There's a Khoisan on Zuma's stoep

2017-12-23 07:38
Khoisan Chief SA with the activists outside the Union Buildings. (Leon Sadiki/City Press)

Khoisan Chief SA with the activists outside the Union Buildings. (Leon Sadiki/City Press)

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Pretoria – Under the gaze of the Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, four Khoisan have entered into the 15th day of their hunger strike, which could prove fatal if their wish to meet the president does not come to fruition soon.

Barefoot and only wearing loincloths made from buck skin, 49-year-old leader Chief Khoisan SA, Brendon Billings, 37, and Shane Plaatjies, 23, have walked more than 1 200km from the Eastern Cape to Gauteng in an attempt to have the Khoisan people recognised as the first nation in SA.

The challenges did not end as they finished their journey.

Sitting under a tree in what they call their kraal, Chief Khoisan SA has suffered extreme fatigue, malaise and weight loss of 34kg.

Christian Martin, 37, who joined them at the Union Buildings, has lost 26kg and is suffering from hypoglycaemia as a result of malnourishment.

Martin is also suffering from several conditions and has severe fatigue and hypertension, which can cause a stroke if not treated.

'Recognise us'

A medical report has also stated that, if Chief Khoisan SA continues to refuse treatment and continues the hunger strike, he could suffer a heart-related condition and dehydration, that could lead to a coma.

Their medical prognosis stems from the hunger strike, which they embarked on more than two weeks ago in their bid to hand over a memorandum to President Jacob Zuma or his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Like their unyielding temperament to meet and hand over a memorandum, their demand is immovable: "Recognise us as the first nation of South Africa.

"We have embarked on a fast and we will remain fasting until one of them comes, if they do not come quickly they will find our bodies here," said Chief Khoisan SA.

"We are not going to move unless the president or the deputy president comes to sign the memorandum."

Their battle for recognition started with a 1 200km journey.

Having done the entire journey barefoot and in traditional wear, Chief Khoisan SA says they experienced extreme weather conditions which tested their character and faith in their mission.

'Walking in the hail'

They have braved heavy winds, harsh rains, scorching heat and even walked for 5km in a hail storm as they made their way toward the Union Buildings.

"Walking in the hail was the worst. When the hail stopped, we were amazed to see on the side of the road, the ice formed small little mounds," Chief Khoisan SA.

"We had to connect ourselves with our spirituality. That is why we could walk through hail and survive."

Often without formal shelter, they had to pitch tents on the side of the road to sleep in, tents which did not hold out to the heavy rains, leaving them drenched on more than one occasion.

For food and water, they went back to their ancestral guidance, rummaging for roots which are full of water and a source of edible food.

"We ate from nature, eating roots and stuff to survive."

At the end of each day, their bodies ached and their feet had taken a beating from walking on the hot asphalt on hot days.

The journey became a little easier as people started reading about their story and opened their hearts and homes to them, Chief Khoisan SA said.

The group landed on the president's stoep on November 30, hoping to hand over their memorandum before making their spiritual journey back home.

Their first attempt to enter the Union Buildings proved unsuccessful as they were turned away because police deemed their traditional attire inappropriate, Martin said.

They set up a kraal under a tree among the well-kept gardens, close to the watchful eye of the Madiba statue, with the beautiful flora and flocking pigeons as their only neighbours.

Instead of huts, they set up tents and to complete the kraal, it's enclosed by pine cones to signify that they may be on Zuma's proverbial door step, but this little village is theirs.

"It's normally when Khoisan have to meet and talk they sit around a tree as it provides shade," Chief Khoisan SA explains why they picked that specific spot.

'We are not going to give up'

Chief Khoisan SA says that South Africans from all walks of life have also visited their kraal, donating food and water, which they have shared with the homeless who sleep in the park at the bottom of the Union Buildings.

Since arriving in Pretoria,the Khoisan have been met by officials from the Ministry for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) as well as various officials within the presidency, including Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

However, they want Zuma or Ramaphosa.

Over and above sleeping in a police station on one occasion after refusing to leave the Union Buildings, protesting outside of Nasrec during the ANC elective conference, the Khoisan four have also been on what is proving to be a very dangerous hunger strike.

"You see, when you look at our medical report from Christian, he can have a stroke if he continues, If I continue, I'll go into a coma," said Chief Khoisan SA.

He said paramedics asked them to eat, or at the very least let them administer a drip, which both Martin and the chief refused.

"We will continue, we can't go home and be the laughing stock, our people won't listen to us or trust us if we don't see the president or deputy president. We will continue."

Martin said that they would continue the hunger strike, but said their families have been growing more and more concerned as they read the reports on the hunger strike.

"My son phoned me this morning and he wanted to come up," said Martin. "We are obviously concerned about our health."

In the same breath, he said: "We are not going to give up."

Martin explains that they want to hand a memorandum over to Zuma demanding that they be recognised as the first nation of SA, have Kwadi–Khoe listed as an official language, Khoisan be identified as such and not as coloured and that the Khoisan be given land and resources to continue their cultures and traditions.

"We can't speak about unity and diversity and leave the Khoi out of it who are the first indigenous people of the country," said Martin.

Sunburnt, hungry and their health deteriorating Chief Khoisan SA, Martin, Billings and Plaatjies remain on the stoep of the Union Buildings hoping that their pleas will be heard by Zuma.

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Read more on:    pretoria  |  khoisan  |  politics  |  land  |  human rights

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