Bill to empower disadvantaged communities

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma today lauded Adam Kok I, the Griqua leader who 300 years ago stood up to colonial authority, as "one of the greatest warriors ever produced by our country" and said a new bill would aim to empower the Khoi, San, Nama, Korana and Griqua communities, which continued to be disadvantaged.

"The former slave and cook for colonial governors of that era, Adam Kok decided he was not going to fold his arms and allow people to take his land and oppress his people," said Zuma, speaking at the city's Good Hope Centre during the 300-year anniversary of Adam Kok.

Zuma's address followed his laying of a wreath at the Castle earlier in the day, in commemoration of Adam Kok.

The president also lauded Chief Autshumato who in 1659 battled Dutch settlers under Jan van Riebeeck and was sent to Robben Island where he became the only prisoner to ever successfully escape from the island.

Addressing members and descendents of the Khoi community, he said the Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs had identified these communities as needing to receive recognition and assistance.

The new National Traditional Affairs Bill provides for the representation of traditional leaders in municipal councils.

The bill also provides for the setting up of an advisory committee to investigate and make recommendations on the Khoisan community staff by experts on customary law and institutions of traditional groups, he said.

The bill is expected before Parliament by the end of the year, said Zuma, who pointed out that the idea is that traditional groups will be able to have a better say than in the past.

"I think what we should appreciate is that we were never consulted by the old apartheid and colonial government on any issue. Decisions were taken against us in the majority of cases and some forced down our throats," he said.

He said consultations on the bill had already been held with Khoisan community and a three-day workshop with the community was held last month.

The government plans to hold 29 consultative sessions on the new bill across the country aimed at engaging with various indigenous communities, which will commence on 20 August and run till September 16.

He said the government was also looking at honouring indigenous leaders of the past, including marking their graves as many had been buried in unmarked plots and forgotten.

Zuma was joined on stage at the Good Hope Centre by Griqua king Adam Kok V, as well as a number of government officials, such as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba, the Deputy Minister of International Relations Marius Fransman and the Western Cape MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato.

Fransman, speaking in Afrikaans, said the wreath-laying was a humbling experience because after hundreds of years people were still proud of their Khoi history.

He it is time for people to say that enough is enough and pointed out that a community that didn't know its history was destined to disappear from history.

"They called us Baster, they called us Coloured. But call us what you want, but we have a history," said Fransman, who added that the struggle for Khoi recognition in the country had been a "rough road".

King Adam Kok V said the Khoi, one of the country's first indigenous people, were still marginalised as there were 300 years ago, and called on the government

"Our people's morale is very low and therefore they venture into criminal activities. I want to call on our government to give them jobs and create job opportunities," he said.

Also addressing the crowd, Khoisan community leader Aaron Messelaar said there was a time when Khoi people had been discriminated against and had to work in the kitchen and had been denied education.

He said the inhumanity and racial classification of the past had angered Khoi, but today the Khoi wanted to stand together to make a difference. Said Messelaar: "Ons is die grond en die grond is ons (We are the earth and earth is us)".