The gods must be crazy!

Botswana hunting ban angers marginalised Basarwa people

Gaborone ‑ A hunting ban decreed by Botswana’s President Seretse Khama Ian Khama is set to reopen old wounds with the marginalised Basarwa (often referred to as “bushmen”) community, who say the edict is a violation of their right to food.

Earlier this month, President Khama announced that the government will no longer issue licences for hunting wild animals in 2014.

The government says this is being done to protect the country’s natural heritage and the tourism industry.

But some observers say rights groups and the Basarwa are likely to challenge the ban in court in the same manner they did when the government forcibly relocated the same people from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

The Basarwa won the case.

President Khama stressed that the issuing of hunting licences was fuelling poaching in the country while also stifling growth of the tourism industry.

The Basarwa have already engaged an NGO called the Botswana Khwedom Council to help them fight the decision.
The council’s executive director, Keikabile Mogodu, confirmed that they would confront the government over the issue.

“We are deliberating on how we can engage government on the issue as we feel the decision was taken swiftly without proper consultation and any empirical evidence to justify it,” Mogodu was quoted saying.

He added that the decision to stop the issuance of hunting licences was in sharp contrast to the government’s stated poverty eradication efforts.

Hunting concessions are currently operated within the delta as well as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which is home to the Basarwa.

The Basarwa feel the decision by the government also undermines their culture and tradition.

Mogodu said the Basarwa are convinced that properly administered hunting is not detrimental to wildlife and has been practiced by these people for generations in a sustainable manner.

“I think it is important to identify areas that (are) affected most by over-hunting and perhaps introduce the decision in phases rather than all at once, because some communities depend largely on some animal products,” Mogodu said.

“We have community trusts that are dependent on trophy hunting as a source of revenue generation and we wonder how the government intends to deal with these issues,” he pointed out.

Mogodu revealed that the residents of Mababe, Shankwoyo and Khwai had told the President about their contentions and preferences on the matter relating to the hunting ban.

Prominent activists and leader of the Basarwa pressure group, First People of the Kalahari, Roy Sesana said he hoped President Khama was not referring to the Basarwa in his edict and would not dare include them under such a ban knowing their culture and economic situation.

“We have heard about the decision and we have concluded that it refers to Gaborone residents and other villages, and those who are not denied their rights and access to social amenities as a way to evict them from their motherland for some international tourists’ attraction,” Sesana quipped.

“No one should claim authority over God’s animals because Basarwa have been strategically placed in their areas for some reasons by God, who they are connected to.”

Sesana noted that his people belong to a different world, which requires a different approach.

“We will continue to hunt when we feel hungry. If there is need to approach the courts, we will do just that. The Basarwa were found in the CKGR and we intend to launch a campaign about the issue soon,” he said.

Government spokesperson, Dr Jeff Ramsay, was quoted in local media saying that issues relating to the Basarwa and other sensitive matters are yet to be clarified by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.

“I am currently not aware of any special treatment in place but I can assure you that details of such and other cases will be communicated soon,” Ramsay reportedly said.

This standoff came as NGOs in Botswana have decried what they call the “plight of ethnic minority issues” in SADC.

Meeting in Gaborone last week, the groups from across the region accused SADC of taking a laissez faire approach to the problems affecting ethnic minorities in Southern Africa.

The Botswana Khwedom Council’s Mogodu said: “The marginalisation of ethnic minorities such as the San, Khoi, Wayei, and Himba is worrying. It must be noted that they are not recognised as tribes in various countries where they exist and their chiefs, culture and languages are not officially recognised and developed.

“We therefore call upon SADC to urge member nations to put in legislation and policies that would lead to the official recognition of their culture, chiefs and languages. Mechanisms to ensure their languages are developed and used as medium of instructions in schools should also be put in place.”

Botswana Council of Churches general secretary, Reverend Mosweu Simane, emphasised the need to expeditiously address issues affecting indigenous minorities.

November 2012
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