Young Khoisan Men Arrested for Picking Traditional Khoisan Herbs

Aubrey Andres, Ashwin Fortuin, Ronald Adams, Leroy Vosloo and Edmund Cloete

They form part of what is known as the “Sackcloth People”, a group that is dedicated to living the peaceful and prosperous life of their Khoisan ancestors. Last year, however, they were arrested for being in possession of ‘Wild Garlic’, a traditional Khoisan herb.

According to News24, the men (Ashwin Fortuin, Ronald Adams, Aubrey Andres, Edmund Cloete, and Leroy Vosloo) were arrested for trespassing and being in possession of the herb “without a permit”.

They appeared in the Bellville Regional Court and released on Thursday on a warning but will “return to the court on 17 May for a pre-trial conference to discuss progress regarding… the investigation against them”.

The incident took place on a farm in Durbanville and the person who reported them is the farmer, the alleged owner of the farm.

The herb itself is not an endangered plant species, is fast-growing and is widely distributed from South Africa to Zimbabwe.

The “Sackcloth People” formed as a way to escape poverty and reject the violence that afflicts poorer communities, by engaging in the traditional practises of their Khoisan ancestors.

They also practice Rastafarianism, giving them the more formal name of the ‘Khoisan Rastafari’.

As indigenous people, they believe that the government does not have the right to deny them their traditional rights which include living off the land and moving around freely.

They do not engage in crime and violence; and do not consume alcohol or drugs (besides using marijuana as part of their religious practices).

Apart from living off the land and making their own clothes, they also earn extra money by selling their traditional remedies at markets.

The Western Cape is especially well known for its vast supply of medicinal plants which the Khoisan used to cure ailments used for thousands of years.

This knowledge was passed down through the various generations, extending to the present, the Khoisan Rastafari being proof of that knowledge.

The arrival of the Europeans; however; brought along genocide, mass diseases and poverty as well as the theft of their land, the enslavement of their people and the attempted destruction of their medicinal knowledge.

However, the knowledge survived both colonisation and apartheid, the proof being in the ‘Khoisan Rastafari’ pudding.

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