International Day of the World's Indigenous People, Lamentations of Basarwa

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 22 August 2018   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Bennet Bennet

August 09, 2018 marked the day set by the United Nations General Assembly to encourage the protection and promotions of the rights of the indigenous population. This year’s international day observance took place at the Economic and Social chamber at the United Nations headquarters in New York, graced with the theme “Indigenous people’s migration and movement”. The Botswana’s diverse tribes includes of the indigenous Basarwa. The Basarwa whom part of their culture depicts them as nomadic have seen their life being greatly challenged after the yesteryears of independence. The international day of the world’s indigenous people seeks considerably to protect groups such as the Basarwa on pressures they come across at the face of development.

Basarwa remain as the most challenged amongst Botswana’s diverse tribes as the adaptation to modern society could bring a culture they held for over a millennial to shatter. This is because their nomadic life has a greater impact on their culture, it’s at the core of what defines them. One of the greatest conflicts aroused from them with the government is that of having to being forced to reallocate and leave behind their nomadic life. The Basarwa and Botswana government face an escalating controversy, culture versus economic development of which the entire Batswana are not fully kept at the loop of the ongoing quarrel of the two parties. A fight of which even the Basarwa lawyer Gordon Bennet who challenged the relocation of Basarwa from Ranyane settlement was declared a prohibited immigrant. At the Central Kalahari Game Reserve CKGR, visiting the Basarwa area is prohibited as it requires regulation and application from the powers that be to be granted permission.


Basarwa express disapproval from being relocated from CKGR. Some after being displaced from the CKGR return back to it, their ancestral land. The ongoing feud between Basarwa and the government is in fact controversy however the decisions and actions of the government in displacement of the Basarwa should be subjected to scrutiny. Is the government equipping Basarwa with enough to economically progress in their new life and being appropriately taught and monitored to adapt to the new modern society? On the Sunday Standard article of 2006 reads that the prohibited Bennet expressed that on his visit to the reserve on 2005, he had seen “rope burns” on Bushmen whom dragged water barrels long distances to the settlement reallocated to them. In the Basarwa reallocated settlement such as Xere, their cattle are not equipped with water as the Water utilities equips only people with water this rendering pastoral farming difficult hence making life difficult also.

The planning and government intervention on Basarwa should be proper and the Botswana public as well as other parties should be informed to ensure that the dignity of Basarwa is held to standard. Consistent research, monitoring and management of the Basarwa should be regular to ensure prosperity as well as ways to encourage their cultural preservation at the absent of their nomadic life. All tribes in Botswana are in fact equal but with respect to International Day of the World’s Indigenous people artistic performances by Basarwa should be embraced and encouraged to be celebrated by the government thus integrating their culture and reforming their importance as a tribe at a greatly challenged culture at the face of developments. Storytelling, cultural ways and hunting from the elderly should be documented, kept for the younger generation of which they may never get chance to experience, but they can experience through reading books about their ancestral ways. As opposed from the Basarwa being reallocated, why are others not recruited to work in the respective lodges in the CKGR to better their living?  The government encourages game farming, with a large area as the CKGR why were not some Basarwa given the opportunity to practice game farming as opposed to enrolling most of them in livestock farming


The coin should be looked at both sides thus the stance on Basarwa also on refusal to be displaced should be looked at carefully. A San spiritual leader Roy Sesana is amongst the names that stood to contest against the displacement of Basarwa saying that they choose to keep their way of life as being nomadic. It’s never clear that a decree of Basarwa keeping their own culture of nomadic life is an informed decision on their part. For most of Batswana understand that education is among the universal tools to prosperity and the nomadic lifestyle does not favor that. For we know that we as Batswana had our leaders not attained education post to independence we may have had the hostility of colonial rule at the expense of our enriched natural resources. And not forgetting that culture though we embrace it, it has its own dark insights. For in the past early child marriage were allowed and infringement of women rights existed. The very same practices which are shunned and regarded detestable by many nowadays. And education played a huge part in reshaping our thinking to expiate such social ills. Had education been proposed to us not at the force of colonial rule but by choice, being clung to our culture could we had accepted it? And if education and tourism have at most the world’s approval, are the Basarwa making an informed decision in their disapproval for leaving their nomadic life?


Prince G. Orapeleng

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