Dawid Kruiper was born in the Kalahari National Park (now Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) in 1936. 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. He became leader of the //Sa! Makai in 1987. Kruiper was well known for his acting role as a tracker in the 1989 movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy II.
Regopstaan initiated a land restitution claim during the Presidency of former President Nelson Mandela that was to lead 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 in South Africa for the San people. About 40 000ha of land were handed back to the San in March 1999.
He made headlines when he hitch-hiked from the Kalahari to Cape Town in 2004 to see and talk to former South African President Thabo Mbeki. He did not have an appointment, and spent several days standing outside Parliament in the vain hope of getting an audience.
Kruiper was involved in the development and restoring 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 people took their knowledge will made commercial anti appetite drugs. In his words, “They stole the knowledge of our people. Took it. And we gain nothing from it.”
Kruiper then engaged in talks with the CSIR (South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Affairs) and wanted to partner with them to do research on the Hoodia, after it was found to have been exploited and produced commercially. This was to ensure that his people were to be compensated.
A family representative, Anna Festus, said the group, Friends of the Bushmen, undertook to pay Kruiper’s medical expenses after he was taken to hospital in Upington, following his illness. He was transferred from the Gordonia Regional Hospital to the Upington Medi-Clinic after his condition deteriorated. Messages of well wishes were received, from across the world, from groups such as the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Groups of the United Nations in New York, and from friends and family in London.
Dawid Kruiper died in an Upington hospital at the age of 71 on 13 June 2012. Secretary General of the Khoi San Gauteng and Provinces of the North Council, Gordon Cassim, said Kruiper's death was a great loss to the Khoi San nation and South Africa.
An official state funeral was held on 30 June 2012. National and provincial flags flew at half mast for his burial in the town of Witdraai in the Northern Cape, close to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles the borders of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.