The Government of Botswana continues to spend millions of pula on programmes that are aimed at improving the lives of the san community for better Basarwa. A Mosarwa activist Khoebee Satau declared on the sidelines of the Ngamiland Human Rights Conference in Maun this week that Basarwa are marginalised with little access to mainstream services in health and education. He said most Government schemes aimed at improving the lives of Basarwa fail because of the inclusive policy which is one size fits all and does not allow priority as Basarwa are different from the rest of Batswana. Satau said government should use a different approach when dealing with Basarwa issue because inclusivity without equity is total exclusion. “We are different from the rest of Batswana but we are treated as though we are the same – that’s why some of these schemes are failing,” he said. He said poverty and inequality has seen limited access to education, which is further exacerbated by high dropout rates and an education system that does not take into consideration the San’s cultural background. He said government schemes such as Remote Area Dwellers (RAD), Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), Ipelegeng and backyard gardening have failed to make the lives of Basarwa better. He said government development policies are a threat to their existence because they are aimed at assimilating them into Tswana society and are designed largely without the input of the indigenous people. Satau is also the member of Trust for Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives, (TOCADI) which is aimed at empowering communities in the Okavango. He cited the resettlement policy of 1997 in which many Basarwa faced major human rights abuses which included forced resettlement out of their traditional areas and legislation with restricted their rights to gather and hunt. He said the San lost their land, resources and cultural identity.
Satau noted that during the resettlement Basarwa were given cattle and goats and were encouraged to become herders but this never worked because they have always been hunters. He said when the government revoked their hunting and gatherers’ licenses they were left with nothing. “They government should have gone back to the drawing board the same way they did with hunting ban and come up with ways we can live with wild animals. They should have provided us with concessions so that we can take care of wild animals,” he said. He said the assimilation policies that are imposed Basarwa are failing them. “Basarwa are very capable of managing the wilderness than livestock,” he explained. He said Basarwa have vast knowledge of wildlife management and the ecology. He said if they can be given hunters and gathers rights they can manage wildlife well and will find economical and sustainable ways of managing wildlife. “We don’t need the police to take care of our wild animals like the government is doing as we can better take care of wildlife,” he said. He, however, decried that in most areas where Basarwa have been displaced some private companies have been making billions of Pula through trophy hunting while Basarwa had become drawers of water and hewers of wood in their own land.