Port Elizabeth of Yore: Klaas and Dawid Stuurman

From being an unknown entity some half a decade ago, the Stuurmans have been catapulted from obscurity into controversy and fame. The notoriety did not relate to his anti-colonial activities in the 1700s but rather due to the fact that the Port Elizabeth airport was renamed after Dawid,. Many felt that it should have been called Alister Miller Airport after the fact that he established Union Airways in Port Elizabeth which ultimately became SAA.

Main picture: Klaas Stuurman

In the Khoi and Coloured community, especially in Bethelsdorp, Stuurman is a revered icon. Those passionate about their community obtaining their rightful recognition in the modern world, have set up various programs to maintain and preserve the memory of Dawid Stuurman.

The Dawid Stuurman Story

Klaas Stuurman

CIRCA 1760 1803

Khoena (Khoi) chief, Leader in the Third Frontier War of Resistance, Ally of the Xhosa

Quote from Dawid Stuurman:

“Restore the country of which our fathers were despoiled by the Dutch and we have nothing more to ask. We have lived very contentedly before these Dutch plunderers molested us, and why should we not do so again if left to ourselves?

Klaas Stuurman led the ‘Gamtoos Nation’ in a coalition for liberation opposing European attempts to make his people vagrants in their own land.

Klaas and his younger brother David were born on Van Reenen’s farm in the Gamtoos valley in the Eastern Cape on independent Khoena (Khoi) territory around the middle of the eighteenth century. Their peaceful existence was challenged towards the end of the 1700s when they faced a devastating assault on their community’s independence.

193rd anniversary on 22nd February 2023 of Dawid Stuurman’s death

European colonialists seized the Khoena (Khoi’s) land, enslaved its people and tried to annihilate all vestiges of Khoena (Khoi) culture and economy. They used the Khoena (Khoi) as shock troops and cannon fodder in their militias and brutally put down any resistance.

The Stuurman brothers battled to halt this process.

193rd anniversary on 22nd February 2023 of Dawid Stuurman’s death

As the elder brother and perhaps because of his fearless outspokenness, oratory talents and skills with a gun, Klaas Stuurman found himself leading a rebel Khoena (Khoi) confederacy that became an adept military force in the region.

In 1799   he  formed an alliance between the ‘Gamtoos Nation’ amaXhosa Gqunukhwebe, led by Chief Chunga.

193rd anniversary on 22nd February 2023 of Dawid Stuurman’s death

When their demands for justice, land and respect failed, Stuurman made a second alliance with amaXhosa Chief Ndlambe to fight for Khoena (Khoi) independence in the Third Frontier War of Resistance (1801-1803), referred to by colonialist historians as The Hottentot Rebellion.

Despite winning the war, their victory was short-lived. Stuurman died during a buffalo hunting expedition before taking formal occupancy of the land granted by the peace terms, creating an opportunity for the white authorities to renege on their agreements with the now deceased chief.

His younger brother David however, soon turned the land into a sanctuary, and went on to prove himself an equal if not more determined fighter for the Khoena (Khoi) cause.

Pamphlet by unknown author on Klaas Stuurman
Photographs supplied by Edmund Stuurman

Leave a Comment.