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Extermination of the Bushmen
Who are the Bushmen?
The Bushmen, or San, were forever immortalised in the Jamie Uys movie and it's sequel, the 'God's must be Crazy'. People all over the world fell in love with the little man wearing only a loincloth who spoke in clicks and had a coke bottle fall on his head. There are 100,000 Bushmen left 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. One can see the evidence in the numerous rock paintings seen all over Southern Africa on mountains and in caves.
In South Africa, the Bushmen were hunted and killed by Nguni Tribes moving south in search of new grazing. The Nguni tribes like the Zulu and the Xhosa, originally came from central Africa and are not indigenous to South Africa. The poor Bushmen, used to living by hunting found the Nguni people's cattle very easy to 'hunt' and this obviously upset the Nguni people, and they retaliated by hunting the Bushmen. As the Bushmen fled the advancing Nguni tribes, they met the European trekkers and farmers moving north, also in search of grazing. The Bushmen hunted the European's cattle and oxen which they didn't take lightly either. Bushmen hunting parties were organised. Both the Nguni tribes and the Europeans, did not view the Bushmen as being human beings. They thought they were animals, something like the missing link. This forced the Bushmen to move into and adapt to the dry, more desert-like areas, of Southern Africa.
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 (wild animals not a sports 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. Some tried to return and were tortured. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
The Botswana Government forcibly moved the Bushmen to resettlement camps outside the reserve. They have been banned from hunting, their only source of meat, and are arrested and beaten when they do. With nothing to do, they are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS. Farmers won't employ them as they are not strong enough to do manual labour tasks. They can't do other jobs as they have no education. The Bushmen don't have the same work ethic we have. If they are tired, they will just go and sleep under a tree. They don't stick to conventional work hours and if they are not in the mood to work, they don't. This makes them quite unemployable. Most survive by making crafts and selling them to missionaries for food and supplies. When I visited a Bushmen village in Botswana, I was aghast at some disease many children suffer because of the poor diet they are now forced to have. Many children have strange patches on their heads, rather like mange on a dog.
In the Gope area of the Central Kalahari in Botswana, the Bushmen have many ancestral graves. Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.
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Read Fenella's adventures in Botswana
In the Gope area in Botswana, where diamonds have been found, Bushmen have been living there for generations. Many alive today were born there. Moloreng Balane, born in 1923, recalls, ‘I was born in Gope and my grandparents originated and died there.’ Many Bushmen from Gope recall when the first prospectors arrived. Segoko says, ‘When the mine started, we used to see aeroplanes, which frightened us. Then we saw lots of cars. This whole area, including on the spot where the mine shaft is, was inhabited by Bushman people who fled.’ This information was obtained from Survival International, who have been working really hard to try and save the Bushmen.
Although the Bushmen or San people lived peacefully for thousands of years, they have a history of being hunted and killed. Other African Tribes hunted them and killed them when the Bushmen hunted their cattle. European farmers would organise Bushmen Hunting parties for an afternoon's sport. In Namibia, when it was still German South West Africa, German missionaries and farmers hunted Bushmen regularly. The Bushmen didn't seem to understand ownership. If an animal or crops to pick was available and in their sights, they would take it. In their culture, there is no ownership. Everything belongs to everybody. This didn't sit well with the intruders who came to colonise their land.
In recent years, Bushmen were used by the South African Army as trackers during the Bush War of the seventies, South Africa's own version of the Vietnam War, when they were trying to rid the world of SWAPO and the communist government in Angola. Many young men were killed in that war, and when the war was over, their was nothing for the Bushmen trackers, so they returned home, back to their old way of life.
In Botswana, the government forcibly removed whole Bushmen villages, loading people onto the back of cattle trucks by gunpoint, and moving them to resettlement areas where they could no longer hunt and live as they want. Many Bushmen tried to return to their villages. Some were tortured by being tied to barbed wire fences and left to die. Others were tied to the backs of pick-up trucks and dragged along the hard stony ground. Many just went missing. Waterholes were destroyed so they couldn't get water and died of thirst. Their goats were taken, supposedly put in quarantine, so they had nothing to eat. Schools were closed so their children couldn't get an education. Life for the Bushmen became very grim. Read some of their stories and messages to the world, at I want to go home.
A Botswana government minister was reported as saying that the Botswana government does not murder people. They are not murderers. She then added that the Bushmen were not people, they were animals. Therefore, we can deduce that the Botswana government thought it was culling animals, rather than exterminating people.
The Bushmen people in Botswana did what any self-respecting person would do. With the help and sponsorship of Survival International, they sued the Botswana Government and took them to court.
Find out more about the Bushmen
The Court Case
In 2002 the Bushmen made a huge decision and took the government to court. They wanted the court to rule that their eviction was illegal. Corruption rules in Africa, and Botswana is not an exception. Due to procedural wrangling and delaying tactics by the government while they tried to quickly exterminate and torture more Bushmen, evidence did not start to be heard until 2004.
Although the Bushmen are Botswana’s poorest citizens, the case became the longest and most expensive in the country’s history. Different organisations raised money to help fund the court case for the Bushmen. Eventually, 239 Bushman adults put their names to the case, and and as the momentum and publicity around the court case built, another 135 adults asked to be added to it. Together with their children, they represented around 1,000 people. (Of the original 239 Bushmen who initiated the lawsuit, 12% died awaiting justice.)
While the case continued, many Bushmen tried to return to their homeland in the reserve. The government brought in armed officials to prevent them from returning home. Those that made it home, were evicted again by the government, some of them for the third time. In a cunning move by the governemnt, the key clause protecting Bushman rights in Botswana’s constitution was removed by the government during the court case, effectively removing all protection and rights the Bushmen might have had. During this time, the world did nothing to help the Bushmen.
On 13 December 2006 the Bushmen won a landmark historic victory. After all the evidence and testimonies presented to the court, the judges ruled that their eviction by the government was ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’, and that they have the right to live inside the reserve, on their ancestral land. The court also ruled that the Bushmen have the right to hunt and gather in the reserve, and that they should not have to apply for special hunting permits to enter ithe reserve and live and hunt there.
The story should have a happy ending, but it doesn't. With their backs against the wall and international media representatives present, the Botswana government quickly announced that it would not appeal the judgment. It appeared that the Bushmen had won, but it proved to be a hollow victory. The Botswana government has since done everything within its power to obstruct the judgement, and prevent the Bushmen from going home.it
The Botswana Government has BANNED the Bushmen from using their water borehole or drilling new ones, They have REFUSED to issue a single permit to hunt on their land (despite Botswana’s High Court ruling in December that its refusal to issue permits was unlawful), So, any Bushmen caught hunting are arrested and imprisoned. In fact, more than 50 Bushmen have already been arrested for hunting to feed their families, Another clever new regulation the Botswana Government came up with in reaction to the court ruling, was banning ALL domestic livestock from being kept on the reserve. This means that the Bushmen will not be able to take their goats there. Another rule, was that no permanent structures were allowed to be built, and no schools. Basically, the Bushmen were stuffed. They had won but could do nothing with their victory. It's clear that the Botswana Government's policy is 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.
Greed and corruption
Is there a mine at Gope? Not at the moment. Although De Beers operated a prospecting mine shaft there for some years, it has been dismantled. Because of all the negative publicity from the Bushmen Campaign by Survival International, in May 2007 De Beers sold its deposit at Gope to Gem Diamonds, for $34 million. Although De Beers had repeatedly claimed that the find was 'sub-economic', Gem Diamonds has stated publicly that it contains more than $2.2 billion-worth of diamonds, and they planned to develop a mine at Gope as quickly as possible. However, De Beers and Gem are not the only mining companies looking for diamonds in the Gope area. Petra Diamonds is also drilling there. Since the whole hullaballoo started in 2002, the Botswana government has granted 112 mining licenses for mining companies to explore in the Central Kalahari reserve. 16 licenses have been awarded for uranium exploration and 40 for coal.
In South Africa, Bushmen are in danger because of the discovery of the appetite suppressing properties of Hoodia, a plant used by the Bushmen to suppress their appetites for thousands of years. It's how they are able to go long periods without food in extremely harsh conditions. The research process was not easy; in fact, it took 30 years to detect the ingredient responsible for suppressing appetites in this plant. When it was found, the ingredient was immediately patented and the license was given to Phytopharm.
Further 20 million dollars was spent on different trials and overweight volunteers, with all trials ending with unexpectedly high success. The people taking Hoodia and consuming it regularly ate about 1,000 calories less per day than those from the group that carried on their normal life. By the way, on average, the amount of calories consumed by an American man is 2,600; women consume about 1,900 calories a day. If taken on a daily basis, Hoodia plant reduces your craving for food.
The Bushmen were amazed when they first heard about Hoodia having been patented from the news.
Lawyers anxious to jump on the bandwagon, have written a number of letters in order to help the Bushmen receive fair compensation. This population has been ruthlessly exploited for hundreds of years: first by black tribes of Africa, later - by white people who came to colonize Africa.
Lawyers on both sides finally came to an agreement. The South Africa Bushmen will get some part of the profit made.
If you're anxious to buy some Hoodia to lose weight, don't rush off to the Pharmacy just yet. It is impossible to make Hoodia into a pill form, so it'll be made into health bars and shakes. To do this, huge plantations of Hoodia will have to be grown commercially in the Bushmen hunting grounds.
In Namibia, the Bushmen living there are also going through some hard times. A Canadian company was granted exclusive uranium-prospecting licenses in two ecologically very sensitive nature reserves in Namibia in the Namib Naukluft Park. The local Bushmen tribal chief has warned that mining would destroy their desert homeland. The Namib Naukluft Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa, covering much of the central Namib Desert and the Naukluft (Narrow Canyon in German) Mountains. It is home to some of the rarest and weirdest plant -and animal species in the world, including the Welwitschia Mirabilis, large lichen fields and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra - and also is home to the last surviving remnants of southern Africa's First Nation, the Bushmen or San People. Only 20% of the desert might be saved after mining and Namibia is Africa's top uranium producer.
Uranium is used for nuclear-energy generation. Canada is now a superpower in the African mining sector.
Watch the movies!
Gem Diamonds have put the opening of the diamond mine at Gope on hold because of the current recession. However, the Bushmen are still being arrested for trying to go home, water holes are still closed, and they are still forbidden to hunt in the Central Kalahari Reserve.
As people become more obese, natural weight-loss remedies are going to be more in demand. Bushmen hunting grounds where Hoodia grows will become commercial ventures. What will happen to their way of life?
As the world turns to nuclear energy, uranium will be in more and more demand. Another Bushmen hunting ground will be wiped out.
Really, when greed comes into play, you usually get corruption. And, someone has to be the victim. In this case, it is the Bushmen, the endangered First People of Southern Africa.
Bushmen in Botswana
The God's must be Crazy
Bushmen stories in the news!
Africa's Bushmen face lifestyle threat
Posted Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:39am AEST
The Sans Bushmen are now threatened by the 21st Century curses of unemployment, poverty, alcohol abuse and HIV-AIDS. (Reuters: Siphiwe Sibeko )
They roamed the savannahs and open plains for thousands of years, but the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of southern Africa's San tribes is slowly being squeezed towards extinction.
After clashing at the start of the last century with German settlers in modern-day Namibia and then being exploited by South Africa's apartheid regime in the 1980s, the San, also known as Bushmen, are now threatened by the 21st Century curses of unemployment, poverty, alcohol abuse and HIV-AIDS.
While the plight of the San in Botswana made headlines in recent months when authorities illegally evicted tribes from the Kalahari, their kinsmen in Namibia and South Africa have fared little better in protecting their traditional habitat.
A glimmer of hope lies in tourism as operators discover the remote part of Namibia where the likes of Gcao Nari, a grandmother of the Juhoansi San tribe, showcase the ancient art of threading ostrich shell beads.
But in a sign of the times, the beads that Nari painstakingly needles under the fierce sun are imported from neighbouring South Africa since there are no ostriches left in the remote north-east Otjozondjupa region.
Nari speaks softly to her granddaughter in the ancient San tongue, with complicated clicks rolling from her lips as she enthuses about tentative plans to reintroduce game to the area as a source of food and income for a people with unparalleled hunting abilities.
"Then my grandchildren can be taught to hunt again," she said.
About 30,000 San remain in Namibia, with the Haikom and Juhoansi the largest groups.
Their numbers dived from the start of the last century when then colonial ruler Germany allowed growing numbers of white settlers to shoot Bushmen and encroach on their traditional hunting grounds.
South Africa took over the territory's administration during the World War I until Namibia's independence in 1990, which followed a protracted liberation war.
Nari remembers the 1970s when the South African military came to enlist the help of the San in return for certain favours.
"They used my husband and other men of our village as trackers along the border with Angola to fight freedom fighters," she says through an interpreter.
"The military drilled boreholes for us and taught our children, their doctors in uniform gave us medical treatment and my husband earned a salary."
Other San like the Khwe and Vasekele originated in Angola, were employed by Portuguese colonial military forces during that country's liberation struggle, but fled to Namibia after Angolan independence in 1975.
They were wedged between two warring factions.
The South African military gave them shelter in then South West Africa; the men became trackers and soldiers in a special 'Bushman Battalion' against the Peoples' Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).
In 1990, some 1,000 San soldiers and their families took up an offer from the Pretoria government to settle at Schmidtsdrift, near Kimberley in South Africa's arid Northern Cape province, fearing reprisals from the new Namibian government if they stayed.
The 5,000-strong !Xu - an exclamation point precedes the word to represent the distinctive click sounds in their language - and Khwe communities left in the Northern Cape today have been reduced to relying on government pensions and food handouts.
"I feel caged," 84-year-old Monto Masako said, from his sparsely furnished three-room home at Platfontein, as he dreamily recalls his childhood.
"My father taught me to hunt with a bow and arrow. We slept in the veldt - it was so free. But that has all been taken away, we can never go back."
The Schmidtsdrift community spent its first decade in an army tent camp, exposed to the elements and without proper services.
But in 1999, then president Nelson Mandela handed them the title deeds to the nearby farm Platfontein, which they had bought by pooling nearly 900 individual government housing grants of 15,000 rand ($US2,000) each.
With further government and NGO help, houses were erected and the move from Schmidtsdrift started some three years later.
But having put all their hopes on Platfontein for a better life, many were bitterly disappointed.
With a handful of available jobs and no public transport to the town of Kimberley some 10 kilometres away, many spend their days idling and drinking.
There is no refuse removal and the tiny homes are shoddily built, letting in the rain and wind. Nor is there any inside plumbing, bathroom or kitchen, while many units have yet to get electricity.
HIV, tuberculosis, crime and teenage pregnancy are on the rise, community workers say.
"We can never go back to the life of old, but at least a good quality house would have made it more tolerable," Masako said.
There is some cause for hope, however, with the new generation of San attending school and several employment projects in the pipeline.
The people of Platfontein have set up a security company providing some 300 jobs, erected a cultural tourist centre, and were planning a game lodge with various donations.
"We are trying to make a new life," community leader Mario Mahongo said.
UN expert visits Bushmen, sees no access to water
31 March 2009
© 2004 Stephen Corry/Survival
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, visited Bushmen
from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana this month. He met
with Bushmen who are living inside the reserve without access to water.
Professor Anaya visited several Bushman communities in Botswana, including the resettlement camps Kaudwane and New Xade, where the government dumped several thousand Bushmen after forcibly evicting them from their homes inside the reserve. He also visited two Bushman communities inside the reserve, Gugamma and Metsiamenong.
In a landmark ruling in 2006, the High Court of Botswana confirmed the Bushmen’s right to live inside the reserve. Since then, some have managed to return, joining the few who were able to resist the evictions. But most are still stuck in the resettlement camps, because the government has banned them from using their own water borehole in the reserve and from hunting for food.
The government is, however, allowing a mining company and a tourism company to set up operations in the reserve. Both projects will need to sink water boreholes of their own.
This month the UN Human Rights Council also concluded its review of Botswana, in which Finland urged Botswana to ‘ensure respect for the rights of the indigenous people living in the areas of interest to companies active in the diamond business’, and Denmark urged them to ‘provide access to land and support for the residents of the reserve, as specified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people.’
Canada and Spain also urged action on the issue, and Mexico suggested Botswana consider ratifying the international law for tribal peoples’ rights, ILO Convention 169.
One of the ways the Botswana government is stopping more Bushmen returning to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is cutting off their water supply.
Before the evictions, the Bushmen got water from a borehole in the community of Mothomelo. A tanker carried water to the other communities once a month.
During the evictions the government stopped this service, removed all the water storage tanks and took the borehole’s pump, without which it is useless.
Many Bushmen have returned to the reserve, both before and after their court victory. They get water from ‘pans’ – rain-filled depressions in the sand, and from melons and roots. In the dry season, life is extremely difficult, and at least one woman has already died of starvation and thirst.
The government has banned the Bushmen from re-opening and using the borehole, even though the Bushmen have offered to pay the costs. It has given no explanation for its ban.
It has, however, allowed the diamond company in the reserve to use all the water it needs, and has even indicated that safari companies can sink new boreholes to make waterholes for wildlife.
Government renews assault on Bushmen
20 May 2009
© Stephen Corry/Survival
Botswana’s government sent trucks full of police and wildlife scouts into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) yesterday to confiscate goats from Bushmen who have returned to their ancestral homes.
The Bushmen, whose goats had been confiscated in 2002 when they were unlawfully evicted from the reserve, only received their livestock back in recent weeks.
The Attorney General had promised the Bushmen that they could take their goats back to their homes in the reserve, and government vets had certified the animals as free from disease.
But officials from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism have targeted the Bushmen’s small herds, apparently concerned that they do not fit in with the image of the CKGR they wish to promote. The government is promoting a scheme to build a tourist lodge near the Bushman community of Molapo in the reserve – the same community now being targeted.
Goats provide the Bushmen with an essential source of nourishment, particularly during the dry season. This need is even more acute since the government has barred the Bushmen from using their old water borehole.
Jumanda Gakelebone of the Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari said today, ‘As Bushmen of the CKGR we were thinking that our issues with the government could be solved and come to an end. The position that the Ministry of Tourism is taking means there are no negotiations. We as Bushmen appeal to the nation of Botswana and say that the battle between the government and the Bushmen of the CKGR is starting. For two years we tried to talk with the government. Now our campaign is beginning again.’
International’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘For two years the
Bushmen have been trying to get the government to sit down with them
and discuss their rights. So far the government’s only response has
been to send in truckloads of police to take back the livestock they
have only just returned. It’s hard to believe just how petty and
bullying the government’s actions are. They ought to have realised by
now that the Bushmen aren’t so easily bullied.’
For more information contact Jumanda Gakelebone (First People of the Kalahari) on (+267) 7190 9972 or Miriam Ross (Survival International) on (+44) 20 7687 8734/ firstname.lastname@example.org