‘Help, we’re dying’

In an open letter to Jolie recently, the FPK said the government of Botswana forcefully removed them from their ancestral home in the central Kalahari Game Reserve in 1997, 2002 and 2005. President Festaus Mogae’s government in 1997 began relocating about 1,550 San from this reserve. The government wanted to initiate the San to changes in the modernised country. The government said the relocation was being done in the best interests of the San, but the San believed that they were removed to make way for exploitation of diamond reserves. “We were placed in relocation camps where our lives changed drastically, and we are on the verge of losing our culture. The government is trying to destroy us. We are asking your help in the battle to save our people. Many Bushmen families have been separated by this relocation. Many people don’t know where their families are and are very concerned and desperate.” The San also said they were not allowed to attend their families’ funerals. Those who remained in the reserves were not allowed to hunt or gather roots or fruit and had no access to water. The health situation was very bad in the resettlement camps. Young people contracted HIV and abused alcohol. “This is not our people’s way. The death rate is very high.” It could not be established whether or not Jolie had seen the letter and if so, how or if she wished to intervene. To Page A3 Contacted for comment, the Botswana government this week accused the FPK of being economical with the truth and acting at the behest of a London-based none governmental organisation, Survival International. Clifford Maribe, Director of Information and Research in Botswana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Southern Times by telephone from Gaborone that the FPK was not being sincere. “There have been no forced relocations from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The proof of that is the fact that there are some San people who are still living there. Would they still be there if there were forced removals? The Kalahari Game Reserve was established in 1961 to promote wildlife conservation. In those days the hunter-gatherer community was allowed to stay there because their way of life then did not impact negatively on the game reserve,” Maribe said. He said with time the San changed their lifestyle and hunting method and became a liability to the game reserve. “They stopped hunting with bows and arrows and on foot. They began hunting on horse-back or from the backs of powerful 4X4 vehicles and with guns made available to them by people living outside the game reserve with disastrous consequences to the wildlife population,” Maribe said. He said in one settlement, Xade, things got so bad that wildlife resources were depleted within a radius of 40 kilometers. “Further studies showed that it was difficult to provide amenities such as schools, clinics, shopping malls, dip tanks and decent houses for the San while they were resident in the game reserve as that would militate against the concept of a game reserve. It became apparent that the San people had to move out of the game reserve to be able to access these amenities as well as to enjoy the fruits of Botswana’s general economic development. Negotiations with the San for them to move out of the game reserve began in 1986. After a decade of talks, 1739 San people moved out in 1997, leaving behind 689. Further talks convinced all save 17 San people from two related families to move in 2002. We are still trying to persuade those who remain to move out. The bottom line is that no-one is still willing or able to lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. People want schools and heath facilities and that is what we are giving them,” Maribe said. Meanwhile, Jolie and partner Brad Pitt celebrated their daughter’s birth last weekend by donating US. $300,000 (about N.dollars 1,9 million) for the purchase of medical equipment at state hospitals in Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, Namibia, this week. Jolie gave birth to daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt through Caesarean operation at the Welwitschia Clinic in Walvis Bay on Saturday. The discovery that the baby was in a potentially dangerous breach, leg-first position prompted the operation. Environment and Tourism Deputy Minister, Leon Jooste said the money donated was earmarked to improve the two hospitals’ maternity wards and will contribute significantly to the health of Namibian babies. The couple and their newborn are still staying out of sight with expectations high that they might be leaving Namibia for Hollywood next week. Jolie and Pitt had come to Namibia two months ago before the birth to avoid the media, and the government went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate their desire for privacy. Of the US$300 000, a further US$15 000 has been donated to help the DRC Project School and the Community Centre in the in-formal settlement of Mondesa in Swakopmund. Jolie visited the settlement last week prior to her giving birth. Shiloh was given a Namibian birth certificate this week. Jolie, 30, is a frequent visitor to Africa and serves as goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She has two adopted children: toddler Zahara, from Ethiopia, and 4-year-old Maddox, from Cambodia. Both had their surnames legally changed to Jolie-Pitt after Pitt, 42, announced his intentions to adopt the children as well. “We want to contribute to Namibia and the people who have been so gracious to us at this time,” a government statement released quoted the couple as saying. Pitt disappointed fans in France but warmed the hearts of pregnant women everywhere when he sent an e-mail last week to the Cannes Film Festival that he was unable to attend the screening of his new film Babel because of the baby’s “imminent arrival.” In Babel, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the 42-year-old Pitt plays a husband and father trying to cope with a crisis on vacation in Morocco. Cate Blanchett plays Pitt’s wife. “I am tremendously proud of Babel and want to congratulate everyone involved for this great achievement,” Pitt said in the e-mail. The same Sunday after the birth of Shiloh, Inarritu won the directing prize at Cannes. The Mexican director said more than 1,000 people contributed to the production of the film and that “I’m receiving this award on behalf of all of them.” In Springfield, USA, Pitt’s family was delighted with the news of Shiloh’s birth. “It’s an exciting time for Brad and Angie, and we are really happy for them and the kids,” Brad’s brother, Doug Pitt, told the News-Leader in an e-mail. Jolie and Pitt were linked romantically shortly after appearing together in the 2005 movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (Additional about Jolie and Pitt by New Era/Nampa)

June 2006
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