A new book by a Mosarwa cultural activist confirms past stories of systematic sexual abuse of Central Kalahari Game Reserve Basarwa by outsiders.
In the not-too-distant past, parliament heard of how the Basarwa in the game reserve were used as unwitting subjects in blue movies. The book, “Tears For My Land” by Kuela Kiema, adds a few more details to the historical record and identifies Batswana school teachers and expatriate anthropologists as culprits.
Writing about his primary school days at Xade, Kiema recounts his experiences of genitals’ inspection which he tells “in more polite language than it deserves.” The inspections were supervised by school deputy headteacher and were done on the pupils. In accordance with their culture, some of the pupils were already married or engaged. This teacher would instruct boys to undo the zips of their shorts and check for smegma – dirt under the foreskin of a penis ÔÇô or “bofola” in Setswana.
“If they found it they scrapped it off and displayed it to the class,” the book says.
The girls fared much worse. Kiema’s recollection is that they were told to lie on their backs, pull their skirts up. Thereafter, male teachers “used rulers to fiddle with the girls’ genitals.” As with the boys, any negative discovery in the genitals was broadcast to the class.
“Some of the girls had their periods and started crying because their menstrual status was revealed to their brothers and friends. As a result of this, and other embarrassments, half the young men and women who had started Standard Four with great enthusiasm eventually left school, their hopes of educational achievements thwarted because their education had become so unbearable,” Kiema writes in his book.
The deputy headteacher, as he recalled to the writer, was a Mongwato from the central district and has since passed away.
The book says that around the time that the CKGR relocation issue gained attention of the international community, anthropologists began to invade the reserve to carry out research, some of it unusually voyeuristic.
Kiema writes: “They observed such things as how our faeces looked like and how we made love. They measured our women’s clitorises and the angle of our men’s erect penises, as well as committing other unspeakable deeds.”
This is not the first time allegations of this kind have been made.
Years ago in parliament, then Botswana National Front president and Leader of the Opposition told parliament that First People of the Kalahari leader, Roy Sesana, had told him stories of white foreigners visiting the game reserve to shoot pornographic movies starring the Basarwa. Sesana denied having said that but Koma stood by his story.
Before his death, FPK founder, John Hardbattle, also spoke about being subjected to this anthropological abuse as a young boy. Hardbattle said that researchers from South Africa studied him because they were curious about the physiology of a half-white, half-Sarwa child. His mother was Naro and his father was a white man from England. Educated in Southern Rhodesia and England, Hardbattle later joined the British army and served with NATO forces in Germany. He later returned home to Botswana and was instrumental in the formation of FPK. He barnstormed around the world soliciting political, moral and financial support for the movement. Among those who answered Hardbattle’s pleas was Prince Charles. The book says that the future king of England donated a Land Rover van to FPK.