- Farzeen Heesambee
The Mauritian slave who shook South Africa
Slaves’ protests were mainly through running away or ‘working slow’, not many had what it takes to create a rebellion, but one man stood out in Cape Town in 1808, Louis Van Mauritius.
Louis, a slave from Mauritius arrived in Cape Town where he served his master in a wine store. Louis was very attentive and paid attention to news around the world and unearthed that slaves in the Caribbean and around the world were rebelling and heard about the revolution in Haiti, which was the first ever success of slave rebellion.
He exclaimed that, ‘in other countries all persons were free, and there were so many Black people here who could also be free, and that we ought to fight for our freedom.’ Alongside other slaves; both of African and Indian origin, they grouped slaves in Cape Town and seized Amsterdam Battery fortification and eventually negotiated for peace in a deal that would see the creation of a free state and freedom for all slaves.
They cunningly devised a plan of disguising their Irish friends who were also part of the rebellion as British soldiers to go around farms and collect slaves for the ‘military’ from the slave owners, who unknown to their plan, complied.
This overwhelming crowd was no match for the slave owners, and they faced very little resistance proving that there is power in numbers. This uprising that they fought was for their own freedom; freedom of the mind and body.
They were eventually captured in Cape Town by the real military and put to death, but their actions did not go unnoticed, as they were the ones who awaken the sleeping consciousness of chained slaves in this part of the world. This was the first ever rebellion in Cape Town, and as more slaves started to rebel after this episode, the military were not let off easily.
Louis Van Mauritius
An artwork commemorating and acknowledging his legacy can be found in Church Square, Cape Town.