Stop calling us‘coloured’and deny­ing us

A colo­nial and apartheid past of poli­cies and laws based on ‘de­fine and rule’ is ex­press­ing it­self in the

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Pa­tric Tariq Mel­let

The United Na­tions Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Indige­nous Peoples of South Africa recog­nises that the San, the Nama, the Ko­rana, the Gri­qua and the re­vival­ist Cape Khoi are those indige­nous Africans, among oth­ers in South Africa, who face dis­crim­i­na­tion and marginal­i­sa­tion.

This goes all the way back to 1911, when 86000 peo­ple pre­vi­ously reg­is­tered as Nama, Gri­qua, Ko­rana, Da­mara and Cape Khoi were, without any con­sul­ta­tion, de-African­ised and called “coloured” in the cen­sus of that year.

Then about 300 000 in­te­grated de­scen­dants of African (68%) and Asian slaves (32%), plus in­den­tured African labour­ers and a range of other mi­grants of colour from about 30 trib­u­taries, to­gether with a small el­e­ment of Penin­sula Khoi and non­con­formist Euro­peans who as­sim­i­lated with these peo­ple, were also called “coloured” without any con­sul­ta­tion or agree­ment by the British-South African author­i­ties, as per an agree­ment on form­ing the Union of South Africa.

Eight years later, when it chang­ing its name from the South African Na­tive Na­tional Congress to the African Na­tional Congress and adopted its first con­sti­tu­tion, the ANC de­fined an African as any per­son who had at least one fore­bear who was indige­nous to Africa.

In the 1960s it re­neged on this and started to re­fer to “coloured” peo­ple as a non-African mi­nor­ity. Af­ter lib­er­a­tion, al­though it abol­ished apartheid leg­is­la­tion, the ANC gov­ern­ment again be­trayed the trust of “coloured” peo­ple by keep­ing the apartheid prac­tice of defin­ing them ac­cord­ing to the now abol­ished apartheid leg­is­la­tion, thus con­tin­u­ing their de-African­i­sa­tion.

This is re­gard­less of the fact that they are cry­ing out to be fully recog­nised as an African peo­ple with dig­ni­fied her­itage and subiden­ti­ties of di­ver­sity such as Zulu, Xhosa and Pedi. A sig­nif­i­cant part of the pop­u­la­tion car­ry­ing the apartheid la­bel want to be known as Africans of Cape Khoi, Nama, Ko­rana, Gri­qua, Da­mara and San her­itage.

These make up about one mil­lion South Africans to­day, if we go back to the 1904 cen­sus fig­ures. They are not calling to be­come “na­tions” as Ver­wo­er­dian-style eth­nona­tion­al­ists; they sim­ply want their African her­itage and rights to be re­spected.

The other four mil­lion cat­e­gorised as coloured and non-African also want their African and cul­tural her­itage as a peo­ple who rose above the ad­ver­sity of slav­ery and the bru­tal­ity of colo­nial­ism and apartheid to be recog­nised. Many of us call this our Camissa her­itage. And we want to say we are proudly African, proud to be part of the South African fam­ily of peoples and proud to be Camissa.

We have a rich cul­tural her­itage and legacy that is marginalised and this is why such bizarre be­hav­iour and fright­en­ing lev­els of racism are rais­ing their ugly heads. Camissa is not an eth­nic, racial or colour term; it sim­ply ad­dresses the cul­tural her­itage of an un­recog­nised African peo­ple.

Re­vived mem­ory in terms of the UN rec­om­men­da­tions and dec­la­ra­tions thus has a le­git­i­mate place in South Africa. There are gen­uine en­ti­ties of Cape Khoi who strive for au­then­tic­ity. They are aware that they are not the ac­tual groups de­stroyed by colonists but rather are re­vived en­ti­ties, and thus have a re­spect for his­tory and her­itage and do not rely on fab­ri­ca­tions of his­tory or dy­nasty.

There are, how­ever, lu­natic fringe groups, of­ten im­bued with racism and ha­tred, which are not au­then­tic — nor do they at­tempt to be. Gen­uine Khoi re­vival­ists are now be­gin­ning to say very clearly to these groups: “not in our name”.

Cape Khoi re­vival­ists do not sub­scribe to racism and the oth­er­ing of any of South Africa’s African peo­ple.

There are us­ages of the term Khoisan that peo­ple have be­come ac­cus­tomed to and they mean no harm.

But there is a shadow side to this term that has been hid­den for too long. There are San peo­ple

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