David Stuurman: The South African who twice escaped Robben Island

David Stuurman statue

David Stuurman, who has simply had an airport named after him, was one of many first leaders of resistance to colonial enlargement in South Africa, but few individuals within the nation know a lot about him, as Mohammed Allie studies.

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To the colonial institution of the late 18th and early nineteenth Centuries, David Stuurman was a legal and a risk, however to the Khoi and Xhosa individuals (or amaXhosa) he achieved hero standing for his courageous and continued resistance to pressured removals and subjugation.

Stuurman additionally has the excellence of being the one individual to have twice escaped from Robben Island – later often called one of many locations the place Nelson Mandela was incarcerated – off the coast of Cape City.

In 1809 he was among the many first political prisoners to be banished there.

First escape

“He was arrested and charged for resisting colonial rule in addition to opposing the conscription of the Khoi into militias that have been created to defend the colony and to assault the San and amaXhosa,” cultural activist Stephen Langtry informed the BBC.

“By December of 1809 Stuurman and some others have been the primary to flee from the island utilizing one of many whaling boats that was anchored within the harbour.

“He made it out of the colony and was given refuge amongst the amaXhosa. He was recaptured [a decade later] and put to exhausting labour on Robben Island. On 9 August 1820, he escaped once more,” Langtry added.

Although the getaway boat capsized, Stuurman survived solely to be caught as soon as extra and despatched again to the island in December for a 3rd stint.

Demise in Australia

This time he was chained to a wall till he may very well be transported in February 1823 to Australia.

Stuurman was then put to work on the army barracks in Sydney for six years earlier than he was granted a ticket to go away. However by that point he had turn into lame in his proper leg and was unable to return residence, in accordance with Sydney Dwelling Museums.

He died in Australia in 1830 and was buried in a cemetery which was later redeveloped as Sydney’s central railway station, which means that Stuurman’s stays couldn’t be positioned.

Khoi activists, Khoi San community members, relatives and government officials attend the symbolic burial ceremony of Khoisan Traditional leader and freedom fighter David Stuurman on June 16, 2017 in Hankey, South Africa

David Stuurman’s spirit was laid to relaxation again in South Africa in a ceremony in 2017

After negotiations with the Australian authorities that lasted a number of years, a conventional ceremony was performed in Sydney in 2017 to repatriate the spirit of Stuurman. Three days later a second non secular repatriation was performed on the Sarah Baartman Heritage Centre within the South African city of Hankey, Japanese Cape province.

Born round 1773, close to the Gamtoos River in what’s now Japanese Cape, Stuurman took over the management of his Khoi clan from his brother Klaas who died in 1803.

He acquired concerned within the anti-colonial combat after his individuals have been dispossessed of their land by the Dutch and British colonisers, forcing him and different indigenous individuals to reside and work on their land as labourers.

‘Tied up and crushed’

Stuurman himself labored for a farmer, Johannes Vermaak, however his brutal remedy led him to desert his job.

At one level it was alleged that he had threatened Vermaak.

“[After the disagreement] Vermaak had first demanded that he be shot however settled for having him tied to a wagon and crushed with sjamboks [whips],” historian Vertrees Malherbe has written.

“After that he was salted and left within the burning solar, for some hours.”

Key dates in Stuurman's life. [ Early 1770s Stuurman born in what is now Eastern Cape ],[ 1795 British forces seize Cape Colony from the Dutch, then return it in 1803 and finally gaining control in 1806 ],[ 1799 Khoi rebellion, which Stuurman helps lead, begins ],[ 1809 Stuurman arrested and held on Robben Island but later escapes ],[ 1820 Stuurman recaptured after second escape ],[ 1830 Stuurman dies in Australia after being transported there in 1823 ], Source: Source: SA History Online, BBC Monitoring, Image:

Key dates in Stuurman’s life. [ Early 1770s Stuurman born in what is now Eastern Cape ],[ 1795 British forces seize Cape Colony from the Dutch, then return it in 1803 and finally gaining control in 1806 ],[ 1799 Khoi rebellion, which Stuurman helps lead, begins ],[ 1809 Stuurman arrested and held on Robben Island but later escapes ],[ 1820 Stuurman recaptured after second escape ],[ 1830 Stuurman dies in Australia after being transported there in 1823 ], Supply: Supply: SA Historical past On-line, BBC Monitoring, Picture:

Stuurman’s energetic profession as Khoi chief spanned a tumultuous interval within the first 20 years of the nineteenth Century, when the Xhosa, Boers, Khoikhoi, San and the British clashed intermittently within the Japanese Cape.

The battle was largely resulting from colonial enlargement which dispossessed Xhosa and Khoi individuals of their land, cattle and different belongings.

In 1799 the Khoi on the japanese frontier of the Cape Colony rebelled. Tons of left the farms which, in lots of situations they have been pressured to work on, and went to reside with the Xhosa, in accordance with South African Historical past On-line. Collectively the Khoi and the Xhosa attacked the colonialists.

Stuurman helped lead the expeditions to recapture cattle from Dutch colonists between 1795 and 1803.

By all accounts, Stuurman was a thorn within the aspect of each the frontiersmen and the brand new British authorities within the Cape as he refused to be coerced into giving up his clan’s independence.

‘For us, he is a legend’

“He was essential for his contributions in resisting colonial occupation. He was additionally a formidable resistance fighter,” cultural activist Shepi Mati informed the BBC.

“At one level he obtained refugees – individuals who ran away from slavery and compelled conscription into farm labour and provided them a protected haven amongst his group who resided within the space now known as Hankey within the Japanese Cape.

“Stuurman himself was extremely regarded in the neighborhood. He was not afraid to tackle the colonialists. He took again land and cattle that was forcibly taken from his individuals.”

Mati added that Stuurman additionally performed an essential function in fostering unity between the Khoi and the Xhosa.

“For us he is a legend. He is one of many Khoi and San heroes who was the primary, collectively together with his brother Klaas, to combat colonialism, land dispossession and slavery on the time,” says Christian Martin, an Japanese Cape-based Khoi and San activist. In 2016, he proposed that Port Elizabeth’s airport must be named in Stuurman’s honour.

“Stuurman was manner forward of his time in the case of unity and nation constructing.

“There is a white individuals’s model of Stuurman the place he’s painted as a assassin. Keep in mind some individuals additionally considered Nelson Mandela as a terrorist – however to thousands and thousands he was a hero.”

The colonists noticed him as a bandit and unwilling to cooperate and in 1809 Stuurman was arrested and held on Robben Island.

‘First revolutionary’

Martin reveals that he obtained a number of messages from white South Africans after the renaming of the worldwide airport in Port Elizabeth (which itself has acquired a brand new identify – Gqeberha).

One, written in Afrikaans, known as Stuurman “a infamous robber and assassin” who had settlers killed, stole their cattle and “chased their ladies and youngsters, barefoot and carrying solely their nightclothes into the sector within the bitter chilly”.

Maybe a part of the supply of the anger was that the airport was as soon as named after former Prime Minister HF Verwoerd, thought of to be one of many architects of apartheid, which legalised racial discrimination.

In line with Errol Heynes, a former deputy mayor of Port Elizabeth, Stuurman, by opposing pressured removals, turned “one of many first revolutionaries within the nation”.

“It was essential to focus on those that had fought the primary settlers and fought colonisation earlier than the arrival of apartheid,” he provides.

Stuurman has been honoured in different methods. In 2015 a life-size bronze sculpture of him, created by Cape City-based artist Keith Calder, was erected on the Nationwide Heritage Monument in Tshwane.

Regardless of this and having performed a key function in resisting colonialism it has taken the renaming of the airport for a lot of South Africans to study extra about him.

With this transfer and the tales of his heroism, together with the double escape from Robben Island, there’s now more likely to be extra curiosity.

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