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CR Swart Memorial Lecture: Mr Cecil le Fleur
2006-08-08

Khoe and San call for government to speed up policy dialogue with indigenous communities  

 Mr Cecil le Fleur, leader of the National Khoe-San Consultative Conference and member of the executive management of the National Khoe-San Council, has called for a national policy on indigenous peoples to protect the human rights and special needs of indigenous people in South Africa.

 Mr Le Fleur delivered the 38th CR Swart Memorial Lecture on the Khoe and San at the University of the Free State (UFS).  He commended the UFS for its serious approach to the Khoe and San and for initiating initiatives such as a research project on the Griqua in which various aspects linked to language, -culture, -history, - leadership, their role in the South African community (past and present) and the conservation of their historical cultural heritages will be covered.   

 “The policy dialogue with indigenous communities initiated by government in 1999 and supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has been exceedingly slow, owing to political and bureaucratic problems,” said Mr Le Fleur.

 According to Mr Le Fleur the slow pace is also impacting negatively on the United Nations’ efforts to expand the international standards and mechanisms for human rights so as to include the special needs of indigenous peoples.

 “The successful adoption of a South African policy would probably have a major impact on the human rights culture of Africa and, more specifically, on the UN system,” he said.

 “South Africa has a powerful moral authority internationally and is willing to use this authority in multilateral forums. At this stage, however, South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may not take an official position on UN instruments and declarations pertaining to indigenous issues, until the Cabinet has resolved its own domestic policy position,” he said. 

 According to Mr le Fleur it therefore came as a great surprise when the DFA brought out a positive vote in the UN for the adoption of the "Draft Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples" in June this year, even before the completion of the policy process. 

 Policy consolidation in South Africa is the primary key to creating a new policy climate in Africa in order to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  “The existing constitution of the Republic of South Africa is one of the most liberal on the continent, and embraces the concept of redress of past discrimination.  It already includes a clause (Section 6) making provision for the protection of language rights for Khoe and San peoples - the fist peoples of southern Africa,” he said. 

 “If South Africa can effectively integrate this ‘third generation’ of collective rights within an existing democratic constitution, this will send a clear message to Africa and the world that indigenous rights are a necessary component of human and civil rights in modern democracies,” he said.

 Mr Le Fleur proposed an institutional framework based on set principles that would satisfy the needs and aspirations of the Griqua and other first indigenous peoples in South Africa.  “The proposed framework was based on the notion of vulnerability as a result of colonialism and apartheid, which stripped us of our indigenous identity, cultural identity and pride as people.  This injustice can hardly be addressed within the existing mechanisms provided by the current text of the Constitution,” he said.

 Mr Le Fleur also proposed that the principles of unique first-nation status, as recognised in international law, should be applied in the construction of the framework of the constitutional accommodation for the Khoe and San. 

 Mr Le Fleur further proposed that the Khoe and San’s indigenous status in constitutional terms must be separate from the constitutional acknowledgement of their status as a cultural community, as envisaged in sections 185 and 186 of the Constitution of 1996.

 According to Mr Le Fleur, the suggested mechanism should make provision for structures such as:

  •  A statutory representative council for First Indigenous Peoples of South Africa at a national level;
  • a separate Joint Standing Committee on Indigenous and Traditional Affairs, in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces on which the Khoe and San can be represented;
  • a representative structure for the Khoe and San in the legislature of each relevant province; and
  • ex officio membership in the relevant structures of local government.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za 
24 August 2006


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