Status of the Drakensberg San

What happened to the Drakensberg San? The status of the Drakensberg San? There is a widespread belief that the San were exterminated. However, this belief is now discounted, and it is accepted that they were decimated, assimilated and some ‘emigrated’. This is the status of the Drakensberg San.


Misunderstanding accounted for this decimation. The San believed in egalitarianism, or from an economic perspective, that property such as wildlife or livestock belonged to all. This belief resulted initially in the unfortunate appropriation of the stock of colonial farmers and from individual Nguni clans. However, they did begin to rely heavily on such stock and event developed sophisticated raiding bands to steal cattle. Aggressive and brutal retribution was the result.


Some of them emigrated to the Lake Chrissie area of Mpumalanga, were taken on as farmhands by the ‘Boers’ and even fought beside them during the South African War or ‘Second Anglo-Boer War’.


However, the Drakensberg San also built cordial relationships with surrounding Nguni clans, who protected them. The Drakensberg San were absorbed into these groups. However, certain of them maintained ‘dual-ethnicity’. The late Frans Prins, who was a renowned Kwa Zulu-Natal Anthropologist, has documented this fact. These are the ‘Secret San’, who have retained some aspects of their identity and who reportedly continued to add to their frescos in the Drakensberg and to visit their sacred shelters.


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