Lobby spells terms for Botswana tourism boycott's end By MTOKOZISI DUBE in Gaborone | Thursday, January 30   2014 at  14:30

Basarwa or Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

A pressure group which has been fronting the boycott of Botswana tourism, could end the campaign if the government agrees to its demands.

Survival International (SI) launched the boycott on World Tourism Day last year in an effort to help Bushmen fight government’s attempts to move them from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), while promoting the area as a tourist destination.

SI campaigner Rachel Stenham said the boycott will end if the government abides by its own laws to allow the Bushmen to live freely on their ancestral land and to hunt. 

The lobby group wrote to dozens of tour operators from Africa, Europe Asia and North America urging them to cancel their trips to Botswana over its treatment of the Basarwa Bushmen.

Some 7,000 travellers are estimated to have pledged not to visit Botswana until the Bushmen are allowed to live freely on their land.

Three international tourism companies also joined the boycott.

But this week, Ms Stenham told a Botswana weekly, The Telegraph: “Survival’s campaign for the Bushmen could end tomorrow (Tuesday).”

She, however, challenged Botswana Government to stand by its own laws that allow Bushmen the right to live freely on their ancestral land and allow them the right to hunting licences using traditional methods.

Hunting permits

“The government has purposely chosen to narrowly interpret the High Court’s ruling and allows only a hundred or so applicants in and out of the reserve without a permit,” she told the paper.

She added that the violence reported in recent weeks was nothing new.

“It has been going on for decades. The government has made it difficult for the Basarwa to survive in CKGR, yet many still do a great testament to the people’s unwavering need to live on their land,” she said.

Ms Stenham said SI would continue supporting the marginalised community for as long as their persecution by government continued.

“Persecution is beating a Motswana who has returned empty handed from the reserve, preventing children from moving in and out of the reserve to visit their families who live there, stopping people’s food and water supply by preventing them from hunting and providing no water in one of the driest parts of the country, barring their lawyer from representing them in court.”

The Bushmen have faced three waves of evictions in 1997, 2002 and 2005 and a landmark court case in 2006 restored their right to live and hunt in the reserve.

The Botswana Government has seemingly overlooked the landmark court victory which guaranteed the Bushmen's rights to return to their ancestral land and hunt game, their main means of survival.

They still have to apply for permits to enter the reserve.