The elections this year in South Africa have as yet brought no sign of change for our peoples. The new president may have been ushered into Parliament by a Khoi praise singer last month, but there is no indication that he is listening to Khoisan concerns. We as Indigenous peoples of this land remain waiting for signs of redress for the loss of our historical landbase, lifestyle, and livelihoods. Indigenous peoples in South Africa have been doubly penalised by the decades of apartheid, and now like many other Indigenous peoples around the world, even electoral democracy does not often facilitate the needs of our communities.
We are not naïve. We do not romanticise the past, and nor do we expect a return to it. We embrace the reality of our lives in modern South Africa, and we wish to flourish within its future. But we reiterate again to this incoming government that we cannot build a future without having a firm understanding of the past. The President seems not to acknowledge our needs, ignores calls to meet with our representatives, and does not prioritise our concerns in the agenda for the country. He has not shown any impetus to address the deeply flawed governance and justice bills that will still affect the lives of many of our people, especially those like us the Cobuqua, who remain in our traditional lands which under apartheid subjected to the authority of the homelands. The proposed laws would subject us once more to apartheid-like second-class political and civil rights, with the unelected, traditional leadership gaining unprecedented authority over territories we share.
We do not think that the future of our peoples need necessarily to be separate from the future of all of South Africa. We believe that reconciliation is possible, and that we can fully grasp our future together now that we live together in this country. But to do so, we as South Africa must recognise the dispossession that we as Khoisan have faced, and by ensuring that our interests, marginalised and disenfranchised as we are, are not lost in the demands of the many.
We do not ask for anything that is different from what we believe many of our fellow South Africans want – access to a livelihood, safety for our communities, protection of our culture, and a future that guarantees our place in the web of all creation. Every South African deserves these basic things, but not every South African starts from the same place. To build a truly equitable future, we must acknowledge where history has brought each of us, and we must build from there.
And so, we ask that this new presidency take heed of our requests. We hope that the next five years are not a repeat of the last centuries for us, but that we may see hope that our plight will be addressed. If so done, we can build our lives here in collaboration with our fellow citizens, and we may continue to sing praise for this country’s future as each new day dawns.