This section takes up issues that are of importance to the indigenous peoples in Botswana.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)
Hunting and gathering rights
Natural resource management
Constitutional Amendment Bill (2004-5)
According to the Constitution of Botswana, all citizens of the country have land rights. The Tribal Grazing Land Policy (TGLP) of 1975, also states specifically that all Batswana have the right to sufficient land to meet one's needs.
The San's land rights, however, have never been recognized fully. Living traditionally as hunters and gatherers, they were seen as having no land of their own and since the late 19th century they have gradually lost their customary land areas to settlers, cattle farmers and natural parks and game reserves and other government programs. For the San, this land dispossession has entailed loss of land tracts that had economic as well as cultural significance, and relocation into government established settlements (see section on Settlement policy).
Especially the TGLP of 1975 had a major impact on their land situation since it promoted the creation of large commercial cattle ranches. The original intention to set aside "reserve areas to safeguard the poorer members of the population" never materialized and an estimated 28,000-31,000 people – most of them San - were displaced from the TGLP ranch areas.
More recently, the ongoing implementation of the Fencing Component of the 1991 National Agricultural Development Programme in the Western Sandveld of Central District is dispossessing a large number of rural residents, many of whom are San, of access to land and other natural resources.
San have also lost traditional land to nature conservation. National Parks and Game Reserves created since the 1940s now take up 17.4% of Botswana's area. As with the creation of ranches under TGLP the land on which these reserves were created was not empty, and people - more often than not San - who had used this land were excluded from it. This was the case with Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, and Khutse Game Reserve. A more recent case is that of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), which was created in 1961 partly to protect the San’s traditional way of life and where more than 2,000 San and Bakgalagadi still lived, when the Government in 1996-97 started to move them out. The last evictions took place in 2002.
In addition to parks and reserves, a further 20.9% of Botswana's land area is set-aside as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). These are areas in which wildlife is given priority, but which – unlike National Parks and Game Reserves – do not exclude human habitation. Most of the settlements within Wildlife Management Areas are predominantly San. Nonetheless, although San retain access to land in these circumstances, they have no formalised rights over it, and their needs are often secondary to other interests (e.g. safari operators).
In Ngamiland, Ju|'hoan San were driven out of their ancestral lands in relation with the efforts to obtain a World Heritage site status for the archaeological site of Tsodilo Hills.
Even San who have been resettled often face the prospect of losing their homes and lands once more because of government decisions or actions of the private sector. This happened for the CKGR residents who in the 1980s were encouraged to move to Xade, a settlement built within the CKGR, and who in 1996 were asked to move once more – this time to New !Xade, outside the CKGR. Today, San living in Ngwatle in the Kgalagadi District are threatened by the possible establishment of a Conservation wildlife corridor between the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the CKGR.
Modern land legislation makes no special provisions for the San's particular needs. Although it is being stated that the Government of Botswana provides the resettled San with land, the communal areas allocated to each settlement, usually in the region of 10,000-15,000ha, are too small to support hunting and gathering.
Within the national frameworks applicable to all citizens, San have the possibility of applying for small parcels of land from the Land Boards but only for residential, commercial, agricultural or pastoral purposes – not for hunting or gathering. Furthermore, the adjudication process is long, complicated and expensive. Many San also claim that their applications receive low priority. Only few have therefore legal titles over their arable plots and even fewer, if any, have been granted grazing land since they do not own significant herds of livestock or have the capital to sink a borehole. Recently, however, three groups of San, organised as Cattle Syndicates, have been successful in applying for commercial farming land in the Ghanzi District.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)
A major debate relating to San rights has been over the CKGR, one of Africa's largest conservation areas. The CKGR was originally established in 1961 and one of its purposes was to provide protection for the San who lived within the reserve. In 1986, the Government of Botswana decided that the residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve should be relocated to places outside of the reserve so that they could be provided more effectively with development assistance. At the time the CKGR residents – who apart from G/ui, G//ana, Tsilla, and Kua San also included Bakgalagadi - numbered some 2,500 – 3,000 individuals.
However, this policy was first implemented in earnest from 1996 when the residents in !Xade, the largest settlement, were transported to the resettlement villages of New !Xade to the west of the CKGR and Kaudwane to the south. During the following years, the remaining residents were repeatedly encouraged/threatened to leave and by the end of 2001 there were only some 700 individuals left. In late 2001, the Government announced that it would terminate its basic service delivery (water, food rations, old age pension, mobile health care, etc.). In January and February 2002, after having overturned water tanks and sealed the only borehole with drinking water in the Reserve, people, with their dismantled huts and livestock were loaded on government trucks and taken to the resettlement villages.
Immediately thereafter, a court case was filed by the San organisation, the First People of the Kalahari (FPK), on behalf of the CKGR residents. FPK had since 1996 and with the support of local support NGOs and IWGIA, been active in mobilizing the Residents and trying to get the Government to the negotiation table in the hope of finding an amicable solution that would allow the Residents to remain in the Reserve. At the same time, as the Government repeatedly refused to negotiate, preparations for a possible court case on the Residents' land rights were also made, including registration of the Residents and mapping of their traditional land use.
The court case initiated in April 2002 and was expected to be concluded within a year. It focussed on restoring essential services to the people on the ground that they had lived on and used the territory in question since time immemorial and therefore had the right to enjoy these services in their home territory. Funding was provided through the Central Kalahari Game Reserve Support Coalition. This coalition consisted of several local support NGOs including DITSHWANELO – Botswana Human Rights Centre - and a couple of international human rights NGOs, among which IWGIA.
The Government's position is that continued settlement is incompatible with wildlife conservation and tourism. It is also incompatible with its declared goal of "developing the Basarwa" and uplift their standards of living. It has also been advanced that the Government had plans for diamond mining inside the CKGR. The London based NGO Survival International has in fact based its entire campaign against the relocation on the role of diamonds. As of now, diamonds have been found in the CKGR only in one location, Gope, but the deposit is not commercially viable. The Government, on the other hand, denies any connection and diamonds have not been an issue in the court case.
The case immediately ran into problems. The application was at first dismissed on technicalities, then admitted by the Court of Appeal and finally brought before the High Court in July 2004. Since then and up till now (March 2006) the proceedings have further dragged on because of lengthy cross-examinations of the San witnesses, numerous adjournments, lack of funds and a change of lawyers. For the past two years, the London based NGO Survival International has funded the legal defence.
In early 2006, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve issue has taken a nasty turn. On 12 September, 2005, the same day that the CKGR court case was adjourned to February 6, 2006, armed police and wildlife officers entered the reserve and told people living there to leave. This led to several serious confrontations where dozens of people were loaded onto trucks and removed from the reserve against their will. Later, a group of 28 San were allegedly fired on by government officials using rubber bullets and tear gas; several people were injured and members of the group were arrested, detained, and later charged with unlawful assembly.
December 13, 2006 the High Court finally ruled that the Botswana government's eviction of the Bushmen was 'unlawful and unconstitutional'. It is a landmark legal victory for the Bushmen and it is a political victory for a democratic system of which the independence of the Court is vital. The Bushmen might have been sceptical that the Court would rule against the state, but the outcome of the High Court ruling has given new strength to the legal system.
Hunting and gathering rights
Hunting and gathering have been the basis of San's livelihood for centuries. Although few San, if any, today live primarily of hunting and gathering, they still see the two activities as a crucial part of their culture and identity as a people. For the poorest, hunting and gathering also secure a measure of food security and may generate an income (craft production based on skin, ostrich eggshells, etc.).
Over the years, the access to wildlife resources has been increasingly restricted through legislation, hunting regulations and development projects (mining, commercial livestock production, etc.).
Up to the late 90's, Remote Area dwellers (defined as people who live in rural areas outside of villages and most of whom are San) enjoyed special hunting rights when they met the necessary criteria for being issued with a Special Game License (SGL) e.g. using traditional weapons in the pursuit of game, and abstaining from the use of non-traditional hunting aids (dogs, horses, cars, etc.).
Introduced in 1979, the SGL were given for free. They were good year-round and contained a list of the various animals that could be hunted along with the numbers that could be taken. Many people in remote areas saw the SGL as crucial to their survival in terms of food and income, even if some saw the numbers and variety of species listed on the licenses as insufficient to meet their subsistence needs. The most cogent criticisms of the SGL came from Department of Wildlife and National Parks personnel, ecological researchers, and safari hunters. They expressed concerns of abuses and over hunting that according to them was contributing to the decline of wildlife in Botswana.
In the latter years, there have been a number of serious incidents related to SGL. San have been arrested, jailed, fined, and deprived of their assets (e.g. horses, donkeys, weapons, bridles, saddles) in some cases because their licence had expired, in others because they allegedly had hunted off limits. Often, the real motive was simply to harass the San and a number of incidents that were brought to court have ended with rulings in favour of San – but without compensation for the human rights abuses and material losses they had suffered.
The Government of Botswana has now ceased giving out Special Game Licenses to individuals. The only way that San can hunt legally now is if they apply for a citizen's license through government channels or if they are living in a Wildlife Management Area and their community has established a trust that is recognized by the government and whose members have opted to allocate some of the wildlife quota for subsistence hunting (see Section on Natural resource management).
Natural resource management
In 1986, the Government of Botswana embarked on a program, known as the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program, that aimed at decentralizing the management of natural resources to local communities. The idea was that communities and groups of communities would be given management rights over a given section of land often exceeding 100,000 ha. if they formed community councils (trusts) that had constitutions.
No ownership rights are transferred but the communities have the right to manage, and benefit from, the wild life resources within their area. Income generation can take the form of eco-tourism, game ranching, sale of hunting quota to safari companies, etc. In some cases the communities have opted to keep part of or all of their hunting quota for their own subsistence.
More than 80 different community councils have been formed in various parts of Botswana and the majority are predominantly San communities. This does not necessarily means that San participate on an equal footing in decisions regarding the trust management and operations. They often suffer social exclusion based on discrimination by the other ethnic groups within the community but also on language difficulties (they do not speak Setswana nor English), lack of skills, etc. Another problems is the distribution of benefits, where San may also experience a certain inequity.
At a more general level, the communities experience great differences in the level of income generated since some of them are endowed with an environment and natural resources that appeal more to tourists and safari operators than others. Some of the more successful community trusts have had very substantial earnings. In 2001 the Government of Botswana ruled that these community trusts would not have the right to control the funds generated by the CBNRM activities. In some cases, the government shut down community trust operations. There continues to be uncertainty about what will happen with the community trusts.
Constitutional Amendment Bill (2004-5)
The Government of Botswana (GOB) has recently presented a Constitutional Amendment Bill 34 (2004-5) aimed at making the Constitution "tribally neutral". Especially sections 77, 78 and 79 of the Constitution have been criticized for being discriminatory since they guarantee automatic membership of the House of Chiefs to the eight Setswana-speaking paramount chiefs, while minority groups, including the San, are represented by only three members, regarded as sub-chiefs, who are elected to the assembly on a rotating basis and serve a four-year term.
The Bill has been met with heavy criticism from the minor tribes and civil society organizations; the argument is that the new Constitution Amendment does not do away with the privilege of the eight major tribes whose chiefs will continue to be born members of the House. The minor tribes (who include besides the San the Bakgalagadi, Kalanga, BaYeei, Mubukushu, Bapedi, and Herero) will have their representatives (to be increased to 20) be selected by district electoral colleges to be chaired by a civil servant appointed by the Minister of Local Government.
There is concern that traditional leaders might not make it to the House via an electoral process. As for San, the situation is made even more difficult since the San usually do not have the same institutionalised chief- or leadership-systems as the other minor tribes.
The Constitution Amendment Bill is also being denounced for deleting subsection 3 (c) of Section 14, which allows "for the imposition of restrictions on the entry into or residence within defined areas of Botswana of persons who are not Bushmen to the extent that such restrictions are reasonably required for the protection or well-being of Bushmen". The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was such a defined area and while the President announced that the amendments were to make the Constitution 'tribally neutral', critics note the amendment happens at a time when San representatives have taken the Botswana Government to court for "forcing" them to move from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – their ancestral home. Thus, San and Bakgalagadi who traditionally lived in the Central Kalahari will lack the right to reside in any part of Botswana and their freedom of movement will not be protected.
The resettlement policy: failed development
Since the 1970's – and concurrently with the increased land dispossession - the Government of Botswana has implemented a policy of concentrating the San into government established settlements. The Bushman Development Programme, later called the Remote Area Development Programme (RADP), was introduced in 1974 to mitigate the impact of the Tribal Grazing Land Policy. But the aim of the RADP has also been to integrate the San into the mainstream society by encouraging the San to discard their 'primitive' ways and settle in permanent settlements where they would be provided with livestock and access to social services.
Over the years, some 65 settlements have been established, with a total population of over 20,000 people. In these settlements, the Government provides services such as schools, clinics and water, as well as land for subsistence production purposes.
Although the provision of these facilities has been beneficial, the consequences of being dispossessed of their land and subsequently relocated into settlements have impacted in many ways on the San's traditional way of living and even threatened their cultural survival as a distinct people.
Resettling has meant that they have lost access to their ancestors graves and to places that have religious and ritual significance; San who used to live in small closely knitted kinship groups are now humped together side by side with San groups that speak a different language in a confined area. Families have in some cases been disrupted because their members were relocated in different places (e.g. in Kaudwane and New !Xade). Sedentarization has also brought about close contacts with dominant ethnic groups. In keeping with national policy of giving all citizens equal treatment, the settlements are open to all who wish to live in them. In many settlements, non-San cattle owners have moved in to take advantage of free water and cheap labour for their cattle with the result that the settlements' communal areas become overgrazed by their livestock. Non-San individuals also own most of the local stores, including the "shabeens" (beer halls), and they also often appropriate the leadership in the settlements.
Resettling has also meant that people have lost the previous advantages of intimately knowing an area and its resources, and therefore have had to abandon old ways. Instead, they now depend on whatever crops and domestic animals they can raise themselves. But the population size in most of the settlements is rapidly exceeding the carrying capacity of the land; available game and veld (bush) food within reasonable reach is diminishing, and grazing is deteriorating. The settlements offer few opportunities for employment. So far, development projects implemented by the Government of Botswana and NGOs have had little sustained impact. While some households may supplement their income through foraging, doing temporary work in towns, or selling handicrafts, meat, thatching grass, and firewood, most have become highly dependant on the various social schemes implemented by the Government of Botswana such as destitute allowances, with goods provided in kind to people who are extremely poor, old age pensions, drought relief, food for work, and labour-based rural development programs. This has created dependency and increased clientelism.
In reaction to this, a recent trend is that more and more people leave the settlements and move into the outskirts of towns like Ghanzi, Serowe, and Maun where they try and seek menial jobs, even if this means that they will lose the social benefits that accrue to settlement dwellers. Many of the resettled residents from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have moved back into the reserve, even if no services, including water, are provided and they risk to be evicted once more.
This cultural, economic and social disruption has brought about social distress that finds its expression in severe alcoholism and alcohol related violence including domestic assaults of women. Assaults and fights occur frequently, especially in the new, large resettlement sites established for the people relocated out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (New !Xade, Kaudwane, and /Xeri). With greater exposure to mainstream society and the occurrence of sexual abuses by outsiders, sexually transmitted diseases especially HIV/AIDS have become a serious problem in many settlements and township slums.
The status of San women in the traditional context was characterized by a high degree of autonomy and equal gender relations. They were, at least theoretically, equal to men, took part in public discussions, controlled land and other resources and had rights over the goods that they produced.
Moving to the settlements has, in many cases, entailed a serious deterioration in women's economic status, as they no longer have access to their previous subsistence and income resources. It is also the result of the gender discrimination they experience from the authorities. The women from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, for instance, were by-passed when the Botswana government gave compensation in form of livestock to male household heads only, and they have also experienced difficulties in getting certificates for residential and arable plots. In both cases, government officials judged that it was males who were supposed to be the household heads and the ones who owned and controlled livestock.
Sedentarization has also undermined the former egalitarian gender relations in other ways. Shifting their subsistence to animal husbandry and crop planting, sex roles become more rigidly defined and women's work is seen as "unworthy" of men. Women and girls appear to inhabit more restricted spaces and housing is more substantial in settled communities than in the bush. The work of adult women is becoming more specialized, time consuming and homebound, and these women are quite willing to integrate their daughters into this work.
While women thus tend to stay in the village, the men are much more mobile: their work often takes them away from the village; they have more frequent interaction with members of other dominant cultural groups, and they thereby learn to speak Setswana and even English, which allows them to interact with tourists. Therefore, it is men who get most of the cash-producing jobs in the CBNRM tourist projects. If women get work in these projects, they tend to work as cleaners, maids, etc., work that is not being rewarded at the same levels as that of men. Women, however, still play a major role in the production of handicrafts, which is an important source of income. But government regulations on hunting and on the collection of ostrich eggshells, have caused concern because they put restrictions on the access to important raw material like hides, bones and shells.
A major aspect of these changes in gender roles is the decrease in women's autonomy and influence relative to that of the men. They find it difficult to take part in village meetings (kgotla) or play an active part in the Village Development Committees and other local institutions, which tend to be dominated by non-San. They therefore tend to become more isolated, this affects their self-esteem as it affects their ability to influence decision-making at the community and family levels. Political affairs have become the concern of men, not women. Ranking of individuals in terms of prestige and differential wealth has begun in the settled villages.
In the traditional context, San avoided authoritarian behaviour and had little tolerance for aggressive demeanour. Today, indigenous women experience an increase in domestic violence and sexual abuses. Alcohol contributes to spousal and child abuse, and alcohol‑related violence is in general responsible for a substantial number of injuries to women, children and men and a major cause of social conflict. San women in the settlements are also often the victims of sexual abuses committed by visiting non-San, and there are also cases of young San women in hostels at remote area schools being raped, abused and harassed, sometimes by teachers and school administrators. The drop-out rates of young girls from schools is high, in part because of teen pregnancy and fear on the part of girls about remaining in what they see as exploitative situations.
While the situation of San women has changed and they face new challenges, their perceptions are also changing; they are discovering alternative ways and are learning from other women's experiences. Today, indigenous women's groups are beginning to emerge, notably in connection with income-generating projects, and some of the bilateral aid agencies working in Botswana have developed policies that aim to promote gender and social equity. In recent years, a few San women have attended international meetings sponsored by various organizations including the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and, at the regional level, they have participated in conferences. This has given them the opportunity to meet other indigenous women, including San women from Namibia and South Africa, and share experiences, thereby increasing their own awareness of the problems they are facing as women and as indigenous, and what kind of action they can take in order to improve their status.
Over the past few decades, the shift from nomadic foraging to sedentary crop and animal raising has impacted on people's health – positively and negatively. Population growth rates have risen to the point where some Ju|'hoan groups are increasing at a rate of 2.5% per annum (which would cause the population to double in 28 years). Ju|'hoansi are taller and heavier now than they used to be. They also experience an increased life span as a result of a higher calorific diet, the reduced physical demands of settled life and the availability of Western-style health care.
On the other hand, diets today are higher in carbohydrates and refined sugars, and there are indications that adult-onset diabetes is on the increase, a process not dissimilar to that among other indigenous populations. The San and Nama may be suffering more from the "diseases of development" - cancer and heart problems - but this situation is offset by the fact that they live longer and now have greater access to health services. Clinics and health posts have been established in the remote regions where the majority of San and Nama reside, and there are mobile health services that provide health care, immunizations and medicines to local people. Family planning services and information are more available than they were in the past.
Indigenous peoples in Botswana, as well as in other parts of southern Africa, however, face two major health problems, which also affect the population in general: malaria and HIV/AIDS. Malaria is endemic and, depending on the rains, sweeps the Kalahari in epidemics. In some instances, entire villages come down with malaria, so much so that the residents have difficulty collecting sufficient food or performing agricultural and domestic work. People will complain of hunger, and malaria often causes death, especially among children.
As a consequence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, life expectancy at birth in Botswana has fallen from 65 years in 1990 to 36 years in 2000-2005, a figure about 28 years lower than it would have been without AIDS. Although the HIV/AIDS rate among San seems to be much lower at present than is the case in the general population, the infection rate is on the increase and it appears that San women in Botswana communities are becoming infected faster than men. Linked to the spread of AIDS has also been an increase in tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Botswana has a comprehensive HIV/AIDS care and treatment programme and was the first African country to provide antiretroviral therapy to all its needy citizens. But these anti-retroviral drugs, are in many cases hard to come by for San in remote areas with relatively small medical facilities and a limited number of medical practitioners.
Botswana has one of the most successful formal education systems in Africa, claiming universal basic education of up to ten years, and it has invested a great deal of resources in providing RAD children – a large majority of which are San - with the opportunity to attend government schools, at least up until Standard 4 and be incorporated into the formal education system. From the perspective of the Government, they are working hard to provide San children with the same opportunities as the rest of the population.
However, all indications are that San children do not reap the same benefits, as do children of more dominant groups in the country. San students have a lower rate of attendance and drop out much more often than students from other ethnic groups.
A serious educational obstacle for San students (and other linguistic minorities) is the Government's language policy. An important part of Botswana's state-building strategy since independence has relied heavily upon the promotion of Setswana as the primary language of its citizens. There is therefore no provision for mother tongue primary education for minority-language children who must begin primary school in a foreign language (Setswana), then switch to another (English) before they have even mastered the first.
Another obstacle is that the government schools and schools with boarding facilities, the so-called Remote Area Dweller hostels, tend to be very unsympathetic places for San students. The idea of separating parents and children is foreign to San culture; the pain and alienation that San students feel at boarding schools can be acute, and many of those who drop out cite missing home and family as their reason for leaving. The drop-out rates of young girls from schools is high, largely because of their vulnerability: it is not unknown for girls to be raped, abused and harassed, sometimes by teachers and school administrators. An additional problem is that many of the remote area schools have a disproportionate number of untrained and deserting teachers; and a shortage of classrooms and teachers and library resources. The number of San with a complete school education remains therefore low, and only a handful make it to universities or other higher educational institutions.
A prevailing assumption has been that San communities lacked formal leaders. This was based on the fact that they did not have organized political institutions and did not recognize a paramount chief. Yet, virtually all communities traditionally had people who they respected and whose suggestions they frequently chose to abide by. These leaders had a significant say in civil matters, in decision‑making regarding the use of local resources, and represented the community in discussions with outsiders. But public policy was always based on extensive consultation and discussion among the group members, with all adults and sometimes children having the opportunity to participate. Decision-making was generally done on the basis of consensus.
Today, San communities have been involved in electing headmen at settlement level for a number of years. Some of these headmen have been recognized officially by the District Tribal Administrations (they must have the ability to read and write). A number of headmen are women. San have also campaigned for national parties and a few have been elected district councillors. In 2000, the House of Chiefs welcomed its first San – and first woman member – Chief Rebecca Banika, a lesser Chief from Chobe with little previous contact with other San groups.
However, the fact of having representatives has not always brought about the changes, that San hoped for. Few headmen and councillors have so far been able to assert themselves and have generally to either toe the line or face removal from the office.
The political marginalisation of the San can be seen as a result of a number of factors: their high level of illiteracy, their lack of information and insight in national politics, their weak socio-economic situation which makes it easy for non-San politicians to buy their votes with food and other cheap commodities that San candidates cannot afford, and the lack of a strong, cohesive San movement.