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The Khomani San: A community forgotten by government

Jacobus Patat van Wyk says even though they have a place to call their own, government has done little else to help them.

Jacobus Patat van Wyk. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN

CAPE TOWN - As political parties pound the streets of the nation’s cities and suburbs, some South Africans living in far-flung areas say they feel forgotten.

Among them, descendants of Africa’s First People, the Khoisan. Jacobus Patat van Wyk sits on a windswept hill overlooking the town he’s called home for 20 years.

He is one of the 200 Khomani San families living in the area since 35,000 hectares of land was given back after a successful land claim in 1999.

But Van Wyk said that even though they have a place to call their own, government has done little else to help them.

Employment opportunities are virtually non-existent, and Van Wyk makes a living making crafts and selling them.

“I don’t do any other work. I only want to do crafts and exhibit it next to the road for the tourists. They see it, they stop and take pictures. That’s how I make some money for a living. That’s how I survive.”

Van Wyk said that it feels like government forgot all about them after they got their land back and their children have no prospect of bettering their lives.

He is hoping his vote on 8 May will go some way to improving his living conditions and that of his neighbours.

Members of a tiny community in the Northern Cape have also asked government to help preserve their heritage.

The community members said their //Ng!u language would die out if the government didn’t change its policies.
They want their language and heritage protected by making //Ng!u a formal school subject.

Van Wyk explained: “There is not enough evidence to show that our communities are being acknowledged and uplifted.”

Dozens of children live in the remote community, with the closest primary school 10 kilometres away in the town of Ashkam.

They are taught in Afrikaans and it is up to the women of the community to ensure their birthright of the //Ng!u language is kept alive and cherished.

25 years on: The forgotten Khomani San Bushmen

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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