Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Namibia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Namibia, 11 March 2008, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The land rights of the San came under scrutiny in Namibia in 2007 in a highly critical report compiled by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), based in Windhoek.

There are estimated to be about 30,000 San in Namibia, belonging to the Hai//om, Ju/hoansi and Khwe sub-groups – and, since colonial times, they have been pushed off their traditional lands without adequate compensation. The LAC pointed out that the government land policy unveiled in 1998 had prioritized the needs of the San, but thus far had failed to deliver. The Hai//om in particular complained that the 2007 centenary celebrations to mark the establishment of Namibia's premier Etosha National Park, ignored the bitter experience of their people. Now thought to number 9,000, the Hai//om had been expelled from the reserve in the 1960s. They are currently the only San community without any communal lands.

A report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), dramatically illustrated that the San people had borne the brunt of Namibia's worsening poverty and the HIV/Aids epidemic. Not only did the San (identified as Khoisan speakers in the table above), have the lowest incomes as a group, but their life expectancy has also dropped more sharply than that of any of the other groups surveyed. Namibia has one of the worst rates of HIV/Aids infection in the world. The study revealed that, in terms of income disparity, the country also ranked as one of the worst in the world. And the poverty experienced by the San community was comparable to that in the world's most deprived countries.

The deep-seated prejudice faced by the San in Namibia was highlighted by complaints over the treatment of San rape victims. A traditional leader, Michael Isung Simana, in the Omaheke region in eastern Namibia, reportedly told the New Era newspaper in October 2007 about the high incidence of rape of San women by members of other communities. He attributed this to 'persistent negative stereotypes, which place a lower value on the dignity of San women, than other women'. Simana also accused the police of not treating the rape of San women seriously enough, and of failing to vigorously investigate allegations or gather adequate forensic evidence (see also Botswana).

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