The wonderful old lady in the centre, Xoroxloo Duxee, died as a result of the Botswanan government refusing her access to the Bushmen's only water in her area, and forbidding most hunting. She refused to leave the land she and many of her forefathers lived on for an inconceivable amount of time. The land was her life. Literally. Her death was slow, from dehydration and starvation. The man principally responsible, who held shares in the nearby tourist resort which was allowed to use as much water as it liked to fill its swimming pool? Ian, the son of Mma Ramotswe's, Botswana's, and the world's great Seretse Khama. This apple was rotten when it fell off the tree.
Bushmen, San, or Basarwa?
The Bushmen, as well as living in Botswana, also live in places like South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The people to whom we will refer as "Bushmen", for reasons given below, do not have a collective word for themselves, generally only referring to their relevant family groups. We familiar with this as the same applies to the First Australians.
In more modern times, there have been efforts to give them an acceptable collective name, mostly made by Europeans, particularly anthropologists and other scientists, because it suits them to do so.
However, the Bushmen themselves have also more recently attempted to agree a collective name, without, so far, success. This has led to serious difficulties in their abilities to represent themselves as a group, leading to a loss of opportunities to play an effective across-population role in international forums.
In Botswana, home to some 50,000 Bushmen, although total numbers are largely guesswork because of the Botswana government's running failure to carry out a population census, the most commonly accepted term among the relevant people is "Bushmen" (sorry to South Africans and Namibians who find it offensive).
Unfortunately, the most commonly used Setswana term is "Basarwa" (singular, "Mosarwa"), meaning "those who do not have cattle", and which many Bushmen find offensive in a country that largely determines humanity on the basis of cattle ownership.
Those of us who have read the Ramotswe novels will have read of the importance of cattle to Mma Ramotswe and other Botswanans throughout the novel series.
Why discuss the Bushmen?
We've included this page for two reasons. First, we wanted to give a little more background to Motholeli and Puso, the Bushman orphans adopted by Mr J L B Matekoni and Mma Ramotswe. It's worth remembering their story is, very largely, true.
Second, this is also background to the Botswanan government's treatment of the Bushmen, discussed elsewhere in this website.
Oldest, most-evolved humans
According to very recent research (at the time of writing, 2015), on the basis that the more genetically diverse a population is, the more evolved it is, and therefore the older it is, the Bushmen are the most evolved humans on earth, and appear therefore to be a group from which all humans are descended.
Racists of many skin tones/colours, cultures, and ethnicities the world over dispute this, apparently not wishing to be descended from Africans, claiming to have evolved separately.
It's perfectly true that occasional "discoveries" raise valid questions about the “out of Africa” theory/reality, just as the evolution reality itself eventually explains all the oppositional rubbish creationists and other fantasists come up with.
So, as the original and most highly evolved humans, the Bushmen ought to be treated a heck of a lot better than they are.
Oh, by the way, racists - yar poot to you, with not a scintilla of apology. We just love the fact we're all descended from black Africans. And, no, your whiteness does not mean you're more evolved, because the Bushmen are the most evolved humans on earth. So stick that up your arse, and I hope it constipates you.
First people in Botswana
The first people to inhabit the area we now call "Botswana" in comparatively modern times (for somewhere up to 200,000 years, apparently) were the Bushmen, also known as San (or Saan), and sometimes known as the Kalahari Bushmen.
They have also been called several other names, some of them extremely offensive, and some even clearly and ironically rejecting their humanity. These are a much oppressed people.
In South Africa and Namibia "San" replaced the use of "Bushmen", which is regarded by the San of South Africa and Namibia as a pejorative term, and which was used by the Khoi, pastoralists who are territorial rivals of the Bushmen.
The Khoi are mostly the people once known pejoratively, in their turn, by whites as "Hottentots". These days there has been quite a mixing of Khoi and San, leading to people called "Khoisan".
The word "Masarwa" is the equivalent in English of "nigger" or, in Australia, of "boong", or "gin", or "chink" (our very sincere apologies for writing these words, it goes very much against the grain, but we think we've used them in context).
Appallingly, "Masarwa" has popped up occasionally in recent years in discussions about the Bushmen and their ill-treatment. It's used by people who not only should, but do know better, and who are simply bitter at the fact the Bushmen are, albeit almost without any power, resisting their appalling treatment at the hands of the Botswana government.
As if this word was not bad enough, it was also not at all unusual until very recently for many Tswana to call their Bushmen servants "Bull" for the males and "Cow" for the females. This terminology has still not completely died out. We note we're not picking on the Tswana as being the only racist people on earth. All societies, including, sadly, my own harbour people with such bizarrely destructive ideas.
Many Bushmen quite reasonably regard all the names for themselves as pejorative in one way or another, and we can see their point, preferring to be known by their specific "tribal" or "family" name, rather than any generalised name.
This leads to a variety of preferred names, such as !Kung, IXam, ǂKhomani, Nusan (NIu), Khwe (Khoi, Kxoe - although the Khoi, or Khoikhoi are actually more likely to be a different people, as discussed above), Naro, Haillom, Tsoa, Auen, Kua, Glui (Gwi) and Gllana (Gana). Note that several of these names are in a "click" language, hence the odd letters.
The group fighting for the rights of the Bushmen in Botswana, the wonderful British-based organisation Survival (whoops, showing more of my biases, sorry Botswanan government - well, not really), calls them Bushmen because that is what that particular group prefer to be called. However, unfortunately this is not a matter of complete agreement among the Bushmen people of Botswana themselves.
"San" literally means "foragers" (from "saa", meaning "picking up from the ground"), but has come to mean "people without cattle", which seems pretty harmless, except, as mentioned above, among societies where possession of cattle is seen as proof of one's humanity.
Indicative of the cultural conflict between the Bushmen and the surrounding people is that "San" has also come to mean "people who steal cattle", which identifies the Bushmen as the perpetrators of what the surrounding peoples would regard as the worst of all possible crimes.
Despite this, the use of "San" as their collective name has been agreed by the South African and Namibian San themselves. "Bushmen" in South Africa, on the other hand, is widely regarded as pejorative.
In the other countries in which they are found, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, there are no official terms, although in Angola they are known as "Bushmen", "Kwankhala", or "Bosquímanos" (Portuguese for "Bushmen") and in Zimbabwe they are sometimes known as "Amasii" and "Batwa".
Our apologies to anyone if we've unwittingly just written names that are exceptionally offensive. If we have, please give us a hoy.
By the way, the lady on the cover of the book over there on the left (available from Survival's online store) was a Bushman. Xoroxloo Duxee from the Metsiamenong community.
Sadly, the Botswanan government caused Xoroxloo Duxee's death by dehydration and starvation in 2005, yes, genocide of First Peoples is still happening in the 21st century, when it blockaded the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and armed guards prevented her people from hunting, gathering, and obtaining water.
To enforce its order, the government concreted over the only water bore in the area while allowing a nearby tourist development to fill its swimming pool with precious water. Even a court order couldn't get the government to free the bore.
It has been reported that the Botswanan president, Ian Khama, held shares in the company that ultimately owned the tourist development. Not, of course, that we're in any way suggesting corruption on his part or anyone associated with him.
The government's concern, apparently, was that the Bushmen were killing animals tourists wanted to see. Of course, there are now diamond mines and fracking operations in the area.
I leave consideration of the government's real motives for getting rid of the Bushmen up to you.