The San people are one of the most well known cultures in the world. Several documentaries have been made that focuses on their unique way of life and how they were able to preserve their culture. The San has preserved the old ways against all odds in this modern day and age. The Bushmen have fought change for so long now, but eventually technology will catch up with them. As with other old civilizations, the San are facing challenges that mark the beginning of the end of their amazing cultural heritage.
Several problems face the San people, there is AIDS, lack of education, lack of enough food to sustain the population, lack of land or land grants from the government (Hitchcock, 2003) and on going civil wars (McDonough, 2000). Of all the challenges pushing the San people toward extinction, the problem with land grant and real rights are the ones taking the stage. The greatest problem facing the San and some other rural people in Botswana is that they are slowly losing their cultural identity.
The loss of identity is caused by several factors, one of which is the inability to obtain secure land and resource tenure rights (Hitchcock, 2003). The ability to secure land rights are important for the San since their culture are mainly devoted to hunting and gathering, free access to the lands bounty is their ticket to survival. However, as things are going, not only are these people unable to secure rights over the land which they cultivate, they are also being driven out of the land where they have spent most of their lives.
There are a variety of reasons why these people cannot acquire the land that they have occupied since the time of their forefathers, there is “the establishment of national parks, game reserves, and other kinds of protected areas” (Broyhill) which has caused the San people to relocate themselves, and the government stand that it together with the “ District Land Boards and Councils have been unwilling to grant land rights to groups who make claims on the basis of customary rights and traditional livelihoods” (Hitchcock, 2003).
Unlike most governments whose law acknowledges that occupation over a territory since time immemorial can blossom into ownership, the Botswana government refuses to recognize the San people as indigenous since it believes that all African inhabitants are indigenous. There have also been cases wherein private enterprises drove the San people out of their territory, the mining companies in Africa are guilty of ousting these people from their land just for profit.
These cases have reached the courts and continues to this day, however, recent cases have showed an inclination towards the recognition of the San people’s rights, calling the act of relocating these people for the sake of business, racial discrimination. Another factor causing the extinction of cultural identity is the increasing dependence of the San people on the government for subsistence.
After the drought in the 1980’s drove the San people of Botswana to move “to settlements, where they could not only get access to water, schools, and health facilities, but also be in a position where government rations could be provided,” (Broyhill) the dependency of the San people on these rations continues to this day. The once proud hunter-gatherers who can claim that they have survived through their sweat and labor are slowly becoming a government-dependent class, completely abandoning their proud way of life.
The San people are currently on the brink of extinction, the old proud people of the Kalahari dessert who fought the dreaded terrain with only their loincloths and arrows are now being driven out of their homes, out of their way of life and sadly out of their culture. If the down playing of the San continues, it would only be a matter of years before we see the end of this proud race.