WINDHOEK: San children are discriminated against at schools at the hands of principles, teachers and fellow learners, while their parents, who are farm workers, are exploited.
This was the damning verdict of the Namibia San Council’s chairperson Petrus Doeseb on Wednesday during the launch of the ‘Guide to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Namibia’, issued by the Office of the Ombudsman at a local hotel.
“Twenty-two years after independence, we are still the poorest of the poor, and have no land. We have the highest rate of hunger in the country, and Government should address these challenges of the San,” said Doeseb, himself also a San.
He noted that despite significant progress made by Government to address the plight of the San over the years, some work still remains to be done.
Other challenges the San are faced with is access to anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, which is a major concern.
Doeseb also claimed that San women are raped by their employers.
Health facilities are also not in their reach, and they have to travel far to seek medical attention for tuberculosis (TB) and mental illnesses, he said.
According to him, the San are excluded by Government as well as the private sector during consultations for developmental programmes in the country as some people believe that the San community is useless, and only waits for handouts.
“All we ask for is to be treated equally. We do not demand and do not want handouts, but it is our constitutional right. We are not marginalised, but indigenous,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the PRO 169, the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Technical co-operation programme on indigenous peoples, said the San score dramatically lower than the national average when it comes to life expectancy, access to healthcare, education and employment.
It has documented that the shift from traditional hunter-gathering to a sedentary lifestyle has undermined the position of women in the San culture.
PRO 169, through its programme with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has strong partnerships with civil society, including the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC); the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA); Human Rights and Documentation Centre of the University of Namibia (UNAM); Human Rights Centre of the University of Pretoria; and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
There are approximately 27 000 San people in Namibia, but only about 2 000 of them still follow a traditional way of life.