South Africa’s total population is around 50 million, of which indigenous groups are estimated to make up approximately 1%. Collectively, the various African indigenous communities in South Africa are known as the Khoe-San/Khoisan, comprising of the San and the Khoekhoe/ Khoi-Khoi.
The San and Khoekhoe indigenous peoples of South Africa were previously known as "coloured". Now they are exercising their right to self-identification and identify themselves as San and Khoekhoe or Khoe-San.
South Africa has voted in favour of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but has not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 169.
The San and Khoekhoe African indigenous peoples are not formally recognized in terms of national legislation as a customary community. However, this is changing with the pending Law of Traditional Leadership and Khoisan Bill, which is intended to be presented to parliament in 2017.
Indigenous peoples in South Africa
The total population of South Africa is around 50 million, of which it is estimated that indigenous groups represent approximately 1%.
Collectively, the various African indigenous communities in South Africa are known as the Khoe-San / Khoisan, which comprises the San and the Khoekhoe. The main San groups include the San Khomani who reside mainly in the Kalahari region, and the Khwe and Xun, who reside primarily in Platfontein, Kimberley.
The Khoekhoe consist of the Nama who reside mainly in the Province of the North Cape; the Koran mainly in the provinces of Kimberley and Free State; the Griqua in the provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal; and Cape Khoekhoe in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape, with increasing pockets in the provinces of Gauteng and Free State.
In contemporary South Africa, the Khoe-San communities exhibit a variety of socio-economic and cultural lifestyles and practices. The socio-political changes brought about by the current South African political system have created a space for the deconstruction of racially determined social categories of apartheid, such as "colour".
Progress: indigenous knowledge and leadership projects of Khoisan
The "Law on Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems" of 2014 establishes the protection, promotion, development and management of the communities' indigenous knowledge systems. The bill provides for the establishment and operation of a National Office of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the management of the rights of holders of indigenous knowledge.
The Indigenous Knowledge Law Project establishes how to access indigenous knowledge of local communities. In addition, the bill describes the process to register, accredit and certify indigenous knowledge professionals. The second version of this bill has been developed on the basis of the first round of entries, and this new second version was opened for public consultation in December 2016.
The South African Parliamentary Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has presented the Traditional Leadership and Khoisan Bill (formerly the National Traditional Affairs Project) before parliament in 2016. This project seeks to recognize that the historic Khoi and San communities are at with the recognition already granted to other African customary communities within South Africa.
For the first time in the last 300 years, the bill could potentially provide formal recognition and open opportunities for access to justice for the historic communities of Khoi and San. In addition, the bill would allow Khoi and San to be included in the governmental administrative processes within the various ministries and allow these ministries to make specific provisions for the social, economic and cultural priorities of the Khoi and San communities.
In 2017, the community tenure bill establishes the transfer of communal lands to their communities.
The course which is the only university course on the issue of indigenous peoples in Africa was done in collaboration with the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities with the financial support of IWGIA and ILO. It was attended by more than 40 participants from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Nepal and Indonesia, representing governmental institutions, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, academics and law students.
Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals is a pharmaceutical company that processes Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Buchu’s medicinal qualities are associated with the traditional knowledge of the Khoi khoi and San peoples. The landmark deal that has been signed confirms that the two indigenous groups are ‘legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the buchu plant’.