On August 30, 1729, a fit and productive male slave named Jephta of Batavia, 30, succumbed to his turbulent emotions and stabbed his unfaithful lover Maria of Ceylon in the kitchen of their affluent master’s residence in what is now St George’s Street.
In those days, male slaves predominated and competition for female partners was intense, leading to frustration, jealousy and violence – passions which most owners chose to ignore.
Johannes Heufke (1669-1739) was born in Hamburg and one of three brothers who came to the Cape in the late 1600s. He married his first wife Alida Botma in January 1699 and prospered. In 1709, he acquired the farm Welgelegen at Mowbray (known today as the site of Mostert’s Mill). He later obtained the farm Kloovenburg at Riebeeck Kasteel, where he kept a foreman and a complement of slaves.
Jephta was a relatively new and possibly disruptive arrival in Heufke’s household, having been purchased from Servaas Jacobsz for 120 rixdollars four months previously.
He freely confessed his crime without coercion, declaring that he didn’t care if he were broken on the wheel (tortured to death).