Public Works seeks court order to evict protesting Khoisan from Union Buildings

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Chief Khoisan SA was symbolically elected as the nation’s leader on Wednesday.
Chief Khoisan SA was symbolically elected as the nation’s leader on Wednesday.
PHOTO: Alex Mitchley, News24
  • Public Works has gone to court seeking an order to evict the group of Khoisan, who have been protesting outside the Union Buildings.
  • The group have been protesting outside of the official seat of the South African government for nearly two years. 
  • Protesting to be recognised as the first indigenous nation in South Africa, the group said they would not leave even if an eviction order was granted. 

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has gone to court for an eviction order to remove the group of Khoisan, who have been protesting outside of the Union Buildings for nearly two years.

The date, 30 November, will mark two years since the small group of protesters arrived at the official seat of the South African government after making the arduous 1 200km journey, from the Eastern Cape, on foot.

The group, led by King Khoisan SA came with four demands, namely:
  • The Khoisan people must be recognised as the first indigenous nation in South Africa;
  • The label "coloured" must be removed from all official papers as a reference for people of mixed colour, and be replaced with "Khoisan";
  • Kwadi–Khoe must be listed as an official language in South Africa; and
  • The Khoisan must be given land and resources to continue their culture and traditions.

Almost two years in, and the Khoisan on President Cyril Ramaphosa's stoep have never faced the threat of a court order, but were made aware from the beginning that they were not welcome.

Khoisan SA said the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure had previously tried to get them to leave by switching off the lights in the area, and allegedly threatened to open a case of vandalism after stones from a wall were taken and placed to anchor the tents of the Khoisan.

The Khoisan kraal at the Union Buildings
The Khoisan kraal at the Union Buildings in Pretoria with Chief Khoisan SA in the background.
The camp set up by the Khoisan
The camp set up by the Khoisan who have been at the Union Buildings since November 2018, demanding that they be recognised as the first nation of SA.

Khoisan SA also believed that the removal of their dagga plants, "for medicinal purposes", was also part of the action to make the Union Buildings inhospitable.

There have also been requests for the Khoisan to move, and most recently they were asked to go to a homeless shelter just before the hard lockdown was put into effect in March.

On Friday, the department confirmed to News24 that they had "gone to court to apply for an eviction order of the people illegally occupying the Union Building grounds".

WATCH | If coronavirus does not kill us, hunger will - Khoisan protesting outside Union Buildings

The order had not yet been granted.

Khoisan SA said they were informed that an eviction order was being sought, but that they were resolute in their protest and would have to be forcibly removed.

"If we are given a court order for eviction, we will not accept the eviction note, we will not sign for the eviction note and we will tell the officials that we need the president to engage with us regarding the issues that has been brought forward," Khoisan SA said.

Khoisan Chief SA was inaugurated
Khoisan Chief SA was inaugurated at the Union Buildings on Wednesday.
Chief Khoisan SA at the Union Buildings
Chief Khoisan SA was symbolically elected as the nation’s leader on Wednesday.

News24 sent questions to the Presidency about the demands made by the protesting group and the progress made in meeting these demands or finding an amicable solution. These answers will be added once received.

In 2017, Khoisan SA and three others made a similar journey to the Union Buildings in an attempt to be recognised.

Things took a dangerous turn when the four of them embarked on a hunger strike that lasted close to a month.

READ | Khoisan will continue to camp outside Union Buildings until their demands are met

News24 reported that Khoisan SA suffered extreme fatigue, malaise and that he had lost 34kg. Christian Martin, 37, who joined in the hunger strike at the Union Buildings, lost 26kg and suffered from hypoglycaemia as a result of malnourishment.

The group left after Ramaphosa, then the deputy president, received a memorandum of demands, but returned months later because of an alleged lack of progress in meeting the demands.

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