Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Botswana

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 28 June 2012
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Botswana, 28 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 October 2017]
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.

In January 2011, the G/wi and G//ana communities of the Basarwa indigenous group finally won their right to access waterholes inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), where they have lived since its creation in 1961. The Appeals Court overruled an August 2010 High Court judgment that prevented access to a water borehole on their lands; the judgment was long overdue as the community won the right to return to their lands in a landmark court ruling in 2006. The lack of access to water nearby has made it particularly hard for residents to survive. By early 2012, only one water borehole had been reopened by Gem Diamonds, the company now developing a diamond mine within the reserve.

The Basarwa communities in the CKGR refused to participate in the 2011 population and housing census, stating that they did not feel like citizens of the country. The protest was motivated by official refusal to provide services in the CKGR, including a polling station during the 2009 elections. At the end of 2011, the government announced that census results would not be published until the autumn of 2012.

Recognition of minority languages continues to be a particular issue of contention between the Botswanan government and minority and indigenous rights organizations. Despite being a multi-ethnic state, comprising 45 tribes, Botswana's laws and Constitution discriminate in favour of those from the dominant Tswana-speaking group. Reteng, a multicultural coalition group, continues to lobby the government about teaching minority languages in schools. In February, the chairperson of Reteng, Doctor Ndana Ndana, said that a language policy that recognizes all languages would be an important first step, and that while the government argued that there were insufficient funds to teach minority languages in schools, this problem was not insurmountable.

Minority rights groups also continued their legal struggle for non-discriminatory access for minority tribes to the House of Chiefs (an influential body that advises parliament) in 2011. Under the Constitution only the eight principal Tswana-speaking tribes are admitted to the House of Chiefs; there is no guarantee that the chiefs of any of Botswana's 37 non-Tswana tribes will sit in the house. A 2001 High Court ruling in a case brought by the Wayeyi tribe found that the exclusion of the Wayeyi from the House was discriminatory and unjustified. However, despite the ruling, the government has failed to remedy this discrimination. The case was lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) by Reteng with support from MRG, but the Commission declared the case inadmissible in November, stating that domestic remedies had not been exhausted. The decision is currently pending approval by the African Union.

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