The Bushmen of Botswana, a Story of Resistance
“I know how to take care of the game. That’s why I was born with it, and lived with it, and it’s still there. If you go to my area, you’ll find animals, which shows that I know how to take care of them.”
There are 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Angola. They are the indigenous people of southern Africa, and have lived there for tens of thousands of years.
In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), and the game they depend on.
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds.
In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
Those who have not returned to the reserve now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. Many are now gripped by alcoholism, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS.
Unless they are able to live on their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.
Although the Bushmen won the right in court to go back to their lands in 2006, the government has done everything it can to make their return impossible, including cementing over their only water borehole; without it, the Bushmen struggled to find enough water to survive on their lands.
The Bushmen launched further litigation against the government in a bid to gain access to their borehole. Although their application was initially dismissed, in January 2011 Botswana’s Court of Appeal ruled that the Bushmen can use their old borehole and sink new ones in the reserve as well.
In addition, the government has:
-Refused to issue a single permit to hunt on their land (despite Botswana’s High Court ruling that its refusal to issue permits was unlawful),
-Arrested more than 50 Bushmen for hunting to feed their families,
-Enforced restricted access to the reserve for the majority of Bushmen, who must now apply for a one-month permit to visit their families.
Its policy is clearly to intimidate and frighten the Bushmen into staying in the resettlement camps, and making the lives of those who have gone back to their ancestral land impossible.
[In August 2016, the ranger police fired from a helicopter upon some Bushmen who were hunting in the reserve. The Anti-poaching laws in Botswana, newly enforced in 2014, allow to shoot poachers who flee. This news has not created enough disturbance worldwide and it has brought back to the table the need to support the Bushmen rights, rights that they have fought for and won in a historical plight in 2006 - see video below-.]
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