Chief Khoisan SA and his people at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Former President Thabo Mbeki was the first to formally acknowledge the atrocities experienced by the Khoisan people Photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
Chief Khoisan SA and his people at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Former President Thabo Mbeki was the first to formally acknowledge the atrocities experienced by the Khoisan people Photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

2010-2019: A decade of restoration, rebuilding and inclusivity

By Wallace Mgoqi Time of article published Jan 2, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – Having regard to what happened in  our past, going back more than five hundred years, from 1488 to date, to  be exact, when the first Portuguese maritime explorer, Bartholomew Diaz, landed on  our shores, around Mossel Bay, as disclosed by Dr Ruben Richards, in his two volume history books, maybe it is time to go beyond just knowing about the contributions of the first leaders of this diverse nation, but also do something concrete to honour them.

Maybe alongside the statues of De Klerk, Tutu and Mandela, should stand the statues of Doman, Gogosa, Xhore, Autshumato, Adam Kok, Krotoa, and contemporary figures like Allan Boesak. They laid the foundations for our freedom, from the very early beginning, through their resistance to colonialism , at great sacrifice. They paid with their lives. 
If we did that we would not only be honouring  history, which started  more than five hundred years ago, not in 1910, but also saying to their descendants, the Coloured people of today and many others, how much, as a nation.

1. We value them as a people, and the contributions their ancestors, who preceded them. We stand upon  their shoulders today. If we appear to be  tall in the eyes of the world, it is because we stand upon the broad shoulders of these  giants of the first nation, the first citizens of this country, the KhoiSan people, in all their diversity. What is recorded as a diarised conversation between Jan Van Riebeeck and the local KhoiSan leaders  is quite revealing in  regard  to the mindset and values framework of the KhoiSan  people, he writes: “They [Khoisan – own emphasis] strongly insisted that we [Dutch – own  emphasis] had been appropriating more of their land, which had been theirs all these centuries, and on which they had been accustomed to let their cattle  graze etc. They asked if they would  be allowed to do such a thing supposing they went to Holland, and they added: “It would be of little consequence if you people stayed here at the fort, but you come right into the interior and select the best land for yourselves, without even asking whether we mind or whether it will cause us any inconvenience.”

2. With the benefit of hindsight we now know this that these leaders ended up fighting no less than five recorded wars of resistance, the Khoi – Dutch Wars, the first being 1659- 60; the second 1673; the third 1674- 77; the  fourth 1692 and the fifth war 1700- 03. It is recorded that by 1700 several Khoikhoi whose economic backbone had been decimated  found themselves as servants in the farms on land they had previously owned or had become dependent on the colony  for their livelihood, to this day. Their cattle and grazing pastures  had been seized by the Dutch East India Company and their chiefs  had been subordinated. Frequent raids were sent into the interior and brought back thousands of cattle and sheep. Going forward, as a country, in the next decade 2020-2029, we would do well to find a way and a process by which we should honour the heroes and heroines of the KhoiSan people. The Ministry of Arts, at national ,provincial and local government levels would well to lead this process, as the National Council of Khoisan as well as all the reference groups, would guide the process, in the compilation of leaders to be so honoured as well as the strategic sites where the statues would and should be located.

3. There can be no doubt that such a memorial-type park like Freedom Park in  Pretoria would have to be around Cape Town, where it all started. The question to be settled would be where exactly in Cape Town, and it here where the people concerned, including experts like Dr Ruben Richards would have to be consulted. It is imperative that this project be undertaken, as articulated by Dr Ruben Richards in Volume 1, where he says: “Unfortunately, the narrative (ie history) of the original inhabitants and their descendants is one written in  tears of blood rather than tears of joy and jubilation. A poignant moment in this regard was in  2012, during the State of the Nation speech by South African President Zuma when he drew the South African nation,s attention to this  narrative of blood. While it was his predecessor, President Thabo Mbeki who was the first to formally acknowledge  the atrocities experienced by the Khoisan people, it was President Zuma who was first to make an undertaking that this unjust history needed to be addressed.”  

4. 2020 seems to be both the year and the decade in  which this project must be undertaken and implemented, to the minutest detail, once  for all, in  the spirit of restoration,  rebuilding  the ruins of our past, and inclusiveness. We owe it to this generation of the descendants of the KhoiSan, the Coloured people, as well as future generations, that  this history is  told, not just in  books, in  libraries, and all information storage places, but also, and more  importantly, in physical  form in statues in a memorial park, where it can be displayed , for all the world to see. If not any reason, but precisely for the point made by Dr Ruben Richards: “The corrective measure required  is to acknowledge  that such a group of people do exist phenotypically and that they are not second-class citizens, but in  fact , they carry the soul of South Africa in their veins … Coloured people are a gift to South Africa as the  progenitors of what it means to be a non-racial fully integrated society.”


Dr Wallace Amos Mgoqi writes in his personal capacity.


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