October 7, 2003

Khoi and San pursue self-determination

Khoi and San chiefs will remain outside the traditional leaders and governance framework legislation as they continue to pursue self-determination and recognition of their status as South Africa's original indigenous inhabitants. The Khoi and San, fractured across several provinces, are seeking First Nation Status under United Nations declarations on the rights of indigenous peoples and the International Labour Organisation convention - similar to the recognition accorded to Aboriginals in Australia or the Saami in the northern reaches of Scandinavia.

During recent parliamentary public hearings on the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill, Department of Provincial and Local Government officials admitted that there were "significant differences" between the Khoi, San and other traditional leadership structures that warranted a separate process.

"It is obvious that the existing terms of the Bill was never drafted to cover indigenous Khoi and San structures," said ministerial adviser Zam Titus, adding that Khoi and San communities were frequently found in urban areas while the Bill primarily applied to rural traditional communities.

Further meetings between Department of Provincial and Local Government officials and the National Khoi-San Council are planned to discuss their quest for self-determination and related issues such as land claims, heritage and language recognition. "We are a broken community that is trying to revitalise itself," Chief Joseph Little, chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council, told MPs.

Meanwhile, the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill has sought to set uniform national standards and norms for traditional leadership, democratise such rule and bring it in line with the Bill of Rights. Parliament wants to finalise the Bill by October 17, so it can be adopted before the year-end recess. Thereafter each province must enact its own law to give effect to the national provisions. (Mail&Guardian, Johannesburg)

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