Memorandum from Survival International
Survival is a worldwide organisation supporting
tribal peoples. It stands for their right to decide their own
future and helps them protect their lives, lands and human rights
Background on Survival International
1. Survival International was founded in
1969 to promote the rights of threatened tribal peoples. Most
of our work focuses on two fundamental rights: tribal peoples'
right to communal land ownership as recognised by the ILO Conventions
107 and 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples; and the right to
choose how they wish to live. Currently we are working on some
80 cases of human rights violations in 34 countries with a particular
focus on very isolated or uncontacted peoples who have little
or no voice nationally or internationally. We have members in
67 countries and consultative status at the UN's ECOSOC. We do
not accept any government or corporate funding.
2. Survival has worked with the Bushmen
peoples of the Central Kalahari in Botswana for 15 years and we
have made a number of in-depth trips to the region to consult
with them. Our advocacy work aims to amplify the concerns and
voice of the people "on the ground". At the request
of the Bushmen and their organisation, First People of the Kalahari,
we have raised the violations of their rights with various representatives
of the government of Botswana, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
the all party parliamentary groups on southern Africa and human
rights, members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, the
EU and the UN. We have also obtained significant coverage of their
situation in the UK and international media (see attached materials)
and initiated public letter writing campaigns.
British government involvement
3. The British authorities have taken an
interest in the case of the Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game
Reserve. A delegation of Bushmen visited the UK in June 1996.
The British High Commissioner visited the area in 1996 and questions
were raised in the House of Lords on 11 December 1997 about the
visit and eviction of the Bushmen. The current High Commissioner
visited the region in December 2001 and his report is pending.
The FCO's Annual Report for 2000 (page 121) reported that the
UK government raised the issue of the Bushmen's land rights with
the relevant authorities in Botswana. In November two Bushmen
representatives met with the head of the FCO's southern Africa
department to express their concerns about the Botswana government's
continuing efforts to remove them from their land, and about the
torture of Bushman hunters.
4. While southern Africa works to put behind
it the legacy of apartheid, the Bushmen today still suffer from
unacknowledged racist oppression and continuing loss of land.
They are in fact a group of peoples known variously by outsiders
as San, Bushmen or (in Botswana) Basarwa. (All these names are
seen as derogatory by some people, but no other general term has
yet been agreed; we use "Bushman" because it is the
most widely recognised.) They themselves prefer to use the name
of each people, such as Ju/'hoansi, Hai//'om, or Khwe (Khoe).
5. The Bushman peoples are the original
inhabitants of southern Africa and have lived there for a least
25,000 years. In the last 300 years many have been wiped out,
and most of the remainder deprived of their land and independence.
While most of the killing was done by white settlers, both black
and white have enslaved and exploited the Bushmen.
6. Yet instead of dying out, as some imagine,
the Bushmen have actually increased in numbers over the last century,
and are not about to disappear. According to the most recent estimates,
the Bushmen of southern Africa amount to nearly 90,000 people,
of whom Botswana contains 47,675, Namibia 32,000, South Africa
4,350 (4,000 of them immigrants from Namibia and Angola), Zimbabwe
2,500, Angola 1,200 and Zambia 300.
7. Their history of murder and oppression
continues to mould the situation of the Bushman peoples today,
as do the racist attitudes that justified it. This may take the
obvious shape of contempt and ill treatment. However, it can also
take a more subtle form. Since their traditional way of life as
hunter-gatherers is devalued and considered a miserable state,
"living like animals", it is seen as an act of kindness
to change it, if necessary by force. This is exemplified by some
aspects of the government of Botswana's "Remote Area Dwellers'
Programme", the logic of which is that Bushmen must be encouraged
to discard their "primitive" ways in order to be integrated
into the mainstream. To quote the Foreign Minister of Botswana,
"Our Treatment of the Basarwa [Bushmen] dictates that they
should be elevated from the status where they find themselves
. . . They should be empowered to join the mainstream . . . We
all would be concerned that any tribe should remain in the bush
communing with flora and fauna." (Meeting between Foreign
Minister of Botswana and Director of Survival International, June
8. In fact this view that Bushmen are "backward"
is itself extremely "backward" and about 30 years behind
the policies of many other nations, and current Un thinking. For
instance, if one compares ILO Convention 169 on Tribal and Indigenous
Peoples (1989) with the earlier Convention 107 (1957), the goal
of "their progressive integration" (Article, 2.1) has
been abandoned, because it is recognised that this is simply a
euphemism for destroying them. This has nothing to do with "preserving"
people in some imaginary "primitive" state. Rather,
as Convention 169 states (Article 7.1) they ". . . shall
have the right to decide their own priorities for the process
of development . . . and to exercise control . . . over their
own economic, social and cultural development." Integrating
Bushmen into national society denies their right to be different
and lead a life of their own choosing.
9. When Botswana was the protectorate of
Bechuanaland under British administration, the colonial government
asked the anthropologist George Silberbauer to conduct a survey
of the G//ana and G/wi Bushmen who had been living in the central
Kalahari for at least several thousand years. On his recommendation,
the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created on 24 February 1961
"to protect wildlife resources and reserve sufficient
land for traditional use by hunter-gatherer communities of the
Central Kalahari" (Game Proclamation 1961). We understand
that the third and latest draft management plan for the Central
Kalahari Game Reserve, funded by the EU and published recently,
also recognises the right of the Bushmen to remain in the reserve.
Land ownership rights
10. In the 1980s, the government of Botswana
decided to remove the Bushmen from their ancestral territory.
After a campaign by Survival, the idea was shelved until 1996
when the government again declared that all Bushmen were to be
removed. In 1997 government officials invaded Bushman villages,
tore down their homes, and trucked the inhabitants to "resettlement
camps" far away. The conditions in the camps are miserableironically
the Bushmen are 100 percent reliant on government food handouts
since there is no hunting or gathering in this area. Many Bushmen
are suffering from boredom and depression, and alcoholism is now
common. Children have dropped out of school saying they are bullied
and beaten by the non-Bushmen teachers and forced to speak the
national language Setswana which they do not know.
Bushmen described New Xade camp to the journalist
Sandy Gall, who witnessed the first eviction, as a "place
of death". Evictions have been characterised by a lack of
consultation, high levels of intimidation and in some cases force.
11. Several hundred Bushmen managed to resist
relocation and remain on their ancestral land. Survival and the
Bushmen organisation, First People of the Kalahari, began a vigorous
international protest and forced evictions officially ended in
1998. Some Bushmen have succeeded in returning from the resettlement
camps to their homes inside the reserve, where currently some
700 Bushmen reside. Yet the authorities remain extremely hostile
to them living there. In March 2001, in a clear attempt to force
the Bushmen off their ancestral land, the local council voted
to stop the provision of water and food to the villages in the
reserve. After months of threats and verbal harassment, in August
2001 the Ministry of Local Government announced that all services
to the Bushman villages in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve would
be cut off at the end of January 2002. It claims that it can no
longer afford to maintain this service, despite the fact it continues
to service many other remote communities, and that the EU delegation
in Botswana has offered to help fund the water and other essential
services from part of its 10 million pula (£1,250,000) grant
to Botswana for development of national parks, signed in November
2001. To date, the government has not responded to the EU's offer,
and continues to state publicly that the Bushmen are free to remain
in the CKGR, knowing full well that if it cuts off the water the
Bushmen will have no choice but to leave.
12. The situation is now urgent. If the
governments cuts off the water, the last Bushmen will be forced
to leave their land. As one Bushman recently told Survival: "I
come from a democratic country and at the same time I am crying
out about land. What surprises me is that the government wants
to take my ancestral land, where my great grandfathers lived for
a long time. The government has taken us away from our old ways
of life. She used to provide us with water but now she says she
is cutting off that water supply from us. When cutting this water
supply, she is trying to provoke us to move out of the reserve,
and not to hunt like we used to. Democracy is prevailing on other
peoples of Botswana, but not on us. Our land was set aside during
the colonial period purposely for us to stay in, only we find
that we don't have the land now. I am appealing to the international
community to help and to support us in our struggle to get our
13. The Bushmen's right to hunt is curtailed
or denied altogether. In Botswana, the abolition of "special
hunting licences" has made still harder the lives of those
Bushmen who still depend on hunting, which is an important part
of their subsistence and central to their culture and religion.
Imprisonment of men for infringement, real or
suspected, of these rules causes terrible hardship to families.
In the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, torture of men suspected
by police and anti-poaching units has been reported repeatedly
throughout the 1990s and demands for independent investigation
have gone unanswered. As one Bushman explains "If we happen
to exceed the special game licences we are tortured and some people
end up crippled and some end up losing their lives, like my brother
who lost his life recently last year." Some recent victims
commented "They treat us like this because of our race",
and "maybe it's because we are Bushmen".
14. Hunted meat is crucial to the Bushmen's
survival in the desert, and the hunt is also central in their
religious and ritual lives. Their view of themselves in relation
to their environment and spirit world is intimately bound up with
the animals and their dependence on them. Their knowledge of and
identification with the animals far exceeds that of anyone else,
including the reserve officials.
15. The hunting restrictions are a clear
violation of Bushman rightsnone of the game is in danger
of extinction, and the government actually encourages sport hunting
by rich tourists elsewhere in the country. Even those Bushmen
with a licence are frequently accused of poaching and exceeding
their meagre allowance, and many reserve officials resort to bullying
16. Survival does not believe that any of
the Botswana government's stated arguments for removing the Bushmen
from these lands are compelling: the game levels are increasing;
the wildlife department is happy for them to remain; the director
of Botswana's hotel and tourism association has opposed the resettlement;
water levels are reducing not because of the Bushmen but rather
because of cattle farms in the Ghanzi area; resettlement in the
new camps does not bring "development" but boredom,
alcoholism and dependency; the cost of existing services is by
no means prohibitive and the EU has anyway offered assistance
with this. On the contrary, the most compelling arguments in the
debate are that the Bushmen have internationally recognised rights
to their land and way of life, and that they themselves clearly
express the desire to enjoy these rights.
17. Our work is rooted in what the Bushmen
themselves are saying to usnamely that they wish to remain
on their land where the ancestors are buried. We are keen to raise
awareness of the fact that under international law (ILO convention
169, which Botswana has failed to ratify) these people do have
ownership rights over their ancestral lands.
18. We are by no means attempting to keep
the Bushmen "as they are" or in some "pristine
state", as has sometimes been suggested. We have no position
on what choices they should or should not make, as long as those
choices are their own. We seek to act rather as international
advocates, amplifying their concerns about their rights to their
land and to choose their own way of life, regardless of what outsiders
perceive as suitable "development".
19. Botswana has a history of good governance
rare in Africa. However, its aim is now the very backward one
of integrating the Bushmen into the mainstream and ending their
way of life. It must halt its violations of Bushman rights, and
allow them to live in peace, in a way of their own choosing.
20. Survival urges the UK government and
Foreign Affairs Committee:
to continue to raise with the government
of Botswana the situation of the G/ana and G//wi Bushmen of the
Central Kalahari Game Reserve, who will be forced to leave their
land if the government cuts off their water;
to encourage the EU to make its grant
to Botswana for development of national parks conditional on guaranteeing
the Bushmen's land ownership rights in the Central Kalahari Game
to raise the issue of torture of
Bushmen hunters with the government of Botswana and persuade them
to carry out an independent investigation of reported and alleged
torture and mistreatment; and
to encourage the government of Botswana
to ratify international conventions on indigenous and tribal peoples.
Gall S The Bushmen of Southern AfricaSlaughter
of the Innocent, Chatto and Windus, London, 2001.
Gordon R The Bushman Myth: the Making of
a Namibian Underclass, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado,
Hitchcock R Bushmen and the Politics of the
Environment in Southern Africa, IWGIA, Denmark, 1996.
Mogwe, A Who was (t)here first?An
assessment of the human rights situation of Basarwa in selected
communities in the Gantsi District, Botswana, Botswana Christian
Council, Occasional Paper No 10, Gaborone, 1992.
Nengwekhulu R "Human rights, Development
and the rule of law in post-colonial Botswana", in Botswana,
Politics and Society, Eds W A Edge and M H Lekorwe, Gaborone
Silberbauer, G B Report to the Government
of Bechuanaland on the Bushmen Survey, Bechuanaland Government,
Suzman J An Introduction to the Regional
Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa, Legal
Assistance Centre, Namibia 2001.
11 Press articles not herewith printed. Back