Western Cape Commemorates Slave Emancipation Day
On Saturday, 1 December 2012, Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Dr Ivan Meyer, joined the community of Goedverwacht to commemorate the 174thanniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Cape Colony.
Joined by Mayor of Bergrivier Municipality, Mr Evert Manuel, Dr Meyer rang the local church bell in remembrance of the significance of Slave Emancipation Day.
It is significant that Goedverwacht, which is just outside Piketberg, was established by former slaves. According to historical records, at the time of the emancipation, Hendrik Schalk Burger bequeathed his farm to his former slave Maniesa and her five children. In 1888 the Moravian Church bought the farm from Maniesa’s descendants and established a mission station there.
According to Lorraine Cornelius, Chairperson of Goedverwacht Tourism and a direct descendant of Maniesa, what made Burger’s decision unique was that he went to great trouble to ensure that his final wishes were honoured. “Not even an attempt by his children to challenge their father’s decision in the courts could reverse Burger’s decision. He went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Maniesa and her children were not deprived of their inheritance by anyone.”
Dr Meyer described the day as one of restoration. “Commemoration is about restoring pride. Through a connection to the past we are able to take on the challenges of the future. By acknowledging Maniesa and commemorating the abolition of slavery, we are indeed restoring pride to those who were treated like a commodity, beaten and brutalised, and robbed of their dignity”, said Meyer.
The Cape Colony was the largest slave-holding area of South Africa. Almost 40% of the current inhabitants of Cape Town are descendants of former slaves.The evolution of the Western Cape since Maniesa’s time as a slave shows that the region has a long history of notable people working together towards social inclusivity and the greater good.