Sunday, August 10, 2008

Money Can't Buy Ancestral Land

The Northern Cape does not make national or international headlines very often. Not much happens here now that most of the diamonds have been mined and De Beers has all but left my province.

Today, however, the Northern Cape is prominently featured in a Sunday Times article that covers a "small Khoi San community’s" refusal to sell or lease their land to a film company.

Desert Star Studios, a South African company, sought to draw major international film companies to the Northern Cape.

One project envisioned building a Jerusalem set to film "episodes of the BBC’s Visual Bible project over the next eight to 10 years ..."

There were also plans to build a cowboy town and a "replica of King Solomon’s Temple."

The Khoi San of Pella, a severely impoverished indigenous community close to the town of Pofadder, have however flatly rejected the R252-million deal (approximately $36 US).

The deputy secretary of the Pella Indigenous People Group, Rosina Second, said on Monday:
"We told them we will never, ever sell our land. Our land is very precious to us, and we will not sell it to anyone."
The decision has frustrated the efforts of Premier Dipuo Peters who is very eager to draw investment to South Africa's poorest province.

Premier Peters joined Desert Star Studios to lobby the Pella Indigenous Group. The Sunday Times says that they offered "more than three times the market value" for the land and even promised to "build a mobile Aids clinic and high school" in Pella.

The decision has caused a rift among the people of Pella. The unemployment rate is more than 70% and the promise of 1800 jobs over 12 years was no doubt quite alluring.

Nontheless, the decision is principled and flies in the face of the neo-liberal thinking that drives the interests of Premier Peters and her party, the African National Congress.

In recent weeks Premier Peters has also been embroiled in a housing development scheme that threatens the the Lesser Flamingo colony (one of only four in Africa) resident at Kamfers Dam just outside my hometown of Kimberley.

In either case, the lure of bringing money into the Northern Cape is the driving ambition.

Nontheless, the Pella people have dealt a decisive blow to the mindset of selling and buying anything in the name of capitalist development.

Here in my dry, dusty, and desolate province, there are principled people who believe that money can't buy everything.

The ancestors must be proud.


Picture Credits: Map and Flamingos

Sign a petition to Save the Flamingo


Dione said...

Hi Ridwan,
The new jobs this would create;,, would those people also be exploited with poverty ridden wages??
I'm thinking SO!

Well, I can't support ruining natural places, although admittedly I'm hypocritical enough to feel like it's time to be drilling into Alaska's oil areas and becoming self sufficient in the states. Thats a whole other can of U know what;)


Ridwan said...

Hi Dione. I am happy to know that they avoided the exploitation in any terms.

I hope they never drill in Alaska. I am thinking electric cars, solar power, etc.

Trust you are well.


Dade said...

A quandary.... I respect the idealism and natural love that people have for their homes. But I can also see how people would be desperate to escape poverty.

A real puzzler...

Thanks for raising my awareness, as usual, Ridwan. And welcome back.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment Dade. Good to read you here brother.

And thanks for the "welcome back" too ... I am happy to be back and look forward to hearing from you as always.


mosij said...

Hi Ridwan,
I guess the following excerpt from an email I received this morning will concern you as much as it did me;

"just had disturbing news: Three senior staffers of the N Cape enviro dept have been suspended with immediate effect. One of the suspendees is Mark Anderson, the provincial ornithologist.

Their computers have been confiscated and their office locks changed under supervision of the HOD.

My information is that this is related to conservation officials being involved in raising publicity around the plight of the Kamfers Dam flamingos. As you will know, a large property development has been planned that will break the official urban edge and possibly threaten the lake."

Shus li said...

I am proud of the Pella people. Also, I am glad your break from writing here was not long!

The situation reminds me of what I learned from an indigenous man from Alberta. He told Eugene and I about an oil company getting approval from the non-traditional tribal council to come in and extract tar oil from his native land.

The oil company came in and bought out most of the tribe, so to speak. They offered extremely high wages - $26/hr. for janitorial work, for example - to the tribal members, who accepted these jobs in lieu of the health of their land. (Unemployment is a relative term, by the way. If indigenous people could live in their traditional ways, we/they would attain to 100% unemployment by conventional standards. The work of keeping body and soul together in indigenous ways is much different from that of being employed.)

The process of extracting tar oil has left parts of their tribal land with sinkholes. The health of the people and the fabric of their existence is in further disrepair.

Using land for industry will always create a conflict with those who represent a way to live with the land without exploiting it.

Again I say, I am proud of the Pella people.

Peace to you, Ridwan.


Ridwan said...

Mosij thank you kindly for relaying this information. It infuriates me to say the least.

It seems that the powers that be are adamant to press ahead with the housing development no matter what hey.

This is very sad and must be met with resistance.

Peace Mosij,

Ridwan said...

Shusli thank you for retelling what the brother from Alberta told you and Eugene.

I think that his experience speaks to the fears of the folks in Pella.

I especially like your point on what it means to be unemployed. It is powerful and detracts from the often assumed reality that employment and income must drive all human activity.

This case proves that their is a thinking and ethics that go beyond the madness of development at all costs.

The land is sacred and indigenous rights to live in the ways of the ancestors must be upheld.

Thank you too for your kind words about my return sista.

Peace to you,

Eugene said...

I, too, am proud of the Pella people. History shows that signing such agreements is a death warrant for a people and their land.

Poverty in its current form did not exist until alleged civilization came along. They probably had plenty to eat, housing, good health, and all the plants and animals did along with them, I'm sure. Then along come the imperialist pigs to steal everything, and with that comes a thing currently called poverty. All peoples have poor peoples but the poverty of people closer to nature included them having food, clothing, shelter, good health, etc. The poverty that the Pella people are probably experiencing, I'm sure can be accredited to the same kind of people that are currently trying to steal their land via purchase. Taking advantage of their poverty to steal whats left and disenfranchise the indigenous. The deliberate destruction of a people in whole or in part...genocide.

Welcome back, Ridwan. When you coming to the occupied territories currently known as the United States again?

Ridwan said...

Hey Eugene I am happy to read you on this post brother. I am just proud to be from a province that has folks who will walk from capitalist inducement and choose the land over everything else.

I should be coming your way before the end of the year. Can't wait to catch-up in person.

Thanks for the "welcome back" brother.

Peace to you!