Being chased in the name of development
They make fire with sticks, have a great sense of humor, speak a very funny ‘click’-language and the diamond rich Kalahari Desert is their home. They are the oldest inhabitants of the African continent and need a stepladder to look you in the eye. Please meet the San People ( also known as ‘Bushmen’).
I had the opportunity to spend several days with these most amicable people. They took me on porcupine hunts, they told me stories and we smoked too much tobacco together. I sat in awe as they performed their trance-dance under a full moon, feeling thrown back in time by the monotonous clapping of their fragile hands.
But in recent years there is not much reason to clap any more.
In 1997 the Botswana government began to evict the bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) with the excuse that it wanted to improve the lives of the Bushmen. What should be said in favor of the government is that it built a complete new village, with a small clinic, a small police station and school, and most importantly with water, on the outside of the CKGR: New Xade (the ‘X’ pronounced by putting the tongue in the front of the mouth against the pallet and flicking it down fast. Try!).
See the Survival International video to get a detailed insight on the issue
The original reasons for the evictions were doubted by many, the Kalahari is simply too diamond rich for that. Proof that the evictions had other motives came in Feb. 2009 when the Minister of Tourism And Wildlife openly admitted that the CKGR will get mined.
There is more bad news for the Bushmen from the tourism front.
A well known tourism company received the go-ahead from the Botswana Government to build a lodge in, exactly, the CKGR. On the ancestral grounds of the Bushmen. The lodge opened in 2009 without any consultations with the bushmen having taken place.
The company calls itself eco-friendly and it is a public secret that the company is heavily backed by the Botswana Government. Since you won’t get a tourist without having access to water, permission to drill a borehole was granted. And although the water is saline ( I know this from a reliable source), the sight of a swimming pool in the middle of the CKGR must make the eyes of the Bushmen pop.
In March 2010 the well known tourism company went public via the Botswana and Johannesburg stock-exchange, but not before sports giant Puma had bought a 20% interest in it. Now Survival International’s pressure is trying to persuade Puma to abandon its interests since the Botswana company appears to be less eco friendly than expected.
In the meantime, pressure on Botswana’s government is mounting since the UN released a report in Feb.2010 regarding the Bushmen’s Human Rights.
The CKGR is 50.000km². The Bushmen are few. Surely there is a solution that makes everybody happy. The only thing needed is ‘will’.
That (African) governments want to develop their nations is justifiable. That they want to use available resources for that is logical. That they make decisions for themselves is applaudable . But what is more important, the preservation of an ancient tribe or the welfare of a whole nation?