The Otentottu and the land question
This is the seventh delivery in a series by Sydney Opperman in which he sheds light on the origins and names of the country's indigenous (first) nation.
When the Nguni crossed the Limpopo, migrating southwards in the 1 200s, the AmaHlubi in the 1 300s, and the Zulu in the late 1 400s, not one of these groups brought their own land with them. The same applies to the Europeans who came in from the south from the 1 600s onwards.
There was LAND here and the land was NOT EMPTY. The Otentottu who lived here had their own cattle (Bos taurus indicus / Brahman) and fat-tail sheep from Asia. These animals were domesticated. Amongst other things the people had their own religion as indicated by their religious name, Quena (Red People / Rooi Nasie). The notion by some people "that they were savages" is also dispelled by the fact that they gave meaningful names to rivers like Tarraskamma / Woman's river (near Clanwilliam), today called Olifants river, places like Xauka (confluence of rivers), the present day Montagu, and body parts like "ams" for a mouth. The names of their tribes were not thumb-sucked. For example, the //Kurin?gai-Quena means the 'Sea-food collecting Quena or Otentottu' (Strandlopers) of whom Autshumao (nickname Harry / Hari) was the chief.
It is clear that these people were well organised. Although they did not have "title deeds" to prove "ownership" of this part of the continent, it was clear that they had a clear sense of "ownership / stewardship", as illustrated by this quote from Dias and his successors: "when Bartolomeu Dias was here (at Aguada de Sao Bras in 1488) they (the Otentottu or Quena) fled from him and did not take any of the things which he was giving them, instead one day as they (the Portuguese) were taking water from a very good watering place, that is here at the edge of the sea, they (the Otentottu) defended it with stones thrown from the top of the hill which rises above this watering place, and Bartholomeu Dias fired an arrow from his cross-bow at them and killed one of them". (Translation from Axelson [ed] & Boxer,
C.& Bell-Cross, G. & Martin, C 1988, Dias and his successors. Rectified by Cyril A. Hromnik 2006.)
An entry in Van Riebeeck's Dispatch of 5 March 1657 also shows that the Otentottu demonstrated their ownership / stewardship: Autshumao declared "the land belonged to his people" and "They ventured also to assert boldly that it does not please them that we (the Dutch) break up the ground, and destroy the grass which grows for the use of their cattle".
The claim therefore of "ownership" by people who refer to themselves as "Africans in particular", that the land was stolen from them and declared by President Ramaphosa "as the original sin" is false, based on BLATANT LIES.
Any action concerning this land without the involvement of the "indigenous people" will be illegitimate and de facto theft.
We must share this land between all who live in it. The motto of this country !Ke e: /xarra //ke (People who are different are together) must be demonstrated and strengthened by our actions.
To be continued.
Sydney Opperman, sydneyopperman@ gmail.com, 14 Lynx Street, Pacaltsdorp,
083 378 4237
(Opperman's previous articles can be read online at www.georgeherald.com.)