Thursday, 28 March 1658
On 28 March 1658 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship the Amersfoort, dropped anchor in Table Bay. In her hold she had a human cargo: 174 slaves. This was the first shipment of slaves to arrive in South Africa, and marked the beginning of almost 200 years of slave trade at the Cape.
The Amersfoort was not a slaver but a merchant vessel. She was on a journey from the Netherlands to the Cape when she came across a Portuguese slaver, heading to Brazil. The Portuguese slaver was coming from the Angolan coast, where they had picked up 500 slaves. The Amersfoort intercepted the slaver and captured half her cargo, taking 250 slaves as a bounty prize.
The journal entry from Van Riebeeck’s journal for 28 March reads:
In 12 deg. S. Latitude [the Amersfoort] had captured a Portuguese slaver coming from Angola and proceeding to the Bay Tote la Sanctos [present day San Salvador, Brazil] with 500 male and female slaves on board. The Amersfoort had taken off 250 slaves and left the rest in the Portuguese ship, which was old and unserviceable. Some were falling ill and dying owing to the long duration of the voyage…
…The weakest [sailors] were brought ashore to be refreshed, and also the slaves who had been taken off the Portuguese ship on the coast of Brazil in 12 deg. S. Latitude and had been reduced by death to 170, of whom many were very ill. The majority of the slaves are young boys and girls, who will be of little use to the next 4 or 5 years. They were also brought ashore to be refreshed and restored to health.