South African San Institute (SASI)

  • Test case for achieving global societal desirability
  • End‐user involvement for WP 4 Outreach

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The South African San Institute (SASI) was registered in 1996 as a non‐governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to serving the San communities of Southern Africa (mostly South Africa, Namibia and Botswana). The San’s distinct hunter‐gatherer culture stretches back over 20,000 years, and their genetic origins reach back over one million years. Recent research indicates that the San, the aboriginal peoples of Southern Africa, carry the oldest genetic heritage of contemporary humanity. At the same time, they are a highly marginalised impoverished community with low levels of education and very high levels of unemployment.Over the past 16 years SASI has provided legal, advocacy, socio‐anthropological and related services, in a series of programmes dedicated to the practical empowerment of the San peoples.

San representatives have been collaborating with scientific research institutes for a number of years and their traditional knowledge on the appetite suppressant properties of a local plant have led to the most famous benefit sharing case to date.

Meryl-Joy-SchippersMeryl‐Joy Schippers is a Human Ecologist, who started her professional career as an educationist from the mid‐1980’s to the mid‐1990’s. After a brief stint as a researcher in the Urbanisation and Health Department of the Medical Research Council, she joined the South African San Institute‐SASI, first as an Operations Manager. In the ensuing years she has held the post of Programme Manager and Deputy Director. She is currently on the board of SASI.

Roger-S.-ChennelsRoger Chennells, senior partner of the human rights law practice Chennells Albertyn (Stellenbosch, South Africa) since 1980, has specialized in labour, land, environmental and human rights law, with an overall emphasis on public interest law affecting rural communities. Prior to 1990, his practice represented and protected those that opposed the apartheid state, and after the overthrow of apartheid he began to represent indigenous peoples in their struggle for restitution of land and heritage rights, leading on to intellectual property and heritage related issues. Working as SASI legal advisor, he has acted for the San and other indigenous communities in a number of cases where their traditional knowledge of medicinal plants has resulted in commercial products, such as Hoodia, Sceletium, Buchu, Rooibos tea and others. Roger currently undertakes PhD research funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Jafta-KapundaJafta Kapunda, Para‐Legal is a Khwe male who was born in South West Africa while under South African occupation. The advent of Namibian independence and his father’s participation in the South African Defense force resulted in his move to Schmidtsdrift army base in South Africa. It is here that he gained a particular interest in political history and matriculated in 2002 from the ! Xunkhwesa Combined School in Schmidtsdrift. He passed with a distinction in history and continued to further his education when resources permitted. In 2004 he worked as a field worker with SSI and did data analysis for the history projects in the Khwe community. Therafter he worked for Deutsche Gesellschaft Fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) as the project officer for the !Xun and Khwe indigenous community in Platfontein. Duties included community transformation and the development of the Platfontein game lodge. Since 2009 he has been working at the South African San institute as a Para‐legal Assistant under the supervision of Mr. Roger Chennells and continues to serve under such a capacity. He has conducted various community projects and workshops with the !Xun, Khwe and Khomani San communities. These projects include intellectual property rights protection, the preservation of traditional knowledge through the youth, and community awareness programmes. Jafta continues to be actively involved in various community activities such as Khwe Community Development Committee, Member of the Khwedam language Committee, Member of the Khoi, San and Nama Language Board and Member of School Governing Body of the !Xunkhwesa Combined School.