The Bushmen(San) are the Southern Africa's original inhabitants(specifically in
the Western region).They occupied large parts of the subcontinent long before
the arrival of the Bantu-speaking and European settlers. Several thousands of
Sans are still hunting large game with poisoned arrows and gathering plant food
in the Kalahari desert in Namibia.
The Arrival of the Khoi
About 2000 years ago, life began to change significantly in the western part of Southern Africa. Herders, also known as the Khoi-Khoi, arrived, bringing with t hem a different way of life and new ideas about the world, for which was strange and difficult to understand for the Sans.
The spread of the Khoi-Khoi herders in to the Cape resulted in a conflict of interest with the San hunter-gatherer inhabitants of the area .A major source of conflict was competition for game. Athough the Khoi-Khoi were herders, but they relied heavily on hunting for their daily food.
While the Khoi-Khoi started competing with the San for game, their sheep and cattle were creating a further problem by denuding the pastures on which the game were dependent on. As the San watched the vast herd of game disappear, they felt justified in killing or stealing the animals that had taken place of the game. The consequences of that was the conflict between these groups-all of which lasted for some years.
Finally the contact and conflict between the Khoi-Khoi had far-reaching effects on both cultures. The Khoi-Khoi began to organise themselves to form a united and stronger front against the San. The vast majority of the society were the Khoi-Khoi and as the result the San were faced with three alternatives. Some fled the continual fighing and retreated into mountains, others entered the Khoi-Khoi society as servants, hunters, warriors. Many San men who chose the third option slowly obtained stock, and later if they married the Khoi-Khoi women, they were accepted as members of these communities(Thus the word Khoisan began).
The Khoisan Groups
There were two major groups of Khoisans in the Cape Pensular area, namely the Peninsular Khoisan and the Cochoqua.
The Peninsular Khoisan consisted of three smaller groups(the Gourachouqua, the Goringhaiqua and the Goringhaicona).They moved around in the Table Valley area.
The Goringhaicona were called 'Strandlopers' by the Dutch, meaning'Beachcombers'. That was seen as an insult because it suggested that the Goringhaicona were scavengers. They did not own livestock, but gathered what they could in the area of the beaches.
The Arrival of the Dutch
The Khoisan had traded with passing foreign ships at the Cape from as early as the 1500s, but none of these foreigners had chosen to stay. But when the Dutch came to establish a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652,things became very different. Jan Van Riebeeck, the commander of the refreshment post had to establish gardens to produce fruit and vegetables. Soon he dicovered that the Khoisan people refused to work as farm labourers for the foreigners.He did not succeed to get the Khoisan work for him,finally the DEIC instructed him to free some of his men to farm the land around the Castle(Fort). These men and their families were called 'free burghers'.This put pressure on the land that the Khoisan used for grazing and the bartering of livestock caused problems right from the start.
The Khoisan fought the Dutch to try and force them to live the Cape. They ttacked the farms of the free burghers, took their cattle and destroyed their crops.But the Dutch won the battle and things became worse for the Khoisan as the numbers of free burgers and settlers grew and more land was parcelled out to them.
As the Dutch took over more land, the Khoisan found themselves loose everything they owned especial livestock as they regarded it as a form of wealth. It was therefore important for them to own livestock. Their livelihood was put in danger, and that caused them to start raiding one another's herds.
By the early 1700s many Khoisan started working for the Dutch as herders and labourers on farms.But they did not accept the loss of their land and they were determined not to give up their struggle against the Dutch settlers. The Khoisan fought very bravely against the Dutch.grew tired But the Khoisan who had been used to lead life without guns and battles,and weak of the long and bitter struggle. They could not match the combination of the gun and horse, therefore they were overpowered and deafeted by the European settlers.
By the end of the 1700s the Dutch had succeeded in destroying the Khoisan way of life completely.
In the mid 1700s a smallpox epidemic (A disease spread fast among many people) broke out.This epidemic was caused by infected bed-sheets from a ship, and these sheets had been sent to the slave lodge(Where the slaves live)to be washed. First the slaves began to die from the smallpox, the settlers, and then the indegenous population.
The Khoisans that had fled to other places,continued to fight and those who fled to 'Eastern Borders' fought with the Xhosa against the Dutch who were moving inland.But the Khoisan were eventually defeated forever.
During the last ten years a wholesale system of extermination of these peolpe had been practised.Corannas from the Orange River,Africans,Coloured and European farmers from Namaqualand,Bokkeveld,Hantam and other districts all shared in the destruction of the these people.Sometimes by hunting parties,at other times by commandos going out for the express purpose(of killing them).
In th 1840s a number of San families were taken over to Europe and Britain and put on display as 'Curiosities' at exhibitions. These exhibitions had a strong influence on the altitudes of the people towards the San.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE COMMENTS AND NEWSPAPERS AT THE TIME WROTE ABOUT THE EXHIBITION:
'Nothing is more curious than this stunted family of African dwarfs.In appearance they are little above the monkey tribe,and scarcely better than the mere brutes of the field'.
'These people are probably the very lowest in the scale of creation, sleeping in caves,and possessing no arts to distinguish them from the wild beast of the desert'.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (In Botswana) is still inhabited by groups of Sans and for this reason it was closed to the general public.Ten years later the reserve opened for business,and the Sans have live there for about 30000 years and today there are between 1000 and 2000 people living permanently in the area.The majority of these people live at Xade,which is a settlement near the Western border.The Sans have been forced to leave their land because the Kalahari Desert is enormousely rich in diamonds and oil. But they refused to do so and they say,this land belongs to them and they will die for it.Eventually they have been taken to the new Xade(promised land of the Sans)which they regard as the wasteland with little veld food.
Just outside Kimberly is a place called Schmitsdrift.This is where most of the San people live.They were moved here when Namibia became independent because they feared that they would be victimised for having been trackers and scouts for the South African army in the guerilla war against Swapo.