JOHANNESBURG– The newly elected leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday accepted in person the memorandum of grievances from the Khoisan tribesman, who had camped in protest at Union Buildings for the last 23 days.
Led by Chief Khoisan SA the group of four men, who represent about 20,000 indigenous people, set up camp on the lawns of the seat of government and demanded that President Jacob Zuma or his deputy, Ramaphosa, accept their memorandum in which they demand, among other things, that they be recognised as the “First Nation”.
Reports suggested that the health of the men, who had embarked on a hunger strike to force a meeting with Zuma or his deputy, had deteriorated to dangerous levels. One of the men had even been taken to the hospital.
A terse statement from the presidency confirmed that Ramaphosa had met the men and “received on behalf of President Jacob Zuma a memorandum from a delegation of KhoiBushmen Liberation Walkers”.
“Deputy President Ramaphosa received the memorandum near the Nelson Mandela statue in the Union Buildings gardens, where the group of four had set up camp to highlight land and identity issues,” said the statement.
“On receiving the memorandum, Deputy President Ramaphosa assured the delegation that the memorandum would be given the necessary consideration.”
The newly elected ANC leader also informed the group of the passage by the National Assembly of a Bill that gives recognition to the Khoisan community and its heritage.
Ramaphosa said the next step would be the submission of the Bill to the National Council of Provinces. “This process demonstrated government’s determination to attend to the concerns of this community in a responsible and consultative manner.”
The Khoisan men, who walked about 1,200 km from their villages in the Eastern Cape to Pretoria, left for home soon after meeting with Ramaphosa.
Before they departed Chief Khoisan SA told the African News Agency (ANA) that the mission was accomplished.
“The deputy president came to us and he took the memorandum, he signed it. That was why we were here the whole time. We are glad about this because this will now mean we will be with our families for Christmas … What is also positive about our staying here is we have basically united a lot of races, coming together,” the 49-year-old leader of the tribe said.
“There was support from everybody, and that was a positive thing about this.”
In their memorandum, the Khoisan demand recognition from the South African government as “First Citizens” of the republic.
“We are asking for ‘First Nation’ status. [We want] our language to be made an official language,” explained Chief Khoisan SA.
He said the Khoisan also demand, in the memorandum, that the the Land Claim [Act] of 1913 be scrapped or ammended because they feel it prevents them from making successful claims.
Chief Khoisan SA said his tribe also want “the Coloured identity” ascribed to them done away with. “That is not who we are.”
African News Agency (ANA)