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The forgotten tribe – Poorest of the poor

“Die Karretjie Mense” are the original inhabitants of South Africa and have been forgotten and abandoned in the system. These wonderful people originate from the Koisan, and Grikwa tribes. They are our “gypsy” nation who live and work seasonally in the arid Karoo and Kalahari regions.

Kuilfontein Stable Cottages in Colesberg identified the plight of these people by the changing of circumstances in vast areas of the Karoo and recognized these people as being the poorest of the poor.

Originally they derived a hand to mouth living by being seasonal shearers on the vast sheep farms in the Karoo and by being fencers in the non-shearing months. They live in temporary accommodation which is attached to their donkey carts which are their means of transport too. The menfolk would obtain work and the women and children would follow them to this sight for the period of work. After this, they would return to their “plakkerskamp” near the towns and villages with a constant supply of water being a necessity until the next job became available.

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Unfortunately, Corporate South Africa has discovered the Karoo and has bought up numbers of smaller sheep farms, lifted the fences and created large game ranches that no longer require the skills of these talented people.

The desperate part for them, is that they cannot qualify for any Social Grant from the government as neither the parents, nor grandparents of the children born have any identification documentation as they were not born in hospitals, didn’t attend school and so they cannot get a recognition from the government.

To rectify this, we are attempting to get the children to attend farm schools or recognised schools so that over time they will be able to get SA Identity documents and so that they can be taught the basic skills necessary for living in today’s world. We collect books, pencils, toys and especially clothes. These families live way below the breadline with their children wearing thin cotton t-shirts in minus degree temperatures, no coats, no shoes, no blankets, no homes and no hope.

The government is not concerned about them as they are not a “voting “ population” and so they need our help.

“Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo. The Marginalisation of a South African First People”  by Prof M De Jongh. The lives of a previously ‘invisible’ and forgotten ‘first people’ of South Africa come to the fore in this carefully researched study. The ‘Karretjie People’ (Donkey Cart People) of the Great Karoo are direct descendants of the /Xam (San/Bushmen), who were the earliest inhabitants of much of the Karoo interior. Today, as itinerant sheep-shearers, the ‘Karretjie People’ roam the arid expanses of the Karoo in their donkey carts in search of a possible shearing opportunity, sleeping over on the roadside in their make-shift overnight shelters.

This unique study is the result of several decades of original research into the lives and community of these gypsy-like wanderers, and highlights the plight of this marginalised South African community, ‘poorest of the poor’. The ingenious adaptation of the ‘Karretjie People’ to particularly trying circumstances and their challenging environment is illustrated by their unique way of life.


Kuilfontein Stable Cottages endeavours to provide work for these people on an ad hoc basis and distributes any clothes, blankets, shoes, nappies, nutrients, food and any donations received and tries to help with basic school fees, fresh milk and babies wear.

PLEASE DONATE anything that you no longer need. (pillows, towels, uniforms, socks, baby clothes, tinned food, maize meal, vitamins, crayons, sports equipment, takkies, cash, blankets, medicine, pots and pans, dog pellets for their hunting dogs but bear in mind they are small people weighing around 45 – 50 kgs).