Did you know that Graaff-Reinet declared independence from the Cape Colony at the end of the 1700s? Or that there is a monument commemorating this event in town? I knew about the shortlived independence but even though I have been to Graaff-Reinet many times before I didn’t realise there was a monument to it. On my last trip I knew what to look for and finding it really was a facepalm moment. If it was a snake it would have bitten me so many times before. The Graaff-Reinet Independence Monument is located right on the corner of Church and Parsonage Street across the road from the Drostdy Hotel.
The Drostdy at Graaff-Reinet was established in response to petitions from the Boers of the region but the satisfaction that this provided was short-lived. The Boers felt antagonised by the attitude of the officials of the Dutch East India Company and they didn’t like being oppressed. They decided that the only way to shake off this oppression was to declare independence from the authorities in the Cape. On 6 February 1795, a gathering proclaimed the “Graaff-Reinet Colony” and hoisted the red, white and blue flag (the “Prinsevlag” as it was called) of the Republic of the Netherlands. At about the same time the British ejected the Dutch administration from the Cape. The burghers of Graaff-Reinet weren’t keen to accept the authority of the new British colonial administration, but a year and a half after declaring independence they relented.
The plaque on the monument is flanked by the South African flag as well as the “Prinsevlag” of the then-independent republic.