Komorebi Post– “My people have long been exploited and continue to be exploited. We are cattle herders with no benefits, no pension fund and if an accident happens on the job, either kicked by a cow or injured while at work and the worker is invalid, he is immediately laid off with not benefits at all,” says Jumanda Gakelebone, 40 year old, a Bushman from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve, secretary and spokesperson of Roy Sesana.
‘The Bushmen’, or The San are Botswana’s indigenous tribe, known locally as the Basarwa, they make up approximately 3.3% of the population and are considered the largest Indigenous group. According to Human Right (2017) report Basarwa people remain marginalized economically and politically and generally did not have access to their traditional land. The Basarwa continued to be geographically isolated, with limited access to education, and lack of awareness in civil rights.
The welfare of the Basarwa; continues to be the ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for other Batswana. The Basarwa are cattle herders, a job which they are lowly paid for and have no pension fund or any other benefits. It is common for a Mosarwa to be hired with his whole family but only the man will be paid and the other family members work for free.
Jumanda Gakelebone claims the removal of his people from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) to resettle at the built settlement of New Xade far from the CKGR was another form of discrimination by the Botswana government.
“The government moved us because they wanted to make way for the hunting concession for the rich, which we the First People of the Kalahari do not benefit anything from. We were exiled from our land to make way for the diamond mines which have cropped in our ancestral land. This is profound discrimination, it is not that we have accepted what is happening, it’s because there nothing we can do about it,” Jumanda Gakelebone says.
The San get the short end of the stick
Though the Basarwa generate some of Botswana’s foreign income through tourists, they are always getting the shorter end of the stick from other citizens. Many people claimed the Basarwa “loved the treatment” they were getting till one man, a Mosarwa (Singular: – Mosarwa. Plural:-Basarwa) stepped forward and fought for the rights of Basarwa. Until, 2002 Roy Sesana also known by his ‘Bushmen/Sesarwa name as Tobee Tcori took the Botswana government to court in one of the court cases that rocked the country and nearly termed Botswana’s diamonds as blood diamonds.
The court cases after 700 Basarwa were forced by the Botswana government to relocate and change their way of life away from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) which had been their home. The Botswana government’s claims were that the Basarwa are to be brought out of the desert to the facilities like hospitals, schools and many others.
The Basarwa wanted the facilities brought to them instead, because they are hunters and gatherers who relied on hunting and fruits of the wild and wanted to live in the wilderness as they have always lived, in harmony with nature for ages.
Botswana is a country that is always applauded for its good governance and democracy but all that lies on the surface. Botswana has been under the microscope thrice, in 2002, 2008 and 2013, in which the country was served with recommendations to account to universal expectations. Although Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana was against discrimination, in his words everyone Motswana (citizen of Botswana, singular) is equal and is not to be discriminated.
“We must at all times avoid the creation of a special class of highly paid people in the centre while the majority of our people are living in poverty in the periphery. As long as the Botswana Democratic Party is in power the privileged minority will have no chance of abrogating to itself the right to a decent life,” said Sir Seretse Khama in 15 December 1969.