/ 9 August 2022

Khoisan people march to constitutional court

(Sonri Naidoo)

Khoi and San people marched to the constitutional court on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum in which they demanded that their indigenous rights be recognised, equally applied and upheld in South Africa.

The march was held on Tuesday, 9 August, which is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The Khoisan feel they have been neglected and that South Africa’s Constitution does not recognise their rights. 

Khoisan chief Neville Felix said his people were calling for the scrapping of the apartheid racial classification of “coloured” and instead the recognition of the self-identification of South African indigenous peoples in the terms chosen by themselves.

“Without our inclusion in the South African Constitution and socioeconomic policy drivers of change, our next generation will flounder in rising poverty, inequality and

unemployment, while the neo-colonial democratic system remains unjust and

Illegitimate. It is imperative that we alter the course of our future in order for our being and culture to survive and thrive into the 22nd century and beyond,” Felix said.

“After 342 years of colonial oppression came a further 28 years of oppression under the African National Congress-led democratic government. As noted by the South African Human Rights Commission report to the United Nations, the genocide against us continues. In 1989-1992 we were excluded from the Convention for a Democratic South Africa as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996.”

Sitting in the middle of the road, a young woman held up a placard with the words: “We are not coloured, we are older than the apartheid classification, we are Khoi and San the real landowners of SA.”

South Africa’s Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act 3 of 2019 provides for, among others, the recognition of traditional and Khoisan communities and leadership positions  and the recognition, establishment, functions, roles and administration of kingship or queenship councils, principal traditional councils, traditional councils, Khoisan councils and traditional sub-councils. The Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act says office bearers including traditional leaders may receive compensation for the work they do. 

Khoi and San community member Elmary Barry, who attended the march, said she was worried that the generation growing up now would lose their identity and sense of belonging because they did not have possession of land taken from their ancestors.

“Our children need to know where they come from and where they exist. We want the government to recognise us. Especially with our language Khoekhoe, which needs to be among the official languages of this country,” said Barry.

The memorandum with 46 demands was received by an official of the constitutional court who wished to remain anonymous.