The summer of 1736 had not been a particularly dry one, by the Standards of Cape Town, and on three days in February there had been some light rain. Nevertheless, early in the morning of the 12 March 1736, the thatched roofs of the town must have been very dry, and moreover a south-east wind had sprung up in the night, blowing round the Devil's Peak and down the slopes of Table Mountain with a force that made it difficult to walk.
Therefore when, in course of the night, a fire began in the tannery belonging to Jan Nicholaas Beugel, which lay just across from the vegetable garden of the VOC, on the southern edge of the town, it could easily have spread and burnt down the whole of Cape Town. As it was, it destroyed only five houses. The town was saved, the official diarist teils us, 'by the Grace of God and swiftly taken action', a combination of which Oliver Cromwell would surely have approved.
The expedients included spreading an old sail over the thatched roof of the most vulnerable house to ward off the sparks, which it was able to do because the slaves kept it sodden. All the same, the owners of the five houses lost all their possessions, even down to the chickens in Rudolf Allemann's run, which were unable to escape and so were roasted alive, and eaten next morning by his slaves.
The Cape authorities were not certain whether the fire was accidental, for the houses had been destroyed so completely that no clues were left, 110 half-burnt brands as had been found after a similar arson attempt three months previously. They must have had their suspicions, all the same, because at the same meeting of the council they ordered a commando to go out and round up the runaways, both slave and European, hiding in the mountains round the Cape. Later they discovered that it had indeed been a case of deliberate arson, one committed moreover by members of the most notorious band of runaway slaves in the history of the Cape colony, led by Leander Bugis and living on the coast near Hangklip, or Cape False.
Because it was the longest surviving and largest of such groups at the Cape, the Hangklip maroon Community represents the limit of what runaway slaves in South Africa were able to achieve.
The band had first come to the notice of the authorities some eleven years before the fire. The landrost of Stellenbosch had written to the governor informing him that a large number of slaves were hiding in the mountains around Cape Agulhas and asking that the reward for capturing them be increased to ten Rijksdaalders per head.
Around 1725 the group was joined by Lena van de Caab, a slave of the Company. Two years earlier she had run away from Cape Town with Jochem, her husband, and had gone to live in the mountains of the Cape peninsula, about Hout Bay. They survived largely by stealing sheep from the kraal of Jochem's former master, Gerrit Victor. After two years of this precarious existence, they decided that they needed to find a safer spot and moved from the mountains of the Cape peninsula across the Cape flats - presumably along the coast of Falsc Bay - to Hangklip, where they found four men living, Leander Bugis, Arend, Joumath and Andries.
Probably it was not chance that they went there. Communications between Hangklip and Table Mountain were frequent, at least in later years, so it is likely that Lena and Jochem knew of the existence of the Hangklip group and went with the definite intention of joining it.
Hangklip was a very suitable location for a maroon Community because it combined the safety provided by the mountains with the plentiful food supplies of the coast.
The basic biographical data that is available on the fifty known Hangklip runaways (of the period 1724-1737) is listed below. In general it is very deficient, and on occasion, especially as regards the date of birth, rather approximate.
1 Adam, m., slave of Mattheus de Wolff, present in early 1730s.
2 Alexander, m., 1703 born Bengal, slave of Hendrick Thomas, with runaways 1733-5, then captured in Cape Town and sentenced to be flogged, branded, be pilloried under the gallows and to 25 years' hard labour in chains. (It was not known he had been in Hanglip.) Escaped September 1736, went to Hanglip. Was captured 1737. Sentenced to be broken without the coup de grace, after first having eight pieces of flesh pulled out with red-hot tongs.
3 Alexander, m., born 1705, Malabar, slave of Jochem Stolz. In Lena's group, 1730, captured, flogged and sent home.
4 Amil, m., born 1700, Madagascar slave of Jochem Stoltz, Tijgerberg. Went to Hanglip 1726, captured 1730, hung.
5 Andries, m., slave of Jan Zacharias Beck. In Hanglip before 1724.
6 Anthony, m., slave of Pieter Jürgen van der Heijde. In Hanglip 1728, stayed one month and then returned to his master.
7 Anna, f., born 1697, Madagascar, slave of Gysbert Verwey, Tijgerberg. In Hanglip from 1726, captured 1737, strangled.
8 Arend, m., slave of Cornelia Eenmaal, widow Smuts (?, there is no such person on the 'Geslagsregister van Ou Kaapse Families'). In Hanglip before 1725.
9 Aron, m., born 1707 Madagascar, slave of Paul Jordaan, Cape Town. Went to Hanglip 1736, captured 1737, flogged, branded, ten years' hard labour in chains.
10 Barkat, m., slave of Robert Schot, free black, in the Cape flats, went to Hanglip 1736.
11 Batjoe, m., slave of Nicholaas Brommert, In Hanglip, 1735-6.
12 Caesar, m. born 1700, Madagascar, slave of Jan Olivier. In Lena's group, 1730, flogged, branded, 10 years' hard labour in chains.
13 Christina, f., born 1705, Madagascar, slave of Jochem Stoltz. In Lena's group 1730, flogged, branded and sent home.
14 Colon, m.,'born 1697, Ceribon, (Java) slave of Abraham de Hann. Captured 1730, broken with coup de grace, as he had killed his fellow slave Joumath in escaping.
15 Cupido, m., slave of Ernst Heeger. In Hanglip c. 1730, went back to his master after six months.
16 Cupido, m., slave of schipper Jan de Heere. Went to Hanglip 1726-7, present 1736.
17 December, m., born Bali, slave of Hendrick Thomas. In Hanglip c. 1732, killed by Leander.
18 December, m., born 1700, Bali, slave of Jan de Waal, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7, capturad with Lena 1730, broken with coup de grace.
19 Diana, f., born 1711, Rio de la Goa, slave of Jacobus Marshun, Cape Town. Went to Hanglip 1736 - having spent some time in an exclusively 'Delagoan' group in the neighbourhood - captured 1737, when she was pregnant, strangled two months after the trial, after giving birth, only spoke the 'Rio de la Goa' language.
20 Dina, f., born 1712, Rio de la Goa, slave of widow Smiesing. In Hanglip from 1736, captured 1737, strangled.
21 Fortuyn, m., present 1736.
22 Eloris, m., present 1736.
23 January, m., slave of H. Mark, born 1717. In Hanglip from 1734, captured 1734, questioned and released, returned to Hanglip, captured 1737, hung.
24 January, alias Jamboe, m., born 1690, Bugis, slave of widow Nicholas Mulder, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7, captured 1730, flogged, branded, hard labour in chains for life.
25 January, m., slave of Noach Backer, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7.
26 Jochem, m., born at the Cape, slave of Gerrit Victor. In Hanglip from 1725, died c. 1729, killed by order of Leander.
27 Joseph, m., born 1697, Malabar, slave of Coenraad Gross. In Hanglip 1734, captured 1737, hung.
28 Joumath, m. slave of Johannes Cruywagen. In Hanglip before 1725, had brother in Cape Town, leader of splinter group, never captured.
29 Leander, m., born Bugis, slave of Dirk Brand. In Hanglip before 1725, leader of group, last seen running away from the commando, 1737.
30 Lena, f., born 1700, Cape Town, slave of VOC. In Hanglip 1725, captured 1730, flogged, branded, to work in heavy chains for life, in the Company's slave lodge, stole linen again in 1737.
31 Lijs, f., present 1736.
32 May, m., slave of schipper, Jan de Heere, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7, killed by Joumath, after the split.
33 Meij, m., born 1698, Cochin, slave of Willem Das. In Hanglip from 1731, captured 1733, sentenced to work in chains until others caught, presumably dead by 1737.
34 Mars, m., slave of Jan de Heere. In Hanglip 1726-7, in Joumath's group, 1736.
35 Marthinus, m., born Cape, slave of Gideon Joubert. Went to Hanglip November 1736, with brother Pieter.
36 November, m., born 1699, Sumbawa, slave of Cornelis Heufke. Captured 1730, hung.
37 Perra, m., born 1702, Malabar, slave of Jacob de Vries, Cape Town. Went to Hanglip July 1736, gave himself up 1737 after group had broken up, hung.
38 Philander, m., born 1705, Ceylon, slave of Anthony Wagenaar. Went to Hanglip 1726, captured 1730, broken with coup de grace.
39 Pieter, m., born 1702, Malabar, slave of Johannes Swellengrebel. Captured 1730, hung.
40 Pieter, m., born 1721, Cape Town, slave of Andries Grove, Rondebosch. Went to Hanglip, with his brother, November 1736, captured December 1736, flogged, three years in chains, serving his master.
41 Rosetta, f., born Rio de la Goa, slave of Jaconus Marshon. In Hanglip 1736.
42 Salomon, m., slave of repatriated burger Rogiers. In Hanglip from 1725.
43 Sambow, m., born 1707, Madagascar, slave of Ernest Heeger. Went to Hanglip 1730, captured 1737, broken without coup de grace.
44 Sara, f., slave of Gysbert Verwey. In Hanglip from 1725.
45 Scipio, m., slave of Gysbert Verwey, Tijgerberg. In Hanglip from 1725, killed by Leander, 1726.
46 September, m., born 1702, Bugis, slave of Jochem Stoltz. Captured 1730, flogged branded, sent home.
47 Simon, m., slave of schipper Jan de Heere, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7.
48 Titus, m., slave of schipper Jan de Heere, Cape Town. In Hanglip 1726-7.
49 Toesina, m., slave of Johannes Cruywagen. In Hanglip from ? 1728, killed ? 1736, after firing on commando.
50 Venus, m., slave of Steven Niel. In Hanglip from ? 1728.
Cape of torments Slavery and resistance in South Africa