The oldest link between South Africa and Europe is through Portugal and its voyages of discovery. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on South African soil. On the 3rd February 1488 Bartholomew Diaz arrived.
Bartholomew Dias (aka Bartholomeu Diaz), Portuguese navigator, went ashore at present-day Munro’s Bay (Mossel Bay) on 03 February 1488. He named the area Aguada de São Bras (watering place of Saint Blaize), having arrived on the holy day of Saint Blaize and collecting fresh water from a spring. The spring is still there today but no longer flows, although it was still flowing in the 1970s.
The first recorded Western religious service in South Africa was during Dias’ visit. A Catholic Mass was held when the sailors erected the padráo (Dias Cross) near the Great Fish River. It was the Portuguese custom that a padráo be erected at the turning point before sailing home. Pieces of the padráo were found many years later at Kwaaihoek near the mouth of the Bushman’s River and are now in safe-keeping at Wits University.
Dias was born circa 1450 in the Algarve. Several Portuguese historians believe that he was a relative or descendant of João Dias who sailed around Cape Bojador in 1434, and of Diniz Dias who is said to have discovered the Cape Verde Islands. Bartolomeu was a cavalier of the Royal Court, superintendent of the Royal warehouses and a sailing-master. On 10 October 1486, King João II of Portugal appointed him head of an expedition which was to sail around the southern tip of Africa to find a trade route leading to Asia. Dias left Lisbon in August 1487 with a fleet consisting of three ships, two armed caravels and one supply-ship. Dias was in the caravel São Christovao, and was accompanied by João Infante in the São Pantaleao. Among his companions were Pero de Alenquer, Alvaro Martins and João Grego. The supply-ship was commanded by Bartolomeu’s brother, Pero Dias. There were also two African men and four women on board who served as translators.
Dias sailed first towards the mouth of the Congo River, discovered the year before by Diogo Cão and Martin Behaim. Following the African coast, he entered Walvis Bay. From the present-day Port Nolloth area, a storm lasting thirteen days drove the fleet south, taking them past the Cape without them knowing it. When calm weather returned, they sailed in an easterly direction and, when no land appeared, turned northward, landing in Bahia dos Vaqueiros (Mossel Bay). This was later renamed Mossel Bay by the Dutch.
Post Office Tree, Mossel Bay
On his return voyage, Dias saw the Cape and called it Cabo Tormentoso or Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms). It was later renamed Cabo da Boa Esperança (Cape of Good Hope) by King João II when Dias returned to Lisbon in December 1488. In 1500 Dias commanded a ship in the expedition of Pedro Alvarez.Cabral. His vessel was one of those wrecked not far from the Cape of Good Hope on 29 May 1500. His grandson, Paulo Dias de Novais, landed in Luanda ( Angola ) in early 1575, in command of a fleet of seven ships carrying a hundred families of colonists and 400 soldiers.
Vasco da Gama
On 26 November 1497 Vasco da Gama visited Aguada de São Bras and bartered for cattle from the Khoikhoi, making this, presumably, the first commercial transaction between Europeans and indigenous people in South Africa. In December, having sailed further on, da Gama went ashore on the east coast and as it was Christmas Day, named the area Terra do Natal (meaning Land of Christmas in Portuguese). Da Gama met the first black people near the mouth of the Limpopo.
They were friendly and he named the area Terra de Boa Gente (Land of Good People). Da Gama and his crew reached India in May, becoming the first Europeans to journey by sea to India.
Da Gama was born about 1469 at Sines, Portugal. His father, Estevão da Gama, was a nobleman and civil governor of Sines. After the return of Dias, Estevão was chosen by King João II to command the next expedition of discovery, but both died before it happened. The task was given by King Emmanuel I to Vasco, who had already distinguished himself in 1490 by defending the Portuguese colonies on the coast of Guinea against the French. As Vasco was not the first-born son, he had no right to a coat-of-arms, a title or to his father’s fortune. All that belonged to the first-born son, Paulo. Vasco turned to the military and the sea for his career.
The fleet going to India consisted of four vessels and set sail after prayers at a chapel on the site of the present-day church, Santa Maria de Belem. On 08 July 1497 they left Lisbon. The ships were the São Gabriel (commanded by Vasco and with 150 crew), São Rafael (commanded by his brother Paulo), Berrio (later re-baptized São Miguel, commanded by Nicolau Coelho) and a supply ship of unknown name commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás. One of the 600 men aboard the ships was Bartolomeu Dias, who was on his way to Mina, near present-day Accra, to act as captain-general. In early November they dropped anchor in St. Helena Bay. This was soon followed by the sighting of the Cape of Good Hope.
Da Gama returned to Portugal in September 1499. King Emmanuel I gave him the title of Dom (Lord). In December 1519 he was made Count of Vidigueira. King João III made him Viceroy of India, and on 05 April 1524 he left Lisbon for India, accompanied by his sons Estevão and Paulo. They arrived in Goa during September. That Christmas Eve Vasco died at Cochin after a short illness, and was buried in the Franciscan monastery. In 1538 his son Pedro, had his father’s remains returned to Portugal and entombed in the town of Vidigueira. On the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the sea route to India he was reburied as a national hero in the Jeronimos monastery at Belem, Lisbon. He was immortalized by Luis Vaz de Camões in his epic national poem, Os Lusíadas.
Pedro de Ataide
In 1500 Pedro de Ataide, a Portuguese ship’s captain in the fleet under Cabral which made the second voyage round the Cape of Good Hope to India, sought safety in the present-day Mossel Bay from a storm which destroyed part of the fleet. The first letter posted in South Africa was deposited in a shoe hung on a milkwood tree in the bay by de Ataide. The letter described the disaster that had befallen the Portuguese fleet on the voyage to India and warned the following fleet against hostilities to be expected on the Indian coast.
This tree, still standing 350 m from Santos Beach, is considered the first post office in South Africa. It was declared a national monument on 30 September 1938. The bronze plaque reads: “This post office tree stands near the fountains where the Portuguese navigators regularly drew water at Aguada de São Bras (now Mossel Bay) from 1488 onwards. In May 1500 Pedro de Ataide, captain of a homeward bound ship of Pedro Cabral’s fleet, left a message here which was found on 7th July 1507 by the outward bound ships of João da Nova. According to tradition the message was placed in an old shoe and tied to a tree”. In 1962 a post box, in the shape of a shoe, was erected and letters mailed there carry a special stamp.
Antonio de Saldanha
In 1503 Antonio de Saldanha, Portuguese fleet commander, sailed into Table Bay . A native of Castile in the Portuguese service, he left Lisbon in May 1503. Owing to an error, he sailed into Table Bay after having lost sight of his other two ships. De Saldanha followed the freshwater stream to the foot of Table Mountain and then climbed up Plattekloof Gorge. This place is at the crossing of the current Adderley and Strand Streets, where two mountain streams flowed into the sea. His is the first recorded ascent of Table Mountain by a European. It is possible that he gave the mountain the name Mesa do Cabo (Table of the Cape). After his landing, Table Bay was known as Aguada de Saldanha meaning watering place of Saldanha.
Table Bay was called Aguada de Saldanha until 1601 when Joris van Spilbergen arrived at the present-day Saldanha Bay and thought he was in Aguada de Saldanha. When he reached Table Bay a few days later, he realised the confusion and named it Table Bay, and gave the name Saldanha Bay to his mistaken port of call, the present-day Saldanha Bay.
During de Saldanha’s visit, the Portuguese attempted to barter with the Khoikhoi. They offered mirrors, glass beads and a rattle in return for two sheep and a cow. The sailors took the animals away, but perhaps the bargain had been misunderstood. A group of 200 Khoikhoi ambushed the sailors and took the animals back. De Saldanha was wounded in the arm. In 1505 and 1506 subsequent fleets traded without incident.
Francisco de Almeida
On 01 March 1510, Dom Francisco de Almeida, a 60 year old Portuguese aristocrat, soldier and explorer, went ashore at Table Bay. He was on his way back from India, returning to Portugal, when the fleet stopped for fresh water. Bartering had taken place with the Khoikhoi – iron and fabric was bartered for sheep or cattle from the Khoikhoi who were camped about 5 km from the Salt River mouth. When some sailors were given permission to go to the camp, some of their daggers went missing.
One of the sailors, Concalo Homem, asked two Khoikhoi to carry his goods back to shore but they suspected malice on his part and soon a fight developed. When he returned to the fleet, with a bloodied face and broken teeth, he found that others had also suffered injuries. The next day, de Almeida led a punitive expedition of 150 men, armed with swords and lances, to the camp. They had taken some cattle and children, and had set fire to some of the dwellings, when they were surrounded by about the same number of Khoikhoi armed with assegaais, arrows and stones.
De Almeida had ordered Diogo d’Unho, ship master, to wait with their small boats close to shore. When the fleeing sailors ran back to the shore they found that strong winds had developed and d’Unho had taken the boats closer to the ships for safety. The stranded men tried to protect de Almeida but he was already heavily wounded. As he was being carried by an officer, an assegaai pierced his throat and he died. Fifty-six sailors, including 12 captains, died that day. Among those who survived was Jorge de Mello, who returned to shore to find de Almeida’s body stripped of his clothing. The dead were all buried at the Cape.
De Almeida was born in Lisbon circa 1450, the first son of the first Count of Abrantes. Two of his siblings became bishops and one became an ambassador to the Holy See. He distinguished himself as a counsellor of King João II and in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1505 King Emmanuel I made him first viceroy of Portuguese India. In 1509, he became the first Portuguese to set sail in Bombay. His son Lourenço was killed in battle. Francisco was survived by a daughter, Leonor, who married Rodrigo de Mello, Count of Tentugal.
João da Nova
João da Nova was born in the Spanish province of Galicia circa 1460. He served under King Emmanuel I of Portugal as a naval commander and later as police chief of Lisbon. In March 1501, he took four ships and 400 sailors to India, on the third voyage since the first by Vasco da Gama. Da Nova arrived on 07 July 1501 at Aguada de São Bras (Mossel Bay), where he found the message left for him by Pedro de Ataide. Da Nova is credited with having erected the first building on South African soil, a chapel at Mossel Bay in 1501. The Mossel Bay Stone was found there with da Nova’s name and a date (1501?) inscribed on it, which is now in the South African Museum, Cape Town. He also discovered the island of St Helena and named it on 21 May 1502 (St. Helena’s Day) on his homeward voyage from India. João da Nova died a poor man in Cochin, India, in 1509.
In 1505 a fleet under Lopo Soares sailed past Cape St Blaize. One ship, under Pedro Mendonca, ran aground during the night. The wreck was sighted at dawn but it was impossible to help the crew. A year later, a crew arrived and two convicts were sent ashore to search the coast for survivors. They returned after three days, stripped by the Khoikhoi and reported that they found a ship’s mast and a skeleton.
A Portuguese ship, the São João (after which Port St Johns was named), was wrecked on 18 June 1552 off Port Edward. Manuel de Sousa de Sepulveda, a Portuguese nobleman, was the commander. Only 25 of the 500 passengers and crew survived. The Portuguese East Indiaman, the São Bento, was wrecked off Msikaba on 21 April 1554. The survivors of both wrecks walked up the coast to Delagoa Bay (Lourenço Marques). The São Bento was homeward-bound from Cochin and items found washed up included broken porcelain and cornelian trade beads. Fourty-four Portuguese and more than 100 slaves were lost. Ninety-eight Portuguese and 224 slaves survived the wreck. Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo, one of the few Portuguese survivors, wrote a narrative of the São Bento wreck, translated by Theal in his Records of Eastern Africa, Vol 1. There is a memorial at the São João site in Port Edward.
The Santo Alberto, a Portuguese merchantman, was wrecked on the morning of 24 March 1593, whilst reputedly carrying a vast treasure. There are varying accounts of it being wrecked near Hole in the Wall or along the Ciskei coast. She carried 357 passengers and crew – made up of 153 Portuguese and 194 slaves. Twenty-eight Portuguese and 34 slaves died during the wreck. The survivors made it to shore and stayed there until 03 April 1593, when they set off on foot for Lourenço Marques. They reached their destination in mid-June.
The Nossa Senhora de Belem, a Portuguese galleon, ran aground near the estuary of the Umzimvubu River on 24 July 1635. The survivors set up camp on the shore for a year, while they built two lifeboats from the wreckage to take them home. They left in January 1636 and reached Angola.
Among the ships carrying Ming porcelain wrecked along the Eastern Cape coast were the São João, the São Jeronimo, the Nossa Senhora de Belem and the São Bento. The porcelain from the São João dates back to the Jiajing period of the Ming dynasty (1522-66).Other Portuguese ship wrecks that make up South Africa ‘s underwater heritage include:
1552 – São Jeronimo wrecks north of Richards Bay ; São João wrecked near Port Edward
1554 – São Bento wrecked off Msikaba
1593 – Santo Alberto wrecked near East London
1608 – Santo Espirito wrecked near Haga-Haga
1622 – São João Baptista wrecked in October near the Fish River
1630 – São Gonçalo, ran aground at the Piesang river mouth in Plettenberg Bay, in July after developing a leak
1635 – Nossa Senhora de Belem ran aground near the Mzimvubu River
1643 – Santa Maria Madre de Deus wrecked near Bonza Bay, East London
1647 – Nossa Senhora de Atalaia do Pinheiro wrecked in June near the Cefane River, north-east of East London; Santissimo Sacramento wrecked in July west of Schoenmakerskop, near Port Elizabeth
1686 – Milagros sank off the Cape south coast
The ships were plying the route to the East, known as the Carreira da India (Indian Route) and often women and children, and invaluable cargoes. Most of the ships were wrecked in winter, usually because they had left the East too late on the voyage home and because they were overloaded. Survivors would salvage what they could from the wreck, and try to go north towards Portuguese trading posts on the East Coast. The few Portuguese who decided to stay put were mainly sailors. Subsequent parties of shipwreck survivors would occasionally come across them, but they chose to remain in Africa.
Portuguese legend at the Cape
Adamastor is, according to Portuguese legend, the sea spirit of the Cape and was depicted by Camões in his in Canto V, of his epic, Os Lusíadas. According to Camóes, he showed his wrath when da Gama sailed by. A dark and ominous cloud appeared overhead taking the shape of a monstrous human figure who reproached the sailors for venturing into the seas “which I so long enjoyed, and kept alone”.He foretells the disasters, “shipwrecks and losses of each kind and race” which will befall those who round the Cape of Storms. The monster tells them that he is Adamastor. He tells of his lost love and his pursuit of the sea-nymph Thetis. He is punished by the gods by being turned into a mountain, and set at the Cape to guard the southern seas.
The legend goes that Adamastor’s revenge included Bartolomeu Dias dying off the Cape coast, Francisco de Almeida dying at the Cape, and the fate that befell Manuel de Sousa de Sepulveda, his wife Leanora and their two children in 1552.
In Lisbon, on the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, Bairro Alto, stands a six metre high marble sculpture of Adamastor, created by the Portuguese sculptor Julio Vaz Junior. It was unveiled in 1927.
Ties that bind
A large compass rose (a stone contraption used by 15th century sailors for their calculations) of Sintra marble was a gift from South Africa to the people of Portugal in memory of Prince Henry the Navigator. It forms part of a South African monument, the Terrace of Good Hope in Lisbon and lies at the foot of the Portuguese national monument commemorating the great discoveries. The South African presentation took place in 1960 on the occasion of the 5th centenary of Prince Henry’s birth.
So close was the link between the Portuguese and South Africa, that it was depicted on the facade of South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London. A figure of Bartolomeu Dias by the Pretoria sculptor Coert Steynberg used to be on display in the embassy.
In Port Elizabeth, the replica Dias Cross stands in the square in front of City Hall. It was presented to the city in 1954 by the Portuguese government and is made of stone from the same quarry near Lisbon as the original.
Agulhas (needles in Portuguese), at the southern tip of Africa, was named by Dias on 16 May 1488 as Ponta de São Brandao, in honour of Saint Brendan. It was later renamed to Cabo d’Agulhas as the form and sharpness of the rocks resembled needles. The St Francis Bay area was originally named Bahia de São Francisco by Manuel Perestrelo in 1575. It had been named in 1488 by Dias as Golfo dos Pastores (Shepherds’ Gulf) and was also known as Golfo dos Vaqueiros (Cowherds’ Gulf). Paternoster, a fishing village on the west coast, is named for the first two words of the Latin Our Father prayer. Portuguese shipwrecked sailors prayed there for a safe return home. Machadodorp was founded in 1894 on the farm Geluk and was named after Joachim Machado, the Portuguese engineer who first surveyed the railway line between Pretoria and Delagoa Bay.
The Portuguese priest, Joaquim de Santa Rita Montanha, went on a journey from the port of Inhambane (in Mozambique ) to Schoemansdal to discuss trading links with the Boers there. No treaty was signed but his visit laid the foundations of Portuguese-Boer relations until the Anglo-Boer War. Montanha’s illustrated travel diary, from 25 May 1855 to 18 September 1856, was published in Portugal in 1857. There was also an unpublished Afrikaans version 80 years later. This was revised a few years ago and published by Protea Boekhuis as Montanha in Zoutpansberg: ‘n Portugese handelsending van Inhambane se besoek aan Schoemansdal, 1855-1856, edited by O.J.O. Ferreira, C.E.F. von Reiche and D.P.M. Botes.
The Pelser family has quite a history linked to Portugal. Various family members were held there as Boer prisoners-of-war in Portugal. Daniel Petrus Pelser (born 07 Mar 1862 in Smithfield ) was a gunner with the Boers when he fled, with his family, to Lourenço Marques. They were imprisoned at Caldas de Rainha, Portugal. Catharina Frederika Pelser was born at Caldas de Rainha in July 1902. Hendrik Johannes (born 15 Jun 1856 in Burgersdorp) and later a miller in Belfast, was a Cape Rebel who fled to Lourenço Marques with his family. They were sent to Caldas da Rainha. Maria Magdalena Pelser (born 09 Mar 1885 in Burgersdorp) was married in July 1902 in the Caldas da Rainha camp to Stefanus Pienaar.
Willem Jacobus Pelser (born 13 May 1857 in Burgersdorp) was a railways official in Burgersdorp. He accompanied President Paul Kruger to Lourenço Marques. He was imprisoned in Alcobaça, Portugal. His son, Willem Jacobus (born 02 Nov 1883) was later a mine worker in Robertsham, Johannesburg. He was also sent to Alcobaça. Another Willem Jacobus Pelser (born 17 Jun 1875 in Burgersdorp) and later a mine worker in Kimberley, was also sent to Alcobaça.
Mathys van As Pretorius (born April 1847 at Colesberg) died in Peniche, Portugal, on 01 Jun 1901.
By the end of September 1900, Boers had crossed into Mozambique and exiled themselves to avoid capture by the British. They were regarded as internees but no attempts were made to restrict them. Following pressure by the British, 1 260 adults and 173 children were shipped from Lourenço Marques to Lisbon during March and April 1901. On their arrival in Portugal they were accommodated at Caldas da Rainha, Peniche and Alcobaça.
Portuguese was spoken by many slaves at the Cape. During Batavian rule at the Cape (1803 to 1806) a large number of slaves were from Mozambique and Angola. Slaves who spoke Portuguese included Lindor of Mauritius, Adam of Mozambique, Jean Baptist of Mauritius and Spadille of Mozambique. Adonis of Mozambique also spoke Portuguese. He was taught to make barrels by the master cooper Jacob Meinert. Joseph of Mozambique learnt the shoemaking trade from George Morrison, master shoemaker of Oxford Street, London, who employed him as a servant. Arend of Mozambique was well-known for his skills with horses. Rachel of Mozambique worked for Captain Henry Smart, Commander of the Royal Engineers. Her daughter Flavia was apprenticed to Mrs Morrison. Theresa of Mozambique was known for her washing and ironing skills. Mattheus of Mozambique had been at the Cape for a few months when he ran away in March 1804.
In September 1966 Dimitrio Tsafendas, assassinated Hendrik Verwoerd in Parliament. Tsafendas was the illegitimate son of a Greek father and a Mozambiquean mother. In South Africa the mentally distrubed man was classified coloured. Eventually, because of his Greek father, he was reclassified as white.
One of Portugal ‘s most celebrated poets, Fernando Pessoa, attended Durban schools. He was born in 1888 in Lisbon and died in 1935. He published one book of poems in Portuguese under his own name. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms – Alvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro and Ricardo Reis. At the age of seven, he accompanied his mother to Durban where her second husband, Commander João Miguel Rosa, was the Portuguese Consul. Fernando attended the West Street Convent School where he first learnt to read and speak English. In 1899 he was enrolled at Durban High School and three years later, after spending a year in Portugal and the Azores, enrolled at Durban ‘s Commercial School. Amongst the poems written while he was in Durban, was one denouncing Joseph Chamberlain for being the cause of the Anglo-Boer War. The English essay he wrote for his entrance exam to the University of Good Hope won him the Queen Victoria Prize. After completing his BA degree in 1905, he returned to Portugal for good. In 1987 a commemorative statue, funded by the Antonio de Almeida Foundation, was erected on the corner of Pine and Gardiner Streets in Durban.
Medical researchers at the University of Stellenbosch discovered two types of progressive familial heart blockage. Type I (PF-HBI) is a dominantly inherited cardiac bundle-branch conduction disorder that has been traced through nine generations. Family members descend from Inacio Ferreira and his wife Martha Terblanche. See Brink AJ, Torrington M. Progressive familial heart block – two types, in the South African Medical Journal 1977; pages 52-59.
One of the oldest houses in Pretoria was lost when plans to restore the Bras Pereira house on the corner of Skinner and Paul Kruger Streets in Fonteinedal, did not go through. The house was pulled down in the 1960s. It was built in 1866 and was to have been rebuilt as part of an open-air museum planned by the Genootskap Oud-Pretoria. The restoration of the thatched-roof house was to have been their first restoration projects. Bras Pereira was a Portuguese businessman in Pretoria.
In 1692, the farm Schoongezicht was granted to the freed slaves Anthoni and Manuel Marquard of Angola, Louis of Bengal, and to the VOC sergeant Isaac Schrijver, by Simon van der Stel. After they died, the farm had assorted owners. In 1922 it was bought by the aristocratic Mrs. Elisabeth Katharina English for £18 000 and renamed Lanzerac.
In 2005, Quinta de Fernandez, a Westcliff mansion, was auctioned off for R12,2 million. It originally belonged to Ginger Fernandez, an immigrant from Madeira, who had the house built in 1928 after making his fortune on the stock market. The elegant Madeiran-styled home with terracotta roof tiles and the terraced gardens was a reminder of his birth place. The vegetable garden and fruit trees further served as reminders to Fernandez, who was fond of cooking. Prior to being sold on auction, the house belonged to Julien Missak who died in 1980. He bequethed the property to Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit, on condition that it be used for philanthropic purposes and promoted Armenian and Flemish cultures. The university ran it as a museum for 20 years before handing it to the St John the Baptist monastery in Essex, England, and the Armenian Benevolent Union.
A major Portuguese contribution to South African life has been on the culinary scene. Long before Nando’s spread across the country, and later the world, Portuguese families enjoyed peri-peri chicken when it was known as Galinha à Africana or Galinha à Cafreal, having been introduced in Lourenço Marques.
The name Nando’s comes from Fernando Duarte, who together with a Jewish friend, Robert Brozin, bought a small restaurant called Chickenland in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, in September 1987. This became the first Nando’s restaurant. Today, Nando’s is a major success story.
The LM (Lourenço Marques) way of cooking – in lots of olive oil, garlic, onions, tomato, white wine and coriander – is synonymous with the Portuguese in South Africa. Other favourites include prego rolls, poncha (a traditional Madeiran shooter made of aguardente, honey and lemon), chouriço, bachalau (dried salt cod), espetada (beef skewers on bay leaf branches), grilled sardines, Portuguese bread, custard pastries, peri-peri chicken livers and Catemba.
Jan van Riebeeck brought the first guavas to South Africa, from Madeira. The first commercial guava plantation was started in 1890 by Gawie Malherbe in Paarl. The Frank Malherbe and Rossouws cultivars descend from the original Madeira guavas.
In 1987, Cape Town was twinned with Funchal, the capital city of Madeira. In 1993 Madeira and the Transvaal were twinned at a ceremony in Pretoria.
The Da Gama Clock in Durban was a memorial donated by the Portuguese community to commemorate the first sighting of Durban by Vasco de Gama in 1497.
Dr. Gert Swart was instrumental in the establishment of the Portuguese NG Kerk. He died in Johannesburg in July 2004. In the 1960s he also worked among the Jewish community, which led to the opening of the English-speaking Andrew Murray NG Kerk in Johannesburg in 1967, where he served until his retirement in 1989.
Older South Africans will remember the days of listening to LM Radio. The popular music station broadcasted from Lourenço Marques and could be heard in South Africa. It started in 1935 as Radio Clube de Mocambique, broadcasting for a few hours per night. G.J. McHarry, a local businessman, was involved in turning it into a commercial station. In 1946 a South African partner was found and an office was opened in Johannesburg to sell airtime to advertisers. On 01 March 1964, LM started broadcasting 24 hours per day, under the management of David Davis. Many South African broadcasters started their careers at LM Radio, including Clark McKay, Rob Vickers, Dana Niehaus, Darryl Jooste, Robin Alexander and John Berks. On the 01 June 1972 LM Radio management was taken over by the SABC. LM Radio shut down at midnight on 12 October 1975. The next morning at 5 a.m. Radio Five (now 5FM) took to the air in Johannesburg.
The early Portuguese settlers
The first known Portuguese to settle in South Africa permanently were Ignatio Leopoldo FERREIRA and Manuel João D’OLIVEIRA.
Manuel João D’Oliveira, born in Lisbon, was the captain of the Portuguese ship São Josef which was shipwrecked at the Cape prior to May 1795. He married Gesina van Blerk in May 1795 and they had 4 children. This family became Afrikaans-speaking.
Replica of the Dias caravel in the Dias Museum, Mossel Bay
João Albasini, born in Lisbon on 01 May 1813, was 37 years old when he married Gertina Maria Petronella Janse van Rensburg in Potchefstroom in 1850. João’s father, Antonio Augusto Albasini was a ship’s captain in Portugal, but was born in the Tyrol region of Italy. He married Maria de Purificacua of Spain. The couple had three children. When João was 17 years old he accompanied his father and brother on a voyage to Brazil and Delagoa Bay. Their ship was stranded on the east coast of Africa and João, with the help of his father, set up a trading store in Delagoa Bay. His father left for Lisbon shortly afterwards and never saw his son again. João was 20 when the exiled Zulu chief Shoshangane attacked Delagoa Bay, massacring many Euopeans and abducting João. He escaped six months later and returned to Delagoa Bay.
In 1838 he met Carel Trichardt when the Voortrekkers of the Tregardt Trek reached Delagoa Bay, and the two formed a hunting partnership. In 1845, Chief Magashula of the Shangaan gave him land on the Sabie River. João built a settlement known as Makashula Kraal. The ruins of his brick house are not far from where the Hippo Pools are located, near Pretoriuskop. In 1845 he became the first Portuguese to trade with the Voortrekkers led by Andries Ohrigstad. After a few years he settled on the farm Rustplaats near Ohrigstad and opened a shop in the town in 1847. In 1849 he had to abandon the area because of fever, and moved to Lydenburg. Again he set up as a trader, with Casimiro Simoes being his partner and Mariano Luis de Souza his clerk.
In 1853 he moved to the area today known as Schoemansdal in the Soutpansberg, where he opened a trading post. Later on he moved to Ohrigstad and lived on the farm Goedewensch. The farm became a well-known visiting place where important guests, such as President M. W. Pretorius, were entertained. Elephant hunters on their way to the hunting-grounds also called there regularly. In 1858 the Portuguese government appointed him ViceConsul for the Transvaal Republic. He built a store, supervised the local inhabitants and maintained trade between the Republic and Portugal . He established a postal service between Delagoa Bay and the Boer Republic. In 1859 the Transvaal Republic government appointed Albasini as Native Superintendent in Zoutpansberg charged with the collection of a poll tax. This he did with the help of about 2 000 Pedi. When Modjadji, the Rain Queen, defied him, he set off with a commando and brought back cattle and about 400 children as slaves.
In 1867 Schoemansdal had few settlers left, follwing a harassment campaign by the Venda chief. A few families remained, including João, who was able to assist those who returned to the area a year later. After the restoration of the Transvaal Republic, João lived in poverty on Goedewensch because of the tribal disturbances in the 1880s and because he often had to pay for administration out of his own pocket. He continued to serve as a justice of the peace, a Bantu commissioner and a member of the district council, but his remuneration was very poor. After an illness of more than a year he died on his farm on 10 July 1888 and was buried opposite what is now the entrance to Albasini Dam. He had three sons and six daughters. Among his descendants, of whom there are still many in South Africa, there have been numerous professional people, businessmen and farmers.
One of João’s daughters, Hendrika Maria, married Christian Hendrik (Doel) Zeerdeburg in Pietersburg. The couple went to Bulawayo when he started the first regular coach service through Matabeleland. Doel was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1860 and died in London in 1907. Hendrika died in Bulawayo in 1934.
Maria, another daughter of João, married Dominee Louis Biccard who was a mine commissioner in Pietersburg. She had many of her father’s documents, including letters written by him in his capacity as Portuguese Vice-Consul. Her daughter, Tina, married Hennie Rood. They lived at Parksig, the house next to Melrose House. Tina’s son, Karel, married Steph de Kock. He was Secretary of Public Works and died in 1967. Steph, the niece of the poet Jan Celliers, died in Pretoria in 1990.
Another of João’s daughters was Anna Maria Magdalena (09 Jul 1859 – 03 Apr 1920) who married Hans Jurgens Dreyer.
Jacob Christovão de Couto, was a Portuguese who also had Asian roots. He was João Albasini’s secretary and married a du Plooy. The couple lived in Morgenzon, east of Goedgewensch. De Couto was also a brother-in-law of Antonio de Paiva Raposo, a trader from Delagoa Bay who made a fortune in the ivory trade.
Josephus Suasso DE LIMA was born on 27 June 1791 in Amsterdam into a Portuguese-Jewish family. He converted to Christianity and became a member of the Hervormde Kerk. He arrived at the Cape in 1818. He was a teacher, translator, author, bookseller, printer, publisher and journalist.
In 1823 he taught at the Evangelical Lutheran School . Later on he became a bookseller and printer, running thefirst Dutch bookshop at the Cape . In 1832 de Lima published the Kaapsche Almanak and, between 1833 and 1854 the Kaapsche Almanak en Naamboek. The Almanak was very popular. In 1825 he published Geshiedenis van de Kaap de Goede Hoop in the form of question and answer, the first history of the Cape published in Africa. On 07 January 1826 he published the first Dutch newspaper at the Cape, De Verzamelaar, which appeared weekly. In its first year it printed the earliest letters written in Afrikaans – those of Grietje Geldenaar and Hennepikker. In 1830 de Lima became insolvent and C.E. Boniface succeeded him as editor of the paper, which was renamed De Zuid-Afrikaan. He died in Cape Town on 19 December 1858.
Artur Jose Oriolla Ferreira de Paiva was the Portugeuse governor in the Humpata region of Angola. He was born circa 1865 to Bartolomeu de Paiva and Theresa Ferreira. In February 1882 he married Jacomina Gertruida Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Jacobus Fredrik Botha, who was one of the Dorsland Trekkers. Their children included Bartholomeu Jose Botha Ferreira, Jacobus (became a doctor in Angola after studying in Portugal) and Maria Theresia. Jacomina became a young widow when Artur died circa 1900 during a voyage to Portugal. He was buried at sea. Bartolomeu (born 1883 in Humpata) was married in 1904 to Christina Johanna Sofia Venter. Some of their children fled to South Africa and South West Africa as refugees during the 1970s civil war.
Lourenço (Lourens) Antonio was born in Portugal and became a burger at the Cape in 1836. He married Sara Johanna Swart.
João Soares de Brito was born in Oporto, Portugal, circa 1818 to Antonio Soares de Brito and Anna Jaquema de Brito. He became a trader at Victoria West. In June 1845 he married Anna Elizabeth Mocke. He died at the age of 33 in 1851. Their children included Antonio Soares, Aletta Catharina (married Daniel COGHILL) and João Soares Frederik.
Jose de Figueiredo was born at Terros Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, in April 1873 to Caetano Marques de Figueiredo and Delfina Candida de Aroujo de Figueiredo. He arrived in Lourenço Marques in 1891 and worked as a cabinet maker / joiner. He moved to Makapanstad, Pretoria, and worked as a shop assistant. His new employer could not pronounce his surname, so he changed it to de Freitas which eventually becae Frates. Jose married Eliza Williams in Pretoria in September 1887. In 1938 he started a construction business with his sons, J. Frates & Seuns (Edms.) Bpk. He died in April 1942 in Pretoria.
Antonio Jose, from Lisbon, married Susanna Maria CEZARS v.d.K in Cape Town in April 1819. Their children included Johanna Maria and Antonio Francisco.
Manuel Jose, from Lisbon, married Johanna Susanna KOEGELENBERG in Cape Town in July 1819.
Antonio Joseph, from Portugal, married Johanna Elizabeth JANSE v.d.K in Cape Town in April 1803.
Joseph Franciscus Mantanage, from Lisbon, married Jacoba Regina VAN VELDEN in Cape Town in March 1826.
Antonio João Pereira arrived in 1822 from Portugal. In Feb 1822 he married Johanna Elisabeth VAN DEN BURGH in Cape Town.
Francisco Alves Pereira was born in Portugal and died at 33 Hanover Street, Cape Town, in August 1877. He was married to Magdalena Sophia BUCHELING.
Augostinho Pereira, from Portugal, died in Kimberley in November 1875.
Gabriel Jose Pereira, born in Portugal, married Susanna Maria E. THUYN in March 1797.
Rev. Henry Alvarez da Costa Pereira was born in Oxford, England in June 1879. He married Hilda Mabel Eleanor WILLIAMS (of Somerset, England ) in August 1904. They arrived in South Africa in 1908.
Jose Correa Pereira was born in Quilemane, Mozambique, to Isodore Correa Pereira en Louisa Jocana Correa. He died at 7 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town, in November 1893. He was married to Johanna Josephine Maria ALMEIDA.
Manuel Nunez Pereira was born in Madeira, to Manuel Pereira and Leopoldina. The jewelery dealer was married to Louisa Elisabeth DIFFENTHAL.
Anthonie Pereira was married by special license in Feb 1881 to Christina LERDA.
Januario de Santa Quiteria Pereira died at Swartrivier, Cape, in April 1836. He was married to Helena SCHULTZE. Their son was Johan Frederik Coenraad (born 14 Oct 1817) and married in Nov 1842 at Wynberg to Susan TIBBS.
Maria Pereira was married by sopecial license in Jan 1882 to Antonio dos Santos DE ENCARNAEDO.
Christiaan van den Burgh, from Amsterdam, married Maria Josepha MATTHYS. Their daughter Johanna Elizabeth was born in Cape Town in 1822, and married Antonio Jogo PEREIRA from Portugal.
Georg Frederik (Friedrich) Rautenbach was born in Tremnik, Sakse, Ihitsland circa 1734. He was in the service of the VOC. In 1762 he married Maria Magdalena FERREIRA (widow of Frans Haarhof), daughter of Ignatio Leopold Ferreira.
Julio Arthur Santos was born in Lisbon in Apr 1896. He arrived in South Africa in 1946 with his wife, Sulmina da Gama Santos.
Diana Jill Shone was born in Bedford in 1941. She died in Grahamstown in July 1982. Her second marriage was in 1980 to Natalino C. GUERRE1RO, who was born in the Algarve, Portugal.
Portuguese people first arrived in South Africa in large numbers in the 1920s. Between the two World Wars, many Portuguese settled in and around Johannesburg, where they set up shops – mainly fruit and vegetable shops, and fish and chips or take-away shops. By 1938, the community was flourishing.
The largest influx was in the 1950s. H.F. Verwoerd’s plans for more whites in South Africa focused on Anglo-Saxon Protestants in Europe but few of them came to South Africa. The focus then shifted to what was then considered “third rate” immigrants from Mediterranean countries. Even into the late 1970s, many of these immigrants were referred to in derogatory terms by some white South Africans, who considered them beneath them. Being mostly of the Roman Catholic faith did not make their acceptance into local communities easier.
Many of the immigrants’ children left school early to work in the family business. Socialization was mostly with other Portuguese. Parents were very strict with their children. A large amount of South Africa ‘s Portuguese immigrants came from the island of Madeira, where job opportunities were limited. Men became migrant workers in the fishing industry and many of them worked in South African ports. They could not speak English and only a few had basic schooling. The men usually went ahead to get a job and earn some money so that they could then send for their families. When Angola and Mozambique gained independence in the 1970s, there was a large influx of Portuguese people into South Africa. Estimations were that about 25 000 Portuguese fled Mozambique between 10 and 23 September 1974.
The majority of Portuguese are Roman Catholic and the new immigrants soon started their own churches. Holy days are celebrated at special masses followed by social gatherings with food, music and dancing. One such day is the annual blessing of the fishing fleet in Cape Town in October. They also started their own social clubs, schools and banks. In April 1989 the community got its own TV channel, Canal Portugues. There is also DStv Portuguesa. The community has its own newspaper, O Seculo, which is produced in Johannesburg and distributed all over South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Portugal. The weekly publication has a readership of 40 000 and keeps the community informed about what is happening in Portugal and in other Portuguese-speaking communities locally and internationally.
Portuguese has also contributed to South Africa ‘s language heritage, with words such as commando and picaninn (from the word pequenino meaning little one).
Today, the Portuguese are involved in all spheres of the South African economy. They have served in the country’s Defence Force, built community centres and introduced Portuguese cuisine to South Africa. They have intermarried into other South African communities, adding to the country’s mosaic. Prior to 1994, it was estimated that the Portuguese community numbered 700 000 and that it is now about 500 000.
In the spotlight
Many South Africans with Portuguese roots have carved careers in the limelight or reached the top of their careers.
Maria da Conceicao das Neves Calha Ramos, CEO of Transnet, was appointed director-general in Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s office in 1996. She was born in February 1959 in Lisbon. Maria’s first job was as a liaison clerk at Barclays in Vereniging. She attended Wits University in the 1980s, gaining a BCom honours in economics. She became a lecturer at Wits and Unisa. In 1992 she received a Helen Suzman bursary and obtained a MSc in economics from the University of London. From 1990 to 1994 she was an economist in the ANC’s economic planning department. Maria is one of four daughters. The family immigrated to South Africa when she was five years old. Her father worked as a builder in Vereeniging.
Journalist Marianne Thamm grew up in Pretoria. Her mother was from Aljustrel, Portugal. Her father was German and grew up in Berlin. They immigrated to South Africa from England in 1963. Marianne has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years. She has ghost-written several books and is a multiple Mondi Award winner.
Manuel Lopes da Costa was born in June 1965 in Portugal to Manuel Lopes da Costa and Cecilia Giria. He attended Lycée Francais in Venezuela. The CEO of Accenture Financial Services group has an MBA and a MSc. In December 1990, he married Ana Paula Pereira and they have two daughters. They family lives in Johannesburg.
Vanessa Carreira was Miss South Africa 2001. The then 20-year-old was a final year BA student and worked as a public relations officer at Caesars. Vanessa lived in Boksburg with her parents João and Adélia Carreira, and a sister, Melony. She was crowned Miss Portugal SA in 1998, going on to finish in the top eight at that year’s Miss Portugal pageant. Vanessa finished fourth at the Miss Universe 2002 pageant in Puerto Rico. She initially boycotted the Miss World pageant in Nigeria over the Amina Lawal case and when the event was moved to London, she was not able to attend as it conflicted with the Miss South Africa 2003 crowning.
Jeannie D, the 24-year-old Good Hope FM and Top Billing presenter was born to Antonio Mendes de Gouveia and his wife Jean, whose roots go back to Ponta do Pargo in Madeira. She was the 2000 Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit Rag queen. Jeannie D has acting aspirations and has started with a small role as a bank assistant in a Steven Seagal film, Mercenary, that was filmed in Cape Town recently. She was also a warrior woman in the BBC series Cavegirl, that was filmed in the Cederberg. She also had a small role in the M-Net drama series, Known Gods.
South African soccer has seen a number of Portuguese players and coaches. Roger de Sa currently coaches Santos in Cape Town. He was born in October 1964 in Mozambique and moved to South Africa with his family in 1974. In 1984, he started playing for Kwikot Benoni before moving on to play for PSL sides Moroka Swallows, Mamelodi Sundowns and Wits University. He was awarded the league’s goalkeeper of the year award three years in succession. He made one appearance as goalkeeper in the national side in 1993. After finishing his playing career, he became head coach at Wits. He was voted the Premier League’s coach of the year in the 2002-2003 season and served as Bafana Bafana goalkeeper coach from 2000-2002.
Portuguese-born Zeca Marques, former coach of Moroka Swallows, is the now assistant coach at Wits University. De Sa holds a South African record for representing his country in three different national sides in a single year, namely soccer, basketball and indoor soccer. He is married and has three children.
During the National Football League (NFL) days, the Lusitano team was owned and fully supported by the Portuguese communities. Joe Frickleton, who came to South Africa as a player with Highlands Park in the mid-1960s, went on to make Lusitano a top team. They were the first league cup winners of the newly-formed multiracial Professional Soccer League in 1978.
Sonia Esgueira wrote and performed a one-woman play about her roots. The 27-year-old actress’s hit comedy Pora! was her way of dealing with feelings of embarrassment and displacement about being Portuguese in South Africa. Pora is an often derogatory term referring to Portuguese people in South Africa. During the show, Sonia portrays three generations of a Portuguese family, via various costume changes. The idea for the show came from a comic sketch she did on her grandfather during her final year at UCT Drama School in 2000. She went on to win the Fleur du Cap award for best supporting actress for her role in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Sonia was born and raised in Nelspruit, one of four children.
João Mendonca opened the original Mediterranean Fish Market in a tiny Jules Street shop, next to the present shop, in Malvern in 1969. Before that, he sold fresh hake door-to-door to the large Portuguese community in Malvern. Today his son, Paulo, carries on the family business, on a bigger scale.
Elias de Sousa came to South Africa at the age of 18 in 1961, with his older brother and a cousin. The woman who was to become his wife, Julia, followed him a few years later. De Sousa became one of five elected councillors in South Africa who represent the community in the Portuguese government on civil and cultural issues. He grew up in an agricultural family in Madeira and left school at the age of 12 to work on the family banana plantation. When he arrived in Durban, he worked at the Marburg Tearoom on the Esplanade. He later owned a supermarket and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant in Point Road. His son runs a Portuguese restaurant in Durban North.
In 1993, Paulo Andrade, then 22, was the youngest NP candidate to stand in a municipal election. He was also the first Portuguese immigrant to stand as a candidate. He was a final year law student at Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit. Paul was born in Maputo in 1970 and moved to South Africa in 1975.
Manuel Moutinho, a prominent Portuguese community leader, was leader of the Luso-South African Party, which contested the 1994 election.
Nadia Almada, from Madeira, moved to South Africa with her family in 1980. She later moved to England, where in 2004, she won the TV reality show Big Brother.
Her parents are José Luis Corte Leodoro, who lives in Pretoria, and Conceicao Almada, who moved back to Madeira with their six sons – Jorge (now Nadia), Duarte, Agostinho, Luis, Miguel and Andre – in 1993.
Leon Barnard, ANC member, is a descendant of a Portuguese immigrant to the Cape. He married Althea, a descendant of John Dunn (known as the White Zulu).
The Vilamoura restaurants were started by Arnaldo Concalves, Victor Concalves and Luis Viana in. The Hurlingham one was opened in 1990, followed by Sandton in 1993 and Rosebank later.
In 2004 Ricky de Agrela (42) set a world record for the longest expedition in a microlight aircraft, flying 62 000 km over six continents. His parents immigrated to South Africa from Madeira. He has a daughter, Natasha, who lives with her mother in Adelaide, Australia. Ricky’s interest in flying started when the moon landing in 1969 caught his attention. In Matric he started parachuting, followed by national service in the Air Force. Among his other extreme sports adventures are the Argus cycle tour, the Berg River canoe marathon, climbing the icy Kilimanjaro and swimming from Simons Town to Muizenberg. The microlight adventure was done with Allan Honeyborne of Port Elizabeth, who died near Changsha, China, when his microlight lost a wing.
In 1935 Antonio (Tony) da Costa arrived in South Africa from Madeira to farm with vegetables. Today his sons Manuel and Johnny farm 2 800 hectares at Manjoh Ranch in Nigel. Manuel’s sons, Andre and Tony, are also involved. The brothers farm with mielies, beans and cattle. In 2003 they were awarded Grain South Africa ‘s Grain Producer of the Year award. Manuel started farming with his father in 1969 near Boksburg. In 1974, his father started another farm near Bronkhorstspruit and Johnny joined the farming business. In 1985 the brothers bought the present farm in Nigel. Manuel’s wife, Lyndsey, and Johnny’s wife, Rita, used to do the bookkeeping but this was later taken over by Manuel’s son, Tony.
Mannie Calasa came to South Africa from Madeira. Today he is one of the biggest vegetable farmers in the country.
Bill Jardine was well-known for his anti-apartheid activities and involvement in opening up sports to all races in the 1980s. He was the grandson of Joseph Jardim de Sera, an immigrant from Madeira, and his wife Elizabeth Barry, a Coloured woman. Bill was born in Vrededorp, Johannesburg. He left school after standard 6 and later found work in a leather factory before starting a small green grocer.
Esmé Euvrard was married to Gilberto Bonegio, a Portuguese flamenco dancer and guitarist. In the early 60s, the couple toured the country, singing with Gilberto’s group. After he died in 1964 after being in a coma for 20 months after a car accident, she naver sang in public again. Their children Raúl and Fernando became involved with Spanish dancing. Raúl’s wife, Gillian, was Charlize Theron’s Spanish dance teacher. One of Raúl and Gillian’s twin daughters born in 1993 was named Esmé.
Evelyn Martin was a popular radio broadcaster on LM Radio and later Springbok Radio and Radio Highveld. She was Portuguese and was the longest serving announcer on LM Radio. Born of Portuguese parents in Johannesburg, she joined the station in 1950 as a programme compiler. In 1953 she took over the children’s Lucky Dip and Birthday greetings and Hospital programmes. She worked on LM until she was evacuated to Johannesburg after the occupation of the studios in 1974.
Peter de Nobrega grew up in Johannesburg. He worked for LM Radio from the early 1970s until he made the closing station announcement from in October 1975. He then joined Radio 5 in Johannesburg and went to become the head of programming at Radio Jacaranda, where he was still working in March 2004.
Manuel Maria Lamarque Escorcio was first heard on radio in December 1974 on Esmé Euvrard’s music programme. He promised his dying father that he would not forget his Portuguese roots. Manuel was born in Mozambique of Portuguese-French descent. His singing talent was discovered when, while at school and taking a shower, a school prefect heard him and called the music teacher. In 1977 he sang in his first opera as Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore, winning the Nederburg prize. As the principal resident tenor of the Cape Town City Opera for 12 years, he has sung in over 40 productions. Manuel has recorded 30 CDs, six of which are gospel. Three recordings have gone gold and one platinum. He sings in English, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Spanish, French and Italian) and has a Master of Music degree from the University of Cape Town. In February 2005 he married Franscilla Kruger (27), a Springbok basketball player and indoor cricket player from Heidelberg, Gauteng. He has two sons from a previous marriage.
In 1998, Johnny Candelaria of Northcliff, became the 2000th receiver of a donated kidney since the first kidney transplant operation in was done in South Africa in 1967. His wife, Rosemarie, donated one of her kidneys. Johnny was an immigrant from Madeira who met Rosemarie in South Africa.
Alice das Neves was 31 when she lost her life in the Helderberg crash. She was the daughter of Manuel and Maria das Neves of Plattekloof. Alice was a ground hostess at D.F. Malan in Cape Town for four years before joining the travel agency Lislind International in Parow. The das Neves couple immigrated to South Africa from Madeira over 40 years ago and their five children were born in South Africa. Manuel owned Tygerberg Cafe in Parow.
Osiers Cane and Linen was stared in 1921 by a group of Portuguese businessmen from Madeira and a Scot.
João dos Santos was born in Madeira and immigrated to Mozambique as a child. He later moved to South Africa where he completed music studies. After working as a librarian at the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, he started a music publishing business, Amanuensis.
In 1998 when the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg was finally closed, Fernando Fontes, then 58, was the last manager. Fernando came to South Africa from Madeira more than 30 years ago. He started working as a barman at the hotel’s Three Ships restaurant in September 1972.
In 2005, Staff-Sgt. Daniel Roxo and Sgts. José (Robbie) Ribeiro and Silva Soeiro were finally honoured with gravestones. The three Portuguese were members of 32 Battalion. Two were born in Portugal and one in Guinea-Bissau. All three died in the bush war and were buried at Voortrekkerhoogte in 1976, without grave stones. Members of the South African Special Forces and the 32 Battalion Association raised funds for their grave stones. Roxo was the first foreign-born soldier to be awarded the Honoris Crux medal for bravery, for his part in the Battle of Bridge 14. Ribeiro was nominated for the HC, but did not receive it. He was a master of infiltration. Both Ribeiro and Soeiro were allowed to wear the Pro Patria and Southern Africa medals, but they were never issued with them. Roxo and Soeiro died shortly after Operation Savannah in a landmine explosion. Ribeiro died two days later in a vehicle accident while transporting wounded soldiers. Roxo was survived by a wife and six children. Ribeiro was survived by a wife and a daughter. Soeiro was single.
Pedro Camara played the role of Carlos in 7de Laan. His older brothers own the general dealer and the bottle store in Rawsonville. Fredrico owns the general dealer and Silvino, the bottle store. Silivino has done TV and magazine adverts and modelling. Their mother, Driekie is Afrikaans and married to their Portuguese father, Abel. The family lost a son, Abel, at the age of 9 to bone marrow cancer. He was born before Pedro. The two youngest children live in Worcester. The couple met in Luderitz, where Driekie worked in the bank. Pedro is married to Karin, a graphic designer who grew up in Patensie, in 1997 and they have a son, Enzo. They live in Durbanville.
Anthony Wilson plays the role of Dan Williams in Generations. His father was Portuguese. His maternal grandfather was Charles Halworthy who was living in Marabastad, Pretoria, when his mother went to live in Mozambique with his father. Anthony spoke Shangaan and Afrikaans. Today he is married to Wilhelmina and they have five grandchildren. They live in Eersterust.
Tracing your Portuguese ancestors overseas – a brief introduction
The oldest church register in existence belongs to Nabainhos, near Gouveia, and dates from 1529. In 1563, the keeping of church registers for baptisms and deaths became compulsory, previously this was voluntary. The registers were the responsibility of the Church, until the decree of 16 May 1832. The decree was the first attempt to establish civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. However, it was overturned by another decree on 09 August 1859, which again made it the Church’s responsibility. Yet another decree on 28 November 1878 made civil registration for non-Catholics compulsory. In March 1911, another decree made the state the official record keeper. The State Archives took over the old parish registers and other related books for safe-keeping. However, churches continue to keep their own records.
The Catholic Church has been the official church for many years. It has kept the following types of records: baptism (batismo), marriage (casamento) and death (óbito). Parish registers older than 100 years are deposited with the district archives. The public only has access to records older than 30 years and these are kept at the civil registry and at the office of the public notary of each municipality. Churches also keep records of bequests and donations, which contain information of use to genealogy. The documents relating to the Inquisition period (15th-18th centuries) are found in the National Archives at the Torre do Tombo in Lisbon.
Baptism records always contain the child’s parents’ names. In most cases grandparents are also noted, as are godparents. From the late 1800s, baptism records will sometimes have margin notes indicating the marriage or death of the baptised individual. Marriage records usually contain the parents’ and grandparents’ names. The bridal couple’s places of birth are also given. Death records show the parents’ names if the deceased was a young child. Spouse names are noted for married deceased adults. By the 1700s, most death records started showing the age at death and by the 1800s the surviving children were being listed.
Although most church registers have survived, three events caused great destruction of registers in some areas:
- the Spanish invasion of Alentejo in 1580-1640
- the 1755 earthquake in the Lisbon area
- the French invasions of 1804-1814 devastated the provinces of Beira Baixa and Ribatejo
Civil registration in Portugal began in March 1911. These are birth, marriage and death records for everyone within the boundaries of each registry office (registo civil). Knowing which registry office holds the records for which village/town/city, is the key to success. It is important to know how the country is broken down into regions. A region could be the Island of Madeira, within that region there are districts and within each district there are concelhos, which are the same as counties or municipalities. Within each conselho there are many freguesias (small towns and villages). There are also lugars (places) within villages, which are mostly a group of 3 or so houses in a remote spot of the village.
In Portugal, each district has an archive (Arquivos Distritais) where all records for the district are kept. Records such as church records, property records, wills and emigration records can be found there. Records older than 100 years are passed on to the Regional Archives and the National Archives.
Libraries keep newspapers, which are useful in genealogical research, especially if you know where your ancestor lived. Historical books are also useful, especially those dealing with a region’s early beginnings.
Cemeteries can be useful but if the grave dates prior to the 19th century, it becomes a difficult task. Most people could only afford a wooden cross and headstones were far and few between. Portuguese universities keep records of all their graduates in their archives.
Military records are kept by the Military Archives, whilst the Navy has its own Naval Archives.
District archives also keep records of those who are ordained priests or become nuns or monks.
Foreigners who have applied for Portuguese nationality are recorded in the National Archives of Torre do Tombo in Lisbon.
Wills date back to the early 15th century, for ancestors who owned land or other property. Wills are kept in the local Notarial Registry (Carterios Notarais) and are transferred every 30 years to the District Archives.
Portugal has a heraldic institution, the Conselho de Nombreza, set up in April 1945, which grants coat of arms and titles. The Instituto Português de Heraldica also undertakes genealogical research.
Passports were first issued in 1757 and are found in the District Archives. They list names, date and place of birth, date of voyage and destination.
Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa
Dictionary of South African Biography
Die Historiese Monumente van Suid-Afrika, J.J. Oberholster, Kultuurstigting Rembrandt van Rijn, 1972
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