Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana

san bushmen
Aug. 26 Counterpunch, via Survival International:

“In a healthy democracy, people are not shot at from helicopters for collecting food. They are certainly not then arrested, stripped bare and beaten while in custody without facing trial.

Nor are people banned from their legitimate livelihoods, or persecuted on false pretenses.

Sadly in Botswana, southern Africa’s much-vaunted ‘beacon of democracy’, all of this took place late last month in an incident which has been criminally under-reported. Nine Bushmen were later arrested and subsequently stripped naked and beaten while in custody.

The Bushmen of the Kalahari have lived by hunting and gathering on the southern African plains for millennia. They are a peaceful people, who do almost no harm to their environment and have a deep respect for their lands and the game that lives on it. They hunt antelope with spears and bows, mostly gemsbok, which are endemic to the area.

According to conservation expert Phil Marshall, there are no rhinos or elephants where the Bushmen live. Even if there were the Bushmen would have no reason to hunt them. They hunt various species of antelope, using the fat in their medicine and reserving a special place for the largest of them, the eland, in their mythology. None of these animals are endangered.

A shameful history of state persecution

Despite all this the Botswana government has used poaching as a pretext for its latest round of persecution. The increasingly authoritarian government of General Ian Khama sees the Bushmen as a national embarrassment. It wishes to see them forcibly integrated with mainstream society in the name of ‘progress’.”

The author briefly narrates the usual tale of clearing away the indigenous or other rabble to make it easier to access local resources, in this case, huge diamond deposits and frackable natural gas.  The Botswana government and DeBeers are closely entwined, naturally, and to clear out the inconvenient Bushmen was critical, but potentially…very messy.  So a pretext was developed:

“Between 1997 and 2002, hundreds of Bushman families were brutally evicted from their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Their homes were destroyed, their wells were capped, their possessions were confiscated, and they were moved to government eviction camps en masse. Any who tried to resist were beaten, or even shot with rubber bullets.

The Bushmen were ‘poachers’, they said. They rode around in jeeps, they shot game on a massive scale with rifles, and posed a threat to the environment they had been dependent on and managed for millennia. They had to change, for the sake of ‘civilization’.”

Most have been moved to government camps in which disease is rampant and vital services are lacking.  Access to the game preserve is limited, and when those who hold permit die, those rights dies with them, as the permits aren’t heritable.  They have been effectively legislated into extinction, the author says.

Adding further insult to genocide, in 2014 Botswana outlawed hunting, but allows high-paying hunters to kill for sport, fuck them.

botswna trophy hunter

“Such a dispensation was not extended to the tribal peoples who actually live in these territories, who are accused of ‘poaching’ and face arrest, beatings and torture while tourists are welcomed into luxury hunting lodges.

And now they are being shot at from helicopters. Botswana police scour the Kalahari, looking for people hunting with spears to intimidate and arrest. The government has introduced planes with heat sensors to fly over the Bushmen’s lands looking out for ‘poachers’ – in reality Bushmen hunting antelope for food.”

san bushmen 2

According to SI, ‘Shoot (indigenous) on Sight’ in the name of Conservation isn’t limited to the San Bushmen, by any means.  And slow genocide, ecocide, an sociocide are still being perpetrated in the Americas today.


Now the author didn’t mention it, so it’s hard to say if Survival Int’l folks are aware of this incredible irony: according to geneticist Spencer Wells, author of The Journey of Man, or at least the Wiki synopsis of his work:

“…Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, in which he uses techniques and theories of genetics and evolutionary biology to trace the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa. The book was made into a TV documentary in 2003.

“According to the recent single-origin hypothesis, human ancestors originated in Africa, and eventually made their way out to the rest of the world. Analysis of the Y chromosome is one of the methods used in tracing the history of early humans. Thirteen genetic markers on the Y-chromosome differentiate populations of human beings.

It is believed, on the basis of genetic evidence, that all human beings in existence now descend from one single man who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. The earliest groups of humans are believed to find their present-day descendants among the San people, a group that is now found in western southern Africa. The San are smaller than the Bantu. They have lighter skins, more tightly curled hair, and they share the epicanthal fold with the people of Central and South East Asia.”

In his book and documentary (funded by National Geographic), Wells demonstrates the migratory pathways of the original Bushmen descendants around the globe.  (click for larger)

journey of man

Wells was elated to finally meet his Bushmen relatives, and had even tried to learn a smattering of their ‘click’ language, which is apparently the earliest known language form, at least according to some linguists.  Language, explains one linguist, is necessary for imagining ‘what if?’ thoughts, whether to communicate with other tribal members, or just to oneself, and gave the Bushmen an incredible advantage in hunting, among other abilities.  As in, for instance: ‘If this then, then this…in the future’, including the case of tracking game abilities demonstrated in the video below.  This is an excerpt from the Journey of Man: a Genetic Odyssey documentary, all of which is available on youtube.  It may have been Wells who explained that one San was the Y chromosome ‘Adam’, and the X ‘Eve’ (nearby in southern Africa, as well) predated him by 20,000 years, but I can’t say I know what that means.

It’s hard to imagine human beings shooting their brothers like mad dogs from helicopters, even if with rubber bullets, isn’t it?  And as Wells had said, you can see in their faces the ancestors of all current nations and races, can’t you?

O beloved San ancestors; there aren’t enough words to express my anguish at your eradication in the name of profit!  But what an ancient story it is; bless you all.

7 responses to “Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana

  1. i know it’s not the three Ts corporate grabs diary as almost-promised, but i spent a lotta time spinnin’ my wheels yesterday, and this story kept nagging my mind, as well.

  2. How many more diamonds do we need? “…and in their eyes there were, as in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems…” clarence’s dream in richard iii. The world is become a shipwreck because we see amiss.

    • ach; how many diamonds, how much gold, and…how much oil, speaking of slow genocide of indigenous. (i’ll put up a storify as soon as i can; i’d been waiting, but it’s gotten ugly as can be.)

      • The key fact:
        “The Standing Rock Sioux have filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop construction. The Tribe says it was not properly consulted before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked construction approval.

        “A decision in that case is expected by September 9.

        “We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “What they have done is absolutely outrageous.”
        As the movie mooks would say, “Cute.” Trying to render a suit moot by vandalism.

        • quickie here. yes, i’d meant to wait for the judge’s decision, and say this one’s for you, thd. but the attack dogs put this in the front of the cue. i’ll post after dinner; it’s already built. goddam, am i pissed off, not half as much as they must be, though.

  3. When Indian Country Today Media Network is covering it like this, you have a significant mainstream sentiment in Indian Country.

    • permit me to disagree. brenda norell’s cliam is that they steal her stuff (and perhaps others’) and post it as their own. f indian country news, but same for censored news, in wy.. she allows no reposting, no copy/paste even for titles of articles, forget photos,. yes, we’ve argued about it via email, but she haha ‘censors’ my omments, even though in the pat, we were contributors.

care to comment? (no registration required)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s