News / Africa

Botswana’s Bushmen Take the Government Back to Court

The Bushmen have survived across southern Africa for generations in harsh, arid environments
The Bushmen have survived across southern Africa for generations in harsh, arid environments

Location

CKGR, Botswana

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
The Bushmen of Botswana say they have been forced to take the government back to court for denying them access to their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, also known as the CKGR.

Though a previous court case granted them access, the Bushmen and the international tribal rights advocacy group, Survival International, report that the government is not allowing them to freely enter and exit the reserve.

Survival International said the harassment, intimidation and arrests of Bushmen for hunting has been on the rise in recent months, leaving the group with few alternatives but to renew legal action. 

"The Bushmen have unfortunately been forced into a position where they are now taking the Botswana government back to court.  This will be the third court case against the government," explained Rachel Stenham, a spokesperson Survival International in London. "[The Bushmen won] a landmark court case in 2006, allowing them to return to their ancestral land in an area called the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, in central Botswana. [But] since that time, the government has made their lives increasingly difficult and refused them entry into the reserve.”  

Stenham said that many of the Bushmen remained on the reserve though others have been forcibly evicted. She also noted how overjoyed they were when they won the court case in 2006.  As a result of the win, they thought they would be able to freely travel in and out of the reserve for needed supplies, or to go to school, or collect water.  After all, said Stenham, there are no supplies on the reserve and only one borehole so their ability to come and go freely is essential. 

“Many of these Bushmen who take these permits feel afraid to stay inside the reserve for fear they either will be taken out by force, or the next time they try to go back into the reserve, they will not be allowed to go back in to see their families.  So, there is a feeling of frustration and also fear amongst the Bushmen,” explained Stenham.  

The frustration is further compounded by harassment and arrests of the Bushmen by members of the Special Support Group (SSG), or paramilitary police, patrolling the preserve looking for people engaged in what the government says is illegal hunting.  Stenham said several Bushmen have been arrested for using traditional methods to hunt for game that they need for survival.  Some have even been fined and taken to court. 

Jumanda Gakelebone is a Bushman who said he has been harassed by the government while on the reserve.

“If you talk about somebody’s… land, you talk about his life, you talk about his origin.  So for not having access to your ancestral land, to my ancestral land, it has really made me to be sad, because as a Bushman, that land was my life.  That land was my healing.  That land was my origin.  That land was everything,” he said.  

Gakelebone hopes this time the government will uphold the decision of the court.

“In 2006, the court of appeals [ruled] that we have access to go and stay on that land… so to me, going back [to court] is trying to make it clear to the government that, that land belongs to us,” he said.

Stenham also emphasized that it is vital that the Bushmen be allowed to live in peace on their ancestral land.  She said the government’s continued denial of access to the CKGR is making life very hard for the Bushmen.

“They don’t have very much water.  It’s a very dry period.  They are not being allowed to hunt, and game is basically the main food that the Bushmen totally rely on.  And also they’re being refused access to go in and out of the reserve so it is extremely disappointing,” said Stenham.

Survival International pointed out that battles over the Bushmen’s land began in 1997.  That’s when Botswana was reported to have started forcibly removing them from the area.  The government said it wanted to ensure the integrity of the land as a nature reserve, while integrating the Bushmen into society.  

“In the past, the government used the excuse that the Bushmen living inside the reserve is not compatible with wildlife," said Stenham. "The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a protected area for the wildlife, as well as being the ancestral land of the Bushmen.  However, there is this huge diamond mine that’s currently being constructed by Gem Diamonds.  Survival International has always said there are diamonds on the reserve, and that must be one of the main reasons why the government just doesn’t want anybody living there."

The government has denied that diamonds are the reason for removing the Bushmen.

The Voice of America has made several attempts to reach a spokesperson for Botswana’s government, but, to date, there has been no response. In the meantime, the plight of the Bushmen continues as they struggle to live in peace at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More