A month after the spokesperson of a Bushmen rights group said that the word “Basarwa” is insulting to his people (the Khwe), the Mochudi East MP has used that same word to refer to them.
However, in fairness to him, Isaac Davids, didn’t mean to be disrespectful to the Khwe; he was actually pleading the case of those who live in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).
“One other issue that is of concern to me is that we oppress Basarwa in the land of their ancestors and we deny them to hunt wild animals and even to provide them with water,” the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change MP said in reference to the CKGR where residents have been affected by a national hunting ban and are not provided with any government services, including water.
He pressed on: “We should try and assist Basarwa because they have long been oppressed and yet they are Batswana too and have the right to live like we do. They are not asking for anything much but they are asking to be permitted to hunt in the land of their ancestors. Perhaps we could suggest that they use their spears instead of guns. Perhaps there could be someone appointed to monitor their hunting but please, give Basarwa a bit of freedom. When we get to lead we are going to give Basarwa that freedom because I take it that this is a democratic government voted in by the people.”
The fly in the ointment is that last month, Keikabile Mogodu of Khwedom Council publicly stated that they would prefer to be called “Bushmen” instead of “Basarwa.”
“It is not a self-chosen name and is no different from calling a black South African “kaffir” or a black American “nigger.” Being called “Basarwa” is testament to our position in society because oppressed people are always being given derogatory names by those who lord over them. We have to raise our voices about this practice. We are not Basarwa; we are Khwe,” he said.
Mogodu was responding to a recommendation to Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Shawn Ntlhaile by the Deputy Speaker, Kagiso Molatlhegi and Minister of Health, Dorcas Makgato, that he should refer to the Khwe as “Basarwa” in parliament. Earlier, Ntlhaile had referred to them as “Masarwa.” Mogodu said that “Bushmen” (whose official use the government outlawed without consulting the Khwe) is actually more palatable than “Basarwa.”