When the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed during the 1930’s, the livelihoods and freedom of movement of some of South Africa’s last remaining first peoples, the Khomani San – Bushmen as they call themselves, were curtailed. A number of people were settled at the Park Headquarters at Twee Rivieren, and some gained employment, including the herding of the livestock of the Park Warden. However, many members of the clan so dispossessed of their land dispersed, some to Namibia, others onto nearby farms, others further afield.
In 1995 the Khomani San lodged a claim for the restitution of 400,000 ha of land in the Kalahari Gemsbok Park. After years of negotiation and verification, the claim was finally settled on 21st March 1999.
At a moving ceremony attended by hundreds of San people as well as the world’s media, then President Thabo Mbeki signed a Land Claim settlement agreement transferring the title deeds of six Kalahari farms (approximately 36,000 ha) to the ‡Khomani San Communal Property Association. In addition, some 25,000 ha within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to be managed as a Contractual National Park was committed to the ownership of the community.
The provision of services to this relatively remote area is slow and the community has been severely neglected by all arms of government. There is extremely limited access to education, health care, the justice system, to shops and a food supply, no water on the farms, housing remains inadequate, a lack of income generating opportunities, and a lack of infrastructure including that for communication results in the physical and virtual isolation of this community with little access to information and the outside world.
Racial discrimination remains rife in this area and this perpetuates the status quo and the sense of disempowerment that the San community, both adults and children, experience.