On this day in history: 13 February


Monday, 13 February 1713

A smallpox epidemic struck the refreshment station at the Cape, after arriving with the crew on a Dutch ship. The disease wrecked irreparable havoc among the indigenous and colonist population of the Cape Peninsula and adjacent interior. Hardest hit were the indigenous Khoisan people. They appeared to have much less resistance to the disease than the slaves and the colonists had and suffered huge losses to their numbers. On 13 February 1713 something as unlikely as the dirty linen of the crew of a Dutch ship that had stopped at the refreshment station of the Cape, wrecked irreparable havoc among the indigenous and colonist population of the Cape Peninsula and adjacent interior. The crew, under the command of Commissioner Johannes van Steeland, had come down with smallpox, a disease that was fatal at the time. Their clothing and other linen were sent to the slave lodge of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to be laundered. Within weeks the Company slaves were succumbing at the rate of about eight persons a day to the disease. White colonists were also beginning to be affected. By May 1713 the smallpox disease had reached pandemic proportions. The dead could not be buried in coffins, as there was a shortage of wood at the Cape.

By June 1713 the epidemic was largely contained on the Cape Peninsula. However, it had spread into the adjacent interior. The white settler farmers were the first to be affected. Farming came to a standstill. Emergency supplies had to be imported from Batavia. However, at the end of 1713 the disease was no longer a threat to the white population. Nevertheless approximately a quarter of the colonist population had died. As soon as the epidemic was over for the European people, the Cape authorities ordered the immediate reconstruction of the affected areas. However, the indigenous Khoisan people were not as fortunate. They appeared to have much less resistance to the disease than the slaves and the colonists had. The disease was foreign to the Khoikhoi. Hence they had no recourse to indigenous medicines that could be used for this disease. It appeared that they felt that the colonisers were actively visiting this evil and death upon them. So the Khoi fled the Peninsula with all their belongings in the hope of escaping the smallpox. But this was in vain: even as they took ill they died almost immediately. The unaffected Khoi groups whom they encountered in the interior to which they had fled, were terrified of the consequences of contact, and consequently killed the fleeing Khoi. By February 1714 the few Khoi survivors reported to the Governor of the Cape that not even ten percent of the original Khoi population of the south-western Cape had survived the epidemic. Whole clans were annihilated in most instances. In other instances, the few survivors could not reconstruct a coherent clan as even the captains had died. For this reason, the indigenous clan names were lost. Instead the Khoikhoi became known by the derogatory term “Hottentots”. As the smallpox epidemic decimated most of the Khoikhoi, what remained of their economic strength after colonisation was further eroded. Settler farmers moved into areas previously inhabited by the Khoi and started a new existence for themselves with the aid of the Cape government.


Wednesday, 13 February 1901

Lord Kitchener met with General Louis Botha in an effort to end the Anglo-Boer War, but Botha founds the British conditions unacceptable. The battle of Wolwekuil was fought the same day


Saturday, 13 February 1982

Neil Aggett, former organiser of the Food and Canning Workers Union and African Food and Canning Workers Union, was buried in Johannesburg. It was estimated that 15 000 people attended his funeral. His labour organisation issued a call that on 11 February 1982, that on the day of his burial, all workers should stay away from work. About 7 000 FOSATU workers at the Uitenhage branch of Volkswagen responded. The presence of police did not stop mourners from reaffirming the struggle for which Aggett died by singing revolutionary songs. Aggett’s funeral was filmed as a symbol of the impact he had on people through labour issues and his community work. He became the 51st person to die in police detention, and was the first White person to die under those circumstances since 1963. Police alleged that he had committed suicide by hanging himself with a scarf; however, the inquest on 29 June 1982 revealed that he had died as result of police torture.


Monday, 13 February 1984

Andre Stander, former police officer, South African fugitive and leader of the Stander Gang consisting of Patrick Lee McCall, Allan Heyl and Stander himself, was shot dead by a United States of America (USA) police officer, Michael van Stetina. Stander was confronted by Van Stetina and got embroiled in a scuffle over Van Stetina’s shotgun, which resulted in him being shot. He died on the wet driveway to his apartment block while waiting for an ambulance. Stander had fled to the USA after McCall was shot dead by police during a raid of one of the apartments in Johannesburg, where he was hiding. Heyl fled to Europe and was later caught in England. The gang of three had become notorious particularly after they robbed three banks in less than an hour in January 1984.


Tuesday, 13 February 1990

Fifty people were killed over three days in battles between Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) supporters in Natal, South Africa, following the release of Mandela on 11 February 1990.

One of the reasons advanced for this violence is that pro-government forces as well as members of the South African security establishment wished to destabilise and totally disrupt the negotiations between the African National Congress (ANC) and other political formations and the Apartheid regime. A further reason was that the UDF was growing in popularity in Natal, which was traditionally considered an Inkatha stronghold. The release of Nelson Mandela on 11 of February 1990 intensified the violence.

It was also during this period that rumours of a Third Force emerged and much of the instability and political violence of this period was blamed on these elements. The transitional talks culminated in the first democratic election on 27 April 1994 eventually ushering in a democratic South Africa.


Monday, 13 February 1995

South Africa’s deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology and the ANC Women’s League president, Nomzamo Nobandla Winnifred Madikizela-Mandela (Winnie), was accused of misusing R500 000 presented to her by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1994. The claim was made by eleven members of the League who resigned in protest at her style of leadership.


Sunday, 13 February 2005

Ladysmith black Mambazo won their second Grammy Award on 13 February 2005 for their album Wenyukela. A hybrid of the album was released in the United States and went platinum, helping the group win the award. Their genre is considered to be Scathamiya and Mbube. They rose to international stardom when they collaborated with Paul Simon on his album Graceland in 1986. The album went on to win three Grammy awards. The group, which was led by Joseph Shabalala (now retired) was formed in 1960 and released their first album in 1973. It was originally named Ezimnyama.  When Shabalala noticed the group’s success in competitions, he felt that Ladysmith Black Mambazo was more fitting. The group had so many highlights in their career including collaborating with international star Josh Groban and performing at President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration among others.


All information taken from http://www.sahistory.org.za/this_day/13/02


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