The first missionary arrives at the Cape

Tuesday, 9 July 1737

Georg Schmidt, pioneer missionary in South Africa and founder of the first Protestant mission (Moravian Brethren) in Southern Africa, arrived in Table Bay on 9 July 1737.

By September 1737, he had been granted permission by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to establish a mission station for the Khoi-Khoi. At first he established himself at Zoetemelksvlei, a military outpost beyond the Caledon River, but moves a few months later he moved to Baviaanskloof, today known as Genadendal.

Schmidt instructed the Khoi-khoi in the Christian faith, and in planting and sowing crops. This marked the beginning of Protestant missionary activity in South Africa.

In 1742, Schmidt baptised five Khoi-khoi. This caused an upheaval among the Colonialists in the Cape, as politically it was not clear as to whether or not converts to Christianity from the indigenous population should be accorded the same civil and political rights as the Colonists.

The 'Council of Policy' forbade such baptisms by Schmidt, citing the excuse that he was not an ordained minister. Two years later, in 1744, Schmidt left the Cape for Holland to be ordained, and hence be allowed to baptise the Khoi-khoi. However, he did not return to the Cape.


  1. Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds) (1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v. 9, p. 515.

Last updated : 08-Jul-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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