Some people have raised concerns about the relocation of the former residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Allegations have been made that Basarwa have been forcibly removed from their ancestral land inside the Game Reserve to make way for mining.The purpose of this write up is to provide the true facts and other detailed information on the reasons behind the relocation as well as how the CKGR relocation exercise was implemented. This information is also intended to give interested parties a better understanding and appreciation of Botswana ’s rural development policies, particularly those targeting the country’s remote area dweller communities.


The Question of Indigenous people in Botswana

Botswana is inhabited by many different ethnic groups that occupied the geographical areas of present-day Botswana at different times in history. Historical developments have led to Batswana developing as one and a united nation. Government therefore, considers all Batswana indigenous to this country.

Botswana has enshrined in her constitution, the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. Every Motswana, irrespective of race, colour, religion, gender, political opinion or place of origin, is protected by the constitution and guaranteed these rights and freedoms. The constitution further ensures that the enjoyment of these rights and freedoms by any individual, does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others and the public interest.

Basarwa (San) people in Botswana

Speakers of Khoisan languages in Botswana are collectively known to themselves and others as “Basarwa”, though many of their dialects are quite distinct from one another. Botswana has an estimated population of about 60 000 Basarwa, most of whom live in small, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual remote area communities spread across seven districts in the country namely, the Southern, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Central and North West districts.Basarwa as a matter of fact are not only found in and around the CKGR, but all over Botswana


and indeed Southern Africa . Some individuals and an NGO opposed to the relocation would however want the world to wrongly believe that the people relocated from the CKGR are

Basarwa(San) Rock Paintings - Tsodilo Hills


the last group of Basarwa (San) people left in Botswana . In fact, they are only avery small proportion of the people of Basarwa identity who live in thiscountry. It is, perhaps, also worth noting that almost half of the Game Reserve’s former population were non-Basarwa in their ethnic identity, being mostly speakers of a Tswana dialect.

Basarwa of the Kgalagadi

It has usually been the Basarwa, more particularly those living in the western Kgalagadi sandveld who have continued to be the targets of old fashioned racial stereotyping as “Bushmen” by outsiders who seek to project an image of the so-called “Bushmen” as some sort of exotic race living in splendid isolation from other peoples, as subsistence hunter-gatherers. They are portrayed as isolated hunter-gatherers, who have somehow been cut off from the rest of Botswana . Unfortunately, images such as those contained in apartheid era books like the “Lost World of the Kalahari” and films like “The Gods Must Be Crazy” seem to have become entrenched in the popular culture of some parts of the world, particularly, in the developed countries of Europe and North America .

Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), located in the eastern part of the Ghanzi District, was established as a game reserve under the Game Proclamation through the High Commissioner’s Notice on February 14, 1961 . The Proclamation was superseded by the current Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act No. 28 of 1992 which maintained the CKGR as a game reserve. The Game Reserve was established to protect wildlife resources and provide sufficient land for traditional use by hunter-gatherer communities of the central Kgalagadi.

About 3 000 (three thousand) people, the majority being Basarwa, were found to reside inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve when it was gazetted as a game reserve in 1961. Their settlements comprised of small multi-ethnic and multi-lingual communities. According to a study conducted by Sheller P. in 1977, residents of the CKGR were made up of three groups, namely, the G/wikwe, the G/naakwe and the Bakgalagadi.

The G/wikwe, were the majority at 47%. They lived a strictly traditional hunter-gather life, hunting wild game and gathering veld-foods on foot using bow and arrow, spears and snares. They moved in accordance with the availability of both game and veld-foods, neither planting crops nor owning any livestock or property. It was, however, observed in later years, [1985] that a small number of them owned a few goats and had a garden where they grew melons.

The Bakgalagadi, who were the second largest group, at 37.2% exhibited the greatest degree of acculturation. The group was found to be more sedentary, spending most of their time at the village. Their fields were larger than those of the G/naakwe and crops more diversified, with melons and beans as major crops and sorghum and maize being minor crops. They also reared goats, donkeys and horses in the Game Reserve, and their cattle were kept outside the reserve under the care of relatives.

The G/naakwe were the smallest in number at 15.3%. They were a unique cultural cross between the G/wikwe and the Bakgalagadi. They were found to have retained the G/wikwe’s egalitarian and hunter-gathering skills, as well as having integrated village social structures and supplemental stock and crop raising enterprises of the Bakgalagadi. It was found that during the dry season or in drought conditions, there was an estimated 75% population shift, with as many as 50% of the reserve population moving out of the Game Reserve to adjacent areas where there were boreholes. The rest moved to or near water sources provided by Government inside the Game Reserve, such as the Old Xade settlement.

Reasons for the CKGR relocation

Change of traditional way of life led to land use conflict

While the dual objectives of protecting wildlife resources and providing sufficient land for traditional use by hunter-gatherer communities were to some extent maintained, over-time it was realised that a conflict of land use had developed between wildlife conservation and emerging human settlements inside the Game Reserve. The lifestyle of the residents of the Game Reserve had changed. They were no longer either able or willing to live by what had been considered their traditional means. They were instead using horses, dogs, traps, spears and guns for hunting. They also depended on boreholes, trucked water supplies and food rations supplied by Government. All of these lifestyle shifts were already having an adverse impact on the environment.

Government Fact Finding Mission

Following observations of emerging land use conflict, Government commissioned a study in 1985 to investigate the situation inside the CKGR with a view to providing information that would facilitate decision making on environmental protection and wildlife conservation on the one hand, and the socio-economic development of the afected communities on the other.The mission found that;

  • locations in the Game Reserve were rapidly evolving into permanent, settled agricultural communities, especially at Old Xade, Molapo, Metsiamanong, Gope, Mothomelo and Gugama,
  • the people residing inside the Game Reserve had largely abandoned their traditional, nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life i.e. hunting on foot with bows and arrows, in favour of a sedentary lifestyle and hunting with horses, dogs, traps, spears and occasionally guns and vehicles brought from outside the Game Reserve. Hunting on horseback was the most common as horses could outrun all the animals except the hartebeerst. Often all animals in the herd were killed after being chased on horseback and maimed with spears. The meat was then cut and dried (biltong) and sold to a fledging market of non-residents who frequently visited the Reserve.
  • The residents were also grazing increasing numbers of livestock inside the game reserve, and
  • In the area around Old Xade, it was found that wildlife and veld-foods had been virtually eliminated within a radius of 40 km (24.8 miles) or an area of some 5 000 sq km (1 930 square miles)

Findings of independent researchers

The findings of the Government mission were consistent with what had already been reported by various independent researchers over many years. For example, a Himeji-Dokkyo University anthropologist Masakazu Osaki reported in his study “The Social Influence of Change in Hunting Technique among Central Kalahari San” [ African Studies Monographs 5], conducted during his stay in Xade between September and February in 1982/3, that, “of the 91 large ungulates killed by hunters only one of these was brought down by traditional bow and arrow”. Osaki further noted in his follow-up work, “ Reconstructing the Recent History of the Gui and Gana Bushmen” [African Studies Monographs No. 26] : that, “At present, the traditional hunting with bow and arrows is outdated while trap hunting thrives. Spear hunting with dogs, hunting on horseback also thrives.”

Another anthropologist James Suzman from Cambridge University observed in his 2003 overview "Kalahari conundrums: relocation, resistance and international support in the Central Kalahari Botswana " [Before Farming 2002/3_4 (12] that, "With easy water [Old] Xade's population grew rapidly. By 1980 it was a permanent settlement. . . Game avoided the area, veld-foods were over-utilised and the people grew increasingly reliant on state aid. Residents of Xade also realised that with permanent water they could keep livestock. As other water-points were established during the 1980s the residents of the CKGR brought more goats, donkeys, dogs and horses into the reserve. Horses and dogs were particularly prized since they radically increased hunting efficiency and range. . ."Likewise, year-round access to potable water allowed the Xade population to experiment with cultivation. With support from agricultural extension services some managed small harvests of sorghum, maize and cow peas. By 1985, it was reported that almost all Gwi planted gardens. In so doing the Gwi and Gana demonstrated that, not only were they unafraid of change, but if appropriately delivered they were willing to embrace it."

Earlier attempts by both Government and independent investigators to identify residents who were strictly traditional hunter-gatherers proved difficult as people had aggregated into mixed groups, a clear indication that Basarwa (Gana and Gwi) were not only unafraid of change or transformation, but were willing to embrace it.

The conclusion was that, the development of permanent settlements in the Game Reserve coupled with the new hunting and herding activities of the residents were inconsistent with wildlife conservation in the CKGR.

Decision to relocate

Guided by the findings of the 1985 Fact Finding Mission and the new challenges Government had to contend with, presented by the lifestyle changes and its mandate/obligation to provide social amenities to all citizens of Botswana , Government decided in 1986 that:

    • The boundaries and the status of the CKGR should be maintained as at present;
    • The social and economic development of old Xade and other settlements in the Reserve, should be frozen as they had no prospect of becoming economically viable;
    • Viable sites for economic and social development should be identified outside the reserve and the residents of the reserve should be encouraged, but not forced, to relocate to those sites; and
    • That the Ministry of Local Government and Lands should advise Government on the incentives required to encourage residents in the reserve to relocate.

Implementation of the relocation exercise


In accordance with the democratic beliefs, policies and practices of the Republic of Botswana , extensive consultations, which began in 1985, were carried out with all stakeholders, that is, the inhabitants of all the settlements in the Game Reserve, NGOs and other interested parties. It was only in 1997, 12 years later, that the actual relocation started after 1739 people relocated to the new settlements of K’goesakeni (New Xade) and Kaudwane, which the residents themselves freely selected based on, amongst others, the terrain and surrounding vegetation which are similar to that found inside the Game Reserve.

In 2001, there were 689 people who resided in the CKGR according to the 2001 Population and Housing Census report. Of this number only 17 people, who are members of two related families, did not agree to thereafter relocate and therefore continue to reside in the Game Reserve. A small number of those who had earlier relocated have in the past two years moved in and out of the Reserve on a frequent basis, leading to fluctuations in the number of people found in the Reserve. These numbers fluctuate between 50 and 70.

Although the return of these individuals is clearly in breach of the agreement they voluntarily entered into with Government to relocate outside the Game Reserve, Government has thus far chosen to try to persuade them to appreciate that living inside the Game Reserve offers hardly any prospects for them and their future generations.


All the people who relocated from the CKGR were paid compensation for their properties and also assisted with vehicles to transport their belongings, which included livestock, to the new settlements. The total sum paid as compensation to 730 households between 1997 and 2002 amounted to P4.4 million (US$900 000).

Compensation was mainly for developments on the vacated plots in the CKGR, especially traditional huts, wooden poles, shade trees, and ploughing fields. The residents were also paid a disturbance allowance calculated at 10% of the total compensation. Total compensations ranged from P1 000 (US$220) to P100 000 (US$22 000) per adult resident or family unit depending on properties owned.

In addition to the above, Government provided the residents with livestock. Two thousand, three hundred (2 300) cattle and two thousand and eighteen (2 018) goats have so far been provided to 602 beneficiaries, with each family allocated either 5 head of cattle or 15 goats. Individuals, themselves, were given the opportunity to choose between cattle or goats. Government has also ensured that there is water for livestock.

Decision to terminate services

The decision to terminate services inside the CKGR was taken after it became apparent that with the small number of people remaining inside the Game Reserve, 17 people from two related families, the continued provision of services was uneconomical and unsustainable. It should be noted here that Botswana is a vast and sparsely populated country making the cost of providing infrastructure and social services expensive. Botswana has a population of 1 680 863 over a land area of 581 730 square kilometres, which means the average population density is 3 persons per square kilometre.

The people remaining in the Reserve are however, free to find ways on their own to access services at areas nearest to them and they are in fact doing so. They collect food rations, pensions and otherwise go and access services from the settlements adjacent to the Game Reserve. For its part the Government has been proactive in ensuring that their children are not denied education. The children benefit from boarding facilities and are transported to and from the Game Reserve at Government expense during school holidays.

Development of settlements in Botswana

National Settlement Policy

The development of settlements in Botswana, both large and small, is guided by the National Settlement Policy which was developed and designed to, amongst others, promote the optimal use of the limited resources at Government’s disposal. By necessity, population size, location, and economic viability are among the practical criteria used in determining the development and provision of services to settlements.

To qualify for infrastructure facilities and other services, a remote area dweller settlement must have a minimum of 250 people and must be located at least 15km (9.32 miles) away from a recognized settlement/village. People residing in settlements of less than 250 people, as it applies to the 17 people who remained residing inside the CKGR, are persuaded to relocate or come together with others to form bigger settlements where they could be provided with services.

Land tenure and access to land

Botswana has three systems of tenure, namely, tribal or communal land (74%), state land (23%) and freehold land (4%). Communal land is the tenure system

where the majority of citizens or the bulk of the population still derive their economic well being. Land Boards have been mandated to carry out tribal/communal land management which involves land allocation, land use planning and listening to grievances. In this regard Land Boards receive and processes

applications for newallocations,register existing rights formerly allocated by Dikgosi, and authorise change of land use and transfer of rights. Under the communal land tenure system, applicants are allowed to identify pieces of land for residential, commercial, industrial, recreational or agricultural use. An application is then submitted to the Land Board for processing and thereafter the Land Board can proceed in two ways, either ask for technical input from a technical body called District Land Use Planning Unit or straight away dispense with the application. The applicant will then be informed of the outcome in writing, whereupon he/she can accept the outcome or take the matter up with the Land Tribunal if aggrieved by the Board’s decision.

In allocating land, the Land Board may issue a certificate of customary land grant or a common law lease. A customary land grant entitles applicants user rights as opposed to property rights but in the case of common law leases, the lessees can use the land for collateral purposes. Common law leases range from 50 years for commercial, industrial, civic & community and 99 years for residential use.


Freehold land is found mostly along the borders of Botswana with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia Management of freehold land is the prerogative of the land holder, except for planning issues.






State land and Protected areas - comprise all urban areas, national parks and reserves, and some pockets of former crown lands found in the Central and Ngamiland districts. The Department of Lands is responsible for state land. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) falls within this tenure system.


Protected Areas

Protected areas were established in accordance with the legislation for game reserves that was enacted in Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1940. All the protected areas in Botswana were established after this proclamation prior to independence in 1966. These areas occupy about 17% of Botswana ’s total landmass. Their objectives are;

  • To preserve the diversity of organisms indigenous to Botswana ’s unique wilderness as functional elements of the ecosystem
  • To maintain those ecological processes, which characterise the savannah ecosystem
  • To provide educational and interpretative programmes for visitors to foster a better understanding and appreciation of ecology, and
  • To realise economic returns from tourism while safeguarding the ecological integrity and pristine wilderness

Over the years people who resided inside protected areas have been encouraged to relocate to areas outside the protected areas for two main reasons. Firstly, because their modern economic activities, be it hunting, arable and or pastoral agriculture or some other commercial activity, are inconsistent with the primary purpose of the Game Parks and Reserves which is to conserve Botswana’s unique wildlife heritage for its use in a sustainable and beneficial way to the communities living adjacent to the reserve and the nation at large.

Secondly, people have been encouraged to move out of Game Parks and Reserves to give themselves and their children the benefits of development which cannot be provided inside the Reserves. Being a large country with a population of only 1.7 million, it has never been easy for Government to extend social services to the sparsely populated remote rural settlements. People have thus been encouraged to move into settlements with schools, health clinics and other training and vocational opportunities.

Every citizen of Botswana has a right to apply for, and be allocated a piece of land anywhere in Botswana irrespective of their ethnicity. Everyone is further entitled to utilize the land in accordance with the provisions of the tenure system within which the piece of land falls. Where conflict of land use arises, the concerned individual or community is advised to seek another place where there will be no such conflict. The former residents of the CKGR are not the first people to be asked to relocate in Botswana . Individuals and communities have in the past been asked to relocate to give way for development or the establishment of Game Reserves. These include, people who previously resided in the Gemsbok, Makgadikgadi, Chobe and Moremi Game Parks and Reserves.

These relocated communities, including the former residents of the CKGR, now live in rural settlements which in accordance with Government policy are targeted for accelerated provision of amenities.



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Mail Address cmaribe@gov.bw