Khoisan community waters its 100-year-old Jozi roots

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By Dylan Mohlala

The Khoisan community of Eikenhof, Johannesburg – who can trace their roots back to the land they have occupied for more than 100 years – are renewing their heritage in the City of Gold.

The community, headed by Chief Johannes Goliath, has received a contribution of 44 solar-powered lights and access to a security app from FNB Care, to improve security on the land where they’re living.

The first members of the Khoisan community arrived in Johannesburg in about 1894, just eight years after gold was discovered. The men worked in the mines as unskilled labourers.

The community was already established in 1903 when the London Missionary Society built a church in the area that also functioned as a primary school. The church and another building have now been recognised as a heritage site.

When the Group Areas Act of 1950 was passed, people of Malay, Khoisan and Griqua descent were classified as “coloured” and forcibly removed in the decades that followed from areas in Johannesburg that had become “whites-only” neighbourhoods.

These people, including many from Eikenhof, were moved to the new “coloured” townships of Klipspruit, Eldorado Park and Grasmere in the 1970s. 

People were dispossessed of their livestock and had to abandon their personal belongings. 

Over the years, some of the original inhabitants of Eikenhof or their descendants returned to the area, but the unemployed, unskilled and poverty-stricken community could not provide itself with basic needs. 

The current chief’s late brother, Chief Adam Gert Mathysen, started the programme to restore the Khoisan language, culture and heritage in Eikenhof. 

The land the community occupies still belongs to the City of Johannesburg but has no running water, electricity or sewage services, although they do get water delivered to their tanks once a week.

Ward 125 councillor Matsobane Sekhu is helping the community to engage the government and the private sector through various grants and programmes to revitalise their subsistence economy and hopefully, enable it to prosper.

The community’s main concerns are for water, electricity and sanitation services. The property is not fenced, allowing criminals to enter and livestock to eat their crops.

Pictured above: Chief Johannes Goliath of the Khoisan community in Eikenhof.

Image source: Dylan Mohlala

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