Almost nine months after Khoisan protesters set up a makeshift kraal outside the Union Buildings next to Nelson Mandela’s statue, they say they are now being forced to move so that the grass can grow back.
Sitting in the middle of the kraal surrounded by protest posters and worn tents, Chief Khoisan SA, who has led the protest since the end of November 2018, maintained the kraal would remain where it was until their demands were met.
This after an official from the Department of Public Works allegedly told them they would be moved to a different area to allow the grass to grow back.
“We will stand our ground, we are not going to move,” Chief Khoisan SA told News24 on Tuesday.
Many of the protesters believed they were being moved to a different area because the Mandela statue was a popular tourist attraction.
“Out of sight, out of mind,” one protester commented.
News24 contacted the Public Works Department for comment, which was not received at the time of publishing.
Chief Khoisan SA also invited a new group into the kraal on Monday, effectively making the circle bigger.
The new group, mainly made up of elderly people, is asking President Cyril Ramaphosa for an audience, alleging they are owed more than R460 million in compensation for being asbestos miners in Kuruman, the Northern Cape.
“They were on the bottom lawns but we invited them here with us. We didn’t want them to be outside without the protection of the tents,” Chief Khoisan SA said.
In 2017, he and three others made a similar journey to the Union Buildings. Matters took a dangerous turn when they embarked on a hunger strike that lasted nearly a month.
News24 reported at the time that Chief Khoisan SA suffered extreme fatigue, malaise and that he lost 34kg.
Christian Martin, 37, who joined them at the Union Buildings, lost 26kg and suffered from hypoglycaemia as a result of malnourishment.
In December 2017, Ramaphosa, who was deputy president at the time, received their list of demands and said he would meet with them again. A year later, in December 2018, the Presidency issued a statement outlining his engagements with the Khoisan delegation, undertaken by senior officials.
The Presidency said the group had been informed of a number of parliamentary and other processes under way aimed at addressing some of their concerns, and urged them to participate in these processes.
The demands of the Khoisan activists include:
• The Khoisan people must be recognised as the first indigenous nation in South Africa;
• The label “coloured” must be removed from all official papers as a reference to people of mixed race and be replaced with Khoisan;
• Kwadi–Khoe must be listed as an official language in South Africa;
• The Khoisan must be given land and resources to continue their cultures and traditions.