Jailed for saying Botswana President ‘looks like a Bushman’ 12 November 2009

Botswana's President Ian Khama.
Botswana's President Ian Khama.
© Survival

A South African woman who said Botswana’s president ‘looks like a Bushman’ was arrested, detained for two days and fined for ‘insulting Botswana’.

Dorsey Dube was arrested after commenting on a portrait of President Khama at a control post on the Botswana-South Africa border. She said the President looked like her friend’s father, who has Bushman features.

The deeply-entrenched racist attitudes of many people in authority in Botswana towards the Bushmen were starkly revealed, however, when the authorities assumed it was meant as an insult. Survival International is sending a report on the incident to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Ms Dube says she was held at the police station and not allowed to call anyone in South Africa for assistance, though her friends did eventually reach help. She was released after spending a night in a prison cell and a further full day in custody.

President Khama (who is himself half-British) has referred to the Bushmen’s way of life as an ‘archaic fantasy’. The government has banned them from hunting for food or accessing water on their land, in a bid to force the Bushmen to abandon their land and lifestyle.

President Ian Khama, who was returned to office after elections in October, is a board member of Conservation International.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘You couldn’t have clearer evidence of the racism towards Bushmen in Botswana than this incident. A South African person thought resembling a Bushman was complimentary, but Botswana officials took it as an insult. It’s doubly tragic when you consider that President Khama’s father, the country’s first President, himself endured a great deal of racist abuse from the colonial authorities for marrying a British woman, and that he promised the country’s Bushmen that their rights would always be protected.’

 

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