069_G19_InFocus_Botawana

Global

In Focus Botswana South Africa. However, President Ian Khama has acknowledged that the right to live in dignity includes recognition of one’s cultural identity and uniqueness. But it seems unlikely that Botswana will seriously contemplate an official multi-language system such as that now prevailing in South Africa. Setswana is now so widespread that few link it to any specific ethnic group. Rather, it seems to provide the glue that binds the country together. What has created a greater furore is the situation of the Khoisan, or San, people. These are believed to be the original inhabitants of the wild areas of the Kalahari Desert. Their extraordinary success in adapting to life in one of the harshest and least-forgiving places on Earth has given them an international celebrity. Films such as the 1980s comedy The Gods Must be Crazy, which depicted the amusing encounter between a San hunter and the outside world – in the shape of a Coca Cola bottle which falls from a passing plane – brought the hitherto unknown world of the San to a global audience. Documentaries charting the San’s brilliant hunting techniques, their almost miraculous ability to find water, tubers, fruits, insects and other edibles deep in the desert, coupled with their sense of family and community, their wonderfully entertaining mimicry and mischievous sense of humour has endeared them to millions around the world. When word came that the Botswana authorities had ‘forcibly’ removed the San from their wilderness paradise and dumped them into reservations where they had become depressed and taken to drink, there was outrage. The case was vigorously taken up by Survival International and other NGOs which claimed that the real reason for the removals was not, as the government insisted, to integrate them into modern The San people are believed to be the original inhabitants of the wildest areas of the Kalahari Botswana, but because their traditional lands lay over rich diamond reserves. In a series of clearances in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the San were removed to reservations. However, in 2006, the High In a series of clearances in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the San were removed to reservations. However, in 2006, the High Court ruled that they had a right to return to their ancestral lands Court ruled that they had a right to return to their ancestral lands if they so wished. Some have done so but complain that the government has done little to repair the damage that occurred during the original removals. Others have either adapted to life in the reservations, gone into small-scale businesses with the compensation they received or abandoned their old lifestyles for new. The issue of the San people is a complex one and can be looked at from various perspectives. There are those who accuse Survival International and other Western agencies of wanting to preserve ‘primitive Africa’ as a ‘living museum’ by isolating the San from human progress; and those who say that removed from their natural habitat where they reign supreme, the San will simply wither and vanish. The government has said it has a duty to educate at least the younger generation of the San and to introduce them to the wider world. There is no conclusive proof one way or the other that the San were removed from their homes at the behest of diamond-mining companies, but a large deposit, estimated to be worth US$4 billion, has been discovered at Gope and Kukema in the ‘tribal territories’. In addition, there have been discoveries of other minerals, including large deposits of gold, in those areas. The land is owned by the state but perhaps some sort of compromise can be reached whereby the San can stand to gain from the mining activity. The idea that an archaic way of life can be preserved in aspic forever may be romantic and make good television, but it has no realistic possibility of survival. 1966 Bechuanaland is granted independence, becoming the Republic of Botswana with Khama as President 1965 The BDP wins the first ever legislative election to be held under universal adult suffrage and Khama becomes Prime Minister. Gaborone is named Botswana’s administrative centre 1991 More than 12,000 public sector workers are dismissed following a strike calling for increased wages 1980 Botswana acts as a founder member of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, which aims to reduce the region’s economic reliance on South Africa 2001 President Mogae makes AIDS drugs free of charge; within three years the HIV infection rate drops to 37.5 per cent and Botswana no longer has the highest rate of infection in the world 2000 Devastating floods make more than 60,000 people homeless 2004 Workers at Botswana’s largest diamond-mining company strike over pay. Some 1,000 workers are dismissed 2013 De Beers moves its rough stone sales operation from London to Gaborone, setting Botswana up to become one of the world’s top diamond hubs 2014 Government bans the commercial hunting of wildlife © De Beers www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 69


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