Bushman hunters arrested and charged

July 20, 2006

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Two Bushmen have been arrested and charged with hunting an antelope illegally in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). They were made to spend one night in prison.  The following day they were taken into the CKGR and forced to run in front of the police vehicles for six hours in the searing midday heat until they reached the place where they had killed a gemsbok antelope. They are due to appear in court in October.

One of the men is Loslobe Mooketsi, who appeared as a witness in the Bushmen's long-running court case. He was also among the large group of Bushmen arrested last September trying to take food and water to their relatives still inside the reserve; that case has yet to come to court.

Loslobe's father, Mogetse Kaboikanyo, was one of the last Bushmen to resist eviction from the reserve in 2002, and died soon after in a relocation camp. Before his eviction he told a Survival researcher, 'Our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life.

'The government of Botswana calls itself a democracy. But it isn't so here. We are oppressed until we die, and soon there will be no one left.'

The Bushmen living in the resettlement camps outside the game reserve barely survive on meagre government food handouts which do not contain fresh, nourishing food. Many families say they go hungry as they cannot supplement the handouts because there is no hunting, or wild fruits and tubers around the camps. These were already depleted before the camps were established.

Several dozen Bushmen remain in the CKGR, resisting all attempts to evict them. They are managing to survive despite the government's ban on hunting and gathering in the reserve, and constant surveillance by wildlife scouts.

Next month, the Botswana High Court is due to hear the final submissions by the lawyers in the Bushmen's long running court case, where the Bushmen are fighting for their right to return to their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and to hunt and gather freely.