Feuding in Cape Town: Indigenous Community Split Over Land Occupation

Linda Daniels
6/22/14

The recent occupation of a piece of land in the city of Cape Town in South Africa by Khoisan activists has appeared to rupture a fault line in the local community of indigenous people after it emerged that the occupation was not supported by all in the community.

Khoisan activists occupied the main hall of the Oude Molen Eco Village situated in Pinelands, an area just outside the main city center of Cape Town. The site is historically significant given that it was originally used by Khoi pastoralists for cattle grazing before colonial occupation in 1652. Khoisan activists believe the site is part of their ancestral Gorinaqua Kraal. Tania Kleinhans-Cedras, co-founder of the Institute for the Restoration of the Aborigine of South Africa (IRASA), who was one of the leaders of the occupation said that “historical record shows that the land belongs to the Khoisan.” Kleinhans-Cedras hesitates to describe the activists action as an occupation, preferring instead to describe their action as act of restoration.

However, not all in the Khoisan community support Kleinhans and followers claim to the land by occupation.

In a statement released by the Gorinhaiqua Council, Kleinhans-Cedras and supporters of the Oude Molen land occupation were denounced for not adhering to Khoisan principals.

The statement reads in part: "The Gorinhaiqua Cultural Council herewith makes public its condemnation and distaste of actions undertaken by Tania Kleinhans-Cedras and a small group under her influence, who have embarked on a willful takeover of the main hall at Oude Molen. This is just one of many publicity seeking actions of Kleinhans-Cedras, who is part of a small Non-Governmental Organization called IRASA. This organization has recently been visible inside the Khoi and San resurgence, and is not grounded in any customary or indigenous protocol.”

Chief Garu Zenzile, Khoisan, of the Gorinhaiqua said the activists “don’t understand Khoi principals.”

Zenzile continued: “ We are not interested in having skirmishes with government. That would be counter-productive. We need to engage with government … Oude Molen has to be properly inaugurated … you can’t just run rampage.”

In response, Kleinhans-Cedras said: “Zenzile is being shortsighted … the press release is based on untruths. You cannot say the kraal belongs to you, it belongs to all.”

Kleinhans-Cedras added that the activists occupation of the Oude Molen Eco village is “based on indigenous rights of the kraal … we are not interested in political processes.”

She accused Zenzile and his followers of creating fragmentation amongst the Khoisan community and that they are not advocating unity.”

This disagreement is set against the backdrop of a high court battle between Kleinhans-Cedras and followers on one side and the provincial government on the other. The Western Cape High court granted an interim order that the group should vacate the land shortly after the occupation; but the matter is not yet settled and returns to court on August 18. Both parties in the dispute must show why an interim order must not be made which stops the activists from occupying the land.

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