Survival International denounces ‘inhumane’ treatment of Bushman elder’s body

September 6, 2022

ID card of Pitseng Gaoberekwe, who lived in the CKGR all his life, moved out of the reserve to be near his children towards the end of his life, and whose family are now forbidden from burying him back in the CKGR, in accordance with his dying wish. © Survival

Survival International has condemned as “inhumane” the Botswana government’s attempts to prevent Pitseng Gaoberekwe’s family from burying his body in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

Survival’s Research and Advocacy Director Fiona Watson also labelled the ongoing saga “a scandal, and a clear-cut case of discrimination.”

Authorities in Botswana are continuing their efforts, through the courts, to ensure Mr Gaoberekwe’s body is buried far from his ancestral land, in defiance of his family’s desire to bury him inside the reserve.

They are also stepping up their persecution of other Bushmen living inside the reserve. Police recently detained around 20 children aged from 5-17 years old, travelling from the reserve to Ghanzi on a bus, because they claimed to have discovered game meat on board. The children were reportedly detained all day without either being given food, or their parents being informed.

Lesiame Gaoberekwe, son of the deceased man, has battled in court to bury his father back in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. © Mmegi

The news has sparked concern that the government is resuming its campaign to remove the Bushmen from the reserve, even though their historic 2006 court victory confirmed they have the right to live there.

The 2006 ruling also upheld the Bushmen’s right to hunt for food in the reserve, but the government has not issued a single hunting license since. Its persecution of children for allegedly being in possession of game meat is therefore particularly troubling.

Survival’s Fiona Watson said today: “Survival has been following the saga of Mr Gaoberekwe’s burial with increasing concern. Treating the family in this way is inhumane, a scandal, and a clear-cut case of discrimination. The government knows full well how important it is to the Bushmen that they can visit their ancestors’ graves, so its refusal to allow the burial in the CKGR looks very much like the opening salvo in a move to force the Bushmen out of the reserve once more.

“Presumably, if they won’t allow this burial inside the CKGR, they won’t allow others either. So it seems to us, and to many Bushmen, that they want to stop the Bushmen from being buried on their land, and in that way slowly force them out of the CKGR, knowing that they need to live close to where their ancestors are buried.

“We’re preparing a series of campaign actions in response, and stand ready to resume our campaign in earnest should the government persist in this cruel and unjust policy.”