Speaking of Northwestern Botswana
Speaking of Northwestern Botswana,…lots of miles in my little truck, Buckie.
Here, in the worst case scenario there is widespread abuse of San people, in the best case scenario these people are barely acknowledged. When I meet white people in their midst, they wink the ‘us’ and ‘them’ acknowledgment. I’m often embarrassed to be white.
The farms of the wealthy and their thousands of kilometers of cattle fencing, exist on the backs of the “black farmworkers” with fewer rights than the cattle they herd for their owners and masters. For stealing livestock the penalty is mandatory10 years in jail with no options for a fine. For one young man caught stealing, he was tied to a windmill turning in the hot air of the Kalahari Desert.
It it here in the sand and among the thorns that the Bushman lived, foraged and hunted for nearly 60,000 years. They are the oldest inhabitants of the world. Is this what happens when you have been here so long? Displaced from their land, homes, and animals to languish in so called “New Settlements” in the abject poverty, hunger and disease. Here there day are full of drunkenness and despair.
Here, in Ghanzi, a frontier town near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, there are two realities. One reality is the bustling business of farming both domestic and wild animals. It is common for farmland owners to also run game farms where animals roam in a seemingly wild environment, except it is contained by a fence, often electric, which effectively eliminates most possibilities for natural selection, and hence any kind of natural continuation of wildlife.
There are many farms that keep a small pride of lions which tourists pay to see and hunters pay huge amounts to shoot.
Accident on the road…..
The black man lay on the road, his face ripped off and one leg twisted under his broken body. His motorcycle bent into a ball down the road…..8-10 white people stand around. A white women is crying. There is no one withing 20 meters of the injured man. I ask why someone hasn’t covered him up, at least, let alone comfort him with a hand or words.
Like a good Canadian, I run back to my truck and fetch a blanket to cover him. I stay with him until the police and ambulance arrive, perhaps five minutes. I leave. I was stunned. Not one of the men standing around approached me or the dying man, to offer help, even though there was not much anyone could do.
Take Nanke ,38, with four children, two under five and two over eighteen, all from different fathers. Nanke is HIV positive. She, like many San people, live a subsistence life on the outskirts of Ghanzi. A veritable ghetto. She makes homemade beer or “cady” and sells it for a few dollars everyday. It’s her only source of cash. One day we went foraging for the equivalent of desert truffles. We walked away from the road into the desert under a hot high sun. After a few hours of wondering and digging, Nanke and her sister found far more truffles than I did…Which was none. I didn’t have the subtle skills necessary to find them. We decided to go back to the truck. I was lost…I asked Nanke “how do you know which way to go back to the truck”….I follow the sound of the generator……We all laughed.