Jan van Riebeeck was a Dutch navigator and colonial administrator who arrived in Cape Town in the Dutch Cape Colony at the behest of the Dutch East India Company.
He also spent some time in Malaysia as part of his profession and served as an assistant surgeon in the East Indies.
In March 1647 the Nieuw-Haerlem, a ship of the Dutch East Company's fleet, ran aground in Table Bay at the Cape. The stranded crew built a temporary fort, grew vegetables in the fertile soil, and made contact with the local Khoikhoi. After the survivors were picked up the following year, the Lords XVII of the DEIC asked two merchants, Leendert Jansz and Mathys Proot, to write a report on their experiences at the Cape. The Remonstrantie that they submitted in 1649 contained recommendations that impressed the Amsterdam Chamber of the DEIC. At the time there was increasing tension between the Netherlands and England, and they saw the far-flung Cape Peninsula on the sea route to the Indies as a practical, healthy and strategic area to take ownership of. The Lords XVII approved their proposal to establish a meeting place and fortress at the Cape.
In June 1651, Jan van Riebeeck was appointed the first commander of the Cape. He was to establish a station at the southern end of Africa to provide passing ships with fresh food and water. A fleet of five ships set out and the flagship Drommedaris, the Reijger, and the Goede Hoope, reached Table Bay on 6 April 1652. The Walvis and the Oliphant arrived late, having had 130 burials at sea.