Khoisan leader gives Ramaphosa ultimatum amid threat to go independent

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)

Khoisan leader Chief Khoisan SA has given President Cyril Ramaphosa until New Year's Day, or else he says the Khoisan people will declare independence from South Africa.

The chief said that he had given the president more than enough time to consider his memorandum of demands, which he personally handed to Ramaphosa, deputy president at the time, at the Union Buildings in December 2017.

READ: There's a Khoisan on Zuma's stoep

The demands are that government should recognise the Khoisan people as the first indigenous nation in South Africa, and that the label "coloured" be removed from all official papers as reference to people of mixed colour, and be replaced with "Khoisan".

Khoisan SA claims that the government has been ignoring his tribe for years, and that it was "about time it listened to concerns from the first citizens of the country (The Khois)".

"The president has not yet made contact with us, and we will not want to pre-empt anything at this stage until the time is right," he said.

READ MORE: The forgotten people of South Africa

Khoisan SA, along with five others, has protested outside the Union Buildings since November 30.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said on Sunday that the demands were on "complex matters which the group wants government to address instantly".

She said that the group has also met with two senior officials from the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, but had refused to hand their "notice" to them or to Presidency director-general, Dr Cassius Lubisi.

"The collection has since returned to the South Lawns of the Union Buildings to demand that the president personally receive a notice in support of their 2017 memorandum," said Diko.

ALSO READ: Democracy for rural people under threat

While threats to go independent still linger, Khoisan SA said that lobby groups in the US, Russia, Botswana and Namibia had declared their support for such a move, and if government fails to come forward to "deal" with their challenges, they'll now begin a process of "engaging on ways to share the country's budget and mineral resources".

"Those who were supposed to be the richest people in the country are the poorest, and engulfed by drugs and gangsterism, and we need a redress in that matter," said Khoisan SA.

Government on Sunday said it has done all it could to address the group's concerns.

Presidency responds

In a statement, the Presidency said that the government had made big strides on the promotion and recognition of the Khoi and San languages, through the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB).

This included the development of a Khoekhoegowab Dictionary Glossarium, 500 copies of which have been distributed.

Two memorandums were also signed, one with the National Arts Council and another with Namibia, to further develop the language, and to protect and train educators.

An indigenous people's conference was also held in 2017, attended by 300 delegates from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, and another PANSALB workshop was planned.

ALSO READ: Presidency 'still committed' to addressing Khoisan concerns amid threats to declare independence

"Regarding the demand to remove the word 'coloured', the group was informed that such removal could not be effected without following a public consultation process", said Diko.

Diko said that, accordingly, it proposed to the group that Cabinet could be approached to consider amending relevant government forms to include the name Khoisan as part of the classification of communities in South Africa, but without removing the word "coloured" at this stage.

"Cabinet could be requested also to approve a public participation process on the word 'coloured'. This process could provide direction on the future of this terminology or discourse", Diko said.

Khoisan SA said that they would remain at the Union Buildings "until the President came down to respond to our demands", or alternatively to discuss the redistribution of land and minerals to its "rightful owners".

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