Report from Priscilla de Wet, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project:
“Can a commission be an agent for social change? A case study of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities in South Africa.”
The SA coat of arms with the motto, “!ke e: /xarra //ke” (unity in diversity), emphasizes the right to diversity in culture, religion and language. Post 1994, plans for transformation and redress included the chapter 9 commissions in the constitution (Act 108 of 1996) The CRL Commission, as it is now known, became an Act of Parliament in 2000 and operational from Jan 2004. My plan was to do a case study of the Commission and see whether it had the capacity to fulfil its mandate/objectives which involves promotion, protection, investigation, conflict resolution, education, awareness, advocacy and friendship. A salient question was, ‘To what extent does the CRL hinder or assist the Khoe-San First Nation Indigenous Peoples of SA?’ I interviewed Khoe-San leaders, government officials and members on the commission.
The CRL had had regional workshops to introduce themselves and a National Consultative Conference in Durban. The Khoe-San leaders and activists had attended. The South African Government had set up an intergovernmental forum to deal with Khoe-San issues and was at present drawing up a report for cabinet. This was the result of the 5year liaison period between themselves and the National Khoe-San Council (NKC), which is the Government liaison body for Khoe-San issues. In the Western Cape the Language Committee has successfully completed the Nama Language project with a booklet and CD for stage 1 of Nama learning.
I took my nephew, Lindsay Wicomb (13years old), a Khoe-San youth, as an assistant. Part of the Khoe-San movement’s plan is to capacitate their youth. It was the winter school break and perfect for him. It was his first time out of the Western Cape. His high school teachers reported that he seemed more interested and motivated in class since he came back!
I travelled by car as public service was unreliable and unsafe. We attended the National Heritage Council Conference, ‘South African Civil Society Engagement & World Heritage’. This was an opportunity to meet the Khoekhoe and San leaders and government officials in the transformation arena.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria I interviewed some CRL commissioners, members of parliament and a journalist. On our way back we visited the University of the Orange Free State and interviewed the secretariat of the NKOK (National Khoe-San Consultative Conference of SA) and an anthropology professor. Back in Cape Town I interviewed a project manager in IPACC (Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee), visited the parliament archives and interviewed the chairperson of the NKC. A few weeks later, I attended the UN Special Rapporteur, R Stavenhagen’s, meeting with the Khoe-San people in Bloemfontein. A Khoekhoe leader from Cape Town and a PhD candidate travelled with me. I also had a workshop with the leaders of the Khoe Cultural Heritage Council in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, later that month.
The remnants of 350 years of subjugation, dispossession and the horrors of 50 years of apartheid has left deep scars and inherited trauma amongst the peoples including the CRL commissioners. A stark reality from my fieldwork is the identity crisis and lack of trust in SA. The funding from the Sami Centre, gave me the ability to gather in depth empirical data for my project and give some assistance back home. Thanks for your trust in me.