Dirk Gysbert Van Reenen, born in 1754, was a son of Jacob Van Reenen who was the leader of the expedition to look for the survivors of the Grosvenor shipwreck in 1790 (see HiPSA Volume I-8 of 1927). Dirk Gysbert himself was a prominent burger, a winemaker, beer brewer and farmer at the time of the Dutch East India Company. He lived on the estate De Papenboom, also called Brouwery, in Newlands and was the owner of various farms of which the most important was Rhenosterfontein on the banks of the Breede River. He was the holder of contracts to be the sole brewer of beer and supplier of meat to the Cape Government which contributed largely to his wealth. When the British returned the Cape Colony to the Netherlands in 1803 the Batavian Republic ruled for a period of three years during which the government of General Janssens and Commissioner De Mist introduced an enlightened administration which included the principles of free trade. This change of policy eventually led to an insolvent estate when Van Reenen died in 1828.

House of Dirk Gysbert Van Reenen, “De Papenboom”, Newlands

When Janssens became Governor of the Cape he was warned against Van Reenen in an anonymous memorandum stating that the Van Reenen family was corrupt. Notwithstanding Janssens trusted Van Reenen and consulted him about various aspects of life at the Cape. Shortly after his arrival in the Cape he, together with his colleague Captain Paravicini de Capelli [see also HiPSA Vol I-46], decided to go on an extensive journey to explore the country and asked Van Reenen and his son Daniel to join them. The confidence that Janssens put in Van Reenen is proven by the fact that the latter played an important role in the negotiations to settle the conflicts occurring between the Xhosa and the Dutch burgers on the Eastern Border. This publication, based on the travel journal written by Van Reenen during this journey, is an official report with much factual information.

Map of Journey by Dirk Gysbert van Reenen, 1803


… wilde hier toe niet resolveeren voor en aleer hy met hun slaags was geweest, waar toe hy zig prepareerde en eerstdaags mede zoude beginnen.

De Gouverneur toonde zig hieromtrent niet wel te vreeden, zeggende dat hy meester was dit te doen of te laaten, dog dat hem niets aangenaamer zoude zyn dan een geruste bevrediging tusschen hunlieden te maken en hier wierd de eerste samenkomst geslooten.

Gaika met zyn moeder en twee vrouwen en Coenraad Buys wierden by den Generaal te middagmaal genoodigt; aan tafel zittende, liet Gaika al zyn volk rondom de tent zitten, hy, zo wel als zyn moeder en vrouwen, waren onhandig met mes en vurk om te gaan; nogtans was dit een zeer mislyk Dinee.

Des anderen daags wierd aan Gaika van wegens den Generaal wederom voorslaagen tot vreede met de uitgeweekene Kaffers gedaan en bekend gemaakt dat den Generaal expres een tolk van de andere party had meede gebragt, die zeer geneegen waaren tot onderhandelingen te komen, en dezen tolk hadden meede gegeven om zyn antwoord te ontfangen, waarop hy dan eindelyk daar toe is geresolveerd en in eene daarop belegde vergadering de volgende poincten door hem zyn beantwoord.

Deeze vergadering wierd gehouden in een open tent, waarby, behalven den Generaal en den Cafferchefs, tegenswoordig waaren ik, den Capitein Paravicini de Capelli, de Major Von Gilten, Capt. Alberti en de Luitt. Gilmer; alle de by ons zynde ingezeetenen zaten rondom …

… did not want to commit himself to this, not until he had joined battle with them, for which he was preparing; he would make a start presently.

The Governor signified his displeasure, stating that the choice whether to do so or not was Gaika’s, but that nothing would please him more than to bring about a lasting peace between them. At this point the first meeting was adjourned.

Gaika, his mother and two wives and Coenraad Buys were invited to dine with the General. Gaika sat at the table and told his people to sit round the tent. He and his mother and wives were quite dexterous in handling knife and fork; notwithstanding this their presence at the meal made it rather nauseating.

The following day the General made further pro­posals to Gaika for peace with the native refugees and announced that he had specially brought with him an interpreter belonging to the seceded section, who were only too anxious to discuss terms and had sent this interpreter to receive Gaika’s answer. Whereupon he finally decided to discuss matters. At a meeting which was then convened he replied to the following points.

This meeting was held in an open tent, and in addi­tion to the General and the Kafir chiefs, I, Captain Paravicini de Capelli, Major von Gilten, Captain Alberti and Lieutenant Gilmer were present. All the European inhabitants accompanying us sat round the …