PRETORIA, The South African government is to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the concerns of the Khoisan people, a group of indigenous people native to the country who are distinct from the majority bantu native population, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He disclosed this Friday after meeting with Khoisan representatives who have now ended their hunger strike outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Ramaphosa received and signed their memorandum of demands and offered them a flight home after they said they had walked from Port Elizabeth in Eastern Cape Province, about 1,160 kilometres south of here.

You must know already that there's a Bill that has been approved by the National Assembly that gives recognition to the Khoisan, but also to the heritage of the Khoisan. So that Bill is now before the Parliament and is now going to the NCOP (the National Council of Provinces, or upper chamber)," Ramaphosa said.

"It will be passed and in the end we will set up a commission that will do precisely what the Nhlapo Commission did with traditional leadership of all our people in the country.

The Deputy President's intervention came a day after the South African Council of Churches (SACC) called for government to give the Khoisans a hearing.

The Khoisan representatives claim to have walked for three weeks from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria to hand over the memorandum.

One of them was admitted to hospital after experiencing chest pains during their controversial hunger strike outside the Union Buildings. They only survived on water.

One of the representatives, Brenden Billings, said they appreciated the response by the government. We did manage to get the Deputy President and we appreciate that. We really appreciate him for coming and making up time to sign our memorandum.

They demand, among other things, to be recognized as the first nation of South Africa and to have their language added as an official language. They say they are fighting for the plight of more than 20 Khoisan groups mostly located in Eastern and Western Cape Provinces as well as the Platfontein in Northern Cape Province.


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