The !Xun and the Khwe community in the Northern Cape say they feel like an afterthought, deserted by a government that once promised to integrate them into the new South Africa. The two groups are based in Platfontein and Schmidsdrift. They hail from Namibia and Angola.
In 1990, they were housed on this farm in Schmidsdrift. The area was home to 4 000 !Xun and Khwe families living in tents. Now it’s replete with dilapidated buildings and a few mud and plastic homes.
Over the years, despite promises, they are largely forgotten; their suffering real with no basic services and little hope
Ruhepu Kajeke, Schmidsdrift resident, says that the government in Namibia takes care of the !Xun in the country, but the South African government is failing.
“Why are we the !Xun suffering like this? Our families who are back in Namibia are living a normal life; their government there is looking after them and our government here is not looking after us. Is it because they call us foreigners?”
Despite facing a forlorn future, preserving their culture remains a priority.
Just 34 !Xun and Khwe families remain in the area. The families fought off three evictions since they got to the area.
Even in this deep ocean of poverty, 31-year-old Andre Pumuru is content being surrounded by his Khwe Community.
“The reason why we love Schmidsdrift is because our parents and our brothers have died here and we are not going to leave them behind, we’ll live with them here. Although the houses here are not proper, we’ll still live here.”
In 2003, some !Xun and Khwe families were moved to Platfontein, 15km from Kimberley.
Rikunde David however, says very little has changed for her and her Khwe community.
“We didn’t know anything about government in Schmidsdrift and we lived happily with the help of the SANDF. The government brought us here and now we live under its watch, but the government has deserted us. Just like when you flush a toilet, the government has done that to us.”
Unable to go back or forward, this Platfontein resident Shegun Chaiphus feels trapped.
“It’s difficult to leave Platfontein because there’s no work. If I could get a job, I’ll leave Platfontein one day.”
Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas, admits that servicing and integrating the !Xun and the Khwe is difficult.
“You must be very careful with the issue of those that say they want to stay in Schmidsdrift and those in Platfontein. You must massage this issue. Unfortunately, I must say there are still a lot of things that we can learn from them and they can learn from us as South Africans. They always differ among themselves. They go to the extent of telling me why don’t you build a separate school for the !Xun and a separate school from the Khwe.”
The two groups have pinned their hopes on the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill to restore their dignity.
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