Don't call us coloureds, we are Khoisan - MPs told

Pietermaritzburg - Khoisan people want to be recognised as the indigenous people of South Africa, and some of the first steps towards this include scrapping the word "coloured" from the country's vocabulary and teaching the language of the Khoisan at schools.

These were some of the sentiments expressed in a sometimes highly charged public hearing on the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Thursday.

Danella Wilday, who was the first person to make an oral submission during the hearing, told members of Parliament's portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs that the term "coloured" was derogatory and demonstrated how the Khoisan community was marginalised both under apartheid and now the democratic government.

"Don't call us coloureds. We are Griqua people, descendants of Khoisan, and the indigenous people of South Africa. We need to be recognised as a nation," she said to the applause of the audience.

Others making submissions denounced as a stereotype the assumption that they were a racial mix of black and white, insisting that they are indigenous  people of south Africa and therefore deserved the same recognition as Nguni nations such as the Zulu and the Xhosa.

'Affirmative action does not work'

Some also expressed reservations that while traditional leaders from Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas had been allowed to sit in front alongside MPs, Khoisan traditional leaders were seated with the audience.

Niel Lowe, who is the chairperson of the Griqua Action Committee, said there was a need for more workshops so that there would be a thorough understanding of the bill.

He decried how the Khoisan are treated in South Africa and cited a number of laws which he said left them out.

"Affirmative action does not work in our favour; in fact it excludes us just like broad-based black economic empowerment. We need to be treated as indigenous people of this country," said Lowe.

He also criticised the committee for not allocating more time for discussions on the bill and its implications.

Land question

There were also calls for the Khoisan community to benefit from land redistribution.

The draft legislation would enable the Khoisan community to have traditional leaders in the form of headmen and chiefs who would enjoy the same perks as other traditional leaders in South Africa.

While there were many people who were in favour of the bill being passed into law, some community members expressed reservations about some parts of it, and also called for further workshops to be carried out by the committee. 

Committee member David Masondo acknowledged that land had been among the points of concern raised in other venues where hearings on the bill had been conducted.

He promised those attending the hearing that the matter would be brought to the attention of Land Affairs and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

The committee chairperson told the audience that another public hearing is set for Kokstad on Friday, February 3.

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