Thursday, July 15, 2004

Botswana: man who helped create CKGR testifies on behalf of San

CKGR = Central Kalahari Game Reserve

George Silberbauer, an anthropologist and the British colonial district officer when the CKGR was created, testified on behalf of the San/Bushmen today.
He said the Reserve was meant to protect San from encroachers and to preserve the animal and plant life upon which they depended. "The principal objective was to provide a haven for hunters and gatherers and the animals and other resources on which they depended," he told the Court. (source)
Government attorney Sidney Pilane called Silberbauer's testimony "suspect and mischievous".
He [Pilane] said the purpose of creating the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in 1961 was not to establish “a haven for Basarwa” as Silberbauer claimed, but rather to get them off the back of the white farmers in Gantsi. Pilane asserted that the migrant Basarwa in the reserve were a nuisance to farmers as they came to the farms during the dry season to squat. While he [Silberbauer] acknowledged the squatting, the witness said that was not the main factor. The witness said that the Basarwa were not squatters and the land on which the 150 Gantsi ranches were carved out belonged to them. (source)
Recall that one of the reasons cited by the government in the decision to resettle the San off the CKGR is that the San's current lifestyle threatens the wildlife in the reserve. However Silberauer's testimony seems to indicate that the San were not expected to live as traditional hunter-gatherers for all time.
On the other hand, San had a choice to adopt a different lifestyle if they wished. The court wondered how that could happen if they lived alone in the Reserve. Dr Silberbauer replied that teachers were to be brought in and the San could develop game products as an initial step. (source)
The San/Bushmen are called "Basarwa" in Botswana ... but the term/name has negative connotations.

Previous posts on San/CKGR court case ...
  • Botswana: the San's day in court
  • Botswana: more on the San/Kalahari reserve dispute