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
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