For the Khoi-Khoi and San community of Wupperthal in the Cedarberg region of South Africa, New Year’s Day 2019 dawned in tragedy. Overnight, a fire devastated the small, historic town, burning down most of the houses and buildings and leaving 200 people without homes and belongings. This tragedy is a blow to the cultural heritage of the people of this community.
The town also lies at the heart of South Africa’s largest population of wildly grown Rooibos. The Wupperthal community has been stewarding this precious resource for generations. They’re part of the struggle of the Khoi-Khoi and San communities in fighting to get recognition as the traditional knowledge holders to this unique resource, currently the biggest case of Access and Benefit Sharing under Nagoya Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Unfortunately, their way of life is under threat due to the fire. They face many challenges, compounded by the New Year’s loss of their historical homes built during the 1800s along with asserting their land rights. Over 53 families are left without homes and are living in temporary accommodation. Their immediate plight is to return to the homes they have known for several generations.
After the fire, many parts of our country have reached out. And while help has been pouring in from government, charities and well-wishers, the community will never reclaim what has been lost and the future remains precarious.
Natural Justice, a team of environmental lawyers, has a long-term relationship with the community through supporting the Khoi-Khoi and San as knowledge holders to Rooibos. We hope to support the Wupperthal community in their efforts to rebuild their cultural heritage and links to their ancestral land. We have already established a partnership with their newly elected community body, which was formed on 1 January 2019.
We would like to invite you to be part of it. All proceeds will go towards efforts to strengthen their rebuilding efforts.