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Oom Dawid Kruiper’s coffin sank into the red dunes of Witdraai to the sounds of a trumpet and the blast of a kudu horn. This was a funeral of equal halves – Khoisan traditions and Christian beliefs.
Mpempi burnt as the pastor gave his sermon and the congregation sang hymns.
Kruiper’s funeral yesterday was the second state funeral in the Northern Cape since 2009.
About 2 000 people gathered to pay their respects to the man many called the “Leeu of the Kalahari”.
They came from Namibia and SA, in buses and cars; some even hitchhiked.
And they all seemed to have an Oom Dawid story.
“Oom Dawid took us into the veld and he would teach us things,” Mieta Harnoster said. She grew up with Kruiper and came all the way from Kakamas to say her goodbyes.
The dignitaries were there, too – a smattering of mayors, the stand-in premier Grizelda Cjiekella, and the ANC chairman, John Block.
Cecil le Fleur, of the National Khoisan Council, said: “I get a lump in my throat when I think that this leader fought so hard, but never saw the success of his fight. He never saw the promised land.”
It was back in 1999 that Kruiper was instrumental in brokering a land deal for his people. Six farms, totalling almost 38 000 hectares, were returned to Kruiper’s people, the Khomani San.
“We on the horizon of history must never forget Dawid Kruiper,” said poet Paul Swartbooi.
But problems remain; the Khomani San are fighting poverty and alcohol abuse, especially among the youth.
Even during the funeral, drunk youths wandered into the tent, to the annoyance of the mourners.
Yesterday, many said Kruiper would have liked to have seen these problems sorted out.
Yet it was a day for more Oom Dawid stories, like the time he stared down a lion, and chased it away.
He was a small man, like his brother Hendrick, who was also at the funeral. Hendrick remembered his brother as a great speaker who could move his people to action. He now worries about who will take over. “Will that person have that voice that my brother had?” he asked.
Flags flew at half mast across the country yesterday to honour Kruiper.
And those who knew Oom Dawid believe that he would have been amused by all the pomp and ceremony.
He is remembered as a man who lived his life with “his tongue firmly in his cheek”, never taking himself seriously. He also preferred wearing his traditional skins.
The 76-year-old leader died in Upington on June 13. The delay in his funeral was so that clans could gather to attend and honour him.