To Restore the Mighty Khoisan

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IN recent times a few efforts were made to bring together what was termed the First Nations of the Khoisan, namely, the Nama, the Basters, the San, the Griekwa, and the Coloureds in a political block alliance. This move was spearheaded by the late Hans Diergaardt of the Rehoboth Basters and it was intended to be a political block against political domination by a numerically strong SWAPO. These efforts failed to lift off seemingly because they were made for the wrong reason and because it sought an alliance rather than a true unity. During 2005, however, the Khoisan Social Political Movement was formed for the following historical, social and political reasons, amongst others: The Khoisan having occupied the south-western part of the continent faced the brunt of the colonial onslaught of West European powers beginning as early as 500 years ago. Their armed resistance was also the most tenacious stretching over a period of 400 years. However, the prices paid were enormous and tragic: They were eventually driven over the Orange River by settler encroachment and systematic expropriation by the colonial state; the rest of their kin found themselves in semi-bondage in South Africa; they were fragmented into Coloured, Nama, Baster, Griekwa and San; the vastly greater number were ‘deculturalised’ both as official policy, but also by a degenerate social value system in which to be white held an absolute advantage. The original language of Nama was lost to this majority. European imperialism relentlessly pursued them into Namibia where they took the final stand. The last tribes were disarmed during the 1920’s: the Bondelswartz in the April 1922 massacre at Warmbad, and the Basters in 1925. What was left of their vast lands were reduced to a number of patches of land in which some of the Khoisan still owned land while the vast majority were employed in the cities and on settler farms. Some of these patches were in the Western Province, Amandelboom and Williston; Schietfontein; De Tuin; Leliefontein; Komagas; Concordia; Pella; Steinkopf; Richtersveld; Griqualand West, Phillippolis. In the Eastern Cape, Kat-River Land and in Natal, Griqualand East. The Khoisan suffered a number of additional insults and expropriations at the hands of western imperialism. Perhaps the crudest and greatest insult was when they put the preserved body of Saartjie Baardman on display in a Paris Museum. Besides the mineral rights in the land they also took to appropriating Khoisan intellectual property: rock paintings, many of great archaeological and artistic value such as the so-called White Lady of the Brandberg. Khoisan Intellectual Property Expropriated The rock engravings draw for example 2 000 visitors per day in the high season and at least 50 in the low season to the Brandberg in terms of surveys conducted on tourism. A vast number of herbal remedies were also appropriated with neither permission nor compensation. Visiting the so-called Bushman Art Shop in Windhoek’s main thoroughfare reveal the extent to which the San have suffered under the expropriation of their intellectual property. At almost any day of the year this shop is crowded by tourists paying high prices for San artefacts and pieces of art, prints on T-shirts, books, etcetera, of San art. Yet, while the San communities in Southern Africa are in crises of eviction, extreme poverty and social disintegration, their property rakes in tens if not hundreds of millions for others. The question must now be posed, what is the Khoisan and why the Khoisan? The Khoisan are all those who have the common Nama and/or San ancestry. That ancestry establishes their inalienable heritage to the struggle against their expropriation. They need their cultural identity to resurge as the mighty force that they once were and which they indeed still potentially are, this time to contribute to the true freedom of the entire Africa. This power is necessary to stem social degeneration and re-establish the Khoisan as an equal people and to restore their rights. The Khoisan cultural development is said to stretch over an unbroken period of 40,000 years and the language is considered amongst academic circles as one of the most complex. Its reclamation is therefore of the utmost importance for our contributions to world culture for instance. There is a burning question, as to whether there is a possibility and signs of any resurgence of the Khoisan as an empowered people? Resurgence Just across the Orange River, there is the Richtersveld from where the Bondelzwarts, the Witkams and Basters made their last flight to Namibia. In 1998, the communities of the Richtersveld took the South African Government and a state owned diamond company Alexkor Limited to court for restitution of land and mineral rights. The community was dispossessed of a strip of diamondiferous land in the mid 1920’s after the discovery of diamonds there. The case was decided on 29 April 2004 in the Land Claims Court of South Africa. Both the land and mineral rights of the community were restored. This victory undoubtedly together with the return of Saartjie Baardman must be regarded as the beginning of the resurgence of the Khoisan or at least as significant signs of a consequential policy to resurrect the best traditions and properties of the Khoisan. Our slogan is, without the resurgence and the full restoration of the Khoisan, Africa cannot be free. This is not just a grandiose or melodramatic slogan, but the Khoisan have the skill, the cultural heritage and the tenacity as an indispensable part of the restoration of Africa. The entire tragedy of Africa is embodied in the systematic erosion of the Khoisan social fabric. But, its hope lies in the grand scheme to restore the mighty Khoisan.

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