of Botswana …
… SVD challenging mission?
The Bushmen, San, Basarwa, ǃKung
or Khwe are indigenous people of the
Kalahari Desert, which spans areas of
South Africa, Botswana, Namibia,
Angola and Zimbabwe.
huntergatherers, part of the Khoisan group,
and are related to the traditionally
pastoral Khoikhoi.
Genetic evidence suggests they are
one of the oldest, if not the oldest,
peoples in the world — a "genetic
Adam" according to Spencer Wells,
from which all humans can ultimately
trace their genetic heritage.
The terms San, Khwe, Bushmen, and Basarwa
have all been used to refer to hunter-gatherer
peoples of southern Africa.
Each of these terms has a problematic history,
as they have been used by outsiders to refer to
them, often with pejorative connotations.
The individual groups identify by names such as
Ju/’hoansi and ǃKung, and most call themselves
"Bushmen" when referring to themselves
The term "San" was historically applied by their
ethnic relatives and historic rivals, the Khoikhoi.
This term means "outsider" in the Nama
language and was derogatory because it
distinguished the Bushmen from what the
Khoikhoi called themselves, namely the First
People. It is also considered derogatory
because the term "san" refers to animals.
The Bushmen feel that by calling them "san"
they are being put on the same level as animals
which they feel they are greater than.
Photograph of the Bushmen taken more
than 100 years ago in Ngamiland.
Western anthropologists adopted "San"
extensively in the 1970s, where it remains
preferred in academic circles.
In South Africa, the term "San" has
become favored in official contexts, being
included in the blazon of the new national
The term "Bushmen" is widely used, but
opinions vary on whether it is appropriate
– given that the term is sometimes viewed
as pejorative.
In South Africa "Bushman" is considered
derogatory by some groups.
In Botswana, the officially used term is
Basarwa, where it is partially acceptable
to some Bushmen groups, although
Basarwa, a Tswana language label, also
has negative connotations.
The term is a class 2 noun (as indicated
by the "ba-" class marker), while an older
class 6 variant, "Masarwa," is now almost
universally considered offensive.
(“Sarwa” is derived from a word meaning
“meat”, thus Basarwa may sound for some
people like “bushmeat”.)
Bushmen Groups
Bushmen Languages
in Botswana
Language (yellow important in Botswana)
Ne khóè ne gane di cóán gam koe úú, síím gha tòó tshàu cgae e ka. Xu gam
di xu xgaaxgaase-kg’ao xu xguì. Gatam ko ma Jeso ba bóò kam ko kaisase
xgóà a ba a biri xu a máá: “Cóá ne guu na ne tíí koe hàà. Táá xgáè-kg’am ne
guu. Nqarikg’áí dis x’ai sa cóá ne khama ii ne di si i. Tseegun kar ko bìrí tu
u: ‘Wèém khóèm ngarikg’áí di x’aian cóá khama séè tama ba cúískaga tcãà
tite gaan koe.’” Me nxaska tshàua ba cgoa séè gaa cóá ne, a ba a ts’eets’eekg’ai i a tshàua ba tòó o.
Mareko 10:13-16 in Naro Language
People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples
scolded them, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, 'Let
the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the
kingdom of God belongs. In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the
kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.‘ Then he embraced them, laid
his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
Mark 10:13-16
Languages with a lot of Clicks
/ or I
dental click
// or II
lateral click
alveolar click
palatal click
bilabial click
… and many combinations with several
consonants like x, c, k, g … – up to 28 different
clicks in a language
To complicate the matter even further, the tones
are used as well: low, middle and high.
Nasalization is common too.
Example in !Xóõ language:
Ñ à /nà-ã ≠â-ã !xà-ã t-ã /’âa /îi k-ã.
I saw a large broken bone.
San (or Bushmen) people are among the
oldest indigenous populations of the world
and are known to have inhabited southern
Africa for more than 30,000 years.
Over the past centuries, the San were
progressively driven away by other
population groups from their original lands
over most of the region.
During recent times therefore, the
remaining San were found mostly living in
small family bands as hunters and
gatherers in the dry and harsh Kalahari
Discrimination, oppression and
dispossession have characterised the San
people’s recent history.
Although most are still living in the Kalahari
region, they have lost their rights to their
specific ancestral territories and their
natural resources because other groups
obtained legally recognised ownership of
these lands for the purposes of farming,
cattle herding, mining and even natureconservation.
Many San thus currently live as squatters
on land ‘owned’ by others.
Today, the San number about 100,000 and
live in small, scattered groups in South
Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe,
Zambia and especially Botswana (more
than 50,000).
They can be found in slums near towns
such as Ghanzi and Gobabis,
as labourers or squatters on farms and
cattle-posts belonging to large landowners or in government re-settlement
locations such as New Xade and East and
West Hanahai.
Almost all San have been forced into a
sedentary lifestyle and had to abandon
their life of hunting and gathering.
Because they were not prepared (nor
educated) for such change of lifestyle, the
new life in the settlements became
characterised by social problems such as
communal tension, alcoholism, crime,
tuberculosis and Aids.
These are related to the loss of a sense of
identity, culture and self-respect
experienced by the people.
San communities remain today among the
most marginalised and impoverished
groups in southern Africa.
The lack of a centralised leadership
tradition, the lack of educational services in
the mother tongue and the lack of
knowledge about their civic and human
rights leave them in an extremely
vulnerable position.
During a recent survey of (mostly San) farm
workers in Ghanzi district, for example, it
was found that 37 % of the people aged 7
to 20 years had never attended school.
Increased access to education thus
appears to be one of the major needs of
this population.
One of the factors making it difficult for San
groups to address their problems
effectively as a group and to negotiate with
other parties such as government officials
and development organisations, is related
to the tradition of living in small, scattered
groups without central authority and without
representative leaders.
The egalitarian nature of foraging societies
results in slow, consensus-based decision
making processes.
This was appropriate in the past, but makes
most San societies of today ill-equipped to
deal with the demands of modern society.
Many San realise that representative leaders are now required and look to the young generation to
undergo modern education and to take up leadership positions. Unfortunately, very few young San
people have so far completed tertiary or professional education and even fewer identify with the
traditional aspects of San society and are prepared to work for the San cause.
Why Bushmen mission?
- SVD constitutions
SVD Constitutions:
103. … We show a special preference for the poor and oppressed.
112. The poor have a special privileged place in the Gospel. In a world deeply scarred
by injustice and inhuman living conditions, our faith calls us to recognize the
presence of Christ in the poor and the oppressed. We thus commit ourselves to
fostering unity and justice and to overcoming egoism and the abuse of power.
We consider it our duty to promote justice according to the Gospel in solidarity
with the poor and the oppressed (cf.FW.5,p.33).
112.1. Our efforts to win more widespread recognition and appreciation of the dignity
and inner worth of the human person are more important than any material help
we can give. We assist the poor and oppressed in such a way that gradually
they are able to arrive at better living conditions by means of their own
resources and initiative.
120. As St. Paul, the apostle of the gentiles, identified himself with those he served, so
we with friendliness and goodwill those among we announce the Gospel,
growing into their historical situation, customs and mentality. We will be one
with them in respect and love, sharing their joys, sorrows, and aspirations.
120.1. To carry out our mission in a worthy and effective manner, we make every effort
to master the language of the people and become familiar with their history and
Why Bushmen mission?
- prophetic dialogue & SVD characteristic dimensions
Dialogue and Solidarity (compare: In dialogue with the Word, N.2-September 2001)
Solidarity is evangelical witness and the important and essential gesture which shows
our attitude to dialogue. Christian solidarity springs from the preferential love of a God
who listens to the cry of the poor and oppressed. Today the Lord needs our hearts and
our hands to continue his solidarity in our mission.
The key to solidarity is participation. Participation is what distinguishes it from simple
humanitarian help and assistance that comes from the outside. Solidarity is more
radical. It treats of a humble and loving participation in the lives of others, sharing our
own lives with them.
Assistance is a giving in only one direction, solidarity is dialogue: we help the poor and
they help us. Assistance tends to create dependency, solidarity is liberating.
Prophetic dialogue is marked by four characteristic dimensions: Biblical
Apostolate, Mission Animation, JPIC and Communication.
Each dimension implies a basic attitude in our life and service:
- be centered in God, to involve others in mission, to have commitment to the
transformation of society and the world, and to reach out to others.
His mission is our mission, His life is our life. The base of our missionary identity
is being faithfull, not different (or successful).
Why Bushmen mission?
- SVD constitutions
- prophetic dialogue & SVD characteristic dimensions
- the most vulnerable minorities of Africa
- the poorest people in Botswana
- injustice and exploitation & cultural genocide
- missionary frontier
- because no quick success can be expected
- instead faithfulness, patience and commitment needed
- it is the right thing to do – the most challenging mission …
On which side are we?
True Christian compassion
Adventurous curiosity?
Style of our missionary work?
Are we ready for “wasting time” and potential failure?
- Are we ready for simplicity and lack of comfort, lack of water, power, internet, e-mail or TV?
Style of our mission?
Are we ready to do the pre-sacramental primary
Do we respect the Sacraments and the People so as
not to “throw the pearls in front of the pigs”?
Are we ready to simply be with them and to share
life with them - witnessing?
Are we ready to learn the language spoken by only
few hundred or few thousand people?
Are we ready to stay with them, perhaps for long
Are we ready for lack of appreciation, gratitude,
abuse, conflicts, political and cultural
We can learn something from them:
We can learn
note: to
“dance” a healing dance in
dance is in the centre of the San culture.
Sickness (not wellness, not wholeness) is understood
go into
not just
as learn
lack of to
but much
– as
others between humans, between people and
nature, social evils, distorted community …
We can learn to live and work together as
If “sickness” occurs it must be healed as soon as
– during the healing trans-dance. Otherwise,
the whole community and its individuals are putting
themselves in deadly danger in the extreme life
conditions of the desert. Strict communitarian solidarity
was the rule for thousands of years – one for all and all
for one - in permanent consensus.
The healers – dancers – sacrifice themselves for the
sake of others, dancing an exhausting dance till they go
into trans; believing that this is a ritual of dying, crossing
over to the other world, where they can receive the
power from God to heal, to restore, to make whole
again. They pass out, they bleed, they suffer… for them
it is a prayer, it is a sacred dance, it is spiritual. They
can the
will sit
the whole
night with
or two.them):
Then they can face together
the challenges of life in the
Jesus Christ
unforgiving environment.
KAPUTURA – Bugakhwe Bushmen
Village without children & youth? They are all taken to special
schools, far away, slowly alienating them from the community
and culture …
After a week among them one young
woman called Ednah told us:
“We want your Church to come here”
… we did not speak about church or religion, we just lived
with them for few days not hiding our identity …
… they are still waiting …
Presentation prepared by
Fr. Mareko Marciniak, SVD
LEFOKO Centre – Maun
For internal use only!

Why Bushmen mission? - Divine Word Missionaries, …