BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 18:10 GMT
Botswana cuts Bushman services
San people
Only a few hundred remain on their ancestral lands
The government of Botswana is to cut off water and other essential services to several hundred Bushmen still living in the central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

If you have no water to give to your children, you will be forced to go the next place where water is

Bushman Matambo Nagakayakia

Aside from basic water supplies, mobile health clinics and handout packages for orphaned children and the aged will also be stopped.

The government is urging them to move to relocation camps hundreds of miles away, saying it no longer has the funds to provide water.

But rights groups and Bushmen, or San, themselves say they have a right to remain where they are and pursue their traditional nomadic hunter-gatherer existence.

But without water, they say, the remaining San will be forced to move whether they want to or not.

Wrong information

"There are still those bushmen who feel that the CKGR is their home and they don't want to be moved," Bushman Matambo Nagakayakia told the BBC.

"Some of the Bushmen who moved were moved because they got either the wrong information or part of the information. They did not move voluntarily," he said.

San settlement
The government wants to relocate Bush communities

It is a competition between the indigenous rights of the San people of the Kalahari and the economic interests of Botswana.

The government says it wants to protect the wildlife, and cannot afford to keep track of the Bushmen.

But many believe that they are motivated by the huge mineral wealth the Kalahari is believed to possess, including diamonds and possible uranium.

Mr Nagakayakia said the relocations had caused great bitterness.

"Those who are going to move are going to move because of the circumstances confronting them," he said.

"Obviously if you have no water to drink and you have no water to give to your children, you will be forced to go the next place where water is."

Economic argument

But Eric Molale, the permanent secretary at Botswana's ministry of local government, was adamant that no one was being forced to move.

"We are not cutting water supply. We are stating that if people need water they should know where to get the water from," he said.

They are in fact leading the most sustainable life in that area

Survival International spokeswoman Fiona Watson

"We are not cutting any services, we are saying the services are there. They must enjoy them where they are."

Mr Molale reiterated the government argument that it was too expensive to provide services for people scattered over such a wide area.

He also said that an attempt to perpetuate a "a nomadic prehistoric way of living is outrageous".

Pressure groups campaigning for the San dismiss this argument.

"They are very sophisticated complex societies that are constantly changing and evolving. They are in fact leading the most sustainable life in that area," said Survival International spokeswoman Fiona Watson.

She said the 600 or 700 remaining San had a right under international law to enjoy their traditional lifestyle.

"They cannot do that in the resettlement camps, there's boredom there, there's despondency, there's increasing alcoholism, there's a high dropout rate in schools," she said.

She also dismissed the government's argument of lack of funds, citing a recently agreed European Union grant of some $10m for the development of games parks and national reserves.

"So the economic argument frankly doesn't wash. This is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa," she said.

See also:

19 Jul 01 | Africa
Losing battle for Kalahari
04 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Botswana
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories