Doman

Posted by Jeeva on

Biographical information

Synopsis:

Trained interpreter and Khoikhoi leader in the mid 1600s. He led the Khoikhoi in the first Khoikhoi-Dutch war.

First name: 
Doman
Last name: 
of Goring-haiqua
Date of birth: 
Unknown
Date of death: 
December 1663

In about 1657 Doman, a Goring-haiqua Khoikhoi, was sent to Batavia to learn to become an interpreter. But having witnessed first hand the capacity of the Dutch to reduce indigenous people to positions of servitude, he became a staunch opponent of European colonisation.

To ensure his safe return to the Cape, he told Commissioner Joan Cunaeus of his wish to become a Christian and of the fact that he had become so devoted to the Dutch that he doubted whether he could live with his fellow Khoikhoi again. This was a ploy and almost as soon as he landed, he emerged as the staunchest Khoikhoi critic of Van Riebeeck's policies. When Van Riebeeck seized several Khoikhoi leaders as hostages in 1658, Doman was the lone protester (the Khoikhoi chiefs themselves welcomed im­prisonment as an opportunity to enjoy Dutch hospitality).

He was particularly scathing in his criticism of Eva (Herry's niece, a Khoikhoi girl adopted by the Dutch), tauntingly calling out whenever she passed by: 'See, there comes the advocate of the Dutch; she will tell her people some stories and lies and will finally betray them all.' Whenever Eva tried to pass on information to the Dutch, Doman tried to stop her. When the Dutch planned trips info the hinterland, he tried to stop them. Fromhis hut near the fort, he tried to intercept all inland visitors.

Unfortunately for Doman, his earlier attempts to make Khoikhoi trade with the Dutch the exclusive preserve of the Peninsular groups left him dangerously short of allies. Thus his attempts to persuade local chief Gogosoa to attack the Dutch was bluntly refused. Without the help of the in­land Cochoqua, the old chief replied, an attack on the fort was doomed to fail. Doman, however, was able to persuade some of the younger leaders to join him in what he regarded as a war of liberation.

On a cold and drizzling day on 19 May 1659 a series of raids started on the free burghers' herds. Doman had waited for rainy weather, knowing that the Dutch matchlock muskets could not be fired in the rain with damp powder.

The First Khoikhoi-Dutch War followed, it lasted almost a year and resulted in only a few deaths. Initiative lay chiefly with the Khoikhoi, who attacked, often in groups of several hundred. Instructed by Doman, who had witnessed Dutch military tactics in Java, they darted about erratically to frustrate Dutch marksmen. Commander Van Riebeeck responded with defensive tactics, withdrawing the free burghers to the fort, temporarily arming the slaves (an extraordinarily risky measure), and building a strong kraal to protect the colony's remaining livestock.

Lacking firearms and unwilling to storm the central fort, the Khoikhoi eventually signaled their willingness to parley. A peace was negotiated; the war had ended in stalemate. The Khoikhoi returned no livestock seized in the war and paid no reparations. Yet they did accept the continued European occupation of the Cape peninsula, a threat to their perseverance as an independent people.

The Dutch erected fortified posts and planted almond hedges (some of which still survive) to prevent cattle being driven off again. Khoikhoi were obliged to use specified routes and paths, and to enter the settlement only at certain guarded gaps in the hedge. Horses which arrived from Batavia gave the colonists the mobility they had lacked in the war, and expeditions from the fort became longer and more frequent. As trading contacts were established with more Khoikhoi groups, the set­tlement gradually became independent of the Peninsular Khoikhoi, whose wealth and importance waned rapidly.

The failure of the Khoikhoi to drive out the Dutch shattered Doman's position as a leader, and he was tolerated only because his people needed him as an interpreter. When he died in December 1663, the Company diarist recorded: 'For [his] death none of us will have cause to grieve, as he has been, in many respects, a mischievous and malicious man towards the Company'.


References:
• Hermann, G. & Mbenga, B. (2007). New History of South Africa. Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, pg 50.
• Bulpin, T.V. (1985). Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa, Cape Town: Reader’s Digest Association South Africa, pg 46.

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Aug-2011