Basarwa petition Prince Charles over hunting ban in Bots


Gaborone – Following Botswana’s decision to ban the hunting of a variety of wild animals, the Basarwa community has sent an emissary to the United Kingdom to plead with Prince Charles to persuade the government to rescind its decision that affects them in their ancestral land.

The Basarwa activist from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve will travel miles from his home in Botswana to tell the Prince of Wales, “We’re not poachers – we hunt to survive.”

Jumanda Gakelebone, 40, left for Prince Charles’s residence on April 8 with a letter appealing to the Prince to help stop Botswana’s violent regime against the country’s indigenous Basarwa. 

In the petition letter, the Basarwa stated that: “We have survived alongside the animals of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve since the beginning of time.

“We know how to look after them and we hunt them for our survival, not for entertainment like many tourists from your country do. We know that you walked with Mr Laurens van der Post and Bushmen a long time ago.”

The letter adds that “You know who we are. We are begging you to talk to President Khama, and ask him to stop persecuting us the Basarwa.

“Let us live and hunt on our ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve like our fathers and their fathers before them. “We want our children to live off the fat of this land, in peace.”

British barrister Gordon Bennett will join Gakelebone at Clarence House, in his first meeting with his Basarwa clients since being banned from Botswana in 2013.

Bennett was barred after he and the Basarwa won three court cases against the Botswana government’s alleged persecution of the tribe.

Prince Charles first met the Basarwa of the Kalahari during a trip to Botswana with his friend and mentor Sir Laurens van der Post in 1987. Sir Laurens was Prince William’s godfather.

He later wrote, “What I discovered was the profound and intuitive ties that bind the Bushmen to their land; their awareness of the workings of the natural world and of the delicate balance between life, physical surroundings and inner spirituality that they had maintained for so long in the harshest of environments.

“The Bushman is an innocent victim of what, far too glibly, too many of us would call ‘progress’… We all lose if the Bushman disappears.”

In February, President Khama was an honoured guest at a global anti-poaching conference in London, alongside Prince Charles and Prince William.

The initiative resulted in the launch of Prince William’s United for Wildlife, drawing together seven big conservation organisations, including US-based Conservation International (CI). President Khama is a CI board member.

But President Khama has banned all hunting nationwide, even for Basarwa who hunt to feed their families, under the pretext of clamping down on poaching. However, it has emerged that trophy hunters who pay up to US$8 000 to hunt giraffes and zebras are still being allowed to hunt.

April 2014
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