BOTSWANA: GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES CRACKDOWN ON BUSHMEN
22 August 2005
The Botswana government has launched a massive crackdown on the Bushmen of the central Kalahari aimed at destroying their way of life. The move comes despite the resumption of the Bushmen's three-year court case against the government for evicting them from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
* The government has announced that it is putting guards around the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to blockade the area and stop Bushmen going in.
* More Bushmen have been arrested for hunting to feed their families. Xhatshoe Xhose, Maiteko Digotlhong and Gothata Digotlhong have been arrested so far this month.
* The wildlife department has barred the Bushmen's lawyers from entering the reserve to consult with their clients, even though the high court specifically asked them to do so.
* The radio authority has refused to renew licences to Bushmen in the Reserve who were using community transmitters to contact each other to ask for help in medical or other emergencies.
* Officials have gone so far as to stop the Bushmen's own organisation, First People of the Kalahari, from talking to those in the reserve.
* The government is on the point of changing the country's constitution to remove any existing protection for the Bushmen.
* Selelo Tshiamo, one of several Bushmen severely tortured by officials in June, died earlier this month. He had been repeatedly beaten on the chest to the point where he coughed blood. His chest pains increased in the following weeks until he finally succumbed to his injuries.
All this amounts to the most serious assault on Bushman rights since their eviction in 2002.
Recent investigations show that the Bushmen in the forced relocation camps have started to die after contracting HIV/AIDS. At least thirty-seven Bushmen have the infection in just one of the camps. Drunkenness and prostitution are spiralling out of control.
Journalist Sandy Gall witnessed Bushmen being evicted from their land in 1998. He said today, 'The last hunting Bushmen in the world are now on the edge of destruction, only international support can save them. Unless ordinary people make their voices heard it will be too late and our 21st century world will add the Gana and Gwi Bushmen to the long list of indigenous peoples destroyed by racism and greed. Have we learnt absolutely nothing? Are we really going to allow yet another government to exterminate its tribal peoples?'