But The Khoi-San Are Not Even The First South Africans?

2015-12-04 07:00

As an open minded young African analyst, keen to learn and share ideas, i often find myself in fiesty places engaging is deep discourse with various thinkers and scholars all around the world.

When the subject matter drifts South, and a little close to home, the phrase ‘Original South African’ or 'First People of South Africa' generally pops up in these contemporary debates on political and social forums, especially on The New South African Political Forum - Khuluma Afrika 2.0, which is one of the biggest and deepest political groups i have been a part of.

Central to the subject at hand, Ethnicity, like Race, has become extremely central to who is considered original South African, full South African, half South African, and who is not a South African at all.

Because most South African ethnicities are the result of migrations, debate quickly seeks to establish who really is / are the 'First South Africans'.

It is common knowledge that the streetwise stereotype dictates that Zulus, Xhosas, and Abathembu people are pure South African, together with ancient Khoi-San. The Tswana’, Sotho’s, Venda, Pedi, and Tsonga are considered less than but acceptable South Africans.

Like skin colour, tribal and / or ethnic lineage has become the hinge pin by which many a true South African is defined. This is grossly ahistorical, and ignorant of scientific research and data. Whilst on the surface ethnic differences make it easier to classify modern South Africans, and to have a yard stick in place by which we use to separate true sons of the soil from naturalized ones, we must understand that the entire process is ironically informed by blatant misinformation and ignorance of the 'difference' that defines a 'people'. The Case of The Dear Khoi-San The Khoi-San people recently protested outside parliament in Cape Town to be recognized as the first people of South Africa. Recently i wrote about how claims by the EFF that 'white people owned 80% of South Africa's land were devoid of fact, scientific reasoning, and improbable. Before i debunked that claim, using  common sense and simple reports by the surveyor general for example, the erroneous notion was thrown around in most discussions and debates, and easily accepted as fact. Given how loosely we tend to accept sensational claims without subjecting them to proper scientific analysis, i felt it imperative to analyse and fact check the claim by the Khoi-San. In a nutshell, the Khoi-San want to be recognised as the 'first people of South Africa' and they want their land claims to be recognised first before any other. Lets go back to the word 'people' Generally, the word, “people” is used to refer to a population group of humans. By implication, the Khoi-San state that they are the first population group of humans to live in South Africa. (Hang on to this, it is very important) Were the Khoi-San the first people? To begin with, before we assess whether through migration the Khoi-San were the first people of South Africa, we must asses if they were indeed the first people around the word. If we look at the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid - a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.) of the Khoi San we do find some very interesting information. According to proven scientists and research the Khoi-San are most likely the population group which is most closely associated with much earlier humans. According to scientific studies, most of humanity descends from their genome. The Khoi-San Are Genetically Closest To 'Original Humans', But are they the 'first people'? As ancient a people as the Khoi-San are, they are not the first people. In plain English, the 'first people of South Africa' have long since become extinct. To be a people, one has to be a human, to be a human one has to have the scientific classification of “homo”. For example, we are homo sapien sapien, therefore we are human. However, we are not the only species of humans to have existed. The oldest homo sapien sapien (Khoi-San) fossils we can find are around 200 000 years old and were found in Ethiopia not South Africa. Academic studies into earlier humans shows us that the Khoi-San migrated into South Africa around 20 000 years ago via the area we call Botswana today. The oldest human (genus homo) fossils we can find in South Africa either belong to Homo ergaster or Homo Gautengensis or the recently discovered Homo Naledi (possibly the oldest but empirical dating is currently under way). Homo gautengensis is older of the (date) confirmed fossils we have found. Even though there is some lingering debate around its taxonomic definition, at the very least we can say with confidence that there were peoples (multiple species of human, not just one) that existed in this part of the world over 1.7 million years ago and these first people, probably went extinct over 600 000 years ago. Between the time they existed and the time modern humans exist, many species of human have existed and become extinct. The khoi-San are separated from our ancient ancestors by a time span longer than homo sapien sapien has existed. So are the Khoi-San the first South Africans No! and they are not even close. They can however proudly claim the title of oldest surviving genome in the world. So much so that almost everyone of us genetically has a little Khoi-San in them. So, Who are 'the First South Africans'? I hate to burst the bubble here, but there are no “first people” any more. The 'first people of South Africa' are long extinct. We are all migrants or the descendant of migrants, and that includes even the ancient Khoi-San. South Africa is the cradle of humanity. This is where humanity started so everyone has an ancestral heritage and claim to South Africa. We are all children of this land, and some have decided to return home. The South African national motto is written in the language of the Khoi-San and aptly says, “!ke e: |xarra ?ke” Which in English means, “diverse people unite”. I can not think of a sentence that better captures the history of South Africa better than that sentence.

Enough Said, This is Africa!

Africa we are one, and together we shall overcome. It is homeland or death!


(Footnote: Many thanks to the scholars, thinkers, and fellow debaters on South Africa's Biggest Facebook Political Forum, Khuluma Afrika 2.0 for insightful debates and pertinent informed discourse, members of the Philosophers and Thinkers Whatsapp group as well as everyone who has sent feedback through my personal website - www.maynardmanyowa.com)

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