Botswana President tells MPs 'Bushmen can hunt in reserve'

November 12, 2004

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In an astonishing reversal of government policy, Botswana's President Festus Mogae has told British MPs that Bushmen are free to hunt in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The government had previously banned all hunting in the reserve, making the Bushmen's way of life impossible.

Botswana's Daily News reported that President Mogae told the visitors the Bushmen 'were allowed to hunt in the game reserves provided they used traditional hunting weapons, such as bows and arrows.' The Daily News is a government owned newspaper, making misreporting practically impossible.

Many Bushmen have been arrested and tortured for hunting in the Reserve, where they have lived for thousands of years. The government has in recent years banned all hunting and gathering by Bushmen in the reserve, cut off their water supply, and prevented anyone else from bringing in food or water.

Despite these restrictions, around 200 Bushmen have returned to the reserve. Hundreds more now live in eviction sites, where alcoholism, depression and HIV-AIDS are rife. The Bushmen are currently suing the government for the right to return to their homes in the reserve.

Survival Director Stephen Corry said today, 'There are three ways to look at this astonishing news. The first is that President Mogae is reversing policy and upholding Bushman rights. The second is that he is unaware of what the policy actually is. The third is that he is presenting British MPs with a false picture of what's really going on. It's a sad day for Botswana if it's a case of either the second or third interpretations. If, on the other hand, he really is supporting his most down-trodden citizens, then it could be a new dawn for Botswana's Bushmen and the country could begin to shake off its terrible image as destroyer of the most vulnerable tribes in Africa.'

Photos and footage available.

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