Indigenous peoples in South Africa

South Africa' total population is around 50 million, of which indigenous groups are estimated to comprise approximately 1%.

The various First Nations Indigenous groups in South Africa are collectively known as Khoe-San, comprising the:

  • San
  • Khoekhoe

The San

The San groups include the: 

  • ‡Khomani San- residing mainly in the Kalahari region

and the:

  • Khwe- residing mainly in Platfontein, Kimberley
  • !Xun- residing mainly in Platfontein, Kimberley

The Khoekhoe

The Khoekhoe include the:

  • Nama residing mainly in the Northern Cape Province
  • Koranna mainly in Kimberley and Free State Province
  • Griqua residing in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and Kwa-Zulu-Natal provinces
  • Cape Khoekhoe residing in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, with growing pockets in Gauteng and Free State Provinces

Deconstruction of Apartheid Social Categories

In contemporary South Africa, Khoe-San communities exhibit a range of socio-economic and cultural lifestyles and practices.

The socio-political changes brought about by the current South African regime have created the space for a deconstruction of the racially-determined apartheid social categories such as the "coloured".

Many previously so-called "coloured" people are now exercising their right to self-identification and embracing their African heritage and identity as San and Khoekhoe or Khoe-San.

San, Khoekhoe and Khoe-San are used interchangeably depending on the context.

No Formal Recognition of Indigenous Peoples

First Nations indigenous San and Khoekhoe peoples are not formally recognized in terms of national legislation; however, this is shifting with the pending National Traditional Affairs Bill 2013, which is intended to be tabled before parliament in 2015.

South Africa has voted in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

South Africa has yet to ratify ILO Convention 169

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in South Africa to learn about major developments and events during 2015.