oa Historia - Johannes Pretorius, die stamvader van die Pretoriusse van Suid-Afrika, se jare op Mauritius, 1666-1669: I

Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



The Mauritius years of Johannes Pretorius, progenitor of the Pretorius family of South Africa (1666-1669)The Mascarene Islands of Reunion (Bourbon), Mauritius and Rodrigues were discovered in 1513 by the Portuguese navigator, Don Pedro Mascarenha. Mauritius was initially called Ilha da Cirnos (Swan Island) after the swan-like but now long extinct dodo birds. The first settlers were Dutch seamen under Admiral Wybrandt van Warwyk who landed on the island in 1598 and named it Mauritius in honour of their stadholder Maurice of Orange (Nassau). The island which was strategically situated between the Cape and Batavia (Jakarta) in the East Indies was occupied by the Dutch East India Company for the first time in 1638. The main reasons for this occupation were firstly to avoid the menacing Portuguese presence along the East Coast of Africa and secondly the abundance of much sought after ebony on the island. Although the Dutch abandoned the island in 1658, the Dutch East India Company informed Jan van Riebeeck in 1657 that henceforth Mauritius would be administered by the Cape Council of Policy. This led to the second Dutch settlement which lasted for nearly half a century -from 1664 till 1710 -and forget the historic link between the Cape Dutch Settlement and the distant island of Mauritius. In 1666, two years after the second Dutch occupation, Johannes Pretorius, European ancestor of the South African Pretorius family was sent to Mauritius by the Council of Policy at the Cape. This account of his departure from the Netherlands, his arrival at the Cape, his subsequent departure and three years' stay on Mauritius is set in the prevailing Cape and Mauritian history and has been compiled from South Mrican and Dutch archivalia. As a young 22 year old midshipman he sailed from the Netherlands in December 1665 and after a brief sojourn at the Cape was commissioned by the Council of Policy as secunde to the island of Mauritius. His initial status was that of sick-comforter and subsequently also of secunde. During 1667 the Council of Policy suggested that he be considered for the office of governor of the island. He remained on Mauritius for three years and returned to the Cape in December 1669. On his return he wrote a comprehensive report on the wildlife, the horticultural prospects and the supplies of ebony on the island. He concludes his report by confirming the self-sufficiency of the settlement following the second Dutch occupation in 1664.

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