The battle for the recognition of the rights of indigenous tribes has led the Khwe and San people to a meeting with lawyers at the Mayibuye centre in Kimberley on the progress the government is making to better their lives.
For years, the Khwe and San community in the Northern Cape have been feeling left out.
The chief of the Koranna people, Glen Taaibosch, said there were at least five groups of the Khwe San people – the Cape Khwe, San, Koranna, Nama and the Griekwa people.
Taaibosch said the Khwe San people had been left behind and said they did not benefit from BEE and employment equity policies.
“We are called coloured when it suits the government and black when it suits them. Our children do not qualify for university entrance and employment equity does not accept us. We accepted being called coloured, a derogatory term which means nothingness.
“We accepted being called black but do not benefit from the term. How more African are we expected to be when we are the first inhabitants of this land?” he said.
Taaibosch said the government needed to get its house in order.
“The government can only recognise us once it has resolved the land issue. We are still in consultations with the Department of Rural Development to address land claims that existed before the 1913 cut-off date. We were not allowed to apply for land claims because our land was lost before that date,” he said.
Taaibosch said they had a national KhweSan council that did not benefit them.
“These people come down to us, get information but never come back to give us feedback,” he said.
“They have sold us out and we cannot subscribe to that,” he said.
Earlier this year, the general secretary of the Platfontein Khwe community Jafta Kapunda said the land restitution issue for the Khoisan people was an issue that had not been resolved.
Kapunda was speaking at the investigative hearing by the Human Rights Commission into the South African Khoisan communities.
The hearing was called to listen to views expressed by the Khoi, San, Nama, Griqua and Koranna people regarding access to services, land, and the constitutionality of the indigenous groups in South Africa.
Kapunda said the Khoisan people were removed from Smithsdrift to Platfontein but have been left isolated by the Northern Cape government, adding that they demanded land, access to proper houses, electricity installations and piping infrastructure.
The KhweSan courts have to be taken seriously and the laws of the land have to respect them and not undermine their traditions, he said.
Kapunda also complained that their language, culture and heritage was seen as mere projects that could be dumped whenever. And also, Khwe and San people are moved around a lot with some having been relocated from Schmidtsdrift, a town in the Pixley ka Seme district where many still remain, to a place called Platfontein, at the doorstep of Kimberley.
The MEC of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Alvin Botes responded to the housing issue by saying the government did build the Khwe and San people houses before moving them there and urging that they look after them.
Botes complained that the houses as they stand are dilapidated because the residents make fires in them; there are no windows and doors in some of the structures. There are also no taps in some of the yards while water reaches some areas and not others.
The lack of road infrastructure, no access to shops and clinics with only one school to service the whole area, young people struggling to find jobs while many are excluded from the mainstream economy, is what made people feel neglected.
South African Human Rights Commission commissioner Dr Danny Titus said the issues of the Khoisan people who believe that the Constitution excluded them, needed to be resolved.
“People feel like they are outside of the centre and this is an opportunity to give them that type of platform to speak freely. What we want is to see tangible change, to make a difference. We also want to show them that there are government departments to whom they can speak and programmes within the department that can help,” Titus said.
Titus said that the government was trying to achieve tangible change but said it was also the responsibility of individuals to register and cast their vote to direct decision making.
Former Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro weighed in saying the state should respond to the issues the Khwe San people had raised including their feeling of marginalisation.
Mokgoro, however, said the individual as the smallest unit needed to play his/her part in nation building before making demands on the government.
She said equality was a narrative that has forced the Khwe San people to this point, adding that all people should be treated equally and not be judged based on colour.
Mokgoro said in today’s society, people were forced to organise themselves before they could be heard.
“All of us have a role to play in building this society, it’s all about self respect.