Communities of the Western Cape are not all buying the premise of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, which proposes different forms of recognition for Khoi-San traditional communities and those in the former Bantustans.
Participants at public hearings last week at Swellendam and Oudtshoorn largely welcomed the proposal of the Bill, which allows for the first time for formal recognition of Khoi and San traditional communities.
But land for Khoi-San people quickly emerged as a missing element in the draft proposed to consolidate and update legislation giving effect to the Constitution’s recognition of traditional leadership.
Equally worrying for most communities was the proposal that Khoi-San communities should be recognised subject to the approval of a commission and the premier of their province.
Speakers largely rejected the proposed recognition of communities based on people who align themselves with a Khoi-San traditional leader while traditional communities in the former Bantustans are recognised on the basis of the land they own or occupy.
John Klaasen, who described himself as the “last Strandloper”, cautioned in Swellendam that the recognition of Khoi-San leaders and chiefs could trigger a grab for the personal benefits of recognition when the focus should be on land.
The TKLB provides for unspecified salaries for senior Khoi-San leaders and allowances for members of Khoi-San councils.
“When the government starts talking about money, then from behind every bush another Khoi-San leader stands up. We should be talking about land, not money,” Klaasen said.
All he wanted, he said, was ownership for his people of a five-kilometre stretch of coast near to Hermanus where they could fish and practice their culture.
MP Amos Masondo, who led the parliamentary delegation at both hearings, urged participants to pursue land claims separately and to focus on the mechanisms for recognition.
In Oudtshoorn, Queen Martha Adendorf backed the general welcome of a Bill proposing recognition, but angrily dismissed the conditions for recognition.
“We did not come here from somewhere else. We were here from the beginning. We are the first nation of South Africa. Our resources were taken from us, but now we have to come here and be treated as beggars,” she said.
Another speaker echoed her point. “We are not on your land, you are on our land,” he said.
Many speakers at the hearings in Swellendam and Oudtshoorn echoed calls at earlier hearings that recognition and oversight should be removed from the authority of premiers and given to the national minister of traditional affairs.
In spite of their many proposals for amendment of the Bill, almost all the speakers in Swellendam and Oudtshoorn urged that it should be processed and adopted soon.
“It’s not our ideal, but it is a foot in the door. We need to get this Bill approved and adopted and then we can work with it further,” said Griqua leader Anthony le Fleur.
At earlier hearings in the Northern Cape, many delegates said the Bill should be delayed until the languages, land rights, cultural practices and indigenous knowledge of the Khoi-San had been officially recognised.
Masondo did not respond to specific reservations and proposals, but promised that all the concerns raised would be discussed by the portfolio committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and considered in amendments that might be made.
Public hearings continue in the Eastern Cape this month and will resume early in 2017 in other provinces, including those with large numbers of land-based traditional communities.