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'How can I be a dagga dealer?': King Khoisan SA not quitting protest at Union Buildings

03 March 2022 - 15:46
King Khoisan SA said when they first arrived at the Union Buildings they did not know they would still be there after more than three years without any engagement.
King Khoisan SA said when they first arrived at the Union Buildings they did not know they would still be there after more than three years without any engagement.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange

King Khoisan SA, who has staged a sit-in protest at the Union Buildings for more than three years and was arrested on dagga-related charges, is not going to budge until his demands are met.

“We are not giving up,” he said on Thursday.

He and a few others, including his wife, have been living in tents near the Nelson Mandela statue at the foot of the national key point in Pretoria.

Their demands include that:

  • the Khoisan people be recognised as the first indigenous nation of SA;
  • the language of the Khoisan people be officially recognised;
  • their ancestral land be returned; and
  • the label “coloured” as a reference to people of mixed race be removed from official documents.

“It is sad that the government hasn’t engaged us on the four issues. For us, those demands are the reason we are here,” he said.

Looking back at 2017, when they first handed a memorandum to the president, he said: “It was a challenging day, that was the year that we intensified our protest by going on a hunger strike for 17 days.”

They arrived at the Union Buildings after walking from Gqeberha, a journey that “took us two weeks”.

A video of him being arrested for allegedly cultivating and dealing in dagga outside the Union Buildings went viral, but he was released on a warning.

“For me it was once again that government wanted to humiliate the first nation by dragging me through the fence with a weed tree in my hands, dragging me along the paving up until the Mandela statue.

“I had to sleep inside the cells at Sunnyside police station with another one that was with us. For us this was another threat from government towards the first nation people.”

King Khoisan SA is arrested by the SAPS for dagga possession on January 12 2022 in Pretoria.
King Khoisan SA is arrested by the SAPS for dagga possession on January 12 2022 in Pretoria.
Image: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images

He said dagga was a medicinal plant.

“They tried to use their lowest to remove us, because for us the weed plant, the cannabis, dagga is a medicine plant. Government and a lot of worldwide institutions know about the medical benefits, before these governments started putting laws on this cannabis we were already using it.

“The government is ignoring the rights of the indigenous people in SA as well as the world and that we cannot ignore because it is a threat to justice.”

The case is expected to return in the Pretoria magistrate's court on March 29.

“We know there is no case — they were trying to remove us and they were using their laws. How can I be a dealer in dagga?

At the moment we don’t know what is the case, they couldn’t put anything on the docket
King Khoisan SA

“They released me and said it’s a warning and they [said] it's free bail. If someone is a dealer, why are you giving him free bail?

“At the moment we don’t know what is the case, they couldn’t put anything on the docket, so the legal team is waiting for them to come back because they said they will have investigations.”

The drawn-out process has taken a heavy personal toll, he said.

“It was a huge sacrifice. We had to leave our comfortable life, we had to leave our families at home. Through these years we had to leave our children behind and that was something we didn’t take lightly. Those children grew up to be young men and young women with the absence of their parents. They know that it is because of the struggle.

“From the time we have been here we have literally stopped our lives.”

Though they receive donations from people, he said they sometimes experienced weather challenges.

“We have been here living, not as at home, but making it homely for us. When we arrived at the Union Buildings ... we never knew that we would still be here after three years and still no engagement with us as the people.

“We have lost lots of families, we have lost cousins, aunts, uncles and some have lost parents. It was sad that we couldn’t go to those functions [funerals] because of security reasons and financial burdens.”

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