There are 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. They are the indigenous people of southern Africa and have lived there for tens of thousands of years.
In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi, and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), and the game they depend on.
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds.
In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002, and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
Those who have not returned to the reserve now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government hand-outs. Many are now gripped by alcoholism, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS.
Unless they are able to live on their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.
At the same time as preventing the San Bushmen Botswana from accessing water, the government drilled new boreholes for wildlife only.
A safari lodge was opened after a safari operator entered into a lease with the government. However, the lease made no provisions for the rights of the Bushmen on whose ancestral lands the campsites, nor was they consulted about the venture.
Why you must stay at Tau Pan Camp in the Kalahari
Some lodges, such as Tau Pan Camp in the Kalahari, employ San Bushmen trackers, where they wear the lodge uniform rather than a traditional dress and have a smattering of English (some much better than others) but are also translated for by the safari guide. They are utterly fascinating to be with and obviously know their terrain like the back of their hand. Under their guidance, you will be watching gemsbok one moment, and then find yourself learning about where to find water in the midst of the desert. In case you’re interested it’s an underground tuber which they shred then squeeze until the water runs from it. You will also watch while the guides show you how to set a trap out of grasses twigs to catch small creatures. But the thing which fascinates guests most is the absolute charm of their San Bushmen hosts. They are gentle, funny, and hugely warm people with whom it is a pleasure to spend time.