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A Bushman from a settlement deep in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve has travelled to the Gambia to ask the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for help.
Speaking at the African Commission’s international conference earlier this month, Smith Moeti described the Bushmen’s struggle to access water and escape persecution from the Botswana government.
‘The government refuses to provide us with food rations but will not issue us with hunting licences… If we want to eat meat we must hunt without a licence… When we are caught, we are often beaten up by the wildlife scouts’, Moeti told the Commission.
He added, ‘We have been in the Central Kalahari for thousands of years. We do not use guns. As long as we have enough water and food we need very little from the government.’
Moeti also quoted a letter his family had sent him from inside the reserve; ‘We have been abandoned. Thirst and hunger are haunting us and even our health is under threat. Therefore ask the international community to support us.’
Moeti’s grandmother, Xoroxloo Duxee, died of dehydration and starvation in 2005 after the government blockaded the reserve and armed guards prevented the Bushmen from hunting, gathering or obtaining water.
Moeti, who is currently studying for a masters degree in Botswana’s capital, was almost prevented from travelling to Gambia. Botswana officials had advised police at Johannesburg airport not to allow him to travel as ‘his passport was lost’.
Survival has been supporting the Bushmen’s right to live on their own land for years. Despite a High Court ruling that confirmed this right in 2006, the Botswana government is still doing all it can to keep the Bushmen languishing in the resettlement camps some call ‘places of death.’
The government has banned the Bushmen from accessing water inside the reserve, and from hunting. At the same time, it has allowed Wilderness Safaris to erect a luxury tourist lodge with swimming pool on Bushman land, and is due to give the go ahead for a diamond mine, which will require vast amounts of water to operate.
Survival is calling for a boycott of Botswana tourism and Botswana diamonds, until the persecution of the Bushmen stops and they are treated fairly.