the aboriginal people of southern Africa, consisting of several
groups and numbering over 85,000 in all. They are generally
short in stature; their skin is yellowish brown in color; and
they feature prominent cheekbones. The San have been called
Bushmen by whites in South Africa, but the term is now considered
derogatory. Although many now work for white settlers, about
half are still nomadic hunters and gatherers of wild food in
desolate areas like the Kalahari semi-desert, which streches
between todays Nation States of Botswana, Namibia and South
Africa. Their social unit is the small hunting band; larger
organizations are loose and temporary. Grashuts, caves and rock
shelters are used as dwellings. They possess only what they
can carry, using poisoned arrowheads to fell game and transporting
water in ostrich-egg shells. The San have a rich folklore, are
skilled in drawing, and have a remarkably complex language characterized
by the use of click sounds, related to that
Khoikhoi . For thousands of years the San lived in southern
and central Africa, but by the time of the Portuguese arrival
in the 15th cent., they had already been forced into the interior
of southern Africa. In the 18th and 19th cent., they resisted
the encroachment on their lands of Dutch settlers, but by 1862
that resistance had been crushed.
Perhaps the finest
of all prehistoric artists, were gentle folk who enjoyed the
great open spaces in Africa. Long ago before the coming of the
more territorial and aggressive Bantu speaking migrants from
the north, the San bushmen's range was very wide. The bushmen
were dominant in an immense area stretching from East Africa
to the Southern Cape shores and across the continent from the
Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
The San, left alone
with limitless room to move, developed a free spirit and harmonious
relationship with the world around them. The San Bushmen was
a sharing society, where competition and greed were unknown.
The San Bushmen had no chiefs and all decisions were made communally
within the group. The size of the group varied from small family
units to bands of eighty members or more. Each Bushmen group
had clearly defined hunting and gathering territory and men
and women enjoyed equal status.
The San women gathered fruits, bulbs and seeds froom the surrounding
countryside. Men hunted with bows and poison-tipped arrows and
were superb trackers of game. The hunt was a crucial part of
San culture and an event which held profound, mystical significance.
The hunt was conducted sparingly and always with the assumption
that the prey had as much right to live as the hunter. When
a kill had been made the entire bushmne group joined in a night-long
feast to sing and dance in a trance-like ritual around the fire.
Sadly, today these San Bushmen folk live in settlements where
poverty and alcohol are rampant and the ancient ways are a mere
memory. For the San Bushmen, the world has crumbled and he can
see no guiding star before him. However their magnificent cave
paintings still remain around Kwazulu Natal, a legacy of those
ancient, yet paradoxically, advanced people.
The Khoisan, or Click, linguistic family is made up of three
branches: the Khoisan languages of the San (Bushmen) and Khoikhoi,
spoken in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa; Sandawe, a language
found in E Africa; and Hatsa (Hadzane or Hadzapi), also spoken
in E Africa. Although all the Khoisan languages use click sounds,
Sandawe and Hatsa are unlike the other Khoisan tongues and are
not related to each other. All of the Khoisan languages appear
to use tones to distinguish meanings, and the Khoikhoi languages
and some of the San languages inflect the noun to show case,
number, and gender. The outstanding characteristic of the Khoisan
tongues, however, is their extensive use of click sounds. (Examples
of click sounds familiar to speakers of English are the interjection
/tsk-tsk/ and the click used to signal to a horse.) Click sounds,
which are found only in Africa as parts of words, involve a
sucking action by the tongue, but the position of the tongue
and the way in which air is released into the mouth vary, just
as in the formation of other sounds; thus clicks may be dental,
palatal, alveolar, lateral, labial, or retroflex; voiced, voiceless,
or nasal; aspirated or glottal. Six types of clicks are known
for the San languages as a whole, although no single tongue
has all of them. The Khoikhoi languages have dental, palatal,
retroflex, and lateral clicks. Some Bantu languages, notably
Zulu and Xhosa, which are spoken near the Khoisan area, have
borrowed click sounds from the Khoisan languages.
polymorphisms in Khoisan populations from southern Africa.
Ann Hum Genet. 1992 Oct;56 ( Pt 4):315-24.
Soodyall H, Jenkins T.
Department of Human Genetics, School of Pathology, South African
Institute for Medical Research, Johannesburg.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) restriction fragment length polymorphisms
(RFLPs) were investigated in 95 individuals, consisting of 49
San ('Bushmen') and 46 Nama ('Hottentot') individuals from Namibia,
using the restriction enzymes HpaI, BamHI, HaeII, MspI, AvaII
Six of the eleven
types found in the pooled Khoisan sample are shared, albeit
at varying frequencies, suggesting that both the San and Nama
have evolved from a recent common ancestor. However,
San and Nama groups differ appreciably, in particular, type
3-2 (3-1-1-2-2-2) was found in 7/49 Sekele and 25/46 Nama (chi
2  = 15.3, P = 9.17 x 10(-5)). In addition, type 4 makes
up 42.8% of the
types found in the San, and is not found in the Nama group.
This suggests that the San and Nama have evolved along separate
lineages, with little gene flow between them, following their
separation from a common Khoisan ancestor. Type 7-2 (3-1-1-1-1-2),
most common in Negroid populations, is found at a higher frequency
in the San (20.4%) than the Nama (6.5%), suggesting that
miscegenation involving Negroid females and San males is more
common than that between Negroid females and Nama men. The higher
frequency of type 21-2 (2-1-1-1-2-2) in the Nama (13%) than
in the San (4.1%), may be attributable to gene flow from the
Dama into the Nama, consistent with the consequences of enslavement
of the Dama by the Nama.
Link : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/#Menu1362872
The San (Bushmen) Chronology
1883-4: South West Africa (later Namibia) was colonized by Germany.
It was annexed as a protectorate in 1884.
1904-1907: German wars against the Herero people resulted in
the killing of 75% of the San population.
July 1915: South African forces invaded South West Africa and
May 1919: South West Africa was allocated to South Africa by
the Allied and Associated Powers.
1925: Limited autonomy for South West Africa was granted by
the South African parliament.
1936: Last permit to "hunt" and kill San (Bushmen) in Namibia
and South-Africa was issued by the government of South Africa.
December 1946: U.N. General Assembly Resolution 65(I) rejected
South Africa's proposal to incorporate South West Africa into
South Africa, but requested South Africa to conclude a trusteeship
agreement for the territory. South Africa rejected this.
1957: The Ovamboland Peoples Congress, the forerunner of SWAPO
(South West Africa Peoples Organization), is formed in Cape
1960: SWAPO is formed. The government began to remove Ju'hoan
San from their land and forcibly trucked them to a single administrative
center called Tsumkwe. They were given a school, clinic, church
and jail. Tsumkwe became a rural slum and the Bushmen turned
to heavy drinking with the establishment of a government-subsidized
May 1964: The South African government's Odendall Commission
recommended the establishment of "homelands" in South West Africa
and proposed a five-year economic and social plan for the territory.
1966: SWAPO's militant wing began an armed independence struggle
against South Africa. In
October 1966, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 2145(XXI)
revoking South Africa's mandate over South West Africa.
1968-9: South Africa established "homelands" in South West Africa,
including "Bushmanland" in the Northeast. The U.N. renamed the
country Namibia in 1968.
March 1969: The U.N. Security Council recognized the General
Assembly's revocation of South Africa's mandate by adopting
resolution number 264 of 1969.
1970: Bushmanland was established as a "homeland" for the San.
It contains about 12,000 square miles of land. Soon after its
establishment, the Kaudom game reserve in northern Bushman land
was expropriated from the Ju'hoan people.
June 1971: The International Court of Justice ruled that South
Africa's continued presence in Namibia is illegal. South Africa
rejected this opinion.
1974: The Portuguese empire in Southern Africa collapsed allowing
SWAPO to re-base in Angola and guerrilla attacks to intensify.
In December 1974, the U.N. Security Council called for compliance
by South Africa with previous U.N. resolutions and the 1971
January 1976: The U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 385
of 1976 calling for South Africa to transfer power to the Namibian
people and to allow free and fair elections under U.N. supervision.
1977: DTA (Democratic Turnhallen Alliance), a coalition of ethnic
groups, was founded.
1977-79: Five Western countries got talks started and South
Africa agreed in principle to Namibian independence. The U.N.
adopted resolution 435 providing for internationally supervised
elections. Ten days later, more than 600 Namibian exiles in
Angola were killed by South African troops.
1982: San leaders applied officially for the establishment of
a representative for their population. They met with members
of the government, but no specific answer was given to their
1988: Talks between Angola, Cuba, South Africa and supervised
by the U.S. set a timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban troops
from Angola and Namibian independence.
1 April 1989: As the U.N. independence plan began, SWAPO invaded
Namibia from Angola. South African forces attacked and killed
several hundred guerrillas.
June 1989: The San defeated a government plan to turn most of
their territory into a game park. The San have no political
control over Bushmanland, and none of the 10 alliances of political
parties competing in the upcoming elections did put forward
a policy of any kind on or to help the San.
November 1989: SWAPO won 41 of 72 seats in the constituent assembly
but did not secure the two-thirds majority necessary to form
and implement a new constitution without consulting other parties.
The San in Bushmanland supported the DTA in the elections. Elections
were declared free and fair by so-called independent U.N. observers.
But the San had no say in all of that.
February 1990: The president-elect of Namibia, Sam Nujoma accused
South Africa of ulterior motives by resettling San in South
Africa. He suggested the South African military was aiming to
train the San to carry out subversive activities in Namibia.
21 March 1990: Namibia achieved independence from South Africa.
At independence, 60% of Namibia is white-owned or commercial
land; 15% is set aside for nature conservation; 25% is black-owned.
Blacks make up 80% of the population of Namibia and the San
have no access to their land.
3 May 1990: The Namibian government claims that South Africa
did not pay the San as promised and they are now in need of
government assistance. About 500 San soldiers and their families
followed South African soldiers into South Africa after the
war because they feared reprisals from SWAPO. Three hundred
San soldiers and their dependents remained in Namibia in Omega
in the Caprivi Strip. They survived, but were close to starvation.
November 1990: The Namibian government was expected to begin
the resettlement of about 2000 San in the Caprivi Strip. They
are family members of San who served in South Africa's military
during the war.
21 June 1992: San representatives gathered in the Namibian capital
of Windhoek to hold a conference bringing the plight of the
San to the attention of the government and the world.
1993: The first meeting of Southern Africa's indigenous San
took place. The Namibian government endorsed the San's right
to land and to traditional land use.
6 March 1993: The San band of the South African army (Battalion
31) was disbanded.
14 April 1994: Human rights workers spoke out on behalf of the
San in Namibia stating that the majority are starving while
being paid illegally small wages as farm laborers; the San are
unable to attain professional positions higher than social worker;
many San feel they are being preserved only "as tourist attractions."
11 June 1994: A decision by the Namibian cabinet to accept the
return of former counter insurgents paved the way for 500 Bushmen
in South Africa to return to Namibia.
October 1994: By this time, the Bushmanland area has shrunk
from 12,000 square miles to 3,500 square miles and 2,000 Ju'hoan
people live there. To sustain a stable population as hunter
gatherers, the San need 14.5 square miles per person. The Nyae
Nyae development foundation established by John Marshall and
Claire Ritchie is faltering. The San demanded the resignation
of its director and external aid donors froze their donations
at reports of grandiose projects and chaos in Bushmanland.
14 December 1995: Namibia's National Society for Human Rights
accused the government of ignoring the exploitation and destruction
of the culture of 5,000 San. They asserted that San perform
slave labor, and in some cases are paid with food rather than
money. Namibia's Minister of Health and Social Services rejected
the charges. (Reuters World Service - RWS)
January 1997: San were arrested in Etosha National Game Park
as they were protesting the refusal of the government for them
to return their anscestral lands. They prevented tourists from
entering the park. The 20,000 strong Hai//om effort to restore
their lands have been ongoing since 1993. (ANS - Africa News
Service - 6/19/1997)
May 1997: The powerful chief of a neighboring Bantu-speaking
group in the West Caprivi claimed that 4,000 Kxoe San who live
inside the Game Reserve there are still his vassals and the
land they occupy his. The government seems to be supporting
his claim. At the center of the dispute is a small tourist campsite
built by the Kxoe, who are not San but distantly related, on
the Okavango River's Pop Falls. It was constructed with the
help of Western donors and local development agencies and raises
money for the Kxoe community, who often pose to outsiders as
San. However, the Mbukushu chief Erwin Mbambo condemned the
camp because his permission for the venture was not sought.
In May 1997, the government announced the camp would have to
close because the prison ministry needed the land. The Prison
Ministry's Fran Kapofi said the government considered the land
in question to be under Mbambo`s authority and that the Kxoe
are his subordinates. The Kxoe claimed the government supported
Mbambo because he was a former SWAPO member with close ties
to the government leaders, and the San feel they are being punished
because of they were on the opposite side of SWAPO during the
independence struggle. On the other hand, the government has
ignored the illegal encroachment by Mbukushu peasants onto the
reserve over the past two years. (Christian Science Monitor,
11/27/1997; The Independent, 1/3/1998)
19 June 1997: Charges were dropped against 62 Sai//om San who
had protested at the Etosha National Game Park in January. (ANS)
July 1997: The government gave the San and the Kxoe people six
months to vacate their two community tourism camps. The move
is linked to the government's favoritism of the Mubukushu Bantu
people over the Indigenous People - the San. The government
claimed it had decided to deproclaim the district as a conservation
The Xu San community migrated to Angola from their ancestral
lands in West Caprivi after the encroachment by the Mbukushu.
The Xu are accused of stealing Mbukushu cattle. They are also
employed by the Mbukushu for manual labor and were ill-treated
and sometimes went unpaid for their labor. Poverty and lack
of government and NGO support, in addition to encroachment on
their lands, forced the Xu to leave their stronghold at Mushangara.
Elders do not receive government pensions because most do not
have birth certificates or other ID. A registration team from
the Ministry of Home Affairs sent to register the Xu said they
failed in their task because they "ran out of forms."
They have not returned. (ANS, 7/23/1997)
12 August 1997: The National Society for Human Rights accused
the government of discrimination against some ethnic groups,
including Basters and various San groups. The organization highlighted
the case of the Kxoe in West Caprivi who the government wants
to evict from their community-based tourism sites in favor of
the neighboring, not aboriginal Mbukosho people, because their
traditional leadership supports SWAPO, while the Kxoe and San
do not (African News Service - ANS).
October 1997: The Kxoe, backed by the Working Group of Indigenous
Minorities in Southern Africa, a regional body, and the non-profit
Legal Advice Center of Windhoek, took advantage of a new law
on "tribally" held land to register Kipi Goerge as
a chief in his own right. If his claim had been granted, the
government would have to grant the Kxoe a title to their traditional
lands. If the government refuses the grant, the Kxoe said they
would sue. (Christian Science Monitor, 11/27/1997; The Independent,
6 April 1998: The government completed a list of traditional
chiefs to be recognized under the Traditional Authorities Act.
The Ministry of Regional, Local Government and Housing did not
say how many traditional leaders were recognized or turned down.
7 July 1998: Close to 240,000, including 20,000 San, are in
heed of resettlement according to the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement,
and Rehabilitation (ANS)
September 1998: The SWAPO Omaheke Regional Youth Forum accused
the government of favoritism and nepotism in distributing government
lands. It said the Lands Ministry shoudl give priority to the
marginalized San, unemployed youth, women and other farmers
who applied for resettlement in 1992 rather than to rich farmers.
November 1998: A series of government security sweeps targeting
secessionist rebels in the Caprivi Strip has resulted in the
flight of hundreds of San to Botswana. Observers said more than
1,000 San may have fled out of fear. Two human rights organizations
are also investigating allegations by the Kxoe that members
of their community were killed during these sweeps, and that
they were threatened and abused by the Namibian Defence Forces.
More than 400 Caprivi secessionists have also fled to Botswana.
The Kxoe were being housed in a military camp and at Dukwe Refugee
Camp. The Kxoe were not working in collusion with the rebels
The Kxoe have been at odds with the Namibian government over
the past few years, particularly in relation to their land and
chieftancy rights. They have not been granted traditional authority
status, their chief has not been recognized, and their bid to
create employment through a tourism conservation program ran
afoul of the government. (ANS, 11/17/1998)
April 1999: Botswana has so far granted political asylum to
1116 of more than 2400 Namibians who fled in the wake of secessionist
troubles in Caprivi. The Namibian government denied that they
had persecuted the residents of Caprivi in their search for
secessionists. Most who fled to Botswana, including the San,
did so out of fear of being caught up in security sweeps in
the region. Voluntary repatriation is promoted by the Botswana
government, but so far only five Namibians have returned.(ANS,
19 May 1999: President Nelson Mandela of South Africa handed
over a land title to a group of Namibian San who had once fought
against SWAPO in Angola. (ANS)
July 1999: The National Society for Human Rights said civil
and political rights were deteriorating in Namibia. It cited
ethnic discrimination and lack of tolerance for dissenting views.
Government officials were accused of discriminating against
the San who face poverty, illiteracy and disease. (ANS, 7/21/1999)
The genocide to exterminate the San, by econimic marginalization,
by rape to turn their ethnicity into a mix of "coloured
people" and by persistently denying them any of their rights