On 1 December 1838, slaves were emancipated at the Cape Colony in South Africa. Some 39,000 slaves were freed from the system of “apprenticeship”. While slaves were brought into the country by the Dutch from their other colonies around the world, the slave system impacted the Khoisan peoples of southern Africa most harshly. Commandos of colonists would conduct raids against San peoples—often on the pretext that the San were simply stock thieves—for the purposes of acquiring slaves. In such cases, San men were often killed and the women and children taken into bondage, to serve as labour on Colonial farms. The treatment of slaves in South Africa was often brutal, with psychological, physical and sexual abuse commonplace.
The abolition of slavery by Britain in 1834—also on 1 December—would lead directly to the end of slavery at the Cape, which was by 1838 a British Colony. While slavery was officially ended, the process of colonial exploitation of Khoisan and other peoples was far from over; over the course of the nineteenth century, the Khoisan would see their lands expropriated without compensation, their hunting grounds destroyed by European greed and they would be forced through taxation into the system of cheap labour that characterised South Africa all the way until the end of Apartheid.
Picture: Slave Lodge museum in Cape Town, South Africa viewed from the intersection of Spin Street and Kerk/Parliament Street