Traditional leader and healer of the Khomani San of the Kalahari, Oom Dawid Kruiper, died in an Upington hospital on Wednesday.
The 71-year-old was transferred from the Gordonia regional hospital to the Upington Medi-Clinic after his condition deteriorated on Tuesday night.
He was in a critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, and died just before noon on Wednesday.
A family representative, Anna Festus, said Kruiper was doing better over the weekend, but his condition suddenly deteriorated on Tuesday night.
She said the group Friends of the Bushmen undertook to pay Kruiper’s medical expenses.
Festus said prior to Kruiper's death, well wishes were sent from across the world such as the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Groups of the United Nations in New York, and from friends and family in London.
Kruiper was well known for his acting role as a tracker in the 1989 movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy II.
He addressed the United Nations in Geneva on the rights of indigenous people in 1994, and led the way for land claims in South Africa for the San people.
Some 40 000 hectares of land were handed back to the San in March 1999.
He made headlines when he hitch-hiked from the Kalahari to Cape Town in 2004 to see and talk to former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Kruiper was involved in the development and restoring of the San languages.
Secretary-general of the Khoi San Gauteng and Provinces of the North Council, Gordon Cassim, said Kruiper's death was a great loss to the Khoi San nation and South Africa.
“May his soul rest in peace, our chief, our prayers are extended to the Kruiper family, the Boesman community and friends,” he said. - Sapa