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Jumanda Gakelebone outside Clarence House in London today to deliver his letter to Prince Charles. Photo: Survival International.
Jumanda Gakelebone outside Clarence House in London today to deliver his letter to Prince Charles. Photo: Survival International.
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Bushman to Prince Charles - 'Save our People'

Oliver Tickell

8th April 2014

A Bushman from the Central Kalahari travelled 5,000 miles from his home in Botswana today to tell the Prince of Wales, ‘We're not poachers - we hunt to survive. Persuade Botswana to change its policies, or the Bushmen will soon be finished.'

After another 15 years of these policies it will be the end of the Bushmen - and our People and our way of life will be over.

Jumanda Gakelebone, 40, arrived at Prince Charles's residence this morning with a letter appealing to the Prince to help stop Botswana's violent regime against the country's indigenous Bushmen.

This includes a ban on hunting and gathering within the Kalahari Reserve - which was originally set aside in 1961 to provide a safe home for the Bushmen to live their traditional lives.

The effect is to force the Bushman communities to starve, or to break the law and run the risk of jail. Two Bushmen are already in prison for breaking the hunting ban on sentences of one and two years incarceration.

Gakelebone told The Ecologist: "This is very painful for us. Hunting and gathering is how we put our food on the table - and without it, we starve. So we will be forced to hunt - and many of us will be imprisoned."

Charles unable to come to the door

But even after Gakelebone's 5,000 mile journey, Prince Charles did not come to the door, although he is known to sympathise with the Bushman's cause.

Prince Charles first met with the Kalahari Bushmen during a trip to Botswana with his friend and mentor Sir Laurens van der Post in 1987. Sir Laurens was Prince William's godfather.

He later wrote, "What I discovered was the profound and intuitive ties that bind the Bushmen to their land; their awareness of the workings of the natural world and of the delicate balance between life, physical surroundings and inner spirituality that they had maintained for so long in the harshest of environments ...

"The Bushman is an innocent victim of what, far too glibly, too many of us would call 'progress' ... We all lose if the Bushman disappears."

We have survived since the beginning of time

The Bushmen's letter to Prince Charles states: "We have survived alongside the animals of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve since the beginning of time. We know how to look after them and we hunt them for our survival, not for entertainment like many tourists from your country do.

We know that you walked with Mr Laurens van der Post and Bushmen a long time ago. You know who we are. We are begging you to talk with President Khama, and ask him to stop persecuting us the Bushmen.

Let us live and hunt on our ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve like our fathers and their fathers before them. We want our children to live off the fat of this land, in peace."

President Khama an 'honoured guest'

In February Botswana's President Khama was an honoured guest at a global anti-poaching conference in London, alongside Prince Charles and Prince William.

The initiative resulted in the launch of Prince William's United for Wildlife, drawing together seven big conservation organizations, including US-based Conservation International (CI). President Khama is a CI board member.

But President Khama has banned all hunting nationwide, even for Bushmen who hunt to feed their families, under the pretext of clamping down on poaching. However, it has emerged that trophy hunters who pay up to $8,000 to hunt giraffes and zebras are still being allowed to hunt.

Also present was British barrister Gordon Bennett, in his first meeting with his Bushman clients since being banned from Botswana in 2013. Bennett was barred after he and the Bushmen won three court cases against the Botswana government's persecution of the tribe.

A final appeal

Gakelebone told The Ecologist: "Government policy is to destroy our way of life and culture and force us to live like the Bantu speakers who are the majority in Botswana. Many Bushmen are already forced to live like this - and their language is finished and their culture is gone.

"After another 15 years of these policies it will be the end of the Bushmen. The old people who know the language and the culture will be dead - and our People and our way of life will be over."

 


 

Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.

 

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