Botswana stumbles

There's nothing miraculous about Botswana's treatment of the Bushmen

Published September 12, 2006 11:19PM (EDT)

Readers have been quick to point out my ignorance of some of the seamier sides of Botswana. One pointed to the erection of a 500 kilometer electrified fence on the border between Zimbabwe and Botswana, and echoed the rhetoric of Zimbabwean leaders who are claiming the fortification will create a southern African version of the Gaza strip. Another called my attention to the inexecusable forced resettlement of 2000 Kalahari Bushmen, who seem to have had the misfortune of living near a diamond mine that DeBeers wants to exploit.

A good account of the issues involved with Zimbabwe and Botswana can be found here. The executive summary is that the gross mismanagement of the Zimbabwean economy by Robert Mugabe has led to thousands of Zimbabweans illegally emigrating to Botswana, eager to do jobs that, reportedly, Botswanans no longer want to do, but also creating fears of spreading instability.

The Bushmen case has gone through several levels of judicial hearings, with a final decision expected in December.

Contrary to one reader's suggestion, I am not in the pay of the Botswanan government, nor was it my intention to portray Botswana as some perfect exemplar of enlightened government. In fact, I believe "Botswana is no paradise" were my exact words. Botswana makes mistakes -- we all do. That doesn't mean we can't learn from what it does right.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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