Basarwa lobby UN to force Botswana to recognise their land rights


Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe, The Monitor (Botswana) –

Date of publication: 
21 May 2012

For the first time Basarwa have made their first-ever collective San presentation by San and for the San at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The San caucus is made up of Basarwa from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Interestingly this presentation was made by Job Morris of Botswana, who lives in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and works for the Kuru Trust, on behalf of the San of southern Africa. In his presentation Morris also called for close consultation on all development projects including those involving extractive resource exploration and exploitation (mineral, gas, and oil resources).

“There should be no involuntary relocation from protected areas including national parks, game reserves, and monuments,” the presentation reads. Morris also told the UN forum that commercial cattle farming and agricultural production have become a continuous threat to the land rights of the San, whilst extractive industries cause irreparable harm to their ancestral lands.

“We the San are known for the reverence with which we hold land, and for sustainably managing and nurturing the earth since time immemorial. In a world threatened by climate change, the loss of biodiversity, water shortages and threats to food security for billions of people, we submit that our land use systems should be protected and supported in the legislative and policy frameworks on our continent and beyond,” the statement reads in part.

The San also called on southern African governments, SADC, the African Union and the African Commission to recognise their role as the stewards and custodians of the earth. “The San people have spiritual connections with the environment and it is our sacred duty to take care of the environment. Land and the protection of the environment is central to our culture, our dignity and to our existence as a people,” says the statement.

The San caucus recommends to national governments, regional, continental and international bodies that free, prior and informed consent should be observed in relation to the lands of the San, and that their values of reciprocity and equitable sharing of resources should be embedded in policy.

They further urge the forum to influence southern African governments, in particular Botswana, South Africa and Namibia to hold proper continuous dialogue and consultation with the San on issues affecting their lands and livelihoods, particularly in relation to development projects, extractive industries and the commercial farming sector.

They further recommend that African governments honour the rights of the San as embodied in the UNDRIP, particularly as these relate to their lands. “In relation to food security, we call for programmes aimed at promoting food security, taking into consideration diverse programs aimed at enhancing the availability of high quality food and water at the individual, household, community, and regional levels.

Livelihood support programmes should include food and cash benefits for individuals in need, including those who are the most vulnerable,” the statement reads, “Consideration must be given the impacts of local, regional, and global climate change and ways to mitigate these impacts, with an eye towards reducing risk for local people”.