Views and news on peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa




No longer at ease

TOPIC: Society

by Patrick Chapita (670 words)

The Baherero people, immigrants from Namibia, are finding the going rough in their adopted country, Botswana. Botswanans regard them with suspicion and fearing an ethnic crisis, the government of President Ketumile Masire has allowed the Bahereros to return to their original home

For some time bad blood has been running between the Baherero and the rest of the people of Botswana. The Baherero claim that they are being discriminated against and are often told to go back to Namibia, their original home country.

This has irked most of the Herero old generations who have been residents of Botswana for most part of their lives. The government of president, Sir Ketumile Masire fearing to stir this hornet's nest of ethnic tension, has okayed the repatriation of the Baherero together with their personal belongings such as cattle, goats and sheep.

The Hereros came to Botswana at the turn of the century as they fled from German colonization. While they became Botswana citizens, they kept to their tradition, their language and their costume. They lived communally in their traditional small round mud huts - the kind of life many Tswana people regard as still primitive.

Like many old Hereros in Botswana, Letlhake Tjirunga, 76 , resides in the rural district of serowe in central Botswana. He is not at all happy about how the Tswana people treat them. He said he has had enough of the insults of the Tswana people and the only way he can get his peace of mind is if he is repatriated to Namibia.

"Truly speaking, the Botswanans hate us. Everytime we meet the Twsana we are told to go back where we came from. We are told that we are a disgrace to the society because of our primitive way of living," the little old laments.

"We are suffering from low self-esteem because of that discrimination. The Botswanans are forgetting that we stayed right by them during the fight to liberate the country but that certainly has not won us their loyalty in return," he adds.

He added that despite some Hereros having good educational background, none has secured a good job or has a cabinet position in the government. "We are really the living destitutes in Botswana. Our only hope for better living lies in going back to Namibia where our roots is and maybe die there and be buried in the same soil where our ancestral spirits lie," he explained.

However, while the parents are eager to repatriate, their children are not. They claim that since they were born in Botswana, the country had become their home.

To make matters worse for their parents, they do not dress according to their traditional costumes. They wear modern clothes and love contemporary music.

Tjirungas' first son, Mooketsi who is 32 years old said he was against his father's wishes of repatriation. "Yes, we are being discriminated as a minority group right here in Botswana," he says. "But repatriation is not the solution to the problem."

"Since independence in the 70s we have been partners with the rest of the Botswanans in creating wealth for this country. We have worked in diamond mines that have led to this country's economic development. I am not leaving Botswana," he said: "We need to work for better solutions as to why the Botwsanans against us more than other minority groups such as the Bushmen of Ghanzi district. This is not the problem in Botswana alone but the whole world has discrimination".

The young Baherero generation said they believed the traditional way of living which their parents did not want to change contributed a lot to discrimination from the rest of Botswana society. "Sometimes I feel ashamed of the way the Herero community in this country lives - it is unhealthy," said Mooketsi.

However, the Botswana government through its Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mr Phatshego Kedilwe said the repatriation exercise was not being forced on individuals but was being done on a willing basis.

He added that the government was reinforcing its commitment to improve the quality of life for its citizens irrespective of the ethnic background. He also said that the government also respects the wishes of those who wanted to repatriate to their countries of origin.


Contents can be freely reproduced with acknowledgements. The by-line should read: author/AFRICANEWS.
Send a copy of the reproduced article to AFRICANEWS.

AFRICANEWS - Koinonia Media Centre, P.O. Box 8034, Nairobi, Kenya
tel/fax: 254.2.560385 - e-mail: afrinews@freeworld.it
AFRICANEWS on line is by Enrico Marcandalli

PeaceLink 1997