‘AIDS and beer’: BBC finds despair in Bushman resettlement camp

January 8, 2014

A Bushman woman in the street in New Xade, the government resettlement camp to which many Bushmen have been relocated in the last ten years. © Dominick Tyler

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A BBC report has found Botswana Bushmen living in desperate conditions more than a decade after they were evicted from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

BBC reporter Pumza Fihlani travelled to New Xade resettlement camp in central Botswana, where many Bushmen remain despite a 2006 High Court ruling upholding their right to return home.

Fihlani reports that Bushmen she met with felt ‘lost’ and were ‘treated like dogs’ by government forces, who have made it impossible for the Bushmen to leave the resettlement camps.

The once nomadic hunter-gatherers have been forced into a sedentary life previously unknown to the tribe. As a result, alcoholism and AIDS are now rife in the resettlement camps.

The CKGR Bushmen were deported from their land by the government in three separate waves of evictions in 1997, 2002 and 2005.

In 2006, the Bushmen won a historic court battle, recognizing their right to return to the reserve.

However, echoing South Africa’s Pass Laws which separated black families under apartheid, the majority of the Bushmen are now forced to apply for a one-month permit to enter the reserve. Children visiting their parents in the CKGR are threatened with prosecution and imprisonment if they overstay their permit.

Goiotseone Lobelo, a Bushman woman, told the BBC, ‘I miss my home and the way we lived. Life was easy, there were lots of fruits, animals and there were no bars and no beer. Now we are lost’.

‘We are getting AIDS and other diseases we didn’t know about; young people are drinking alcohol; young girls are having babies. Everything is wrong here,’ her sister Boitumelo said.

Roy Sesana, a Bushman leader who has been at the forefront of the campaign for the Bushmen’s rights, told Fihlani, ‘We are worried that in the future, there will be no-one who would be able to practice the Bushman culture unless they are parading in front of tourist for companies who are using them for business’.

Survival International is calling for an international boycott of tourism to Botswana until the government allows the Bushmen to return home, and upholds their constitutional and internationally recognized human rights.

Join the boycott here .