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The Bushmen of South Africa

Political world of the Bushmen

The Bushmen and their political world.

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The San people of South Africa lived almost entirely different lives then those of the Igbo people in Achebe’s novel. There where no leaders, titles, and trade of any kind. Instead the San’s solved disputes by having long discussions and coming to a consensus of what was to be done. Food, animals, and water belonged to the community as individual ownership was unheard of. It is hard to imagine that this culture with such a stable form of democracy was to be wiped out by the European invaders. Before becoming colonized, the San would get together to celebrate weddings and such, trading or paying for items was not recognized in their culture, but instead they relied on daily gifts to one another. Some people who excelled in hunting could sometimes have leadership roles in the hunt, or other things that they excelled in, yet nobody was given a leadership role of power over the rest of the people. Now the Sans live in such poor and unsanitary conditions it is truly mind blowing to see how such a peaceful and non-violent people came to such a downfall. In 1961 the government of Botswana created the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to protect the five thousand Sans who where being persecuted by farmers and cattle-rearing tribes. It guaranteed that the San’s could live there forever if they so wished. This was not to be the case. Starting in 1990 the government of Botswana has been trying to move the San’s out of the Reserve in order, as most outside the government accuse, to set up a trading and mining post for diamonds. The government claims that it is to expensive to provide for the Sans. Healthcare, schooling, and other such basic needs are too costly, even though tourism has raked in profits. October 2005 started with the police threatening the San people who live there with violence or even death. Many San’s have either moved to neighboring shelters or gone back to the Kalahari Desert to resume the life of their ancestors. Sadly some have even had to resort to prostitution. In 1999 The Khomani San people where able to finally reclaim some land in the Andriesvale-Askam area of the southern Kalahari Desert . To everyone this seemed to be a turn in the right direction. Sadly this was not the case. They live in such poverty that it was a huge blow to the Sans. There is no financial aid from the outside world to try to help them re-build their lost territory. The police who work in the neighboring parts of the land have been charged, and found guilty of many crimes including the murder of one San activist, the murders of five highly regarded members of the San community in which police showed no interest and did nothing to solve the crime, the racist and violent attitudes toward the people, and the sexual abuse that children at school have suffered. Because of this the San’s refuse to send their children to school for fear that their child could be next. The consequence of this is that too many people are uneducated and still living in poor conditions. Only 3.6 percent of the people have enrolled in colleges. December 13, 2006 some of the San’s sued the government for ill-treatment and not fulfilling their contract. The government found in favor of the Sans, 2 to 1, but did not command the government to provide food for the people. As many as one thousand Sans are ready to return to the Reserve. Many human rights groups who hear of these stories of the mistreatment of the San people are appalled and speak out against this. Though there are many South African activists, there are not many known ones for the San people themselves. One activist named Jan van der Westhuizen. Westhuizen has worked with the South African Human Rights Commission, and has spoken out against the mistreatment of his people, and is one of the few people to have a voice in the government where many from his tribe have no voice.

Bushman woman speaks about the land they deserve