mohamed adhikari on the genocide of the cape san


Mohamed Adhikari, ‘A total extinction confidently hoped for: the destruction of Cape San society under Dutch colonial rule, 1700-1795’, Journal of Genocide Research 12, 1 (2010)


San (Bushman) society in the Cape Colony was almost completely annihilated during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a result of land confiscation, massacre, forced labour and cultural suppression that accompanied colonial rule. Whereas similar obliterations of indigenous peoples in other parts of the world have resulted in major public controversies and heated debate amongst academics about the genocidal nature of these episodes, in South Africa the issue has effectively been ignored aside from passing, often polemical, references to it as genocide. Even recent studies that have approached the mass killing of the Cape San with sensitivity and insight do not address it as a case of genocide. This article sets out to redress this imbalance in part by analysing the dynamic of frontier conflict between San and settler under Dutch colonial rule as genocide. It demonstrates both the exterminatory intent underlying settler violence as well as the complicity of a weak colonial state in these depredations, including its sanctioning of the root-and-branch eradication of the San.

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