29th August 2001
Botswana can expect a grilling over their racist treatment of the Bushman or San communities at the controversial United Nations World Conference Against Racism (UNWCAR) in Durban this weekend. Survival International (SI), a worldwide organisation supporting tribal peoples in their rights to decide their own future, protect their own land and human rights, will call for an independent investigation into ongoing human rights abuses by the Botswana government against the San. San hunters in the country are tortured and even murdered for allegedly over-hunting, and San leaders claim it is done 'because of our race'.
In what could be called a major diplomatic blunder, the Botswana government on the eve of the conference, announced that all water and medical services in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) would be stopped – a move designed to force the San out of the CKGR and into bleak resettlement camps. The government has persistently attempted to forcibly integrate the San into the mainstream national society, believing them to be 'primitive and backward'.
SI yesterday yesterday said from London, that it would use the UNWCAR as a platform to promote the rights of the San and to 'expose Botswana's racist treatment of its indigenous peoples'.
For the last 20 years, the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) has stated that tribal peoples 'shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development and to exercise control over their own economic, social and cultural development.'
'Although the San are guaranteed land rights under Section 14(3) (c) of Botswana's constitution, in reality very few have any. Most importantly, almost no community has been granted permanent collective ownership of land – another right enshrined in UN policy.' said SI director-general, Stephen Corry.
'The government of Botswana's treatment of the San makes a mockery of its presence at the UNWCAR. The San's right to live how they choose on their own land is being violated as a direct result of the racist attitudes which colour government policies and public attitudes in Botswana.' Mr Corry added.
In Namibia, San of the Khwe clan are being harassed and arrested without charge by the military.