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The good the white man has done for SA-Part 1

20 April 2012, 13:45

Sadly,but more often than not the good that we've done in South Africa, gets placed on the back burner in favour of the rather grim looking and the more controversial aspects of the white man's past politics since his arrival on South African soil in 1652.

There is however a lot of good that South Africans of all races and different skin colours had done for South Africa over the years,if you choose to look at them without trying to be too selective or without having to elevate one race over another.

Here are some of what the white man had done since he had the luxury of controlling the country for the best part of 342 years compared to others before or since his arrival in this land in my humble opinion:

White settlers improved the agriculture in South Africa,created various industries, established economic & social systems and established a banking system.Infact the
first bank in South Africa was the Lombard Bank in Cape Town,which opened its doors in 1793.

Business enterprisers were opened along with Christian Church Denominations such as the Dutch Reformed Church,Anglican church, Methodist church and the Presbyterian church. Not only had they built church buildings and structures in most towns but they also conducted  various christian missions and services. European settlers built bridges, roads and open up many passes.

1.Roads and Passes

Sir Lowry Cole (1772 - 1842) realized the importance of decent roads and passes and wrote to Lord Goderich in 1831:"The colony,as you must be aware,is miserably poor,with a population (referring to the indigenous people)scattered over an immense tract of land,separated from the more civilized parts by mountains over which there are few passes and those of a description that would not be considered passable for a wheel carriage in any other country in the world,I believe. Being cut off from a market for their produce, there is no stimulus for industry and the inhabitants must ever remain in their present state of poverty until there are passes made."

Sir Lowry's Pass in the Hottentots Holland Mountains was named after him. Under the design and ability of men such as John Montagu,Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas the construction of bridges,making of passes and building of roads were undertaken in earnest. Andrew Bain built the Van Ryneveld Pass in 1832 as well as Michell's Pass, Bain's Kloof Pass,Gydo Pass,Houw Hoek Pass,Katberg Pass and the Queen's Road between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort.John Montagu created an excellent network of roads and passes using the large amounts in overdue revenue in the Cape Colony in 1843.Thomas Charles John Bain built the road from George to Knysna as well as the Tsitsikamma road and passes like Grey, Tulbach, Kloof, Prince Alfred, Robinson, Tradouw, Garcia, Cogman's Kloof, Swartberg,Storms River,Bloukrans,Verlaten Kloof,Koo or Burger,Pakhuis,Baviaanskloof and Seven Weeks Poort.

The Seweweekspoort,a 17 km long journey from Laingsburg through Swartberg,built between 1859-62,is regarded as regarded as one of the most magnificent,picturesque and spectacular of all the mountain ravines in all of South Africa. It is one of three major gateways linking the Central Karoo region with the Little Karoo in the Cape Province with Seweweekspoort Peak at 2325m being the highest peak in the Western Cape! With nearly a 1000m above sea level,the scenic gravel road that meanders through Seweweekspoort is known as the Smugglers Route. This route,believe it or not use to be the way brandy was smuggled in South Africa between 1815 and 1840.The area itself with it's vast plains and blue mountains once even sheltered runaway slaves,known smugglers and outlaws.


Prior to 1838 education in Cape Town was in a very poor state as it was in most of the country. South Africa's first school was opened in 1658 and that was followed by a number of other schools running in conjunction with the Dutch Reformed Church. After the British arrived in 1795 more schools were opened by English churches.

Sir James Rose Innes (1799 - 1873),a Scotsman,became the first superintendent-general of education in the Cape Colony. A subsequent government educational department was established around this time. The South African College,later developed into the University of Cape Town and South African College Schools(SACS),was founded in 1829 as an educational institution,although the process for it began as early as 1791 by Dutch Commissioner-General,Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist.

By the early 1840's Cape Town was operating a system of centrally controlled Public Schools. Under this system, Stellenbosch was recognized as a divisional centre for education and in 1866 under the new Education Act,local Public Schools were reorganized as First Class Public Schools,later to be known as the Stellenbosch Gymnasium. The Stellenbosch  Gymnasium was therefore set up by the Dutch Reformed Church in Dorp Street in 1866.It later became the Stellenbosch College in 1881 and in 1887 was renamed Victoria College of Stellenbosch. In 1918 it became the University of Stellenbosch.The Saint Andrew's College in Grahamstown was founded in 1855.To think that the original location of the school was in the Weeshuis on Long Street!


Graaff-Reinet library is said to be the oldest library building in South Africa and it still serves as a library even until today. This library dates back from the early 1830's.In 1830 there were approximately 800 volumes of reading material available with 51people subscribing. On the 4th of August 1847, the central section of the library building, as well as quarters for the librarian, built on an adjacent plot were erected at a cost of just 1200 Pounds. In 1853 the Government of the day donated this ground and by 1854 all debt had been paid off. Proof of the progress and development of the public library is expressed in an article written in 1870, by the correspondent- Fairplay.He wrote that the Graaf-Reinet library is one of the noblest institutions in the whole of the colony. It was inferior perhaps only to the Cape Town city library in the number of its books it contained, not in the selection, and certainly superior to all other Colonial libraries in South Africa. In 1818 the governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, founded the South African Public Library which is still in existence. More libraries had since been started in other towns like in Grahamstown,Port-Elizabeth,Kimberley and others. Libraries were also built in the Orange Free State and the then Transvaal.

4.Science and Technology

British Astronomy led to the establishment the Royal Observatory in Cape Town in 1820 at a cost of £30,000.It was the first permanent Astronomical Observatory in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere and the first permanent Scientific Institution in the Southern Hemisphere. Members from this very Observatory pioneered astrophotography. Zoologists,botanists and geologists all since then came and studied the animals,the plants and the land region of South Africa. Technological developments and advancement just went on from there.

5.Railway System

The Natal Province had the first railway line in South Africa for steam powered locomotives,a line from the Point to Durban's market square being opened in June 1860.Years later lines were planned up the North Coast and down to the South Coast,as well as inland over the Drakensberg.In 1880 the South Coast line reached Isipingo and in the same year Camperdown and on 1st of December it went as far as Pietermaritzburg.In December 1885 the line reached Estcourt and in June it reached Ladysmith. Glencoe was reached in 1889 and Newcastle in 1890, and in 1891 the Transvaal was reached and the border of the Free State. The first railway line in the Cape was opened in 1862,linking Cape Town to Wellington in 72kilometer journey. By 1890 the main line from Cape Town,running through De Aar and Kimberley had reached Vryburg.The Railway line to Johannesburg from Cape Town,Port Elizabeth and East
London was completed in 1892.It then reached Pretoria in 1893.The Railway line between Lourenço Marques or Maputo in Mozambique and Johannesburg opened in 1894.The first steam-locomotive was brought to South Africa in 1859.

6.Postal Services

The first dated handstamp ever to be used in the Cape was in 1816.Although the history for our postal service started long before that. In 1500,Petro D'Ataide,a ship captain, placed a letter in a milkwood tree at Mossel Bay. Its reported that three ships in his fleet, including that of the famous Bartolomeu Dias,all sunk during a heavy storm over the Atlantic Ocean. Portuguese ships did regularly stopped in Mossel Bay to take on fresh water supplies and would you know that a letter was found and delivered to Portugal each time they stopped over. Sailors that travelled to or from the Orient always past round the south coast of Africa,and hence placed their letters under postal stones, hoping that they would be found and delivered by other ships. On 2 March 1792 the acting governor of the Cape,Johan Isaac Rhenius,opened the first post office in a room next to the pantry at the Castle in Cape Town.

The handstamp of 1816 had a distinctive post office letter stamp,with a Crown in the middle of a single line circle, with the words "POST OFFICE" in the upper half of the piece and the name of the town just below it. These were issued in 1817 to Cape Town,Simonstown,Stellenbosch and Uitenhage.Further to that in 1818 Paarl,Tulbagh,Caledon,Swellendam,George and Graaff-Reinet all received similar issues. By the year 1824,with the opening of many more Post Offices in Cradock,Somerset,Port Elizabeth,Worcester,Clanwilliam,Grahamstown,Beaufort,Kowie and Bathurst about 19 handstamps were already in use. By 1849 the postal service from Cape Town to Grahamstown was running at least three times a week.


On 4 January 1887 in front of Paul Kruger,W.J. Leyds(state secretary) and the viewing public who had paid half-a-crown each just to be there,a Pretoria merchant named John Percy Hess,introduced the invention of the age--a horseless carriage. It was South Africa's first original car,a Benz Velo,which was manufactured by Karl Benz of Mannheim in Germany. It looked like a one-horse-gig minus the shafts,with a dashboard,candle lights and wirespoked wheels. It was fuelled by imported benzine.

So Apartheid aside,we white South Africans can be proud of some of the good things that we've done for ourselves and other races in our country and beyond.


2.The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes - Graham Ross,Cape Town.

6.Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, 1820-1831, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

7.University of Cape Town - Department of Astronomy.

9.When was the first car introduced in South

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