The Shots That Killed Democracy
The Shots That Killed Democracy
* Bushman child and two adults shot by Botswana police.
* Family walk for days across desert to bring news to outside world.
* Bushmen told that the government does not care if they starve to death.
Three Bushmen, including one child, have been shot and wounded in recent days by Botswana police during incidents designed to intimidate the Bushmen still surviving inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and force them out once and for all.
Kekailwe (aged 7) was shot in the stomach as the police arrested his father when he refused to let them search his hut without a warrant. In a separate incident, Kesodilo Ntwayamoga was shot from behind in each leg as he stood with both hands raised. Witnesses confirmed that police were trying to force him to admit to hunting.
In the third incident, Mokgakalaga Gaoberekwe was shot in the jaw on 24 September as he and others attempted to enter the Game Reserve to take water and food to their families. He is badly wounded and still recovering in hospital.
The Bushmen party, including several babies and children, was attacked by heavily armed police and soldiers under the personal command of Sydney Pilane, the attorney acting for the government in the high court case in which the Bushmen are claiming rights to their ancestral land. The police fired tear-gas and bullets at the unarmed Bushmen. Many were beaten and imprisoned for several days. The group included the 2005 alternative Nobel prize-winner, Roy Sesana who was unaware that he and his Bushman organization had won the award. The Bushmen have now been charged with 'unlawful assembly'.
Police have been trying to prevent Bushmen from returning to their reserve. The Bushmen in the reserve are forbidden to hunt and gather, have had their water supply cut off, and are now threatened with starvation after the government claimed their goats were diseased (a claim rubbished by a group of eminent international vets). Officials forcibly removed all goats from the reserve earlier this week.
Today, a small group of Bushmen emerged after evading the police who had surrounded their huts and walking for three days through the drought-stricken desert. Kangotla Kanyo said today, 'the others and I came out of the reserve to tell the outside world that we are really suffering with thirst and hunger. The police are camped at our settlement and we are not allowed to gather or dig anything to eat. The policeman called Dibuile told us, 'If you die, the government doesn't care. This is the time to show you that you are nothing.' The police said that we have to suffer thirst and hunger so that we will leave the reserve.'
Officials told the Bushmen in 2002 that they had to abandon their land because diamonds had been discovered there. All Botswana's diamond mines are run by De Beers, which retains rights to a large deposit in the reserve.
Stephen Corry, Survival's director, said today, 'Botswana's President Mogae has drawn a veil across the great sand-face of the Kalahari so that his henchmen can bully the Bushmen in secrecy. But the veil has not muffled the shots which spilled the blood of a child and two unarmed men guilty of wanting to live in peace on their ancient land. These shots - ordered by a lawyer - have killed all pretence of a democratic Botswana. People who care about the Bushmen should not support this regime by buying De Beers's diamonds or by holidaying there. These diamonds are bought with the blood of the Bushmen.'