Mystery disease killing evicted Bushmen

March 22, 2006

This page was created in 2006 and may contain language which is now outdated.

At least fifteen Bushmen have died suddenly of unknown causes this year in New Xade resettlement camp and three remain in a critical condition. The deaths come as British Baroness Jenny Tonge and other peers insist in the House of Lords that the evictions have benefitted the Bushmen. [Read an article about Baroness Tonge and her description of the Bushmen as 'stone age' here.]

Gaseitsiwe Gaorapelwe died very suddenly after spots appeared all over his body. After being tortured by wildlife guards in 2000 for hunting, he said to a Survival researcher, ‘Who will look after my children?  The government is killing me.'

[To see a video of Gaseitsiwe Gaorapelwe describing his torture click here.]

Gaorapelwe was evicted from his ancestral community of Molapo in February 2002. In July that year he told Survival, ‘I want to go back to Molapo. I did not ask to relocate…. So I'm going back.' He did return to Molapo despite government harassment, but was evicted once again by armed police in October 2005.

Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari said in a press release last week, ‘Since the middle of January even more people have been dying [in New Xade] than is usual since our evictions from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). They have been dying quickly with vomiting, and difficulties to breathe. The authorities know about this but so far we are not aware that any doctor has been to New Xade to find out what is wrong… This shows that what the government says about New Xade being a place to develop the Bushmen is not the truth.'

Baroness Tonge called the Bushmen ‘stone age' and ‘primitive' in a House of Lords debate earlier this month, and claimed the Botswana government had evicted them to provide them with ‘education and development'. Lord St John of Bletso added, ‘Many of the Bushmen have objected, but I take the view that it has been in the best interests of many of the Bushmen.'

The catastrophic health implications of removing tribal peoples from their land are well documented. Among the Innu of northern Canada, who were moved by the government in the 1960s, the suicide rate is at least twelve times the national average. Over 50% of Innu have diabetes. Both suicide and diabetes were unknown before the Innu lost their land.

For more information call Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]