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David Kruiper (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

David Kruiper (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to raising awareness of the plight faced by the Khoisan community and successfully initiating land restitution claim for his people.
Profile of David Kruiper 

David Kruiper was born in 1936 in the Kalahari National Park (now the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) which straddles the borders of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. He referred to himself as “Die Ou Ram” (The Old Ram). He was the first son of the legendary San leader, Regopstaan Kruiper. Kruiper was the traditional leader and healer of the Khomani San, hunter-gatherers living in the Kalahari Desert. In 1987 he became the leader of the //Sa! Makai. He was well known for his acting role as a tracker in the 1989 movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy II.

Regopstaan and later David headed land restitution claims during the tenure of former President Nelson Mandela. It led to the reconstitution of a San community in the Kalahari and the transfer of vast tracts of land to the San people. He addressed the United Nations in Geneva on the rights and situation of the indigenous population in 1994 and how the //Sa! Makai were saved from extinction by their resettlement to Kagga Kamma and led the way for land claims for the San people in South Africa.. About 40 000 hectares of land were handed back to the San in March 1999.

He made headlines when he hitchhiked from the Kalahari to Cape Town in 2004 to see and talk to former President Thabo Mbeki.

Kruiper was involved in the development and restoration of the San languages.

As a traditional healer, he used the Hoodia plant (traditionally used by the San people as an appetite suppressant as part of their indigenous knowledge about survival in the harsh desert conditions) for various purposes. He was very concerned when some people took their knowledge and made it into commercial anti-appetite drugs. In his words, “They stole the knowledge of our people, took it. And we gained nothing from it.” Kruiper then engaged in talks with the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and wanted to partner with them to do research on the Hoodia, after he found out that the plant had been exploited and produced commercially. This was to ensure that his people were compensated.

He held much knowledge of the natural environment, which he was willing to share. He was the key driver in the establishment of a veld school through which knowledge of the veld, environment and traditions could be passed on to younger generations. The school also offered opportunities for visitors to have an authentic Kalahari experience.

Kruiper died in an Upington hospital at the age of 71 on 13 June 2012.