AN overwhelming majority of the Khoisan who attended a strategic conference at Church Christ in Arcadia at the weekend want recognition and to be included regarding the issue of land expropriation.
The various Khoisan groups and representatives from across the country had gathered to discuss a solid way forward regarding their demands as the country’s first inhabitants.
The Khoisan 6, who have been camping outside the Union Buildings since November, joined the gathering.
The group said the conference formed part of the strategy they had adopted to put pressure on the government to recognise them as the first nation of South Africa.
Chief among the items on their agenda was a ceremonial hand-over of all land in the country to the Khoisan community before the government moves forward with land expropriation without compensation.
The conference, which was expected to have a large turn out, didn’t go ahead as only about 60 people attended. However, that did not stop the representatives from highlighting their challenges.
Convener and Khoisan activist Dr Leonard Martins spoke angrily about how indigenous people had been left out - including during apartheid and even after the dawn of democracy in 1994.
He complained about the “continued exclusion and non-recognition of the Khoisan by the ANC and the democratic government”.
Martins said the Khoisan , the first inhabitants of southern Africa and one of the earliest distinct groups known as Homo sapiens, endured centuries of gradual dispossession at the hands of every new wave of settlers, including the Bantu, whose descendants make up most of the country’s black population today.
“Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ANC has embarked on a mission to redistribute land. But this process has largely excluded the Khoisan, because South Africa does not acknowledge them as the country’s first peoples, and their land was mostly taken long before the apartheid era.”
Now, a growing movement of indigenous activists believes the time has come to take back what’s theirs.
Reiterating Martins' call was Chief Khoisan SA, who said: “Why is everyone talking about the land but silent about the first nation people? When everybody came here, they found our forefathers here.”
The group said a strategic re-orientation was necessary to tackle the oppressive societal circumstances that prevailed and confronted the descendants of Khoisan people in South Africa.
They said they were tired of oppression and would be writing a report, to be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa. “We are on edge and urge the president to take the report seriously or all hell will break loose,” he said.
The government has passed the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill, but the Khoisan has rejected it.
The bill is aimed at recognising Khoisan communities, leaders and structures, but also affects people living under customary rule in the former homelands.
Other issues discussed at the conference were religious values, culture, languages, land rights, economic empowerment and Khoisan non-governmental organisations.