Sunday, September 16, 2007

The San-people resettlement villages

On the way back from the CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve), Jo took us to see a resettlement village of the San-people. The San-people were removed from the Kalahari Desert years ago – maybe not physically, but many of them were told to move and intimated out of the Kalahari and relocated to these settlements where the government provides them with free water and maize, education, roads, and a variety of other free services. So now, the San-people live on 3 main settlements in Botswana, but they really have nothing to do! The government tried to teach them to farm, but historically they are a nomadic group, and there wasn’t much motivation for them to learn farming or keep up with it once the government left. There are no jobs for them, but even if there were jobs, popular opinion is that they probably wouldn’t be interested in taking them. The government provides everything for them – food, water, shelter, so there’s not really a reason for them to work or go to school.

There even seems to be a degree of resentment among the other Motswana – they say that the government gives everything free to them, and if they want to go to college, they’ll pay for them and everything, but they don’t even take advantage of these things! Instead, they sit around all day, and they make this drink called Chibuku. The San-people get free water, sorghum and maize, so they use some of it to make this very strong alcoholic drink. They mix it together, dump in some termite mound for yeast (the more termite mound, the stronger the drink!) and it only takes a day or two to brew. They’re often drunk by noon or 1pm because they just sit around and drink all day and hang out. We visited one of these Chibuku establishments (a bar) and actually got a carton. It’s not bad – a little sour and mealy, but it’s ok. It was definitely very strong. Jo said that after you drink two cartons, you’re drunk. It was only about 11 am and many of them were well on their way to being drunk. It was a little sad.

So how did all this happen? The government made up some excuse about the roads not being good enough in the desert, so the San-people had to move (not that the San-people used roads anyways, or not that the government couldn’t have build the same roads that they built for the San-people’s resettlement out in the Kalahari). The rumor is that the real reason the government relocated the San-people is diamonds, which were discovered in the Kalahari. Some of the San-people have won the rights to move back to the Kalahari, but now the government is saying only those 200 or so whose names were on the legal suit are allowed to move back. So they had to sue again, saying (rightfully so) that they represented all of the San-people. They eventually won, but by that time, the government had been providing so much free stuff now to them that only the older people want to move back. The young ones just want to stay on the resettlement grounds and stay drunk. It’s a very sad story.

No comments: