Stories From Home:<br>San Won IPR and Land Rights Victories

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Indigenous Activists Tell Cultural Survival What The Decade Meant To Them

The San of southern Africa have made important steps during the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.

The Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) was set up in 1996 to support, lobby for, and network among San communities in South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Since its inception, it has assisted the San in fighting for their basic human rights. WIMSA has supported the San’s desire for self-determination by aiming to establish San Councils within each southern African country. Councils have been set up in South Africa and Namibia and preparations are being undertaken in Botswana. In Angola, basic needs such as food security, access to schools, health facilities, and the right to land and natural resources need to be established before a national San Council can be formed. The San have continued to fight for recognition of their traditional authorities, but so far only Namibia has made progress in this area, with two out of six traditional leaders now being recognized by the Namibian government.

Land rights continue to be an ongoing struggle for the San, but land has been allocated by the South African Government to the !Xun and Khwe of Schmidtsdrift and a portion of ancestral land was returned to the ‡Khomani in the Northern Cape Province. In 1998 the Ju|’hoansi, and in 2003, the !Kung San, of Tsumkwe East and West were allocated their own “conservancy” in Namibia by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Efforts are still continuing to secure land rights for the San in Botswana and Angola.

The San have also celebrated achievements in securing intellectual property rights. With support from WIMSA, in 2003 they successfully negotiated a share in the profits of a new anti-obesity drug which utilizes traditional San knowledge of the Hoodia succulent (see CSQ 27:3). Positive gains have also been made in relation to the use of San rock art sites and knowledge. Several initiatives relating to San crafts have been embarked upon in order to generate income from tourism, and the preservation of San culture for future generations is being undertaken at the San Culture and Education Centre !Khwa ttu, based near Cape Town, South Africa. During the International Decade, WIMSA’s Oral Testimonial Project focused on the recollections, stories, and experiences of the San living within the region. Interviews were conducted and recorded by the San themselves and these interviews have now been compiled into three separate publications.

Capacity-building continues to be an area of key concern. San organizations now exist within Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. At the end of the war in Angola, WIMSA teamed up with partners there to conduct an assessment of the situation of the Angolan San. Subsequently, a new organization supporting the San has been set up in Angola.

WIMSA’s Education and Training Programme has focused closely on fostering greater awareness of the needs of San children within the formal education system, training San teachers, and producing written records of San languages. WIMSA training is encouraging a new generation of skilled San development workers and leaders who are able to work effectively with their communities and who are able to represent the San at international fora such as the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations and the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

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