• Indigenous peoples in Botswana

    Indigenous peoples in Botswana

    The San, the Balala, the Nama, and their sub-groups are the indigenous peoples of Botswana. Although Botswana has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country's indigenous peoples are not recognised by the government. The indigenous peoples are among the most underprivileged in Botswana.
  • Peoples

    3.3 per cent of the population identifies as belonging to indigenous groups, but are not recognised 64,000 belong to the San peoples, while 1,750 belong to the Balala peoples, and 2,200 to the Nama peoples
  • Rights

    2007: Botswana adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Current state

    Although Botswana has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country's indigenous peoples are not recognised by the government. Also, they are among the most underprivileged peoples in Botswana.

Indigenous peoples in Botswana

The Botswana government does not recognize any specific ethnic groups as indigenous to the country, maintaining instead that all citizens of the country are indigenous.

3.3% of the population in Botswana considers itself to be indigenous. There are no specific laws on indigenous peoples’ rights in Botswana nor is the concept of indigenous peoples included in the Constitution since the Botswana government does not recognize any specific groups as indigenous to the country, maintaining instead that all citizens of the country are indigenous.

The San of Botswana

Some groups in Botswana however maintain that they are indigenous, including the San (known in Botswana as the Basarwa) who, in July 2015, numbered some 62,500 persons.

The San in Botswana were traditionally seen as hunter-gatherers but, in fact, the vast majority of them are small-scale agropastoralists, cattle post workers or people with mixed economies who reside both in rural and urban areas, especially in the Kalahari Desert and in the eastern part of the country.

Subdivision of the San

The San are sub-divided in Botswana into a large number of named groups, most of whom speak their own mother-tongue. Some of these groups include the:

  • Ju/’hoansi
  • Bugakhwe
  • //Anikhwe
  • Tsexakhwe
  • !Xoo
  • Naro
  • G/wi
  • G//ana
  • Kua
  • Tshwa
  • Deti
  • ‡Khomani
  • ‡Hoa
  • //’Xau‡esi
  • Balala
  • Shua
  • Danisi
  • /Xaisa

Other indigenous peopels inhabiting the southern part of the Botswana are the:

  • Balala, who number some 1,700 in Southern (Ngwaketse) District and extending into Kgalagadi District
  • Nama, a Khoekhoe-speaking people who number 2,100 are also found in the south, extending into Namibia and South Africa

Poverty

The San, along with the Balala and Nama are some of the poorest and most underprivileged peoples in Botswana, with a high percentage of them living below the poverty line.

Legislation Concerning Indigenous Peoples

Botswana is a signatory to the:

In 2007, Botswana voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

Botswana has not signed the only international human rights convention that deals with indigenous peoples, ILO Convention No. 169.

There are no specific laws on indigenous peoples’ rights in the country nor is the concept of indigenous peoples included in the Botswana Constitution.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Botswana to learn about major developments and events during 2015.

 

 

The Botswana government does not recognize any specific groups as indigenous to the country, maintaining instead that all citizens of the country are indigenous. Some groups in Botswana maintain that they are indigenous, including the San (known in Botswana as the Basarwa) who, in July 2010, numbered some 54,000. The San in Botswana were traditionally seen as hunter-gatherers but, in fact, the vast majority of them are small-scale agropastoralists and people with mixed economies who reside both in rural and urban areas, especially in the Kalahari Desert and in the eastern part of the country. The San are sub-divided in Botswana into a large number of named groups, most of whom speak their own mother-tongue. Some of these groups include the Ju/’hoansi, Bugakhwe, //Anikhwe, Tsexakhwe, !Xoo, Naro, G/wi, G//ana, Kua, Tshwa, Deti, ‡Khomani, ‡Hoa, //’Xau‡esi, Balala, Shua, Danisi and /Xaisa. The San are some of the poorest and most underprivileged people in Botswana, with a high percentage of them living below the poverty line.

In the south of the country are the Balala, who number some 1,300 in Southern (Ngwaketse) District and extending into Kgalagadi District, and the Nama, a Khoekhoe-speaking people who number 1,600 and who are also found in the south, extending into Namibia and South Africa. The majority of the San, Nama, and Balala reside in the Kalahari Desert region of Botswana. The percentage of the population in Botswana that considers itself to be indigenous is 3.3%. There are no specific laws on indigenous peoples’ rights in Botswana nor is the concept of indigenous peoples included in the Constitution. Botswana is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Denmark
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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