This is the final paper written for a Fall 2018 course with Nancy Jacobs called Southern African Frontiers. I have given the first three paragraphs below — for the rest, please see my full paper here!
In February 2018, the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa established the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, charging it with exploring whether and how to “make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.”1 In order to hear testimony from a cross-section of South African society, the committee organized public hearings in all provinces from 26 June 2018 to 4 August 2018.2 Many spoke of how white farmers, who make up less than 9% of the population of South Africa, own 67% of the land almost twenty-five years after the end of apartheid.3 Redistributing this land, for many, is a clear step toward redress of historical injustices perpetuated by white settler colonialism. Others invoked the specter of Zimbabwe, where land seizures led to economic freefall and long-term political instability. While few if any opposed land reform in principle, many argued against arbitrary abrogation of property rights and the extension of government power this entailed.
On 6 September 2018 (seven days after its original mandate ended), the committee heard seven hours of oral submissions in Cape Town. Among those who testified was the head of Indigenous First Nation Advocacy South Africa (IFNASA), Anthony Williams, who claimed to represent the Khoi-San community. Williams argued in favor of amending Section 25 of the constitution in order to allow for land expropriation without compensation. For him, this meant not just redistribution to correct for the injustices of apartheid but also to allow for land claims prior to 1913. Williams decried the political focus on Bantu-speaking communities in debates over redress, and further asked why his submission was the only one heard from the Khoi-San community. Committee members in turn expressed skepticism over Khoi-San claims to indigeneity, concern over racial stratification, and suggestions of alternative recourse for the redress sought.
This vignette serves to frame my paper. I will attempt to corral a teeming mass of evidence to provide some kind of response to two questions prompted by Williams’ testimony. First, when and why are Khoi-San land claims expressed? Second, how and why are they received? The framework of my investigation follows the three concepts mentioned in my title: continuity, representation, and redress. The first section will thus explore the history of South Africa from 1652 to 1994 to help understand the kinds of continuity and rupture experienced by the Khoi-San. In the next part I will focus on representation of the Khoi-San in the quarter-century since the end of apartheid in 1994. In each section, I do not attempt to reproduce the wealth of scholarship that has preceded me. Instead, I illustrate several examples that will help guide us back to the testimony of Anthony Williams before the Constitutional Review Committee. By the end, I hope to shed some light on the question of redress both as it pertains to the Khoi-San and within the broader framework of South African (and hence global) politics, history, and society. Continue reading here!