The Khoi and the San should get first dibs on the land, panellists proposed at the Khoi San Land Summit yesterday.
But there was scepticism about the role of minority group AfriForum in their appeal to government for recognition.
As the land debate intensifies ahead of the expected decision on land expropriation in August, the Khoi and San communities wanted government to recognise them as the country’s first nations.
But the argument led to some headbutting between AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel, Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama and Professor Ruth Hall of the Institute for Land Poverty and Agrarian Studies.
AfriForum was accused of using the Khoisan’s land struggle to further its agenda, of preventing any kind of land redistribution that involved expropriation.
“AfriForum is endorsing the Khoisan claims to land and saying you are the indigenous people … be careful of divide and rule,” warned Hall.
Kriel argued that their call to stand with the Khoi and the San was genuine, and based on facts that were unpopular with politicians.
“I think they have taken a specific position that is not being recognised at the moment, and that is the fact that they are the original people that were here first and there is an effort to deny this by the likes of Andile and Malema, who portray the situation as if the land was simply only occupied by blacks and the whites took that land, when it is much more complex,” said Kriel.
Asked how the organisation wants land reform executed for these groups, Kriel was scant with specifics but said it was important to recognise that black people were also responsible for the dispossession of the Khoi and the San.
“There are not specifics in that regard. What we do know is that with regard to land redistribution as it has been happening now, the Khoi and the San have been left aside because politicians do not recognise the fact that black people were also involved in the dispossession of the Khoi-San,” he said.
Elain Appies of the Griqua Royal House complained that government had employed inadequate measures to deal with the land rights of the Khoi and San, based on an accepted “lie” about their social position during apartheid.
“The lie between all the black people in South Africa is that we were benefiting all the time, and that is why we don’t have a right to be called the first nation to get our things in order. But that is another lie that needs to be clearly spoken of on the ground level. Those were lies, we never benefited; not under any political regime,” she said.
Kriel also argued that the official statistics on land ownership across racial lines were inaccurately interpreted. He said the assertion that 72% of land in South Africa was owned by white people only took into account half of the entire surface area of the country.
This, he said, meant that white people only owned 22% of all South African land, most of which was in places such as the great Karoo in the Northern Cape, leaving nearly 80% either in non-white hands or government.
Hall proposed that government look into redistribution rather than restitution, which was a far less bureaucratic process that posed fewer risks.
“Why should one have to show a historical connection? Why should one have to demonstrate it? It is both quicker and cheaper to do redistribution than restitution,” said Hall.