consequently large-scale loss of culture and identity, they occupy an unchallenged
niche as the poorest of the poor in these countries (Suzman 2001 ).
Today, while a minority of San live in villages on their own land, 21 most reside
in conditions of abject poverty on land to which they have no rights or traditional
claim. Living in small rural villages in regions dominated by more powerful
African cultures, in sterile government resettlement villages, or as labourers work-
ing on commercial ranches, they inhabit an uneasy twilight zone between their
former traditional ways and the modern world.
In 1996, San leaders formed the Working Group for Indigenous Minorities in
Southern Africa (WIMSA), their own umbrella organization, charged with uniting
and representing the interests of San communities from Botswana, Namibia and
South Africa. Regular meetings were held across national boundaries, and, at its
general assembly in 1998, WIMSA secured a significant early achievement with a
unanimous decision, subsequently confirmed on many occasions, that San culture
and heritage was a collective asset, owned by all San across all boundaries.
Heritage was understood to encompass all tangible and intangible aspects of cul-
ture, traditional knowledge, rock art, myths and music. This important policy deci-
sion was to be of great significance when the San later came to negotiate their
rights in the Hoodia case. 22
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a South African
research institute, one of the largest in Africa. In 1963, following leads in documented
research related to the traditional use of the Hoodia species as an appetite and thirst
suppressant (White and Sloane 1937 ), the CSIR began confidential research and trials
to investigate and isolate the active ingredients. Tests were initially inconclusive, and
were suspended until 1982, when they resumed with the benefit of new technology
(Wynberg 2004 ). 23 By 1995 the first patent application had been lodged in South
Africa (South African Patent No 983170), followed over the next few years by a suc-
cession of progressive international patent applications. 24 It is worth noting that no
domestic access and benefit-sharing laws or frameworks were in place in South
21 The approximately 4,000 !Kung of the N = a Jaqna conservancy (formerly West Bushmanland)
in Namibia, 5,000 Jun/uasi of the Nyae Nyae (formerly East Bushmanland) in Namibia and 800
= Khomani San of the Northern Cape, South Africa, have secured rights to live on their tradi-
22 The Nagoya Protocol now recognizes in general (Annex 1) that innovative solutions are
required to address benefit sharing in circumstances where traditional knowledge occurs in trans-
boundary situations, as well as requiring parties to cooperate, with the involvement of indigenous
and local communities, in circumstances where the same genetic resources are found within the
territory of more than one party (Art 11.1).
23 Rachel Wynberg ( 2004 : 854-858) provides a detailed discussion of the ecology and use of
Hoodia , and of the species' commercial development, the details of which are beyond the scope
of this discussion.
24 UK patent GB 2338235 and World Patent WO 98/46243 covering 'pharmaceutical compo-
sitions having an appetite suppressant activity', including 'raw materials, active substances and
mode of action'.