San people in SA

The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, where they have lived for at least 20 000 years. The term San is commonly used to refer to a diverse group of hunter-gatherers living in Southern Africa who share historical and linguistic connections. The San were also referred to as Bushmen, but this term has since been abandoned as it is considered derogatory. There are many different San groups – they have no collective name for themselves, and the terms ‘Bushman’, ‘San’, ‘Basarwa‘ (in Botswana) are used. The term, ‘bushman’, came from the Dutch term, ‘bossiesman’, which meant ‘bandit’ or ‘outlaw’.

San - Bushmen - Kalahari, South Africa...


Daar is heelwat bewyse dat minerale in Suid-Afrika bygedra het dat verskillende volke onteien en ontvolk is van gebiede wat hul gebiede was voordat die Engelse heersers die land met al sy minerale rykdom kom annekseer het.   Reservate, kolonies en kroongebiede was die nagevolge.   Vandaar ook die kommunale regte en ‘n verdere stap wat die ANC onder die Britse beheer (Statebond) wil toepas is om almal se eiendom uiteindelik te onteien vir mineraal verryking.

Nie dat enige volk regte het op hierdie minerale nie, want vir jare word dit uitgevoer en die nalatenskappe van verwaarloosde myne wat nie gerehabiliteer word nie, is bewys daarvan.    Slegs swart bemagtigers trek die meeste voordeel hieruit.  Indien alles reg gedoen word en rehabilitasie van myne vind plaas, kon al hierdie duisende seer-oog myne omgeskakel gewees het in landbougebiede soos wat dit was.   Hoe moedwillig en kwaadwillig is die regering om te sorg dat daar min rehabilitasie plaasvind.  Hulle beheer die wetgewing en ook alle korrupsie vind onder hul hand plaas,

Dit is net minder as 100 reg dat elke volk in Suid-Afrika hulself wil beheer en regeer in gebiede wat hulle sin is.   Diegene, veral die in parlement wat so voorgee dat daar afstand gedoen is van aparte gebiede, moet ophou lieg vir die burgers van Suid-Afrika en selfs oorsee.   Trustgebiede het al voor die 1994 verkiesing bestaan en dit was die ou Zoeloeland tuisland, wat slegs vir Zoeloes is.  Beter bekend as Ingonyama Trust.   Daar was etlike miljoene hektaar grond vrylik aan die Khoisan en ander uitgedeel na 1994 onder die CPA grondeise wetgewing.   Hierdie wetgewings maak slegs voorsiening vir kommunale gebiede, wat ooreenstem met die Britse “vindingryke” Shepstone beleid, waar daar ook net kommunale regte toegeken is, na anneksasies.  Dieselfde geld vir die Transvaal en Vrystaat, wat onafhanklike lande was, waar die vredesverdrag nooit ten volle uitgevoer is, waar ons gebiede is nie.  Die 1994 Volkstaatraad is deur die ANC aangestel en besoldig en die gebiede wys uit waar ons as Boere se gebiede is en bly – naamlik die Transvaal en Vrystaat, sonder tuislande, reservate of kroongebiede.

Etniese volke in Suid-Afrika

Argeologiese bewyse het getoon dat die San in die Kalahari vir lank bewoon het as jagters.   Dis onbekend of hul voorouers as San bekendgestaan het.  Plantaardige materiaal is hul stapelvoedel.   Daar is ook geloofsverskille in die verskillende etniese stamme.


Kalahari San Dancing and singing


This term was given to the San during their long battle against the colonists. The San interpreted this as a proud and respected reference to their brave fight for freedom from domination and colonization.

Many now accept the terms Bushmen or San. Like the first people to inhabit other countries in the world, the San have an unfortunate history of poverty, social rejection, decline of cultural identity and the discrimination of their rights as a group. Yet, the San have also received the attention of anthropologists and the media with their survival and hunting skills, wealth of indigenous knowledge of the flora and fauna of Southern Africa, and their rich cultural traditions.

Not related to the BaNtu tribes, the San are descendants of Early Stone Age ancestors. Clans and loosely connected family groups followed seasonal game migrations between mountain range and coastline. They made their homes in caves, under rocky overhangs or in temporary shelters.

These migratory people do not domesticate animals or cultivate crops, even though their knowledge of both flora and fauna is vast. The San categorized thousands of plants and their uses, from nutritional to medicinal, mystical to recreational and lethal. San men have a formidable reputation as trackers and hunters.

San trackers will follow the ‘spoor’ (tracks) of an animal across virtually any kind of surface or terrain. Their skills even enable them to distinguish between the “spoor” of a wounded animal and that of the rest of the herd. At about the beginning of the Christian era a group of people who owned small livestock (sheep and perhaps goats) moved into the northern and western parts of South Africa and migrated southward. These pastoralists, called Khoikhoi or ‘Hottentot’ resembled the San in many ways and lived by gathering wild plants and domesticating animals.


Today, the San suffer from a perception that their lifestyle is ‘primitive’ and that they need to be made to live like the majority cattle-herding tribes. Specific problems vary according to where they live. In South Africa, for example, the !Khomani now have most of their land rights recognised, but many other San tribes have no land rights at all. Few modern San are able to continue as hunter-gatherers, and most live at the very bottom of the social scale, in unacceptable conditions of poverty, leading to alcoholism, violence, prostitution, disease and despair.

The last of the hunter-gatherers were forcibly evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve as recently as April 2002, by the Botswana government to make way for diamond mines. A court case is currently in existence to help the San claim their land.

The Kalahari Bushmen (2002) – The controversial relocation of Kalahari Bushmen by the government of Botswana has provoked international condemnation.


The San have no formal authority figure or chief, but govern themselves by group consensus. Disputes are resolved through lengthy discussions where all involved have a chance to make their thoughts heard until some agreement is reached.

Land is usually owned by a group, and rights to land are usually inherited bilaterally. Kinship bonds provide the basic framework for political models. Membership in a group is determined by residency. As long as a person lives on the land of his group he maintains his membership. It is possible to hunt on land not owned by the group, but permission must be obtained from the owners.


The San belief system generally observes the supremacy of one powerful god, while at the same time recognizing the presence of lesser gods along with their wives and children. Homage is also paid to the spirits of the deceased. Among some San, it is believed that working the soil is contrary to the world order established by the god.

Some groups also revere the moon. The most important spiritual being to the southern San was /Kaggen, the trickster-deity. He created many things, and appears in numerous myths where he can be foolish or wise, tiresome or helpful.

The word ‘/Kaggen’ can be translated as ‘mantis’, this led to the belief that the San worshipped the praying mantis. However, /Kaggen is not always a praying mantis, as the mantis is only one of his manifestations. He can also turn into an Eland, a hare, a snake or a vulture – he can assume many forms. When he is not in one of his animal forms, /Kaggen lives his life as an ordinary San.


The San are excellent hunters. Although they do a fair amount of trapping, the best method of hunting is with bow and arrow. The San arrow does not kill the animal straight away. It is the deadly poison, which eventually causes the death. In the case of small antelope such as Duiker or Steenbok, a couple of hours may elapse before death.   The San will eat anything available, both animal and vegetable. Their selection of food ranges from antelope, Zebra, porcupine, wild hare, Lion, Giraffe, fish, insects, tortoise, flying ants, snakes (venomous and non-venomous), Hyena, eggs and wild honey. The meat is boiled or roasted on a fire.

The San are not wasteful and every part of the animal is used. The hides are tanned for blankets and the bones are cracked for the marrow. Water is hard to come by, as the San are constantly on the move. Usually during the dry season, these migrants collect their moisture by scraping and squeezing roots. If they are out hunting or travelling, they would dig holes in the sand to find water. They also carry water in an ostrich eggshell.

A caterpillar, reddish yellow in colour and about three-quarters of an inch long, called ka or ngwa is also used. The poison is boiled repeatedly until it looks like red currant jelly. It is then allowed to cool and ready to be smeared on the arrows.

The poison is highly toxic and is greatly feared by the San themselves; the arrow points are therefore reversed so that the poison is safely contained within the reed collar. It is also never smeared on the point but just below it – thus preventing fatal accidents.

The poison is neuro toxic and does not contaminate the whole animal. The spot where the arrow strikes is cut out and thrown away, but the rest of the meat is fit to eat.  The effect of the poison is not instantaneous, and the hunters frequently have to track the animal for a few days.


Contrary to popular belief, these paintings and engravings of strange human figures and animals, especially the Eland (a species of antelope), did not depict every day life but had a deeper religious and symbolic meaning. Gender roles are not jealously guarded in the San society. Women sometimes assist in the hunt and the men sometimes help gather plant foods.

When shaman (medicine men) painted an Eland, they did not just pay respect to a sacred animal; they also harnessed its essence (N!um). By putting paint to rock, they would be able to open portals to the spirit world. San rock paintings are found in rocky areas of the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape provinces.

The San mainly used red, ranging from orange to brown, white, black and yellow in their paintings. Blue and green were never used. Red was derived from haematite (red ochre), and yellow from limonite (yellow ochre).

Manganese oxide and charcoal were used for black; white, which does not preserve well, was probably obtained from bird droppings or kaolin. The blood of an Eland, an animal of great religious and symbolic significance, was often mixed into the colour pigments.



Richtersveld – KHOISAN AND CPA

Legislation only for black and khoisan

Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill

Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act

Proposed Traditional Khoisan Leadership Bill (TKLB)


The San were hunter-gatherers and lived off the land by mainly hunting for wild game and gathering plants. Hunter-gatherers are „nomads‟ (people who do not live permanently in an area). The San people moved depending on the migration patterns of the animals that they hunted as well as in search of water.  Traditionally, the San Bushmen had a hunter-gatherer culture, living in temporary wooden and rock shelters and caves of the Kalahari in South West Africa. About half of modern Bushmen continue to live this way.


The San/Bushmen tirbes live in the Kalahari desert. They were nomads because they were always on the hunt for animals and plant foods. The San tribes made temporary houses out of the wood that they hunted.


The San tribe is struggling to find land that belongs to them. They keep getting forced evacuation on their homelands. Since they have no tribal leaders of any kind, it is difficult for them to fully agree on a plan of action.

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