Sunday, March 26, 2023

Batswana introduced HIV/AIDS to the San ‘through rape’

Natively averse to punch-pulling and using euphemisms in executing its tight-buttocked campaign to have the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve San regain their full residency rights, Survival International (SI) is now hustling a startling second-hand claim that Batswana men raped HIV/AIDS into San women.


Quoting a study of a researcher it identifies only as Mosweunyane, SI says that HIV/AIDS has always been alien to San (or Bushmen) populations and was introduced to their communities “by the Batswana (non-Bushman Botswanans), often through rape.” This rape was often not reported to authorities on score of the fact “we fear the cops because they say we emit bad smell, we are drunk and we are not fluent in Setswana [the national language]. Sometimes they just laugh.”


This claim is made in an SI publication called “Progress Can Kill: How Imposed Development Destroys the Health of Tribal Peoples” that the London-based pressure group has just put out.


As one of the worst affected countries in the world, Botswana is spending a lot of money in the fight against HIV/AIDS but the study that SI quotes says that the San are not benefitting from the government’s health programmes.


“Information about avoiding, testing and treating the disease was failing to reach the Bushmen, partly because of the negative attitudes of Batswana towards the Bushmen. Interviewees from the health sector referred to Bushmen as ‘vexatious, troublesome drunkards; very stubborn, [they] do not cooperate; very insolent people; very noisy people’ Bushman interviewees found it hard to access information, which was not available in their languages, and found the government servants intimidating. One said ‘they are the people who brought the disease to us but now pretend to care and teach us when they know we are already infected and dying.’ When asked what kind of health project was needed, a clear focus was on the need for information in their own language, from their own people.”


SI would want readers to take official HIV/AIDS figures from the government with a pinch of salt due to the fact that typically, statistics on sexually transmitted infections among displaced indigenous communities “are hard to come by, especially as many governments do not want such figures to be known.” With such motivation, SI claims that deaths from AIDS are often either disguised, or underreported.


“In the New Xade resettlement site in Botswana, for example, 40 percent of deaths of Gana and Gwi Bushmen in 2002 were recorded as AIDS deaths. It is likely that a further 10 percent of deaths in this camp were due to AIDS,” it says.


Half-concealing the identity of a New Xade woman who reportedly died of AIDS and in driving home a point about the strangeness of this disease, the report says that “Gakemeitswe (not her real name)” left behind three children. Shortly before her death in 2006, she is reported to have stated: “I want to go and be buried in my home in Molapo [in the CKGR]. I am sick now, I am about to die… we were the first people from Molapo to be evicted. Here in New Xade there are different kinds of diseases that we do not recognise … when you get sick, you die.” While a fictitious name is used to for her story, the report published an unedited portrait of hers.


Read this week's paper