Jan van Riebeeck who wasn’t Jan van Riebeeck

The history of South Africa changed when Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay on 6 April 1652 with his three ships, De Reiger, De Drommedaris and De Goede Hoop.

His mission was to establish a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company that would supply Dutch ships with fresh provisions and medical assistance on their trade expeditions to the East as the death rate en route was very high.

Approximately half of all their ships’ crews died, mainly from scurvy which was the result of the consumption over a long period, of food preserved in salt which resulted in a lack of Vitamin C.

Van Riebeeck was accompanied by his wife, Maria de la Quellerie, their son, 82 men and 8 women. Their arrival marked the beginning of permanent European settlement in South Africa.

Van Riebeeck left the Cape of Good Hope ten years later.

But who was the man on SA’s old bank notes?


It’s not common knowledge that this may not be Van Riebeeck’s face at all. Historians say there are no verified images of South Africa’s first settler.

It seems that the portrait of Van Riebeeck, that became a symbol of national pride, is not him at all, but most likely that of a Dutch local who never set foot in South Africa.

Founders Day was celebrated as a public holiday until 1994

The day of Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape became a public holiday and was celebrated as Van Riebeeck Day until 1974.

In 1980 the public holiday was changed to Founders Day. It was abolished in 1994 by the newly elected ANC government.

Watch: On a lighter note

South African comedians Casper de Vries and Annelisa Weiland’s take on Jan van Riebeeck and Maria de la Quellerie.


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