South African Commission Welcomes Debate On Khoi Cultural Rights

By Novell Zwange – The South African Commission for Religious and Traditional Affairs (CRATA) yesterday said that it welcomes the current debate around the status of the Khoi community in our society.

South Africa’s Khoikhoi and San who said they were dispossessed, unrecognised and facing a ‘cultural genocide’, petitioned the government for full recognition of their rights as indigenous people. The San and Khoi are demanding that their rights be recognised. Photo: Le Grand Portage

They claim that their history of oppression and dispossession has long been overlooked, with government preferring to focus on rectifying the evils of apartheid’s land policies.

Indeed, South Africa’s indigenous population have lived in the region of the Cape for thousands of years, but lost their and land and water to the first settlers who arrived in 1652. The current Land Restitution Act however, only considers claims for land that was dispossessed after the 1913 Native Land Act came into effect.

Zenzile Khoisan, a spokesman for the Khoi and Boesman National Assembly argued that “In 1913 most of our land had already been usurped by various entities including the colonial authorities. Under the Land Restitution Act it is impossible for us to claim because we were the first in opposition of colonialism.”

Their grievances came to the fore in a march on Cape Town’s Parliament Buildings on Saturday 4th September, as reported by the press. They issued a memorandum to President Jacob Zuma outlining their demands for recognition as the original inhabitants of South Africa.

This memorandum was in unison with the case lodged in the Equality Court by the Khoi and Boesman National Assembly against the government of South Africa, which centered around their desire for “proper and suitable constitutional accommodation” and “a recognition of the damage caused by colonialism, apartheid and the current government for the continued assault on our rights to cultural identity”.

Dr Mathole Motshekga, ANC NEC and the Chairman of Commission on Religious & Traditional Affairs said, “We particularly welcome the campaign by representatives of the Khoi community to sensetise our citizens around the importance of recognizing all South African languages and cultures.”

Among key issues as was state in their case is the lack of recognition of their languages. Zenzile Khoisan stated, “In South Africa at the present time we are not recognised as a people. There are 11 official languages and none of them is ours.”

The Khoi demanded in the memorandum, “a full review of all land-rights claims submitted by our people and the proper and sustainable implementation of all agreements relating to settled claims, recognition of all indigenous knowledge systems and the protection of all our intellectual property including medicinal remedies derived from plants such as hoodia, as well as the full and official recognition of the Khoi and Boesman National Assembly as an organ of self-determination … recognition and control of their heritage”

Dr Motshekga said, “In this regard the CRATA would like to express our eagerness to meet the representatives of the Khoi community with a view to assist in ensuring that matters being raised by the Khoi Community are addressed.”

“We are also aware and in support of the work being done by the government in this regard. Issues of indigenous identity and recognition of people’s heritage is one of matters at the heart of our Constitution.
As CRATA we welcome any debate around these matters as it is our duty to champion the promotion and protection of all cultural, religious and linguist rights.”