council of Policy resolved to settle Yusuf at the mouth of the Eerste River at False Bay. (Macassar  Beach was named in his honour.) He was to receive 12 rix-dollars a month, and his contingent would be supported in a humane manner.

In 1699 Sheik Yusuf passed away on the farm, Zandvliet, and only his wives and daughters were allowed to return to their fatherland. Many Cape Muslims trace their ancestry to his followers, who were also of royal blood.

It was, however, Sultan Kaharuddin, known as Anthony, a Sufi, who was brought to Simon’s Town. He was also a political exile, but probably arrived in South Africa after Sheik Yusuf. He would, however, have regarded Sheik Yusuf as a spiritual leader. He and his son Ismael and grandson Jaliel are credited with establishing Islam in Simon’s Town.

Earlier this century a translation of a kitab (the Arabic word for book), passed from generation to generation, revealed the definite identity of the Auliyahs (leaders, spirits, angels, friends) buried here. Written in ancient Sumbawanese, the kitaab identifies them as Tuan Ismail Dea Malela and Tuan Dea Koasa).

In 1969 a UCT student, a certain Mr Muller, conducted his thesis on the Muslim community in Cape Town, and specifically in Simon’s Town. His research findings revealed what oral history had claimed for centuries – that Tuan Ismail Dea Malela and his son, Tuan Dea Koasa were of royal descent. His research cites the Kitaad as the most valuable piece of evidence linking the families of the Dea royal family in Pemangong, Sumbawe, Indonesia and Sultan Kaharuddin to the Dea royal family in Simon’s Town.

Some Muslim families did avoid eviction, as the government did not have separate place for them to go.


SA History Online:
Muslim Directory  ;
Kramat Tuan Dea Koasa and
Yuan Ismail Dea Malela
Simon’s Town Museum

The Second Voice in the Heritage of Simon’s Town: KROOMEN AND SEEDIES.

2     Kroomen and Siddis
                      by Melanie Steyn

From Krutown and East Africa,
We manned the ships you could not sail
Unless we helped. From on the bridge
You barked and growled. We flaked and furled
The sails; controlled the halyards, braces,
Sheets and vangs. We knew the job.

You could not hear our names. Instead,
You called us Peasoup, Black Whale
And Tom Creeper. The shame is yours;
We rest in Dido Valley graves
But we bequeathed our children more:
The discipline, integrity
You can never strip them of.

Kroomen (also Kroumen or Krumen) were African sailors, experienced fishermen, recruited from the Kroo or Kru tribe in Sotta Krou, in what is now Liberia in West Africa, into the British Royal Navy in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

They would approach the navy ships in their canoes, and were willing to be employed on the spot. They would sing songs with a leader and chorus, rowing in time to the music. Because of their knowledge of the west African coast they were sometimes employed as pilots.

 The navy offered them three-year contracts. When they returned home it would be to great rejoicing by their families, but many did settle in different British colonies, including some who remained and married in Simon’s Town. 

The Seedies (the name comes from the Hindi word Siddi) were Muslim, and the navy recruited them from ports on the Indian Ocean, primarily from Zanzibar and the Seychelles. They were mostly employed in less skilled jobs. Some seem to have been ex-slaves.

Their descendants remember them as being tough men. Their graves in Simon’s Town identify them as Krumen. The renowned artist, Peter Clarke, whose family was evicted from Simon’s Town, remembered his Kru grandfather and recorded that meeting him was rather like “touching and being touched by God.”


Wikipedia and the Simon’s Town Museum.

The First Voice in the heritage of Simon’s Town: THE !XAM


I have now been living in Simon’s Town for more than six years, and on Heritage Day, 24 September 2018, I got involved with the museum’s exhibition. The event and art exhibition concentrated on commemorating the forced removals of people of colour from Simon’s Town in terms of the notorious Group Areas Act. I wrote ten poems representing ten voices from the past and presented them in roughly chronological order. Here they are, for the record.

The first voice is that of the /Xam, “San” people who lived on the peninsula and disappeared because of the genocide practised against them by all the other groupings in southern Africa to a greater or lesser extent. In Peer’s Cave, Fish Hoek, evidence of their occupation dates back 12 000 years. One skeleton is particularly touching. It is that of a young woman with hips malformed in such a way that she would not have been able to walk. She had intricate strings of beautiful beadwork bedecking her body and was clearly cared for tenderly.

Having exterminated them, we affectionately used their language to say “Diverse people unite” in our brand new coat of arms for a democratic South Africa. There are more than 40 living languages in South Africa, but using any one of them would have been too controversial. Nuff said!


FIRST VOICE     The |Xam
One impala fed us
For a week or more.
Tracking him in silence
Fingers spoke our message.
Tension. Bow and arrows.
Running for hours and hours
To bring him home at last.
Honoured he was in death.

Peering from Peers Cave
Spirits fashioned beads and
Watched the carnage:
So many fish and seals.
Calling them false names,
Killing penguins, gannets,
Elephant and buck.
/Kaggen, take revenge.

“ǃke e: /xarra /Ike”
Take our |Xam language
Use it as your motto.
Taking was what you did.
Coat of Arms? That’s fine.
Ironies are not lost.
Pity you killed us before
“Diverse people unite.”