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

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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)

The Presidency says it is still committed to addressing the concerns of members of the Khoisan community, currently camped outside the Union Buildings, who have threatened to "take (their) country back" unless their demands are met.

The group has been camped on the South Lawns at the Union Buildings since November 30, according to the Citizen. They reportedly want another audience with President Cyril Ramaphosa, similar to the one they were granted last year.

The group has reportedly raised concerns about a number of issues, which the Presidency says are "complex", including land reform and the Khoisan people’s status. They are refusing to leave the Union Buildings until their demands are met.

Last year, Ramaphosa met with a Khoisan delegation who also camped on the lawns outside the Union Buildings, until the president agreed to see them. On Christmas Eve, Ramaphosa met with them and agreed to give their concerns attention.

Independence

This time, Ramaphosa has not been able to meet the group, but the Presidency says senior government officials, including director-general in the presidency, Cassius Lubisi, have done so to update the Khoisan group on progress made. But the group doesn't appear to be satisfied with this, and threatened to declare independence on January 1.

On Saturday, the Presidency issued a statement outlining its engagements with the Khoisan delegation, undertaken by senior officials.

Among the issues raised by the Khoisan is land reform. The group says that the Khoi and San people are the only ones entitled to the country’s land and wants the land to be returned to them. They say African black people and white people have no claim to the country’s land.

They say land reform policy which states that land claims should only be limited to land taken through the 1913 Land Act must be scrapped, and want formal recognition as the "Khoisan First Nation", the Presidency said.

The group also wants Khoisan languages to be recognised among the country's official languages, and for the word "coloured" to be removed from all government documentation and replaced with the word "Khoisan".

The Presidency said on Saturday that the group has been informed of a number of Parliamentary and other processes under way aimed at addressing some of their concerns, and urged the group to participate in these.

Khoisan classification

This includes discussions on the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill under way in Parliament, as well as Parliamentary processes on land reform.

The Presidency also said that a number of steps have been taken by the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) to promote and recognise the Khoi and San languages.

The Presidency said the group was told that the word "coloured" could not be removed from government documentation without a public participation process, and that Cabinet could be asked to approve such a process.

It was proposed that Cabinet could be asked to consider including the term "Khoisan" as part of the classification of communities, without removing the term "coloured".

The Presidency also said that the group was urged to participate in the National Khoi & San Council, which met in November in Bloemfontein.

"This will make it easier for government to interface with Khoisan leaders through a single, unified and legitimate structure," Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said.

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