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Published on Feb 25, 2008
Simon van der Stel (1639-1712), Dutch commander and governor of the Cape Colony, in what is now South Africa, from 1679 to 1699. He was appointed to the post of commander by the Dutch East India Company. Van der Stel encouraged agriculture and forestry and developed a scientific approach to the production of wine at the Cape. He founded new settlements inland, away from Cape Town, although he imposed harsh penalties on settlers who moved outside the colony's boundaries in search of better grazing land or to barter. From 1688 onwards he was successful at integrating French Huguenot refugee settlers at the Cape, thereby establishing a pattern under which other non-Dutch settlers could be accommodated in the colony.
In 1689 van der Stel sent a mission to purchase Port Natal (now Durban), but there was no follow-up to this initiative, so it lapsed. He was promoted to the post of governor in 1691. In 1699 he retired to his Cape farm and was succeeded as governor by his son W. Adriaen van der Stel. He counseled his son not to allow the settlers to move out of the colony for fear that they would want to colonize the whole of Africa. By the time of his death he was a rich farmer and landowner and was responsible for experimenting with and introducing new crops.