Bill brings Khoisan recognition closer

Traditional leader Crawford Fraser says land needed to practise their culture

Fikile Xasa
Fikile Xasa
Image: DispatchLIVE

The Khoi and San are a step closer to being legally recognised as a nation with their own traditional leaders and communities.

The Bhisho legislature adopted the Traditional KhoiSan Leadership Bill on Wednesday.

The bill aims to recognise Khoi and San structures and communities and also to include them in the House of Traditional Leaders.

It still, however, needs parliamentary approval.

The bill aims to recognise Khoi and San leadership structures and communities not yet addressed in law.

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa confirmed Bhisho had passed the bill and sent it to the National Assembly for its perusal.

Xasa said essentially the bill spoke about an inclusive traditional leadership which included Khoi and San leaders.

“The issue of jurisdiction by the traditional leaders will be addressed but for now the bill will be endorsed,” Xasa said.

Khoi and San chief Crawford Fraser said they accepted the bill knowing amendments still had to be made.

Fraser said the Khoi and San leadership were clear that the first thing they needed was land so that they could perform their rituals.

“In order for us to practise our culture, the first thing we need is land to perform our rituals that need to be exercised.

“To put us in an office to have meetings to discuss culture and we can’t live out our culture is not going to benefit us or our people,” Fraser said.

Fraser said they also wanted to be recognised as the first indigenous people of Southern Africa which, in its current form, the bill does not do.

Fraser said he recognised that the bill provided a gateway for Khoi and San leaders to sit around a table with government leaders to assist with decision making processes for their people.

Khoi and San activist and ANC MPL Christian Martin welcomed the adoption of the bill, saying he was very excited.

“Government is going in the right direction,” Martin said.

“The excitement is very high and the recognition of the Khoi and San people in the land of our birth is long overdue,” he said.

Martin said the chiefs had made submissions to amend the bill and he said he was confident those would be made because no-one was completely satisfied with it.

Meanwhile, DA MPL Vicky Knoetze did not support the bill because it required the Khoi and San people to declare their affiliation while traditional affiliations would be determined by geographic location “along the same boundaries of the old apartheid Bantustan lines”.

“The bill discriminates between so-called ‘traditional’ leaders and communities, and the Khoisan leaders and communities, by enforcing different recognition criteria.

“The geographical enforcement of traditional affiliations is unconstitutional and stands to further complicate already problematic land restitution,” Knoetze said.

Knoetze said 14 years after the Traditional Leadership Framework Act was first passed, many traditional councils had still not been established, and where they had, many were illegal and failed to meet the criteria.