Land: The people speak - 'Land tells the truth,' committee hears in Upington

2018-06-28 18:19

"Land looks like me. Land speaks the truth," !'Aru Ikhuisi Piet Berendse told the Constitutional Review Committee in Upington on Thursday morning.

Dressed in his traditional garb, with a bow and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder, he started his address in Afrikaans.

!Aru Ikhuisi Piet Berendse speaks to the Constitutional Review Committee in Upington on Thursday. (Jan Gerber/News24)

"As a boesman, landless. As a boesman, cultureless," he said.

He told the committee he was glad they were there.

"Give us our land that belongs to us back. Give us our values that belong to us back (sic), " he said.

Outside the venue, he proudly told News24 that he had a very important name. It means Cheetah and Vulture.

And he often dresses in his traditional garb, even when he has to take a flight.

"When I get onto the plane, it's just photos being taken," he says with a smile.

Berendse leads an interesting life. He is a trained tracker who has appeared in movies, most recently in a film called Origins, and is a writer. But he stays true to his culture. He said he'll be going to the Vryfees Arts Festival in Bloemfontein shortly to conduct a ceremony.

While some people see the term "boesman" as derogatory, he owns it.

READ: Land: The people speak - Public hearings head to Upington and Mokopane

When you go to the Kalahari, Namibia and Botswana, the people look at you funny when you ask where is the San, he says. But when you ask for the "boesmans", they know exactly who you are talking about.

He says there are many organisations who represent the boesman, but he doesn't know them.

"We aren't acknowledged in decision-making processes," he says.

He wants his cultural land back, but is not keen on expropriation without compensation.

"Those farmers, they didn't steal the land. They bought the land."

While the issue of the so-called Khoi and San getting their land back was a hot topic during Thursday's hearing, with many speakers calling for it, many agreed with Berendse on the compensation matter.

Simon Kok of the SA National Civic Organisation in Upington said the land must be returned without compensation because when Jan van Riebeeck arrived in 1652 with his three ships, the ships didn't have any land on them.

A fiery Stanley Pietersen, a member of the National Khoisan Council said: "Ons kan nie oor wette praat as ons nie kop toe geneem word nie! (We can't be talking about laws if we're not taken seriously.)"  

'Give back our land!'

He delivered a plea to return the land to South Africa's first people before anything else was done.

"Give back our land!" some people in the back of the hall yelled.

Nico Visagie, who represented the Upington Unemployed Youth group said they were looking at the people who first inhabited the land, to approving murmurs from some people in the hall. 

He strongly objected to the state owning all the land, because this will make him a lifelong tenant. 

Proceedings got under way at 11:00, with many people queuing outside the Tol Speelman Community Hall in Rosedale, Upington.

Those who didn't make it into the hall were accommodated outside in an overflow area, and would also be allowed to speak if they so choose, committee co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande said. 

During a break, Berendse performed a ceremony, burning some herbs.

The hearing continues.

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Read more on:    upington  |  land hearings  |  land  |  land expropriation

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