Botswana Bushmen: Modern life is destroying us



It is the new home of the Basarwa – Kalahari Bushmen, southern Africa’s first inhabitants and yet they do not take much pleasure in this honour.

Sisters Boitumelo Lobelo, 25, and Goiotseone Lobelo, 21, are kneeling in front of a basin of dirty water, washing their children’s clothes.

Their eyes fill with anger when they speak of their life here, a desolate village half a day’s drive from their original home, which is now part of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

“I miss my home and the way we lived. Life was easy, there were lots of fruits, animals and there were no bars and no beer. Now we are lost,” says Goiotseone.

They have been to visit a number of times since they were evicted but are not allowed to stay there any more.

When they were aged nine and five respectively, Boitumelo and Goiotseone were moved to New Xade with their parents.

They speak fondly of life in the reserve, where they would wake up every morning and join the women in the village in collecting berries, nuts and roots to eat.

But Goiotseone also remembers the day they were forced to leave.

“The police came, destroyed our homes and dumped us in the back of trucks with our belongings and brought us here. They dumped us here like we are nothing,” she tells the BBC.

These two are the new generation of Basarwa: they go to school and have learned English and the Tswana language, the most widely spoken in the country.

But they say this new life has come at too high a price.

“We are getting Aids and other diseases we didn’t know about; young people are drinking alcohol; young girls are having babies. Everything is wrong here,” Boitumelo says.

Thousands of Bushmen lived in the vast expanse of the Kalahari Desert for many millennia.

But today most have been moved, many argue forcibly, to government-built resettlement camps far from the reserve.

There are an estimated 100,000 Bushmen across southern Africa, mainly in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

While some people find the term Bushmen offensive, this is what this group of people prefer to be called.


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