Protesting Khoisan claim they have been told to move to allow grass to grow

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.

READ: Khoisan will continue to camp outside Union Buildings until their demands are met

"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.

New group at the Union Buildings

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 R460m 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.

Previous Khoisan protest

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.

READ MORE: Presidency 'still committed' to addressing Khoisan concerns amid threats to declare independence

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 underway aimed at addressing some of their concerns, and urged them to participate in these processes.

Demands

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.

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