The Khoi and San people’s long road to recognition

Former president Thabo Mbeki meets with Khoi and San activists and chiefs
Former president Thabo Mbeki meets with Khoi and San activists and chiefs
Image: Thabo Mbeki Foundation

For the Khoi and San people the journey for recognition started 25 years ago when SA held its first democratic elections.

The government only started the process of promoting and protecting the Khoi and San people’s rights in 2004.

Eight years ago the Traditional and Khoi and San Leadership Governance Bill was introduced t by former president Jacob Zuma.

But before being signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday, it went through many phases and name changes since Zuma introduced the bill in parliament in 2011.

Initially, it was called the National Traditional Affairs Bill, then in 2015 it was changed to the Traditional and Khoi and San Leadership Governance Bill, which is what it is called now.

The new bill gives recognition to Khoi and San communities, leaders and councils.

It also guarantees women involvement in decision-making, with the make-up of the various councils obliged to ensure a 30% representation, while also granting traditional councils the power to enter into deals with any sphere of government, body or institution.

The bill went through the process of public hearings before being approved by eight of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces after several amendments had been made.

Khoi and San activist Christian Martin said a meeting held by former president Nelson Mandela in 1996 with 21 chiefs from across the country saw the rights of indigenous people in SA being meaningfully discussed for the first time.

“A National Khoi and San Committee was formed and the idea was that the committee would come to an end once the bill was signed.

“After the signing of the bill, it was stated that a Traditional Khoi and San Commission would be established after the act was signed into law.”

“The commission will look at proof of evidence for people who believe they are traditional Khoi and San leaders,” Martin said.