Stellenbosch is named after Simon van der Stel and is a combination of ‘Stel’ from his last name and ‘Bosch’, which means bush or forest. Simon’s Town, the naval base of South Africa, is also named after Van der Stel.
He was appointed as governor of the Cape in 1679, inheriting a toxic cocktail of challenges. At the time, enslaved people often escaped from the chains of the company and other masters as part of their struggle for liberty.
Simon van der Stel presided over a period in which rewards were offered to recapture runaways. Those who were arrested and returned to their masters were often caned and burnt with hot iron on their skins as part of a cruel branding strategy that sought to mark them as property.
They felt the full weight of the law as some of them would be subjected to steel yokes tied on their necks like a span of oxen.
There were concerns that animals in the kraal lodged better than the humans in slave quarters, where women, children, and men were all packed together in a large unpartitioned room.
A sobering history about the Stellenbosch and the man whom it is named after.
This reminded me when I visited the slave market in Stone Town, it was horrifying to see the conditions where slaves were kept in.
It is amazing how human beings can be so cruel to each other and then pretend to be civilised.
Civilisation that treats other humans inhumanely is toxic.
The irony is that Simon van der Stel was born to a slave Indian mother. The slave master was born from a slave.