ARCHIVE < as 1999

 

See our older articles and alerts from 1996 to 1999 - Please click on year!

1999  ;  1998  ;  1996  ;  1995  ;  1993  ;  1989

 

1999

March 21, 1999

Khomani San - A historic land deal

A historic land deal, returning centuries old homelands to one of Southern Africa's oldest peoples, the Khomani San (originally known as Bushmen), was signed at Askham in South Africa's Northern Cape Province on March 21, 1999.

South Africa's first people got some of their lost homelands back when Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signed a historic land restitution settlement with a tribe of Khomani San Bushmen. "This is a step towards the rebirth of a people that nearly perished because of oppression," Mr Mbeki told members of the Khomani San Bushmen community in the Kalahari region. The settlement will return almost 40,000ha of the Kalahari to the San people at a cost of R15m to the government, which bought out local white farmers after two years of negotiations. The Bushmen's parched ancestral land is located south of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Under a deal still to be finalized, the 300-strong tribe will receive about 27,500ha of the park itself, a potentially lucrative source of tourism income. Because this is the first land any San has gained tenure over in the entire Southern Africa, precedent will be set for other negotiations for land restitution in the future. 

The last of the San community were evicted from the Kalahari Gemsbok Park in 1973, with their native tongue, Khomani, being declared officially dead. It is hoped that money raised from projects under the umbrella of the land deal will be used in the teaching of the Khomani language to a younger generation of San who now mostly speak Afrikaans. Research into San linguistics has found evidence of tremendous regional differences in San dialects. Khomani, as spoken by the San of the Kalahari, is regarded as the oldest, believed to have been spoken by the first, true South Africans. As recent as two years ago, the first known surviving Khomani speaker was identified. Since then, research has found 14 additional speakers of what, since the mid-1970s was believed to be an extinct language. The acquisition of their lost land has tremendous cultural implications to the San; for the San their language is structured around their strong physical relationship with the land. 

The return of stolen lands is just the first step in the San bushmen's battle for their indigenous rights. Now that they own land, the Khomani San can begin to construct a future many of them thought they would never have. 

This exciting time has, however, brought several social issues to the forefront. Six months after regaining their land some of the Khomani San find themselves in more desperate situation than before. Internal divisions, lack of external support, alcohol abuse and boredom are finding their ways into the lives of the community. After having been so marginalised over so many years, it will take time to recreate their community and rediscover their culture and language.

----------------------------------------------

AFRICAN REBURIED AFTER 170 YEARS IN SPANISH MUSEUM

One hundred and seventy years after his grave was descrated by white grave robbers and his body spirited to France, then to a Spanish museum, the stuffed remains of a 19th century Negro has finally been buried in Botswana.The embalmed body of the 19th century man was buried in an emotional and sometimes bitter ceremony that recalled his degrading display in Europe for nearly two centuries.

More than 1,000 mourners gathered to bury the remains of the man believed to have been dug up by white grave robbers 170 years ago, stuffed with straw and shipped to France as a curiosity. The body later became the main exhibit in a small museum in Spain where it was known as "El Negro" and nearly led to an African boycott of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona."The honour we are bestowing on this son of Africa is an indication of our strong determination to close a chapter of the injustices of the past," Botswana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mompati Merafhe told the gathering at a civic park in the capital, Gaborone.

"We are prepared to forgive, but we cannot forget the crimes of the past, lest they are repeated," he said, standing next to the small conffin draped in the blue, white and black flag of Botswana. Historians believe the 27-year-old man, who was given a christian burial with military honours, died of natural causes and was stolen from his grave by two celebrated French taxidermists, Jules and Eduoard Verraux. His corpse was exhibited in a Parisian shop for the next 50 years before being sold to a Spanish naturalist, who later bequeathed the remains to a museum in the town of Banyoles, near the Spanish city of Barcelona.

A scandal erupted in the early 1990s when a local doctor of Haitian origin objected to the exhibit on the eve of the Barcelona games. Alphonse Arcelin, who attended Thursday's funeral, was overcome withemotion as he recalled seeing the body for the first time in 1991. "I cried and I still cry when I think about it. He was a black man. I felt humiliated, insulted," Arcelin told Reuters. A large commemorative plaque was erected next to the grave and tells the story of "El Negro's" 170-year journey home.

At least one mourner questioned who he was being buried again. "They should put him in a museum to attract tourists. If you bury him, then history is gone," Ndu Lekoko told Reuters. Others have questioned why it took nearly a decade for the body to be returned home after the initial international outrage over the exhibit.

The Banyoles town council initially defended the exhibit, and some townsfolk took to wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Banyoles loves you El Negro. Don't go!" Some shopkeepers sold chocolates made in El Negro's image. "How could officials of the town of a civilised country defy for so long the principle of respect of a human being," said Daniel Antonio, a senior representative of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). "This act represented an insult to the dignity of all Africans."

The outrage eventually forced the mayor to remove the body from the exhibition in 1998 and the Spanish government agreed to pay for its repatriation to Botswana.Spain's ambassador to Botswana, Eduardo Garrigues, said he hoped the return of El Negro would strengthen relations with Africa, but he fell short of giving the apology that some African dignitaries had expected.

Garrigues said the body was not originally taken by Spanish citizens and the delayed return was due to the "complexity of relations" between local and central governments.

"We are not responsible as a government for something that happened in 1830," Garrigues told reporters.

The OAU had asked Botswana, home to around 55,000 San bushmen, to accept the body on behalf of Africa. But some historians say the man may have come from a small village on the Vaal River in what is now South Africa.

The publicity over El Negro has also focused attention on the plight of bushmen in southern Africa, fighting for ancestral desert homelands seized from them centuries ago.



African Bushman Reburied at Home, 170 Years On
Darren Schuettler
Thursday October 5 9:23 AM ET

GABORONE (Reuters) - The embalmed body of a 19th century bushman returned to African soil on Thursday in an emotional and sometimes bitter ceremony that recalled his degrading display in Europe for nearly two centuries.

More than 1,000 mourners gathered to bury the remains of a man believed to have been dug up by white grave robbers 170 years ago, stuffed with straw and shipped to France as a curiosity.

The body later became the main exhibit in a small museum in Spain where it was known as "El Negro'' -- and nearly led to an African boycott of the 1992 Olympic Games (news - web sites) in Barcelona.

"The honor we are bestowing on this son of Africa is an indication of our strong determination to close a chapter of the injustices of the past,'' Botswana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mompati Merafhe told the gathering at a civic park in the capital Gaborone.

"We are prepared to forgive, but we cannot forget the crimes of the past, lest they are repeated,'' he said, standing next to the small coffin draped in the blue, white and black flag of Botswana.

Historians believe the 27-year-old man, who was given a Christian burial with military honors, died of natural causes and was stolen from his grave by two celebrated French taxidermists, Jules and Eduoard Verraux.

His corpse was exhibited in a Parisian shop for the next 50 years before being sold to a Spanish naturalist, who later bequeathed the remains to a museum in the town of Banyoles, near the city of Barcelona.

Scandal Erupted In The 1990s

A scandal erupted in the early 1990s when a local doctor of Haitian origin objected to the exhibit, on the eve of the Barcelona games. Alphonse Arcelin, who attended Thursday's funeral, was overcome with emotion as he recalled seeing the body for the first time in 1991. "I cried and I still cry when I think about it. He was a black man. I felt humiliated, insulted,'' Arcelin told Reuters.

A large commemorative plaque was erected next to the grave and tells the story of "El Negro's'' 170-year journey home. At least one mourner questioned why he was being buried again. "They should put him in a museum to attract tourists. If you bury him then history is gone,'' Ndu Lekoko told Reuters.

Others have questioned why it took nearly a decade for the body to be returned home after the initial international outrage over the exhibit. The Banyoles town council initially defended the exhibit, and some townsfolk took to wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan ''Banyoles loves you El Negro. Don't go!'' Some shopkeepers sold chocolates made in El Negro's image.

"How could officials of the town of a civilized country defy for so long the principle of respect of a human being,'' said Daniel Antonio, a senior representative of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). "This act represented an insult to the dignity of all Africans.''

The outrage eventually forced the mayor to remove the body from the exhibition in 1998 and the Spanish government agreed to pay for its repatriation to Botswana.

Spain's ambassador to Botswana, Eduardo Garrigues, said he hoped the return of El Negro would strengthen relations with Africa, but he fell short of giving the apology that some African dignitaries had expected. Garrigues said the body was not originally taken by Spanish citizens and the delayed return was due to the "complexity of relations'' between local and central governments. "We are not responsible as a government for something that happened in 1830,'' Garrigues told reporters.

The OAU had asked Botswana, home to around 55,000 San bushmen, to accept the body on behalf of Africa. But some historians say the man may have come from a small village on the Vaal River in what is now South Africa.

The publicity over El Negro has also focused attention on the plight of bushmen in southern Africa, fighting for ancestral desert homelands seized from them centuries ago.

 

1998

-------- Original Message -------- 
Subject: SAN-ALERT ECOALERTECOALERTECOALERTECOALERT 
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 14:16:00 +0300 
From: wildnet@ecoterra.net  
To: 



HUNTED AND HOUNTED SINCE 100 YEARS ! 
SAN FLEE INTO BOTSWANA, WHILE TWA ARE KILLED IN CONGO 

"The Gods must be crazy!", but governments and militias certainly are ! 


More than 1.200 SAN people, a people with a 10,000 year track record as practical nature conservationists, have fled since the beginning of this week from areas in northwestern Namibia into Botswana due to the growing unrest in the zone, crackdowns by government troops and militia movements across the Caprivi strip. 
The Caprivi strip, named after Leo von Caprivi - a prussian General and from 1890 to 1894 Chancellor of the German Empire, is a narrow but long strech of Namibian territory; mainly between Botswana and Angola as well as further east between Zambia and Botswana, with its most eastern tip reaching Zimbabwe. It features one of the most curious borderlines ever drawn by former colonial powers in Africa. Not long ago and inside the Caprivi Strip the Western Caprivi Game Reserve under Namibian Authority already had been carved out of the anchestral land of the San people, and resident groups were evicted. Such eviction caused serious harm to the socio-economic survival capacity in the San's traditional lifeform, but today the question is how to just survive the terror. 

Today (Saturday, 21.11.98) the fleeing people in their search for safety track deep into an area of dry, flat bushland inside Botswana, between the Tsodilo Hills, the legendary birthplace of their ancesters, and XaiXai. While XaiXai, nowadays a settlement of mostly deprived San and other people, who live on the fringe of mere existance, has at least a permanent water source, the dry bush, where the fleeing San from Namibia seek refuge, could not be survived by most western or "civilized" african people. 

The rights of San people were in the beginning of the 90's even better observed in Namibia than in Botswana, where the European Union and its beef production policy played a sinistre role clearly violating the rights and seriously endangering the lives of the traditional San hunter-gatherers. Respect for these people and measures to safeguard their rights seem to vanish now drastically again in Namibia. Only a few month ago San leaders were forced to protest to the international community, because they can not live their simple and decent lives any more around the Etosha National Park in Northwest Namibia, one of that countries most fancied tourism attractions. 

But today the terror hits further east and targets those small communities of San, of which many escaped during the last 10 days into Botswana. That terror is unlashed by a situation, where more and more countries of southern and eastern Africa, but especially Angola, Namibia and Zambia are drawn into the full-fledged and outright war, which is fought in the Republic of Congo, the quickly by the international players as such recognized former Zaire. Governmental troops and heavily armed militia as well as rebel soldiers and bandits, equipped with modern firearms, crisscross the area, where the San live their traditional, marginal life and just want to live in peace. They need now serious action, and have to be supported by all means, because they stand, like the Twa (Forest People), who die every day -and even less noticed - inside the Congo, for the million of other innocent people in Africa, who do not want to fight and be part of any fight - who just want to live in peace ! And as long as they would now really receive the necessary international support to just survive, including all the necessary political and economic means, they would even not mind so much, if you would call them by their insulting western names: Bushmen (in Namibia and Botswana) or Pygmies (in Congo). 

While 40 million US $ can be spent in one country to investigate the circumstances of a certain fellatio or cabinets have to be changed due to the sexual orientation of their members, people in another country are loosing their lives and livelihoods due to wars orchestered, fuelled and financed in order to keep up the trade in diamonds, gold and arms and the cashflow back again to exactly these countries, where taxpayers have to be rich to pay for the extravaganza of their leaders. This is the true face of todays "global economy" ! 

Important is now to increase the international pressure on the governance of the territories, where the San survive: 

Write to Namibias President and request the immediate reconstitution of the rights 
and the security of all San people in Namibia: 

H.E.The President Sam Nujoma 
State House, Leutwein Street 
Private Bag 13339 
Windhoek, Namibia 

And write to the President of Botswana and request his personal and outmost 
action to guarantee the survival, security and all necessary help for the fleeing San 
within Botswana: 

H.E. The President 
Private Bag 001 
Gaborone / Botswana 


Support and get in contact with all those people and organisations, who provide 
independent help to the San in Namibia and Botswana. 
Request those contacts from ECOTERRA. 

Please distribute this information as far as possible ! 


ECOTERRA - Survival for People and Nature 
FIRST PEOPLE & NATURE FIRST! 

 

1996

Southern Africa: Program Description                                                                                              Since the beginning of human memory, the San people have moved in small bands throughout southern Africa using the land in a sustainable manner. They are the original inhabitants of the territory and their identity, expressed in oral tradition and cultural practices, is directly linked to the fragile Kalahari ecosystem of which they consider themselves stewards. However, they have been enormously impacted, in a negative and destructive way, by historical events and contemporary circumstances.

----------------------------------

Childsoldiers & The Case of Namibia

The Namibian case is based on the demobilization and reintegration process designed for adult soldiers.

According to a World Bank report (Colletta, et. al, 1996), the demobilization of opposing forces in Namibia took place in the context of a United Nations supervised war-to-peace transition prior to the country's independence in March 1990. The following repatriation and reintegration process coincided with the independence of the country. After independence, many former soldiers failed to reintegrate economically. In response to protests from the ex-soldiers, the government designed a number of ad hoc activities. As a result, the Namibian demobilization and reintegration program is more like a patchwork of program responses. In early 1996 the government redesigned the reintegration component. 

Demobilization Process

The demobilization process took place in 1989. 7,500 of the ex-combatants were absorbed into the Namibian defense and police forces. The remaining 49,500 ex-combatants were then divided into three groups: unemployed, disabled and the *San* (*Bushmen*) fighters. In southern Angola, UNTAG military officers were deployed to monitor the confinement of the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). The ex-combatants then went to UNHCR assembly camps. After discharge, the PLAN ex-combatants received the same benefits (demobilization) package as the civilian refugees. 

When the returnees went back to Namibia from Angola, they were initially transferred to reception centers run by the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN). Secondary centers were also set up by CNN to take care of the destitute, handicapped, and homeless returnees, especially the children and the old. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was the responsible agency for the transportation of returnees to their final destination. 

Each unemployed ex-combatant was given one-time severance pay to address their basic needs. At the reception centers, the ex-combatants were issued food distribution cards with which they could receive food rations for a year. The South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) ex-combatants continued to received their monthly salaries for a period of nine months, while the ex-officers could get pension payments. PLAN ex-combatants over the age of forty-five now can also receive pensions. All returnees were provided free basic health care in the CNN-implemented UNHCR reception centers. For the demobilized SWAFT soldiers, their health care needs were met at the remaining South African Defense Force (SADF) bases until the elections. As the report indicates, the returnees also received initial rehabilitation assistance for their short term needs, including agricultural production packages, shelter construction, and supplementary family support,ă (Colletta, et. al, 1996, p. 6). 

Reintegration Process

The reintegration program included employment support, rehabilitation and resettlement programs, and vocational training. In the employment support program, the government employed some ex-combatants in the new army and the reformed police forces. The private sector also employed few ex-combatants. The rehabilitation program was available to disabled ex-combatants as a way to assist them to find jobs through income generating activities. So far, the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement, and Rehabilitation (MLRR) has established six income-generating projects. The assistance is extended for four or more years with a focus on resettlement, thereby creating communities around the disabled. The Development Brigade established in 1991 offered practical training courses to the ex-combatants. This organization has later started to acquire land for its own Brigade resettlement scheme, which enables graduates from agricultural courses to become commercial farmers. 

MLRR also provided a resettlement program that allocated arable land to landless Namibians. As the report indicates, ăland is acquired either by government purchase of commercial farms from white settlers or as a gift from tribal leaders," (Colletta, et. al, 1996, p. 10). All necessary tools and means to cover basic needs were also provided to the settlers. 

Economic reintegration has not been easy for the ex-combatants. For many of them, lack of access to land was a serious problem. According to the report, however, the *San* (*Bushmen*) who stayed behind in Namibia and participated in the program from the outset have fared better than those who migrated to South Africa at independence. Social reintegration seemed to be more successful, since a majority of ex-combatants felt welcomed by their host communities. Psychological reintegration is still a major problem; many ex-combatants do not know how to find a purpose for their lives or how to become more self-sufficient. Evidently, some Namibian ex-combatants have also created their own informal social support networks as in the Ethiopian case. 

Source: Case Studies in War-to Peace Transition: The Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants and Ethiopia, Namibia, and Uganda. Nat J. Colletta, Markus Kostner , & Ingo Wiederhofer. The World Bank. Washington, D.C. 1996

 

1995

World is shrinking for Kalahari nomads



November 9, 1995
Web posted at: 4:15 p.m. EST (2115 GMT)

From International Correspondent Mike Hanna

KALAHARI DESERT, South Africa (CNN) -- The Bushmen, or San people, of Southern Africa are among the continent's oldest, and rarest, inhabitants.

Over time these gentle nomadic people have been driven from the land on which they lived. For centuries they have had no place to call their own. Now, in a democratic South Africa, they are seeking restitution, asking for the land on which they once wandered to be returned to them.

The Bushmen have made the shifting dunes on the edge of the Kalahari Desert their home for more than 2000 years. They are now poverty stricken, homeless squatters cut off by fences from the expanses of land on which they hunted and gathered as nomads.

Regopstaan, 95, is the patriarch of the clan, the leader of 250 people who are the last of Southern Africa's oldest race. "When I was young we would wander together through all the land," he said from his bed. "I wish my children were also able to freely roam." (992K QuickTime movie )

Activist Cait Andrews is attempting to make the dying man's dream come true. She and a group of lawyers have filed land claims on the groups behalf hoping that in a democratic South Africa the Sans' right to move freely in land they occupied centuries ago will be restored.



"There's a large part of the Western tradition they don't have," said Andrews. "That is competition, putting each other down, gossiping, hurting each other, killing. That sort of thing isn't part of their life at all." ( 136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound )

But lack of land has penned these nomads in poverty. Unemployment, alcohol abuse and domestic violence are part of daily life, vices to which the San people in their age-old innocence are perhaps particularly vulnerable. Under the leadership of Regopstaan's son, some members of the community have found work attracting tourists to a private game lodge.

There is no sense of exploitation here. They converse freely with the visitors, offering a wondrous insight into another time, another place, another people.

And after the tourists have gone, the old dances are still performed, as well as the songs whose origins stretch back to the time when the first human voice sounded on the subcontinent.

"My father taught us this music," said Regopstaan's son, Dawid. "We share his dream that one day we'll return to our old ways."

But farmers now till the land which the San people once roamed. To grant title here means that others will suffer the same fate of forced removal that has been part of the Bushmen's history.

"We must try to come to an agreement," said farmer Jon De Kooker. "If we can live, then the Bushmen can also live."

Other farmers are less sympathetic, insisting that the traditional hunting areas of the San people lie not on private land, but in the vast expanses of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. To grant unlimited access to the park is no answer either, argues the warden Dries Engelbrecht.

"They lost the true style, how to live out in the wild, and I personally think it would be dangerous for them to live in the park. They might get caught by a lion or something," he said.



But the skills of the hunter-gatherer are still being passed through the generations. On the border of the park, Klaas Kruiper plays with his 4-year-old son. These are serious games that are intended to teach the boy how to survive, lessons Klaas Kruiper learned from his grandfather, Regopstaan.

In his hut, the patriarch smokes marijuana, the traditional herb of the San that helps to ease the pain of old age.



"To be close to the creator is what makes me most happy," said Regopstaan. "There are no bad things in life because you accept everything as the creator presented it."

At sundown, the last survivors of the Kalahari San gather around the fire as did their ancestors more than 2,000 years ago. While the children play under the stars that they believe are part of their living god, the elders talk about their memories of the past. And in a country now free, they hope the creator will present them with a future in which they can again roam.

Related sites:

COMMENT:

Bushmen against Relativism
« on: Aug 8th, 2002, 4:25am »

The Bushmen, or San people, of Southern Africa are among the continent's oldest, and rarest, inhabitants.  
 
Over time these gentle nomadic people have been driven from the land on which they lived. For centuries they have had no place to call their own. Now, in a democratic South Africa, they are seeking restitution, asking for the land on which they once wandered to be returned to them.
 
The Bushmen have made the shifting dunes on the edge of the Kalahari Desert their home for more than 2000 years. They are now poverty stricken, homeless squatters cut off by fences from the expanses of land on which they hunted and gathered as nomads.  
 
Regopstaan, 95, is the patriarch of the clan, the leader of 250 people who are the last of Southern Africa's oldest race. "When I was young we would wander together through all the land," he said from his bed. "I wish my children were also able to freely roam." (992K QuickTime movie)
 
Activist Cait Andrews is attempting to make the dying man's dream come true. She and a group of lawyers have filed land claims on the groups behalf hoping that in a democratic South Africa the Sans' right to move freely in land they occupied centuries ago will be restored.

Quote:

"There's a large part of the Western tradition they don't have," said Andrews. "That is competition, putting each other down, gossiping, hurting each other, killing. That sort of thing isn't part of their life at all."

 

1993

Slippery solution - Mabo case highlights aboriginal land rights                                                           1993 - Aboriginal leaders in Australia have rejected the Labor Government’s response to the controversial Mabo land-rights case. The High Court ruling in the case of Mabo vs Queensland in June 1992 overturned the assumption that Australia belonged to no-one before white colonization.

 

1989

The Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Africa                                                   Moringe Parkipuny, Member of Parliament, Ngorongoro, Tanzania - Mr. Parkipuny delivered these remarks before the Sixth Session of the United Nations ; Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneve, Switzerland on August 3, 1989. -- Madam Chairperson, fellow representatives and friends in the struggles of indigenous peoples rights, first, I convey from Africa the message of unity and resolute determination to consolidate the strive for our common course.....


News / Archives:  2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999