“We want to go home!”
Backed by the British-based group Survival International and as if to coincide with the country’s 40th anniversary, the Basarwa have created a website ‘ Iwant2gohome.org ‘ where they have posted moving messages about their predicament and are appealing for assistance from the international community for what they call natural justice.
Not long ago the San appealed for assistance from Hollywood movie-star Angelina Jolie who was in neighbouring Namibia.
They now want help for their legal battle with the government in which they are seeking judicial redress in the High Court of Botswana, where they have accused the government of destroying their traditional way of life to pave way for mining, the country’s main export earner.
The Basarwa who have remained hunter-gatherers have complained of drastic change in their lifestyle and exposure to diseases such as AIDS which they never experienced when they were in the “wilderness”.
“We the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana. Together with our children, we number around 1,000 people.
“The government has forced us off our ancestral land, and now we live in resettlement camps.
“Since being relocated we have problems we never knew before: drinking, violence, HIV/AIDS. Many of us are dying in the camps. When we try to hunt or gather we are arrested and put in prison. The government calls this development.
“We just want to go home. Please help us,” reads a message on the website.
“We urgently need donations to fund our court case against the government to allow us back to our land, and also to help our people who are arrested and charged with hunting without a licence just for trying to get food for their families.”
Hundreds of faces of the San people bearing SOS messages have been displayed on the Website.
Survival International, which helps tribal people defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures has waged a 30-year campaign in support of the San.
It is working in conjunction with First People of the Kalahari (FPK), an NGO aiming at drawing attention to Botswana’s San/Basarwa people’s struggle to regain entry to their ancestral home.
It maintains they were driven out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve — one of the world’s largest sanctuaries — to make way for diamond mining, a claim the government has denied.
However, the government of Botswana has maintained that resettlement was voluntary.
The Basarwa are believed to be among the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, the majority of them being in Botswana and were believed to have once numbered millions.
Currently the San are estimated at about 100, 000 in Southern Africa.
Almost half of them live in Botswana, while others are dotted across Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Most in Southern Africa were absorbed into agricultural communities over the last 2 000 years, leaving the language in the clicks of many Southern African tongues.