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The San in Zimbabwe: Livelihoods, Land, and Human Rights

Livelihoods, Land and Human Rights
Robert K. Hitchcock
Ben Begbie-Clench
Ashton Murwira
IWGIA Report 22
Classensgade 11 E, DK 2100 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Tel: (+45) 35 27 05 00 - E-mail: - Web:
Livelihoods, Land and Human Rights
Copyright: IWGIA and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)
Authors: Robert K. Hitchcock, Ben Begbie-Clench and Ashton Murwira
— in partnership with the Faculty of Social Studies, University of Zimbabwe
Editors: Marianne Wiben Jensen and Diana Vinding
Cover design and layout: Jorge Monrás
Photographs used for the cover as well as in the book are by Ben Begbie-Clench
and are reproduced by permission
Maps and figures: Marieka Brouwer Burg
Prepress and print: Eks-Skolens Trykkeri, Copenhagen, Denmark
The reproduction and distribution of information
contained in this report is welcome for non-
commercial purposes and as long as the source
is cited. The translation of the report or the
reproduction of the whole report requires the
consent of IWGIA and OSISA.
This report has been prepared and published with the financial support from
the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA)
Title: IWGIA Report 21 – The San in Zimbabwe –
Livelihoods, Land and Human Rights
Published by: IWGIA and OSISA
Number of pages: 69
ISBN: 978-87-92786-62-3
Language: English
Index: 1. Indigenous peoples – 2. Human rights –
3. Hunters-gatherers.
Geographical area: Southern Africa
Date of publication:
1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts, Rosebank, Johannesburg GP 2196, South Africa
Huridocs Cip data
630 Churchill Avenue, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
We are grateful to a large number of people and organisations who have contributed to this report with valuable
insights. It is not possible to mention them all. However, we would like specifically to mention and thank:
The expert contributions, advice and logistical support of Dr Charity Manyeruke and Dr Donald P. Chimanikire, without
whom this report would not have been possible, along with the advice and facilitation of Dean Tichaendepi Robert
Masaya and Mrs Miriam Matawu, all at the University of Zimbabwe.
Field support, interviews and translation by Sibanda Mduduzi, Sarah Phiri (Tsholotsho District Administration), Similo
Moyo and Matthew W. Mundawarara.
Additionally, the guidance and facilitation of:
• Abiot Maronge, Director Rural Local Authorities, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Na-
tional Housing
• Davy Ndlovu, Creative Arts and Educational Development Association
• Peter Muzawazi and Elizabeth Marunda of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education
• Matthew Nyaguze and the Committee of the Research Council of Zimbabwe
• Adolphus Chinomwe (ILO) and Saul Murimba (UNICEF)
• Marianne Wiben Jensen (IWGIA)
• Delme Cupido, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Programme Manager (OSISA)
• Reiko Tominga and Todd Koppenhaver for logistical support and technical advice
• David and Meg Cumming for information on Tsholotsho and conservation issues
• Marieka Brouwer Burg for providing the maps and figures
• Melinda C. Kelly for assisting in the preparation of the index
• Gary Haynes for information and insights on Hwange and its history
• Ignatius Mberengwa for information on the Doma
• Watch Ruparanganda for assistance in interviews in Harare
Acronyms .......................................................................................................................................................................................6
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................................................................................7
1. Introduction..............................................................................................................................................................................10
1.1 Background and overview of report .................................................................................................................................. 10
1.2 Data collection methods ................................................................................................................................................... 11
2. The San people of Zimbabwe ................................................................................................................................................. 12
2.1 Who are the San?.............................................................................................................................................................12
2.2 The San in Zimbabwe.......................................................................................................................................................14
2.3 The Tsholotsho District .....................................................................................................................................................18
2.4 The San in Tsholotsho district...........................................................................................................................................20
2.5 National legislative framework .......................................................................................................................................... 22
2.6 International mechanisms .................................................................................................................................................25
3. Household Data ....................................................................................................................................................................... 26
3.1 Introduction and limitations ............................................................................................................................................... 26
3.2 Basic demographics ......................................................................................................................................................... 26
3.3 Language, education and training .................................................................................................................................... 26
3.4 Land tenure and subsistence economy ............................................................................................................................ 30
3.5 Natural resource usage .................................................................................................................................................... 32
3.6 Household income ............................................................................................................................................................ 32
3.7 Access to clean water supplies ........................................................................................................................................34
3.8 Health facilities ................................................................................................................................................................. 35
3.9 Identification documents ................................................................................................................................................... 35
4. Findings ....................................................................................................................................................................................36
4.1 Land and resettlement .....................................................................................................................................................36
4.2 Agriculture and food security ........................................................................................................................................... 39
4.3 Income generating activities ............................................................................................................................................ 41
4.4 Community-based natural resource management and forestry.......................................................................................45
4.5 Climate change................................................................................................................................................................46
4.6 Water, sanitation and health issues ................................................................................................................................. 46
4.7 Education and language .................................................................................................................................................. 49
4.8 Gender ............................................................................................................................................................................52
4.9 Cultural identity and discrimination .................................................................................................................................. 52
4.10 Leadership and representation ........................................................................................................................................ 53
4.11 Indigeneity and the need for a rights-based approach.....................................................................................................54
5. Conclusions ............................................................................................................................................................................. 56
6. Recommendations ..................................................................................................................................................................58
6.1 General recommendations ............................................................................................................................................. 58
6.2 Land and resettlement.................................................................................................................................................... 59
6.3 Agriculture and food security .......................................................................................................................................... 59
6.4 Livelihoods and access to natural resources.................................................................................................................. 59
6.5 Health ............................................................................................................................................................................. 60
6.6 Water, sanitation and hygiene ........................................................................................................................................ 60
6.7 Education ....................................................................................................................................................................... 60
6.8 Language ....................................................................................................................................................................... 60
6.9 Gender ........................................................................................................................................................................... 61
6.10 Cultural identity and discrimination .................................................................................................................................61
6.11 Leadership and representation .......................................................................................................................................61
6.12 Rights-based approaches (RBA) ....................................................................................................................................61
7. List of References ...................................................................................................................................................................62
8. Index ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 68
ACHPR African Commission on Human and Peoples’
AGRITEX Agricultural Technical Extension Service, Min-
istry of Agriculture
ALRI African Languages Research Institute,
University of Zimbabwe
BKC Botswana Khwedom Council
CAEDA Creative Arts and Educational Development
CAMPFIRE Communal Areas Management Programme
for Indigenous Resources
CASS Centre for Applied Social Sciences,
University of Zimbabwe
CBNRM Community-Based Natural Resource
CTDT Community Technology Development Trust
CKGR Central Kalahari Game Reserve
CTDC Community Development Technology Trust
DA District Administrator
ECD Early Childhood Development
FMD Foot-and-Mouth Disease
FPIC Free, Prior, and Informed Consent
GOZ Government of Zimbabwe
HNP Hwange National Park
ILO International Labour Organisation
INGO International Non-Governmental
IPR Intellectual Property Rights
IWGIA International Work Group for Indigenous
NGO Non-governmental organisation
OCADEC Christian Organisation Supporting
Community Development
ORAP Organisation of Rural Associations for
OSISA Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
RBA Rights based approach
RCZ Research Council of Zimbabwe
SADC Southern African Development Community
TB Tuberculosis
TRDC Tsholotsho Rural Development Council
TSDT Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust
TTL Tribal Trust Land
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cul-
tural Organisation
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
UNPFII United Nations Permanent Forum for
Indigenous Issues
UPR Universal Periodic Review
USAID United States Agency for International
UZ University of Zimbabwe
WIMSA Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in
Southern Africa
ZANU-PF Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
ZCDT Zimbabwe Community Development Trust
ZNPWLA Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority
This report on the San of western Zimbabwe is based on
preliminary work carried out from March to May 2013, and
field data collected in November and December 2013 in Tsholot-
sho District, Matabeleland North Province. This research was
conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government,
Public Works and National Housing and the University of Zimba-
bwe. It seeks to address a number of objectives: highlight social,
cultural and economic constraints and challenges affecting Zim-
babwean San; provide data for government and civil society to
effectively plan development interventions; encourage relevant
state and non-state investment and resource availability; provide
recommendations and encourage regional and international co-
operation concerning indigenous peoples’ development; promote
further participatory and development-based research on Zimba-
bwe’s San and other minority groups within the country.
The report does not seek to separate the San from other ethnic
groups within Zimbabwe, but highlights unique challenges and
disparities that affect the San alongside issues that affect all
communities in Tsholotsho District, particularly in relation to the
broader discussions of San development in Southern Africa.
Additionally, a number of these challenges may be relevant to
other minority groups within the country.
The San of Zimbabwe make up only a small portion of the total
San population of Southern Africa, which stands at over 113,000
people in six countries. The San in Tsholotsho District generally
identify themselves as Tshwa. The Tshwa in Zimbabwe, who
number some 2,500, reside mainly in two provinces: Matabele-
land North Province (in Tsholotsho District) and Matabeleland
South Province (in Bulilima-Mangwe District). The Tshwa are
divided into a number of different groups, some of whom have
long occupied the same land, while others have either moved to
new places on their own or been resettled.
Virtually all of the people to whom we spoke maintain that the
Tshwa are among the poorest and most marginalised people
in Zimbabwe, and the household survey indicates that 73% of
San households have less than US $5.00/month income. A siz-
able proportion of Tshwa receive food distributed through the
central government, the Tsholotsho District Council, and non-
government organisations. A substantial number of them still
rely on traditional gathering of bush foods.
A limited number of Tshwa households have been able to obtain
land for agriculture and residential purposes either after having
sought permission from traditional authorities or having been
eXecUtIVe sUmmaRY
Group interview during data collection
assigned to places by the provincial administration. Some Tsh-
wa adults and older children work in the fields of other groups
in a kind of share-cropping arrangement, but most Tshwa rely
upon irregular informal employment opportunities, and there-
fore do not have predictable incomes. About 10 per cent of the
Tshwa have experienced working for other people, usually as
herders, agricultural labourers, or domestic workers.
One of the critical findings was that only a relatively small num-
ber of Tshwa households speak Tshwao, the Tshwa language
(32 of 149 households interviewed). Many of the fluent Tshwao
speakers were elderly. The Tshwa expressed a desire for their
children to learn this language and to gain a better understand-
ing of Tshwa culture. The Tshwao language, despite recent
recognition of San language in the Zimbabwean Constitution, is
at risk of extinction in the coming decades, and urgently in need
of further research and documentation, including the develop-
ment of an orthography.
Educational attainment and literacy levels are generally low.
Some children never attend school and a major cause for con-
cern is the high dropout rate of Tshwa children especially during
junior secondary school due to costs and distance, and in the
case of girls to early pregnancies.
While health outreach and facilities appeared well established
in comparison to many rural areas in Southern Africa, a number
of health issues are prevalent in Tshwa communities, including
malaria, HIV/AIDS, poor nutrition levels and alcohol abuse. The
finding that 75% of households surveyed do not have access
to clean water and sanitation, often because of limited financial
resources, is a particular cause for concern. Another cause for
concern is that 20% of households reported caring for a child
whose biological parents were deceased, some of them as a
result of HIV/AIDS, other diseases, or accidents.
Community-based organisations in western Zimbabwe, along
with local NGOs such as the Tsoro-o-tso San Development
Trust, are seeking to promote San cultural heritage and identity.
Efforts are being made to provide agricultural and development
assistance to Tshwa and their neighbours in the Tsholotsho
area by Community Technology Development Trust (CTDC),
the Tsholotsho District Council as well as by several INGOs.
Political representation of the Tshwa is limited, with only one lo-
cal Tshwa chief and one Tshwa district councillor in the Tsholot-
sho District Council. A goal of the Tshwa is to increase their
participation and representation in government and civil society
activities at the local, district, and national levels. They would
also like to participate more fully in decision-making relevant to
development in their areas, as well as they would like to play a
greater role in regional and Africa-wide activities involving San
and other minority peoples.
Recommendations arising from this report include:
• Initiate further reviews of the status of indigenous and mi-
nority peoples in Zimbabwe, including other San in Bulilima-
Mangwe and the Doma people of Mashonaland
• Carry out a review of government policy papers and pro-
grammes relating to San and other indigenous peoples in
• Hold meetings and workshops aimed at coordinating devel-
opment efforts targeting San in Zimbabwe
• Facilitate involvement of San in attending national and
international-level conferences on indigenous peoples
• Conduct participatory development planning with the San
themselves based on principles of Free, Prior, and Informed
Consent (FPIC) to ensure that development initiatives truly
reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Tshwa people
• Ensure better access for the Tshwa to land and natural re-
sources, with an eye toward security of tenure over both
land and resources
• Improve the Tshwa’s access to farming implements, seeds,
livestock, as well as to training, mentoring and monitoring,
alongside drought relief to obtain a sustainable food security
• Where possible diversify livelihood opportunities for Tshwa
and their neighbours
• Ensure that if resettlement is required, it is implemented in
line with international standards, and that compensation
and replacement land are provided to those targeted for
• Expand maintenance of water points, and provide short-
term purification options for households with infants and
those with chronic health issues
• Investigate options to reduce costs of schooling and reduce
dropout rates, with a focus on girls particular at risk due to
premature pregnancy
• Improve teacher sensitisation and training regarding issues
specific to the Tshwa and the San in general
• Invest and encourage collaboration of academic centres to
develop an orthography for Tshwao, with a view to design-
ing ECD materials
• Develop representation and leadership within the Tshwa
community with a view to ensure their participation in plan-
ning, decision making, and advocacy whilst reducing dis-
• Promote human rights for San and other minorities, with
the support and involvement of international organisations
including the UN and EU, through the newly established
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, and through Zim-
babwe’s continuing participation in the Universal Periodic
Review process.
Map 1. Regional map of Zimbabwe
This report on the Tshwa San of western Zimbabwe is based
on preliminary work done from March to May 2013 and a
survey conducted in November and December 2013. The Tsh-
wa villages that were investigated are located in the western
part of Tsholotsho District, in Matabeleland North Province. The
reasons for undertaking this survey were (1) government and
development agencies wanted to find out more about the situ-
ations of the San in Zimbabwe, (2) the government, the provin-
cial administration, and the Tsholotsho District Council wanted
up-to-date information for planning purposes, and (3) the data
on the San of western Zimbabwe was limited. The purpose of
the work was not to separate out groups such as the San, but
to look at unique social and cultural barriers, which do exist, in
order for such groups to attain national levels in all indicators.
Relatively few studies have been made of the Tshwa. These
include ethnographic work conducted in the Tsholotsho area by
Hitchcock and Nangati (1992, 1993); Elias Madzudzo (2001),
Fanuel Nangati (2002) and Zhou (2014). Since 2010, Davy
Ndlovu (2010; 2013a, b) has done extensive community-level
work in Tsholotsho and Bulilima-Mangwe in some cases with
members of the Centre for Applied Social Sciences and other
departments of the University of Zimbabwe (for an overview,
see Joseph Akpan et al. 2004). However, the data collected by
these scholars all coincide with information obtained by NGOs
in the Bulilima-Mangwe and Tsholotsho Districts of Matabele-
land North and suggest that, compared to other groups in Zim-
babwe, and in comparison to San found in Botswana, Namibia
and South Africa, the San of Zimbabwe have the lowest socio-
economic status of all groups both in the country and across the
region (Suzman 2001; De Wet 2010; International Labour Or-
ganisation 2010; Dieckmann et al. 2014). The degree to which
the San are self-sufficient economically appears to be lower in
Zimbabwe than in many other parts of the Southern African re-
gion, perhaps due to a lack of opportunities for diversification
and market access. The income levels of Zimbabwe San are
below that of many other groups in the region and far below the
national average.
Zimbabwe government ministry personnel and NGOs working
in western Zimbabwe highlighted what they see as unequal
living conditions, including lack of access and rights to land,
poor housing, inadequate access to tools, ploughs, seeds, and
draught animals, and limited access to safe sources of domes-
tic water supply. The existence of many San is precarious, and
San households are faced with chronic poverty and hunger.
San have said that because their communities are unable to
produce enough grain and livestock products for their families,
they are forced to offer cheap labour to other communities in
exchange for food. Indicators for education and language are
also a critical point of concern, with few San children progress-
ing from primary education primarily due to costs and distances,
and their unique Tshwao language is at risk of potential extinc-
tion in the coming decades unless efforts are made to docu-
ment and create language training materials in Tshwao. Some
San face discrimination and marginalisation, and they are often
accused of refusing to embrace “modernisation”.1 For their part,
San say that they want very much to be part of the mainstream
in Zimbabwe while at the same time maintaining aspects of their
cultures, values, and traditions.
This report seeks to fulfil a need for research and proposes
planning requirements for educational, livelihood and cultural
support systems for the San who have specific needs, and
to fill gaps where there is a lack of current information. One
focus of the work is on broad poverty reduction through sup-
plying information and recommendations for both interventions
and long-term strategies to the Government of Zimbabwe and
civil society. A further goal of this report is to identify constraints
that affect the members of these groups such as lack of access
to land and resources and to basic services including schools,
training, health facilities, and water.
This work also hopes to contribute towards increasing the range
of resources available through attracting donor funding, wheth-
er for the District in general or more specifically for dealing with
challenges highlighted in this report, and to promote further
research by Zimbabwean institutions, including our partner the
University of Zimbabwe, as well as academic centres further
1 See, e.g., Nqobile Bhebhe, “Bushmen resistant to change: Mugabe”,
New Zimbabwe 12.05.2013.
1. IntRodUctIon
Research permission was obtained from the Zimbabwe Re-
search Council in April 2013. During the first half of 2013, ar-
chival research was conducted in the Zimbabwe National Ar-
chives and policy documents and white papers were collected
and reviewed. In the latter half of 2015, data collection was
carried out in the field. All along, the Ministry of Local Govern-
ment, Public Works and National Housing provided substantial
facilitation support, and expressed in particular its interest in
disadvantaged minorities, including assessment of needs and
community expectations from government and in promoting
further research.
Household data was collected using a questionnaire with a
focus on demographics, education, livelihoods, resources and
health. The questionnaire was designed and field-tested in
2013, and finalized in November 2013, using the same format
for all informants. Other data collection methods consisted of
a combination of participant observation, group and individual
interviews, stakeholder interviews (e.g., of NGOs), and archival
Interviews of household members focused on but were not
restricted to Tshwa; we also interviewed Ndebele, Kalanga,
Shona, and Tonga people. Seventeen focus group discussions
were conducted. Interviews of government officials and NGO
personnel were carried out in several places: Harare, Bulawayo,
Main Camp of Hwange National Park, Lupane, Tsholotsho and
in the field. We met with the Tsholotsho District Council and
with the Tsholotsho District Administrator and with members of
the Matabeleland North Provincial Administration. We spoke to
personnel in the Office of the President, the Zimbabwe Police,
and in various government ministries in Harare and Bulawayo.
A total of 149 individual interviews were done and the data com-
piled and analysed. This report provides a summary of our find-
Interviewing a women group
The San, sometimes called Bushmen, are peoples of South-
ern Africa, many of whom today live in or adjacent to the
Kalahari Desert region of Botswana, Namibia, Angola, South
Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia (Table 1). The approximately
113,000 San in the region are not one people, but rather are
comprised of a wide array of different groups, each with their
own name, customs, culture, history and language, all of which
utilise click sounds (see Map 2).
Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancestors of San
people have been in the Southern Africa region 20,000 or
more years (Mitchell 2010, 2013; Abel Mabuse Abdenico, Alec
Campbell, Nick Walker, personal communications). Most San
groups, including those in Zimbabwe, have a history of hunting
and gathering (Sapignoli 2012; Hitchcock, Begbie-Clench, and
Murwira 2014). Historically, San families, which usually were
small in size (parents and two or three children), lived in groups
of 25-50 persons that were linked through kinship, marriage,
and friendship. These groups, or bands, were linked into larger
groups that saw themselves as having the same traditions, cul-
ture, history, and associations with land and with each other.
The importance of territoriality among San has been empha-
sised by a number of researchers and development workers
(see, for example, Marshall 1976; Lee 1979; Silberbauer 1981;
Wilmsen 1989; Barnard 1992). The San territorial unit is known
as a no (Tshwa), nong (Naro), gu (G/ui), g!u (G//ana), n//olli
(!Xoo), and a n!ore (Ju/’hoansi, //’Xau‡esi), and is an area over
which local people used to have rights of access and resource
use. It was usually a named unit of land that contained natural
resources upon which people depended, including water, wild
goods and medicinal plants, trees for shade, fuel wood, and
2. tHe san PeoPle oF ZImBaBwe
Map 2. Approximate distribution of major San language groups across Southern Africa
construction, and materials such as stone used in the manufac-
turing of tools and other goods. In general, the size of the terri-
tory was based on the types and amounts of resources it con-
tained, which theoretically at least would be sufficient to meet
the needs of a group in an average year. Boundary-marking of
territories was unusual, but most if not all people in a band or
group knew roughly where the boundaries were.
Today, the situation has changed somewhat with increased
population and shifts in land tenure. The majority of the San of
Southern Africa live in villages ranging in size from 100 to 500
people that usually consist of people from a variety of different
ethnic groups and the access to their traditional territories is lim-
ited due to commercial farming, nature conservation, and min-
ing activities. The interactions among the various groups are
generally characterised by cooperation and mutual assistance,
though paternalism, discrimination and exploitation towards the
San are common in a number of areas.
Virtually all San now have diversified livelihoods. Some cultivate
crops and raise domestic animals, earning part of their incomes
through informal employment. However due to numerous is-
sues related to marginalisation, access to services and changes
in land and livelihood patterns, a high proportion of San house-
holds across the region are poor, and receive food and other
support from the governments of the countries in which they live
or from NGOs. In addition to livestock and agriculture, commu-
nity-based natural resource management (CBNRM), tourism,
crafts and some mining industries form important foundations
for livelihoods.
While many aspects of traditional hunting and gathering knowl-
edge are in the process of, or have already been lost, there is in
many San communities a common usage of bush (veld) foods,
medicinal herbs, and other natural resources and, much less
frequently, hunting and collection of animals. This varies from
marginal use to seasonal reliance, and in a few areas where
hunting is permitted or overlooked, traditional hunting and track-
ing skills endure. Other traditional practices, including healing
ceremonies and dances and medicinal use of plants vary from
group to group, but are still relatively common. Most San chil-
dren today are attending school, and learn the dominant lan-
guages of the area or country though generally at the expense
of their mother tongue languages.
Table 1. Numbers of San compared with population size in six countries of Southern Africa
South Africa
(all six
Population Size
Size of Country (km2)
5,020,010 km2
Estimated Numbers
of San (National)
113,000 San
Source: Data obtained from: Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in
Southern Africa (WIMSA), the Botswana Khwedom Council (BKC) (Botswana), First People of the Kalahari (FPK)
(Botswana); the National KhoeSan Council (South Africa), Cape Cultural Heritage Development Council (South
Africa); Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia (NNDFN), Nyae Nyae Conservancy (NNC), Legal As-
sistance Centre (LAC) and Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DFRN) (Namibia); and the governments of
all 6 countries.
The San who are the subject of this report make up a relatively
small percentage of the total San population in Southern Africa,
which today stands at approximately 113,000 in six Southern
African countries (see Table 1). The San with whom we worked
live in the Tsholotsho District of the Matabeleland North Prov-
ince in western Zimbabwe. San are also found in Matabeleland
South Province, mainly in Bulilima-Mangwe District and around
The Zimbabwe Census documents the numbers of people in
Zimbabwe and their demographic and socioeconomic charac-
teristics. No specific mention is made of San peoples. However,
based on the Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in
Southern Africa in 2001 (Robbins, Madzudzo, and Brenzinger
2001:78-103), and the work on Zimbabwe done by Elias Ma-
zudzo (2001), it was estimated at the time that there were some
2,500 Tshwa in western Zimbabwe (Madzudzo 2001:79-82).
They thus constitute a small minority in Zimbabwe but are part
of a larger set of San peoples2 who occupy an area extending
from the Gwayi River3 in Zimbabwe west to the Makgadikgadi
Pans region of Botswana, and north to areas south of Victoria
Falls. In Zimbabwe, Tsholotsho district is home to an estimated
1,500 San people and the remaining 800-1,000 are settled
in Bulilima-Mangwe (see Table 2). The San constitute 2% of
Tsholotsho’s population, where 50% is Kalanga and 48% is
Ndebele (Madzudzo 2001).
In general, the San prefer to use their own name for self-iden-
tification, and whilst sometimes known as Amasili or Abatwa in
Zimbabwe (the Ndebele word for Bushmen or San), most San
in Zimbabwe identify themselves as Tshwa.4 In common with
2 The Tshwa are closely related culturally and linguistically to the Shua
who historically were found in western Zimbabwe and today live in north-
ern Botswana (Vossen 2013). The connections between the Tshwa and
the Shua are in need of further investigation. Both Tshwao and Shua
are San languages that are seriously threatened due to mother tongue
language loss.
3 Also sometimes spelled Gwaai or Gwai.
4 In this volume we use both terms: Tshwa when referring to people who
identified themselves as such during the research; and San in reference
to wider Zimbabwean San (the Tshwa plus any San groups that may
reside outside of Tsholotsho District), and when referring collectively to
San groups in Southern Africa.
Table 2. Population sizes and distributions of Zimbabwe and Botswana San groups
Name of group
Tshwa (Amasili), ǀXaise,
Ganade, ||Gwaochu)
Tshwa (Tyua, Chwa, Cuaa,
Shua, Cirecire)
Shua (Cuaa, Chwa)
Tshwa (Tyua, Chwa, Cuaa,
Shua, Cirecire)
Western Zimbabwe (Tsholotsho District, Matabeleland
North Province, and Bulilima-Mangwe District,
Matabeleland South Province)
Makgadikgadi Pans, Nata River, and Bokalaka regions,
Chobe District, Botswana, extending into
western Zimbabwe
East-Central Kalahari, Botswana (Western Sandveld)
Mababe, North West District, Botswana
Zimbabwe and Botswana
Population size
Source: Data obtained from ethnographic fieldwork, from linguists working at the University of Zimbabwe, the University of Botswana, the University
of Cape Town, the University of Cologne, and from the Tsoro-o-Tso San Development Trust, Dlamini, Zimbabwe.
many other San and Bantu groups, this term translates directly
as ”person”.
The traditional language of the Tshwa is Tshwao,5 but the vast
majority of the Tshwa San in western Zimbabwe are multilin-
gual, speaking several different languages.
Many Tshwa today consider themselves to be indigenous to
western Zimbabwe The western Zimbabwe region contains
archaeological materials that date from the Early Stone Age
(around 1 million years ago) through the present. Besides the
Early Stone Age, there are materials from the Middle and Late
Stone Ages, the Iron Age, historic, and recent periods.6 In some
of the areas that we surveyed, we found small scatters of Late
Stone Age and Iron Age materials including stone tools, flakes
(debitage), ceramics, iron tools, and faunal remains. Special-
ised types of archaeological features in the region include lines
of stones, poles, and pits that appear to be game traps (Walker
1991). There were also platforms in trees that were used to
keep meat and other goods out of the way of scavengers. Hunt-
ing blinds are found in Zimbabwe and northern Botswana and
consisted of several courses of stone approximately one and a
half to two metres in diameter; there were also pits seen along
sand river courses that may have been hunting blinds. San
mentioned places where they obtained water, including holes
in trees such as baobabs (Adansonia digitata) and mongongos
(Schinziophyton rautanenii). In addition, there are fishing sites,
trails, wells, cattle posts, and hunting and processing locations.
Ethnohistoric literature, oral history, and interview information
suggest that territoriality among the Tshwa of Zimbabwe has
been important. The Tshwa had areas of land that they saw
as their own and they were reportedly well aware of the identi-
ties of the people who had rights to specific places. As Hodson
5 The number of Tshwao speakers is disputed. The 17th edition of Ethno-
logue indicates 3,540 Tshwao speakers in Zimbabwe (Lewis, Simons,
and Fennig 2014 at We believe this to be a
serious overestimate of both the number of speakers and the number of
people, although admittedly more information is needed on both speak-
ers and total population size and distribution. Discussions held at the
Fifth International Symposium on Khoisan Languages and Linguistics
held in Riezlern, Austria from 13-17 July, 2014, revealed that there were
a number of linguists who are working on Tshwao and Shua languages,
mainly in Botswana (see, for example, the work of Andy Chebanne 2008,
2011, 2014 and William McGregor 2014). These individuals and others
would be in an excellent position to contribute to Zimbabwe Khoisan lan-
guages studies, documentation, and the development of orthographies
that would be of great benefit to Zimbabwe.
6 Archaeological surveys and excavations have been carried out in
Hwange National Park (Haynes 1991:136-131). There are scatters
of stone flakes and human-manufactured tools in open areas, as well
as rock shelters that were occupied in the Middle and Late Stone Age
(Haynes 2006; Haynes and Klimowicz 2009; Wriston and Haynes 2009).
Bushmen in this country generally have their own wellde-
fined districts in which they hunt, and it would be bad form
for a Metsibotlhoko Bushman to hunt in the Sebanene
District. They do not like leaving their districts at all, and
nothing at all will tempt them to do so. If a native wishes to
form a cattle post, he sends the cattle to the Bushmen, not
the Bushmen to the cattle (Hodson 1912:227).
In the past, their distribution was more extensive, stretching
from the Bulilima-Mangwe District in western Zimbabwe north-
wards to the Zambezi River and beyond, and extending into
northern Botswana as far west as Lake Ngami.
These territories in western Zimbabwe and northern Botswana
tended to be either close to pans or along fossil or contempo-
rary river valleys. Pans that contained water for extended peri-
ods were important locations, as they provided water as well as
serving as focal points for wildlife. There were pans in Hwange
and some places consisted of what Haynes (1991:121-141)
described as seeps, which were used by elephants and other
animals as well as by people. Some of these seeps may also
have served as localities where people lived and utilized the wa-
ter obtained by sip-wells where San sucked water from the sand
through straws.7 When asked about the use of sip-wells, Tshwa
in Tsholotsho said that they had heard of them but believed that
they were not used any longer.
Tshwa territories contained all the resources necessary to sus-
tain a group including water, wild plants and animals, shade,
materials for home construction, tool manufacture, medicines,
and body decoration. They also often included places where
specific historical or cultural events had occurred. These ter-
ritories were known both to the residents and to other groups.
In general, the boundaries of the territories were not marked,
but there were sometimes cairns or cut marks on trees indicat-
ing territorial edges. Information on the location, “ownership” or
“management” of these areas was maintained and exchanged
and individuals that were not members of the group had to ask
for permission from the “owner” or “manager” of an area in
order to collect food.These individuals were male and female
leaders known as //kaiha, who were influential in community
affairs. They were referred to as headmen and headwomen or
as kraal heads, and they were the ones to whom people went
if they wanted to use resources in specific areas. They served
as the equivalent of land managers, like the n!ore kxausi of the
Ju/’hoansi (Biesele and Hitchcock 2013:160-162, 205). They
7 For descriptions of sip-wells, see Livingstone 1857:59, 63; Decle
1900:112; Hodson 1912:209-211; Dunn 1931:27; Debenham 1953:117-
119; Bjerre 1960:132-134; Chapman 1971, I:65, II:157; Valiente-Noailles
1993:37, Photo 10; /Useb 2006.
also were important in conflict management in the community
and served as the equivalent of community historians.
Tshwa territories, like those of other San, were sub-divided
into different parts; these included residential areas, gather-
ing areas, hunting areas, specialised areas (e.g., ones which
contained specific important resources, such as baobab trees,
salt, or red ochre), and buffer zone areas. The territories were
connected to segments of societies, including extended fami-
lies and kin groups. People could cross into the territories of
other groups if they were in pursuit of an animal or were seek-
ing assistance. The sharing of resource areas associated with
territories was organised along lines of kinship, historical as-
sociation, demography, and specific resource availability.
The Tshwa territorial system could in some ways be charac-
terized as generally flexible, and was a means of facilitating
the distribution of people and resources across space. The
rights to territories were inherited from one’s parents or from
one’s grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins. There were
also cases where people colonised an area which had not
been occupied for a substantial period, thus establishing oc-
cupancy rights. Customary rights to land among Tshwa were
obtained through various means, including colonisation, long-
term association, or seeking permission from other groups.
The presence of sip-wells or excavated areas next to pans
and fossil or extant river beds was also important since the
Tshwa, on the basis of their having invested time and energy
in developing and improving these water points, had rights
according to the Tshwa, Kalanga, Ndebele, and Tswana cus-
tomary law to claim tenure rights over the water in such places
(Schapera 1943; Kuper, Hughes, and van Velsen 1954; Hitch-
cock 1982; Owomoyela 2002; Mgadla 2008).
Usually people asked permission to visit the territories of peo-
ple with whom they already had social ties, such as those cre-
ated through marriage (affinal ties) or ones that came about
through trade partnerships or reciprocal exchange ties. In
most instances, if the territory ‘owners’ felt that there were
enough resources available in their area, they gave permis-
sion for other people to enter. One of the strategies for coping
with drought and climatic uncertainty employed by the Tshwa
was to request permission to move to another group’s territory
which had sufficient resources to sustain a larger number of
people. The access to resources inside groups’ territories was
however restricted under certain conditions, as for example
droughts or periods when large-scale human, wildlife, or live-
stock losses due to disease were experienced. This was said
to have been the case in the Hwange area in the early part
of the 20th century, for example, when a lengthy drought saw
large areas impacted, so much so, according to informants,
that even the large trees along dried-out rivers and near pans
Traditionally, Tshwa women in western Zimbabwe contributed
a significant proportion of the daily food supply and did a great
deal of the household work. The elderly, both females and
males, were respected for their knowledge and experience,
and older people played important roles in San society, doing
numerous domestic tasks, taking care of children, and pass-
ing on knowledge to younger generations. Some Tshwa pos-
sessed knowledge about healing and herbal and other kinds
of medicines which they put to good use.
Zimbabwe became a British colony in 1890 under the name
of Southern Rhodesia. Until then, the primary way that San
would acquire land was through self-allocation, i.e., moving
into an area and establishing occupancy and use rights. This
was employed as a means to get de facto rights over land,
sometimes referred to as customary rights. In some cases this
was done through asking permission of people already living
in those areas, and some of whom were Tshwa. They could
also obtain land from members of other groups, including
Kalanga and Ndebele, through requests to headmen or lead-
ership structures that administered local occupation rights.
In the 1920s, there were scattered groups of Tshwa living in
the area of what is now the Hwange National Park Area (see
Davison 1977, 1983: Appendix 3). Some Tshwa lived close to
the pans that dotted the area part of the year, and from which
they ranged out in search of wild plants and animals. With the
arrival of white settlers in the 1890s and early 1900s, major
changes in land tenure and administration occurred. With the
Game and Fish Preservation Act of 1929 several game re-
serves were established, one of them Wankie (now Hwange).
As a consequence, several hundred Tshwa were relocated out
of the reserve, mainly to areas south of the reserve, in what
are now the Tsholotsho Communal Lands, part of Tsholotsho
District. There were also Tshwa who were moved north to the
Robins Camp area and to the town of Wankie and other areas
to the west of Wankie. A number of Tshwa left the country for
northern Botswana. A few moved east to Lupane or west to the
Gwayi Lands. Part of the reason for their relocation to places
outside of Wankie was the fear that the Tshwa would engage
in poaching of wild animals in the reserve, which was con-
sidered to be “renowned game country” (Davison 1977:129).
There were also San who were relocated from areas near Vic-
toria Falls and from areas set aside for commercial farming in
the areas east of Wankie Game Reserve.
During the following years, Southern Rhodesia adopted South
Africa’s apartheid and segregationist policy. The Land Appor-
tionment Act of 1930 was a Southern Rhodesian version of the
South African Natives Land Act of 1913. It defined and limited
black property ownership to specific areas of the country. These
areas were often the least productive and most marginal por-
tions of Zimbabwe, and they generally lacked access to the
railway system. Further legislation was passed to protect white
agriculturalists from black competition in crop production as well
as from the formation of black labour unions (Kennedy 1987:34-
41; Johnson 1992; Moyana 1994; Moyo and Chambati 2013).
The Tshwa, along with Kalanga, Ndelebe, and other ethnic
groups in western Zimbabwe, were required to leave the ar-
eas that they had occupied for generations and to move into
the equivalent of native reserves. In 1951, the colonial gov-
ernment, convinced that the reasons for declining agricultural
harvests and livestock losses in dry periods were a result of
poor farming methods on the part of local people, enacted
the Native Land Husbandry Act (NLHA). The objectives of this
act, as noted in the preamble of the NLHA, were as follows:
”To provide for the control of the utilisation and allocation of
land occupied by natives and to ensure its efficient use for
agricultural purposes; to require natives to perform labour for
conserving natural resources, and for promoting good hus-
bandry” (Southern Rhodesia, Native Land Husbandry Act, Act
No. 52, 1951, p. 893).
The Land Husbandry Act of 1951, which was seen as having
been drafted to further protect and expand the white settler
economy, abolished the traditional system of land tenure in
African areas. Tribal land became available for individual own-
ership. One reason this was done was to enlist black landhold-
ers’ support for the existing political system. It was also done to
force those people who were unable to buy land to move into
the cities and to facilitate the formation of cheap labour pools.
Both processes had direct and indirect impacts on the San,
since it increased the density of people living in the native re-
serves (from 1965 called Tribal Trust Lands, TTL) where some
of them lived and degraded the land and natural resources they
depended on.8
8 There was widespread opposition to the land policy in Zimbabwe, espe-
cially on the part of peasant farmers (Moyana 1994; Moyo, 1995, 2000;
Moyo et al. 1991; Scoones et al. 2006; Mlambo 2014).
Tshwa clearing a field
At independence (1980), most Tshwa in western Zimbabwe
were living on Tribal Trust Lands (TTL). In 1981, the Communal
Land Act turned the TTL into communal areas and land author-
ity shifted from traditional leadership to local authorities. Today,
Zimbabwe’s land is divided into a number of different categories
(see Table 3), the most important of which, for purposes of this
report, are communal land, commercial (freehold) land, and
state land (parks, monuments, and forest reserves). San are
also living on commercial farms belonging to other people, or
in towns such as Plumtree in Bulilima-Mangwe District in Mata-
beleland South Province. But the vast majority of Tshwa lack
land of their own and thus may be considered landless.
Like most San peoples in Southern Africa, the two most impor-
tant problems facing the Tshwa of Zimbabwe are poverty9 and
resettlement. From the Tshwa’s perspective their removal from
Wankie Game Reserve in the late 1920s and early 1930s is
one of the most unfortunate events in their history. They believe
it had major impacts on their economies, social systems, and
overall well-being. Since then, the Tshwa have experienced or
have been threatened by other resettlement programmes.
As identified by Cernea (1995, 1997), resettlement processes
have a number of consequences, and Cernea’s impoverish-
ment, risks, and reconstruction (IRR) framework lists eight risks:
1. landlessness
2. joblessness
3. homelessness
4. marginalization
5. food insecurity
6. increased morbidity and mortality
7. loss of access to common property assets
8. social disarticulation
In work done with the Tshwa as part of this study, all of these
risks were identified as problems facing the Tshwa today.
The Tshwa are aware that various San groups today are work-
ing together to gain greater recognition of their social, econom-
ic, and cultural rights—including rights to land and resources—
in the Southern African region, and internationally through the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the
9 Multiple reports (e.g., Robins et al. 2001; Saugestad 2001; Suzman
2001; Hitchcock and Vinding 2004; Dieckmann et al. 2014) recommend
that efforts must be made to reduce poverty among the San, eliminate
discrimination and marginalization, increase security of tenure over
lands and resources, consult fully with those people being relocated, en-
sure full participation in all decisions, and work out ways to make people
direct beneficiaries of development projects.
United Nations, including the United Nations Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the rights of
indigenous peoples (EMRIP) and the Special Rapporteur on the
rights of indigenous peoples (see Tshwa from
Zimbabwe have not had the chance to attend the UNPFII or the
African Commission meetings as yet. A representative of the
Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust attended a regional work-
shop in Namibia in November 2012.10 Tshwa representatives
took part in civil society meetings related to the Southern Afri-
can Development Community (SADC) in July 2014. Habbakuk
Trust hosted a regional San planning meeting during June 2014
in Bulawayo, at which the Member of Parliament for Tsholotsho
North, the Hon. Roseline Nkomo, pledged to support initiatives
to empower and promote the rights and welfare of the San peo-
ples (Zimbabwe Habbakuk Times, 20 June, 2014).
The San who are the focus of this survey reside in the western
part of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is 390,757 km2 in size, and bor-
dered by South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, and Botswana.
The population of Zimbabwe, as estimated in 2014, was 13.8
million. Matabeleland North Province is the largest of Zimba-
bwe’s 10 administrative provinces and with a population of
749,017 (2012) is sparsely populated (10/km2). The capital of
the province is Lupane and the largest city in western Zimba-
bwe, Bulawayo, is located at the province’s south-eastern ex-
tent. Matabeleland North borders the provinces of the Midlands
and Mashonaland West to the east, to the south, the Maitengwe
(Nata) River constitutes the border with Matabeleland South,
and on the north is the Zambezi River, which separates Zim-
babwe from Zambia. To the west of Matabeleland North is the
Botswana-Zimbabwe border.
Tsholotsho is one of a number of districts in Matabeleland North
Province. The population of Tsholotsho District in 2012 was
115,119. There are 22 wards11 in Tsholotsho District, with popu-
lation sizes ranging from 3,088 (Ward 4) to 12,359 (Ward 8).
Tsholotsho has two constituencies: Tsholotsho South (Wards
10-19, 22) and Tsholotsho North (Wards 1-9, 21) (Zimbabwe
Parliament Research Department 2011a, 2011b). The admin-
istrative centre of the district is the town of Tsholotsho, approxi-
mately 115 km both south of Lupane and north west of Bula-
wayo, which has a population of some 3,000.
10 This workshop was sponsored in part by WIMSA (Working Group of In-
digenous Minorities in Southern Africa) and by OCADEC (Organização
Cristã de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Comunitário) from Angola.
11 A ward is a subdivision of a rural council district and consists of a cluster
of adjoining villages/settlements. Local government elections are ward-
The Tsholotsho District includes the Tsholotsho Communal
Land. South of Tsholotsho Communal Land is the Maitengwe
Communal Land, which is in Matabeleland South Province.
Tsholotsho has been an important area in the environmental
and social history of Zimbabwe, in part because it was the dis-
trict located just to the south of the Hwange National Park, one
of the largest protected areas in Zimbabwe and one of the old-
est game reserves in Africa (see Davison 1977, 1983; Haynes
1991:113-141). It also borders with the Sikumbi Forest Reserve
in the northwest.
Under the colonial administration of what previously was South-
ern Rhodesia, the Tsholotsho area fell under the Native Com-
missioner for Nyamandlovu. Tsholotsho was the scene of a
number of different development efforts, including a technical
agricultural school established in 1921 and a livestock improve-
ment centre set up in the late 1940s.12 In the 1940s and 1950s
12 This livestock improvement centre later became a substation of the
Matopos Agricultural Research Station.
Tsholotsho was a small administrative and rural development
centre, a sub-centre of Nyamandolovu.
Matabeleland, including Tsholotsho, experienced severe dif-
ficulties in the post-independence period, between 1980 and
1988, leading to thousands of civilian deaths during a period
known as “Gukurahundi”. Some of the people who lived in re-
mote places moved into towns such as Tsholotsho, Nyamand-
lovu or Bulawayo; some crossed the border into Botswana or
moved north to the Gwayi Lands and Hwange.
The area in which Tsholotsho District falls is considered to be
part of Area V, the driest agricultural area in the country (Moyo
et al. 1991:13-18, Figures 1 and 2; Child 1995:14-17, Figure
2). Water bodies include the Maitengwe (or Nata) River and
the Gwayi River, the Little Inkwazi Stream and intermittent
ponds, or pools found in pans such as Dzivanini Pan. Rainfall
in Tsholotsho generally is low, averaging between 300-500 mm
per annum. There is a marked seasonal variation in rainfall,
with most rainfall occurring roughly between November and
April, and the dry season lasting from May to October. Droughts
Table 3. Land Tenure Zoning in Zimbabwe (in hectares and percent)
Land Tenure Category
Communal Land
Large Scale Commercial Farms
Small Scale Commercial Farms
State Farms
Urban Land
State Parks and Urban Land
Old Resettlement Land
New Resettlement A1
New Resettlement A2
Unallocated Land
Size in millions of hectares
390,757 km2
Percentage of the country
Source: Data adapted from Scoones et al. (2011:4, Table 1.1) and various Zimbabwe government sources
are common, and there were serious droughts in the Tsholotsho
region in 1933, 1947, and the early 1980s and in 2012.
Vegetation in the Hwange and Tsholotsho areas consists of
mixed mopane (Colophospermum mopane) and acacia tree-
bush savannah. There is a wide variety of trees, some of them
valuable as timber such as teak (Baikiaea plurijuga). Some
trees, such as mongongo (Schinziophyton rautanenii) are
found in groves on the crest of sand dunes in western Zimba-
bwe. Mongongo nuts, while sometimes eaten, are not nearly
as important to the Tshwa as they are to the Ju/’hoansi San of
Botswana (Lee 1973, 1979:183-204). Local people consume
marula (Sclerocarya birrea) fruits and sometimes use the fruit to
make ciders, tea, jams, and jellies. Commercial buyers some-
times purchase marula, which they then sell to companies in
South Africa which manufacture jams and jellies and alcoholic
beverages. The nuts inside of the marula fruits are pounded
and eaten. The trunks and branches of marula trees are some-
times made into mortars, stools, and other wooden items.
The general economic situation of Tsholotsho is complex. To-
gether with Bulilima-Mangwe, the Tsholotsho is the poorest
district in Zimbabwe and between 20 and 30% of its population
was considered to be food insecure in 2009 (Zimbabwe Vul-
nerability Assessment Committee 2009). Livelihood strategies
vary, with about half of the population raising domestic crops
in fields or gardens near their homesteads. Most households in
the district have diversified sources of income and subsistence,
deriving some of their livelihoods from casual labour, small-
scale livestock production, transfers from relatives and friends,
and state-provided commodities.
In total, the San of Tsholotsho number approximately 1,500
(see Table 4). While some Tshwa live in Tsholotsho town itself,
the numbers are small, less than 100. The majority of the Tshwa
are found mainly in the far western and southern parts of the
district, primarily in wards 2, 7, 8, and 10, with wards 7 and 10
having the majority of the San population.
The present survey (November-December, 2013), however,
found that the Tshwa were more widespread in their distribu-
tion than previous reports suggested, some of them residing in
Ward 1 of Tsholotsho and in areas close to Hwange National
Park and very close to the Botswana-Zimbabwe border. Some
of this was due to local-level movements, a number of which
were related to employment relationships with other groups in
Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Map 3. Tsholotsho District indicating the location of some of the major San settlements
Table 4. Location, Ward Number, and Population Size for Tshwa San in Western Zimbabwe
Gariya 1
Total: 18 locations
Ward No.
5 wards
Population Size
Number of Interviews
Source: Data based on interviews conducted in November-December, 2013 and a census made by Davy Ndlovu in
2010 (Ndolovu 2010).
Note: As some people were not available during Ndlovu’s census, the total population size (1,021) is somewhat lower
than current (rough) estimations (1,500).
Tshwa in Tsholotsho live in small villages and dispersed ex-
tended family compounds ranging in size from 17 to 267 people
(see Table 4). Some of these households were arrayed along
straight geographic lines, the result of land settlement practices
of the colonial and Zimbabwe governments in the past (Ken-
nedy 1987; Moyana 1994; Moyo 1995, 2000; Moyo et al. 1991;
Raftopoulos and Mlambo 2009; Scoones et al. 2011; Mlambo
2014). Some of the Tshwa whom we interviewed had ancestors
who had been resettled in Tsholotsho as a result of the founding
of the Wankie Game Reserve (now Hwange National Park) in
the 1920s and 1930s (Davison 1977, 1983, Appendix 3; Hitch-
cock 1995, 1999). Some Tshwa households in the Tsholotsho
area were also relocated as part of government resettlement
efforts in more recent times. Some of this resettlement took
place during the Fast Track Land Reform efforts beginning in
2000 (Scoones et al. 2011:32-37; Mlambo 2014:226; Tsholot-
sho District Council, pers. comm. 2013). We were unable to get
a precise estimate of the numbers of households that had ex-
perienced relocation, but we got the impression that a relatively
significant number (over 15%) of the households of Tshwa were
directly affected by the Hwange-related resettlement, while oth-
ers had been resettled by local authorities or- to a lesser degree
– as the result of the Fast Track Land Reform.
Tshwa in Tsholotsho have several kinds of land: land for resi-
dence, arable land (gardens and agricultural fields), grazing
land, and land used for foraging purposes. Some of them have
obtained land from government organisations including the
Tsholotsho District Council, through land administration and dis-
tribution programmes and policies. There are also cases where
people borrow land from relatives.
The Tshwa in Tsholotsho have the lowest incomes and low-
est percentages of people involved in formal employment and
agriculture in the district. Most of them today have mixed pro-
duction systems consisting of gathering, agriculture, limited
dependence on livestock, and small-scale entrepreneurial and
income generation activities. Some Tshwa are involved in trade,
exchange, and working for other people, and others engage in
activities that could be expanded upon for income generating
purposes, such as tourism, although this strategy likely would
affect a relatively small number of people. As this report argues,
other kinds of sustainable development strategies that directly
address livelihoods would also be useful, as noted in the recom-
mendations section at the end of this report. On a political level,
San representation at ward, district, and provincial level is lower
than that of any other group, and there is a need to identify why
this is the case.
The natural resources of Tsholotsho are important sources of
subsistence and income for the Tshwa and other groups in the
area. Access to some of the important trees and shrub species
is restricted if they are in protected areas, including Hwange
National Park and in the Forest Areas that are covered under
Zimbabwe’s Forest Act. People can apply for licenses to obtain
high value species such as Baikea wood or other resources,
but they have to go through a relatively complex bureaucratic
set of procedures. Some of the Tshwa to whom we spoke were
aware of some of the procedures and had actually applied for
licenses to collect certain types of resources but had not been
granted licenses.
The Zimbabwe government does not recognize the San as a
particularly vulnerable group and as an indigenous group. Nor
does it use the term indigenous in its international understand-
ing adopted by the United Nations and the African Commis-
sion on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) who define
indigenous peoples as marginalized minority groups whose
livelihoods and cultures are threatened (African Commission
on Human and Peoples’ Rights 2005, 2006, Anaya 2009). In-
deed, Zimbabwe’s position is that all Zimbabweans are indig-
enous and that as such they should be deliberately involved in
the economic activities of the country with the ultimate goal of
having equal ownership of the nation’s resources. As stated in
the Government of Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation and Economic
Empowerment Act, (2007, Part 1(2): Interpretation)
“Indigenisation” means a deliberate involvement of in-
digenous Zimbabweans in the economic activities of
the country, to which hitherto they had no access, so
as to ensure the equitable ownership of the nation’s
“Indigenous Zimbabwean” means any person who, be-
fore the 18th April, 1980, was disadvantaged by unfair
discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and
any descendant of such person, and includes any com-
pany, association, syndicate or partnership of which in-
digenous Zimbabweans form the majority of the mem-
bers or hold the controlling interest;
The San, like other people in Zimbabwe, fit the definition of
“indigenous Zimbabweans” in that they were disadvantaged
by discrimination and had little or no access to the nation’s re-
sources at the time of independence in April 1980 (also see 4.9
Identity, indigeneity and discrimination, below).
It should be mentioned that Zimbabwe was among the group
of African states that asked for clarification of the concept of in-
digenous peoples in November, 2006, prior to the finalization of
the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-
A pestle and mortar ready for sale
DRIP) (African Group of States 2006). It should also be noted
that Zimbabwe together with the other Southern African states
(Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia) voted
in favor of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
when it came up for a vote in the United Nations on September
13th, 2007.
Zimbabwe’s updated Constitution of September 2013 contains
sections relevant to indigenous peoples. In particular, the Con-
stitution identifies “Koisan” as one of the 16 recognised lan-
guages of Zimbabwe. “Khoisan” or “Khoesan” refers to a wider
set of language groups, including languages spoken by the San
and Khoekhoe among others, though a lack of consensus ex-
ists on classifications of these languages (Guldemann 2008;
Brenzinger 2013; Vossen 2013). The wording of the Constitu-
tion promotes equitable treatment, development, and use of the
16 official languages. The Tshwa protested the use of the term
“Koisan” in the draft constitution, saying that it was inappropri-
ate since their language is called Tshwao.13
Other sub-sections within the Zimbabwe Constitution of rel-
evance to indigenous peoples include promoting actions to
empower “all marginalised persons, groups and communities
in Zimbabwe” and the protection of “indigenous knowledge sys-
tems, including knowledge of the medicinal and other properties
of animal and plant life” (Government of Zimbabwe 2013). The
Constitution addresses the elimination of discrimination and
promotes investment and basic service provision to marginal-
ised groups and areas.
The level of effective implementation of the new Constitution
is still in its infancy, but indications are that progress is being
made, as seen in the discussions by Zimbabwe during the 2013
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council
(HRC) of the United Nations. A follow-up review by the UPR
was conducted in 2014. No specific mentions were made in the
UPR process about the rights of indigenous peoples. There are
ongoing efforts to establish a Zimbabwe Human Rights Com-
mission, enshrined in the new Constitution. There are also ef-
forts to establish new programmes under the Ministry of Justice,
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Other national legislation and policies in Zimbabwe of relevance
to the San includes the following:
• Rural District Councils Act (1996 amended 2008) establish-
ing wards
13 ‘See ”Draft Constitution Riles San People”, Newsday Zimbabwe Febru-
ary 6, 2013.
• Agricultural and Land Settlement Act (ALSA) (1969 amend-
ed 2002) providing for the establishment of an Agricultural
Land Settlement Board
• Agricultural and Rural Development Authority Act (ARDA)
(1971 amended 2001) providing for the establishment of an
Agricultural and Rural Development Authority
• Communal Land Act (1982 latest amended 2002) provid-
ing for the classification of land in Zimbabwe as Communal
Land and for the alteration of such classification; to alter
and regulate the occupation and use of Communal Land;
and to provide for matters incidental to or connected with
the foregoing
• Forest Act (1948, but amended multiple times)
• Natural Resource Act (1996)
• Parks and Wildlife Act (1975, amended in 1996)
• Education Act of (1987, amended in 1996 and 2006)
• Communal Land Forest Produce Act (FPA) (1987, amend-
ed in 2001) regulating the use and protection of forest pro-
duce found within communal areas
• Land Acquisition Act (1992) empowers the government to
buy land compulsorily for redistribution, a fair compensation
to be paid for land acquired
• Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act (2006)
• Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (2007)
Other relevant acts include the following: Land Survey Act
(1996); Deeds Registry Act (1996); Commercial Premises
(lease control) Act 27 (1983); Protected Places and Areas Act
(1959); and Immovable Property (prevention of discrimination)
Act (1982); Regional Town and Country Planning Act (1976).
Before 2013, legislation seldom made specific reference to mi-
nority groups, which may be indicative of the small proportion
of the total population who are classed as ethnic or linguistic
minorities such as the San. However, when taking into account
wording within the 2013 Constitution relevant to minority groups,
it may also suggest a lack of previous policy development to
deal with the specific needs and situations of such groups.14 An
exception is the Education Act where a number of sections are
relevant to minority groups, including the following:
In areas where minority languages exist, the Minister
may authorise the teaching of such languages in primary
schools in addition to those specified in subsections (Sho-
na, Ndebele and English) (Part XI, 62(4))
No child in Zimbabwe shall—(a) be refused admission to
any school; or (b) be discriminated against by the imposi-
14 Zimbabwean legislation is currently in the process of being updated to
include mention of minorities.
tion of onerous terms and conditions in regard to his ad-
mission to any school; on the grounds of his race, tribe,
place of origin, national or ethnic origin, political opinions,
colour, creed or gender (Part II, 4[2])
As noted below, Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Convention on
the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), both of which contain
sections on education of children. UNESCO, the United Nations
Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, has an office
in Harare and works with the government on issues relating to
education and cultural heritage.
As noted previously, Zimbabwe voted in favour of the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-
DRIP) in 2007. While non-binding, as a member state Zimba-
bwe has indicated its commitment to ensuring the rights of its
indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own insti-
tutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development
in terms of rights to self-determination.
Zimbabwe is also a signatory to various international conven-
tions relevant to indigenous peoples, including the following:
• International Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) was ratified in
June, 1991.
• UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to
National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
(UNDM) was adopted in June, 1991. This declaration sets
out political and moral commitments concerning the rights
and treatment of minorities in member states.
• Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrim-
ination against Women (CEDAW) was ratified in June,
1991. CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination
against women and sets up an agenda for national action
to end such discrimination. The Committee on the Elimina-
tion of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) watches
over the progress for women made in those countries that
are States parties to the Convention.
• United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC) was ratified in 1995. This convention ensures the
civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of
all children.
• Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was ratified in
1994. This UN convention deals with the conservation and
sustainable use of biodiversity, and with access to biological
diversity and sharing of the benefits derived from this ac-
• African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was rati-
fied in 1988. This charter is one of the few international hu-
man rights instruments that deal with the rights of peoples
and communities, including the right to self-determination.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
serves as the treaty-based monitoring body of the African
• Convention on the Trade of Endangered Species of
Flora and Fauna (CITES) was signed on 19 May, 1981.
Zimbabwe has not ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
Convention, 1989 (No. 169), adopted by the International La-
bour Organisation (ILO), the only updated and current interna-
tional convention on indigenous peoples’ rights (Anaya 2009).
In August 2010 the Central African Republic became the only
African state to have ratified Convention No. 169.
In view of their indigenous communities South Africa and Na-
mibia may examine the perspectives of ratification, and Angola
may in the future seek to denounce the Indigenous and Tribal
Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107) in favour of Conven-
tion No. 169. Against this background, 14 Latin American coun-
tries (out of 20) have ratified ILO Convention No. 169, and oth-
ers are taking steps towards ratification like El Salvador and
Panama. Hence interest and opportunities exist for support to
be leveraged by African countries, including Zimbabwe to ratify
Convention No. 169.
The field data collection summarised in this chapter was
conducted in Tsholotsho District during December 2013,
encompassing 149 heads of household interviews along with
interviews with local leaders and group focus discussions on
issues such as health and gender. While not every San village
or household could be reached, we are satisfied that the major-
ity of the San households in the District have been included in
the research, and that its scope presents an adequate illustra-
tion of strategies and challenges at the community level. A data
collection incorporating San groups in Plumtree District, to the
south of Tsholotsho District, was not possible at this time, but
is advisable as little information exists on the population size
and status. Complete data tables are available from the authors
or University of Zimbabwe for further studies and future data
The research team included four enumerators from Tsholotsho
to carry out the data collection, all of who had previous experi-
ence of enumeration and some familiarity with rural develop-
ment issues. Training and practice with questionnaire use and
data collection was carried out in Tsholotsho, and field manage-
ment and enumeration checks were conducted as part of the
research efforts.
While the team endeavoured to collect the most accurate and
complete data possible from the villages, some limitations
should be mentioned. Heavy rain and remote locations present-
ed challenges throughout the data collection. Basic sampling
techniques had been devised, however geographic constraints
and social norms justified interviewing all households possible
in each area visited; settlements were remotely located and
Tshwa participants felt all people should have an opportunity to
voice opinions, not a more limited sample. Due to the groupings
and locations of San households few comparisons to neigh-
bouring language groups were possible.
Due to budgetary constraints we were only able to carry out re-
search in Matabeleland North Province. There are Tshwa living
on both sides of the Maitengwe (Nata) River area, which forms
the boundary between Matabeleland North and Matabeleland
South Provinces. Some Tshwa who were living in the Mata-
beleland South Province were visiting people in the Tsholotsho
District at the time of our interviews, and it was clear that there
were close connections between people from Bulilima-Mangwe
District in Matabeleland South and those in Tsholotsho.
Another issue relates to the identification and documentation
of people who claim Tshwa identity. Most people were willing
to claim that they were Tshwa, but there were those who said
that they did not know their ethnicity. There were also some
people who said that they were Ndebele but that they spoke
the Tshwao language. Lastly, there was a relatively high degree
of residential mobility and employment-related mobility among
some of the Tshwa households in the Tsholotsho area. For ex-
ample, groups of household members reportedly ranged out for
such purposes as collecting wild plants or insects. As Ndlovu
(2010:3) puts it, “Some families are constantly on the move in
search of food and thus it becomes difficult to come up with
up-to-date statistics.”
Household sizes were larger than the 2012 Census average
household size, which was 4.9 for Tsholotsho District (Table 5).
The majority of respondents were female San heads of house-
holds (Table 6). Nine mixed or non-San households, living in
San majority household areas were recorded (Table 7).
The San population appears youthful, with 58% of household
members under the age of 16, and a slightly higher proportion
female, in line with the 2012 Census data for the province. Of
the total female population included, 54.2% was 16 years and
younger, whilst 62.8% of the total male population was 16 years
and younger (Figure 1).
Only a minority of San in Zimbabwe speak Tshwao, and very few
Ganade, a similar Khoe speech variety also found in northern
Botswana. Data confirmed earlier reports, from Davy Ndlovu
amongst others, that Tshwao and other San languages are not
widely spoken, and that the Tshwao language risks extinction.
3. HoUseHold data
Ethnicity of respondents
Gender of respondents
Number of households
in sample
Total reported
household members
Average household size
(Confidence Interval 95%)
6.36 (5.91 - 6.81)
Table 5. Size of surveyed households
Table 6. Sex of respondents (in number and percent)
Table 7. Ethnicity of respondents (in number)
Figure 1. Households by sex and age groups in percent (n=948)
In fact, only 27.5% of the households (n=41)15 spoke any San
language at all, with 20% (30 households) reporting regular
use. 63 individuals were recorded as having San language
knowledge within those 41 households. However when probed
on regular language use (rather than ability), only 33 individu-
als were recorded as using Tshwao frequently, and only 7 on a
daily basis. Ndebele is by far the dominant language of the area
(see Table 8).
Every Day
Most Days
Grand Total
Table 8. Languages spoken regularly in households
Educational attainment among the San community is low
among both adults and children, and presents a serious chal-
lenge (Table 9). More than half of the female respondents re-
ported having no education, and very few women have educa-
tion above primary level. The 2012 Census reported that 12%
of the people in Matabeleland North never attended school,
compared to 51.7% of Tshwa in this data. Similarly in the 2012
Census more than 31% of both men and women had attended
secondary school, compared with 4% of all Tshwa respondents.
School attendance
Critically 41.2% of children (n=296) of a school-going age were
reported as not attending schools. Of those children who had
attended school and dropped out, rather than never having at-
tended school, 55 cases were documented, indicating the point
when the child dropped out. These drop out points ranged be-
tween Form 1 and 7, with median of Form 2. The mean drop
out point was at Form 2.6 (CI 95% 2.1–3.1), i.e. halfway through
the Form 2 year. A selection of possible non-attendance and
drop out causes common to San children across Southern Af-
Highest level attained
No formal education2
Primary (grades 1-4)
Primary (grades 5-7)
Junior Secondary (form 1-4)
Senior Secondary (form 5-6)
Post Secondary (post grade 12, e.g. diploma, degree)
% of total women
% of total men
Note: This does not include non-formal education, traditional knowledge, skills training, etc.
Table 9. Level of education of household heads (percent)
15 N refers to sample size.
rica were given with the proportions detailed below in Table 10
(n=90), with more than 50% answering that it was cost related
whilst none relating the drop out reason to direct discrimination.
Of the 149 households surveyed, only nine heads of house-
hold considered that all the members of their household over 10
years of age were literate, in other words had reading or writing
skills (Figure 2). This is in contrast to the high national literacy
Table 10. Reasons given for dropping out of school
1. Distance
2. Cost related
3. Problems with school staff
4. Problem with other children at school
5. Communication at school is difficult for the children
6. Child decided to drop out
7. Child is needed to assist at home/in community
rate in Zimbabwe and the 2012 Census average rate of 93%
literacy for Tsholotsho District. It is also at variance with reports
stating that 39.6% of the total San household members in the
Tsholotsho District were able to read and write.
The 2012 Census further showed that despite slightly lower
average educational attainment, women had slightly higher lit-
eracy rates than men. Figure 2 shows that this is also the case
of the surveyed households.
Women read/write Men read/write Women not read/write Men not read/write
Figure 2. Literacy rates among household members over 10 years of age (in number)
Note: Numbers are below total household members in Table 5 (948) due to proportion of the Tshwa population under 10 years old, likely in combination with underreporting.
Projects and training
Just over a third, 36.7% of the interviewed household heads,
had taken part in some form of training provided by the state,
NGOs or private sector, with the greatest focus on food security
(agriculture and small gardens). See Table 11.
Community meetings
Capacity building
Small gardens
Tourism training
Other business/enterprise
Natural Resource Management
Combination of the above
Table 11. Type of training received by interviewed
household heads (in %)
The majority of Tshwa live on communal land. In line with Zim-
babwe government policy, all communal land is state land. The
Tshwa, therefore, do not have de jure (that is, legal) rights to
the land that they occupy. Even if they are able to obtain plots
of land for residential, agricultural, and income generation pur-
poses, they potentially could lose their land at any time, some-
thing that several informants noted had happened to them in
the past decade.
Most of the people who had land said that they received it from
a local authority, nearly all of whom were either Ndebele or
Kalanga. Several people said that they received land from the
VIDCO, the Village Development Committee. Only four people
said that they had obtained land through government agricul-
tural resettlement schemes. Two of them complained that mem-
bers of other groups got more land allocated to them (either
10 acres or 4 acres, depending on when the allocations were
made) than they did (2 acres). Six people noted that they ob-
tained land through the Tsholotsho District Council. They said,
however, in order to do this, they needed a letter of approval
from a local village headman (sabuku). Most people with land
who were interviewed (28 of 32 interviews) said that they felt
that they had either no or inadequate amounts of land to meet
their subsistence needs. The average arable plot size was less
than 100 square meters, and no San had arable land over a
hectare in size. There was a significant number of people who
claimed to be landless, meaning that they did not have the
means to raise enough food for their households and therefore
had to depend on other people or the government to provide
them with food and cash.
Food grown at home
When asked to identify the three main crops grown by the
household, 40.9% of households responded that they did not
regularly grow any food (at the household level or in a field). Of
the remaining households the following crops were identified
(Table 12):
Main crop identified
Others - typically pearl millet, beans and cabbage
Crops grown regularly
(percentage of households)
Table 12. Main crops grown regularly by households (percent)
Livestock ownership
The survey indicates that 29% of the households (n=149) owned
small stock or livestock including chickens (Table 13). However
more than a third of those households (18 households), had
chicken only. Numbers of cattle, goat and sheep were low. Only
9 respondents mentioned looking after other peoples’ livestock;
this is low and in contrast to findings elsewhere in the Southern
African region.
Table 13. Numbers and kinds of domestic animals recorded by location
Fulasengwe, Ward 7
Gariya I, Ward 8
Gubanlano, Ward 8
Gulalikabili, Ward 7
Landelani, Ward 8
Mazibulaya Village, Ward 2
Mpilo Village, Ward 7
Mtshina Village, Ward 10
Muzimlinye, Ward 1
Pelondaba Village, Ward 7
Plamini Village, Ward 2
Sibambzne, Ward 7
Siflilasengwe, Ward 7
Sitembile village, Ward 7
Thula, Ward 7
Vuklzenzele, Ward 1
Zamani Villiage, Ward 7
Zwananani, Ward 2
Grand Total
Lack of food security
Almost half of San households identified food relief, provided by
NGOs or the state, as their primary food source (see Figure 3).
A significant amount of food was grown by the San, which we
observed largely took place in small gardens rather than larger
fields. Some food is purchased, but a number of respondents
bartered for food or obtained it through employment (food in
exchange for labour), or in exchange for crafts or natural re-
sources (for example, certain plants of food or medicinal value
and mopane worms). Whilst veld products—bush food such as
mopane worms, tubers and fruits—were not identified often as
a primary source of food, seasonal reliance on such gathering
was frequently mentioned during interviews and group discus-
Data collected shows a significant use of natural resources,
traditional knowledge and skills. Usage of wood and thatching
grass is evidently ubiquitous for all ethnic groups in the area.
However, use of other natural resources, for example, some
herbal medicines and bush foods, appear to be specific to San
culture. In addition some veld food species, especially mopane
worms, are sold or traded and thus provide important seasonal
While hunting of large game is illegal and not practiced, accord-
ing to informants, there is some procurement of small game
(for example rabbits, birds) using traditional methods, especially
in and around gardens. Some meat is also distributed to com-
munities through legal trophy hunting or animal control, but we
understand that this is infrequent.
16 Note that the December 2013 Food Poverty Datum Line (PDL), account-
ing for purchased food costs for 5 persons per month, was $198.11 in
Matabeleland North (source:
Figure 3. Identified primary food sources (percent)
It is notable that while Tshwao language use has seriously de-
clined, other elements of San culture, including traditional foods,
medicines and healing are still widely practised (Figure 4).
The household survey indicates that 73% of the San households
have less than US$5/month income. The majority of this limited
income appears to be unpredictable, from temporary employ-
ment and seasonal activities (see Figure 5). Whilst household
cash income can be underreported, the disparity with reported
average cash income for households in Matabeleland North of
$107/month in 201217 is extreme and illustrative of the lack of
employment, livestock, non-subsistence agriculture, enterprise
and assets in Tshwa settlements. Tsholotsho District had the
highest percentage of households in poverty (81.7%) and the
highest levels in extreme poverty (36.9%).
Sources of income
The largest source of income for San households derived from
“piece work” (irregular employment for manual, often agriculture
related tasks), sometimes provided by other San community
members but more often by other ethnic groups. A common
example would be clearing a field before ploughing.
It is notable that a sizeable proportion of Tshwa livelihood activi-
ties rely on natural resource management: collecting and selling
firewood, thatching grass and crafts (often wooden, for example
large pestle and mortars sold to grind maize) comprise 45.1% of
income sources (see Figure 6).
Remittances and pensions
Few households receive a pension (2%, or 3 households),
which in neighbouring countries is often a major source of
household income for San communities. 10.7% of households
believed they are entitled to some form of pension, whether
state or private, but do not receive it.
Though remittances, often sent by relatives employed in Zim-
babwe or other countries, are seen as a common source of
household income in Zimbabwe, only 11.4% of San households
claimed to receive any regular form of remittance. From dis-
cussions with Tshwa and community members of other ethnic
groups, this appeared much lower than for members of neigh-
17 See Poverty Income Consumption & Expenditure Survey 2011/12 Re-
port, 2012: 62. Accessed at
Palm leaves
Meat from trophy hunting
Small game
Other veld foods
Mopane worms
Wood for building
Thatching grass
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Figure 4. Identified primary food sources used by 149 surveyed households (previous year and percent)
1.3% 0.7%
Number of households
Up to $5 Up to $10 Up to $15 Up to $20 $31 to $45 Above $65
Figure 5. Income levels of 149 surveyed households (in number and percent)
Figure 6. Sources of income among households (in percent)
Number of hoseholds
Yes No
Access to a nearby clean water supply
Figure 7. Households’ access to
a nearby clean water supply
(in number and percent)
bouring groups. While this corresponds with the low number of
Tshwa in regular employment, discussions regarding the social
mobility of Tshwa within Zimbabwe may also be warranted. Par-
ticular attention needs to be paid to sources of income, includ-
ing remittances, and how they are changing, and to housing
and sanitation conditions in the area.
3.7 Access to clean water supplies
One of the most striking issues we encountered was the lack of
access to clean water supplies (Figure 7). This affects all com-
munities in Tsholotsho District, but evidently San peoples’ lack
of resources and often-remote locations compounded this is-
sue. In the 2012 Census ”safe water” is defined as ”households
using piped water, communal taps, protected boreholes”, which
accounted for 82% of households in Tsholotsho District, with
10% using unprotected boreholes, wells, rivers, streams and
dams. During our research, few boreholes in Tshwa settlements
appeared to work, and water was often gathered from tempo-
rary lakes, dams shared with livestock, water holes frequented
by elephants and puddles formed on the roads, accounting to
the 73% of households without access to clean water.
We observed that health services were well catered for between
the state and NGO providers, and from group discussions
awareness of HIV/AIDS, TB and women and children’s health
was good compared to many San communities in the Southern
African region. High usage of health facilities is shown by the
data in Figure 8. Reasons given for not using health facilities
included distance, cost and preference for traditional medicine.
Occasional discrimination by health practitioners was reported,
in some cases based on the unusual fragrance of traditional
perfume used by the Tshwa, though in principal relations were
It should be noted that these figures do not adequately take into
account the severity of the health issues raised; we are not op-
posing all traditional medicine use as less serious issues may be
effectively treated by traditional remedies.
Adult Child 16 years or younger
Health facility
Traditional doctor
Figure 8. Health practitioner utilised last time household member was significantly ill (in number and percent)
Orphans and vulnerable children
20% of households reported caring for a child whose biologi-
cal parents were deceased, which correlates with the average
of 23.9% seen in the 2012 Census of Matabeleland North. Of
these 31 households caring for orphans, only 2 reported re-
ceiving assistance for that child/children. One of the problems
that Tshwa face in Tsholotsho, therefore, is access to state
support for orphans
18.8% of the heads of households did not possess identifica-
tion documents, which may impede access to services and
voting rights. There was little difference between female and
male ID ownership (Table 14).
ID documents
% of total women (n=100)
% of total men (n=49)
Table 14. Percentage of respondents with ID documents
On Sunday 4 November 2012, the Co-Minister in charge of
National Healing and Reconciliation, the Honorable Moses
Mzila Ndlovu, met about 180 San elders in at the Gariya Com-
munity Centre in Tsholotsho Ward 10. This one-on-one meeting
was said to be a rare occurrence with a senior government of-
ficial. During the meeting, a number of issues were addressed
by the San and the Co-Minister, including the following; (1) San
experience of discrimination, (2) lack of access to clean water,
education, and health services, (3) lack of San leadership (both
customary and elected), (4) access to land and ownership rights
for the San, (5) discriminatory marriage practices affecting the
San, (6) the need for San to benefit from cultural heritage sites
such as the rock paintings in the Matopos Hills, and (7) the de-
sire for a truth and reparation process on the massive displace-
ments of the San by the past and present governments.18
The importance of these issues was corroborated in the inter-
views conducted during the survey and are reflected along with
other findings of the survey.
Land tenure
The Zimbabwe laws relating to land see all land as belonging
to the state. Divisions of the land in the past into communal
areas, commercial farming areas, state land (national parks,
forest areas, and safari areas), resettlement areas, and urban
areas have in many ways been superseded by the land poli-
cies pursued since the initiation of the Fast Track Land Reform
(2000-2002). Unlike San in other Southern African countries,
Tshwa have not been allocated land on a community basis in
Zimbabwe. There are no cases where Tshwa have been grant-
ed commercial farming land. Unlike Botswana, where San have
been able to obtain commercial land (that is, freehold), as seen
in the cases of D’Kar and Dqae Qare in Ghanzi District (Bollig et
al. 2000) or Namibia, where Hai//om and other San have been
able to obtain resettlement farms in commercial farming areas
(Lawry, Begbie-Clench and Hitchcock 2012; Dieckmann et al.
18 The meeting was organized by Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust, a
San community-based organization that empowers the San people to
meaningfully participate in decision making, control of resources, safe-
guard cultural heritage, and promote human rights and sustainable liveli-
2014), no Tshwa have been allocated commercial farming land,
as far as we know, in Zimbabwe.
It is difficult to get an estimate of the number of Tshwa house-
holds that have access to land that they manage themselves.
Five people said that they had land that they obtained through
share-cropping arrangements, under which they had to provide
a portion of the crop produced to the household head whose
land was being used. Others said that they had approached lo-
cal homestead heads and asked for permission to use some of
the land in the fields that they had established for raising crops.
In these kinds of arrangements, they either agreed to give a
portion of the crops produced to the land owner, or they worked
in the fields of the land owners, providing labour in exchange for
land. Whilst no time limit to such agreements was mentioned,
transfer of tenure was uncommon in these arrangements. Judg-
ing from our interviews, it appeared that 42 people (out of a total
of 149) lacked land of any kind (28%).
Of the households with land, most of the fields are near their
homesteads and could be considered what some people de-
scribed as “homefields” or gardens near their residences.
Those who were allocated land by the District Council said that
they had to walk far to get to their fields, some of which were
located in other villages, sometimes as far as 8 km away from
their homes. One way to overcome this distance constraint,
they said, was to cultivate abandoned fields. A problem with
this strategy, they said, was that these fields were sometimes
choked with weeds, and the soil fertility was poor. The result
was that their crop yields were lower than they were in cases
where they established their own fields.
Disputes over land does occur, some of them a result of peo-
ple being allocated overlapping plots. In some cases, disputes
occurred between relatives over land that had been held by a
parent who had died. There were people who said that these
disputes were usually dealt with at the local level through ap-
pealing to local authorities. There were cases, however, where
they sought the assistance of the Tsholotsho District Council or
the Matabeleland North provincial administration. None of the
people to whom we spoke discussed taking either the govern-
ment or local authorities to court regarding land access rights,
although some of them were aware that San in other countries
had done so (notably, in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa).
4. FIndIngs
Tshwa have raised the issue of land rights at various local, na-
tional, and international meetings, as was the case at a South-
ern African Development Community meeting side event on 28
July 2014 which focused on human rights issues involving indig-
enous peoples. Tshwa spokespersons have said that the Tshwa
would like to be able to get de jure (legal) rights over blocks of
land, receiving, for example, some of the commercial land being
granted to landless people in Zimbabwe. They would also like to
get leasehold rights over land in communal areas. The Tshwa
have been following developments revolving around land tenure
in Zimbabwe and are hopeful that they, like other Zimbabweans,
will be able to have secure access to land of their own.
Resettlement and access to natural resources
One of the major concerns of people we interviewed was the
risk of being resettled. A quarter of the households that we
spoke to in the group interviews said that they had been reset-
tled or had been told that they may have to resettle. Some of
the resettlements took place during the liberation struggle (up to
1980) and some during the period of “troubles” from 1981-1988
(known as “Gukurahundi”). There were also people who said
that they had been required to leave land set aside as Forestry
Commission land under the Forest Act. They noted that they
were not allowed to exploit resources in the forest areas after
Forestry Commission land was established, and that if they did
so, they were subjected to arrest and fines by the Forest Pro-
tection Unit. Additionally, researchers in 1995 in the Tsholotsho
District were informed that Tshwa people had been moved out
of their former territories by the CAMPFIRE programme due to
the establishment of wildlife management areas (Axel Thoma
and Magdalena Broermann, pers. comm.).
One of the events that occurred just prior to the initiation of our
fieldwork (in September, 2013) was the killing of elephants and
other animals with cyanide in the southern portion of Hwange
National Park (Mabuko et al. 2014, 2015). As a result some
135 elephants died in at least four localities inside and outside
of the park (Mabuko et al. 2014:2). Ivory had been removed
from some of the carcases. Subsequently there were arrests
of people from Tsholotsho, Bulawayo, and other places for al-
leged involvement in the procurement, distribution and use of
cyanide and for poaching. A number of people were sentenced
for violation of wildlife laws, including at least one Tshwa com-
munity member, though a number of suspects implicated in the
supply of cyanide and transport of ivory, including police offic-
ers, were handed lesser charges or acquitted in January 2014.
People residing in the areas close to the southern boundary of
This Tshwa family living in one of the most remote areas of Tsholotsho District had been told that they would be resettled soon
Table 15. Resettlement of local populations in Southern Africa due to the establishment of National Parks,
Game Reserves, and Conservation Areas
Park or Reserve Area,
Date of establishment and size
Central Kalahari Game Reserve (1961),
52,730 km2
Chobe National Park (1961), 9,980 km2
Game Reserve No. 2 (1907), Etosha
National Park (1967), 22,270 km2
Hwange (Wankie) Game Reserve
(1928); declared Hwange National Park
1961), 14,651 km2
Kalahari Gemsbok Park (1931), made a
transfrontier park (Kgalagadi Transfron-
tier Park, KTP) in April, 1999, 37,991 km2
Moremi Game Reserve (1963), 4,885 km2
Tsodilo Hills National Monument (1992);
declared a World Heritage Site (2001),
225 km2
West Caprivi Game Park (1963),
proclaimed Bwabwata National Park in
2007, 6,274 km2
South Africa, Botswana
Over 2,200 G/ui, G//ana, and Baboalongwe Bakga-
lagadi were resettled outside the reserve in 1997,
2002, and 2005
Hundreds of Subiya were resettled in the Chobe
Enclave, where 5 villages are in a 3,060 km2 area
Hai//om San were resettled outside of the park or
sent to freehold farms in 1954
Several hundred Tshwa were rounded up and
resettled south of Wankie Game Reserve after its
declaration in 1927
‡Khomani and N/amani San were resettled out of the
park in the early 1930s
Bugakwe (//Ani-kxoe) San were relocated out of the
reserve in the 1960s and 1970s
Some 100 Ju/’hoansi San were resettled away from
the hills in 1995 by the Botswana government
Khwe San and Mbukushu were resettled in the early
1960s; Khwe and !Xun San were moved to South
Africa in 1990
the park were told by government and district officials that they
had to move to new places away from the southern boundary of
Hwange National Park. This included some Tshwa families who
had not yet been informed of any relocation plans or compensa-
tory measures at the time we visited.
This security situation for the Tshwa was exacerbated by the
killing of a collared lion named Cecil by an American dentist,
in July 2015, after it was lured out of Hwange National Park by
a professional safari guide. A worldwide outcry about the eth-
ics of sport hunting ensued (Anderson and Regan 2015). This
has worried some Tshwa because they are feeling the brunt of
pressures from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Management. They are concerned about the possibility of ces-
sation of trophy hunting since a few people said that they do
get short-term employment on occasion with safari companies.
Two people said that they had tried to obtain Forestry Commis-
sion permits to harvest timber and other forest products (e.g.,
thatching grass) but that they were unable to do so. Most of
the people whom we spoke to were reluctant to say whether
they had entered either national park land or forest land in order
to obtain natural resources. There was significant concern ex-
pressed about natural resource access. A Tshwa from a village
close to the Hwange National Park’s southern boundary said
that lessons should be learned from the various relocations that
occurred in Southern Africa as a result of the declaration of na-
tional parks, game reserves, monuments, and World Heritage
Sites (see Table 15 for a list of some of these places).
As numerous studies19 have shown, the impacts of resettle-
ments related to natural and conservation areas in Southern
Africa are considerable and it takes significant time, effort, and
resources for the resettlement-affected population to re-estab-
lish themselves.
Resettlement and relocation are complicated processes, and
are often extremely hard on the people who are relocated. A
major problem with conservation-related and development-
related resettlement programmes is that government officials or
agencies tend to focus their attention on the loss of residences
(i.e., homes), other buildings (for example, latrines), corrals
(livestock pens), and assets such as fruit trees rather than on
loss of access to the means of production, especially land,
gardens, fields, grazing, and wild resources on which people
depend for subsistence and income (Scudder 2005, 2009; De-
vitt and Hitchcock 2010, 2012). Provision of cash compensation
often works out in such a way that it does not serve as a re-
placement for lost assets nor a means of ensuring rehabilitation
or improvement of livelihoods.
Although the issue of displacement of peoples has been a ma-
jor subject of discussion internationally for the past several dec-
ades (see, for example, Scudder 2005, 2009, 2010) there are
relatively few comprehensive legal instruments that deal directly
with resettlement. The United Nations has a set of guiding prin-
ciples (United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displace-
ment) which have been helpful in providing a set of standards
for organisations working with Internally Displaced Persons
(IDPs), and the UNDRIP addresses the requirement for consent
and compensation in the case of loss of land, territories or re-
sources (Articles 10 and 28). Other organisations have also de-
veloped resettlement guidelines, including the Organisation of
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the African
Development Bank, and various non-government organisations
(for example, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund)
(Scudder 2005, 2009; World Commission on Dams 2000).
Private mining and oil companies, among others, have guide-
lines on corporate social responsibility (CSR) which devote
some attention to issues of resettlement. The Tshwa are hope-
ful that the government of Zimbabwe will follow the international
19 See Davison (1983); Cernea and Schmidt-Soltau (2006) Hitchcock
(2000, 2001, 2012); Hitchcock and Nangati (1992, 1993), Hitchcock,
Sapignoli and Babchuk (2011); Dieckmann (2001, 2003, 2007); Suzman
(2004); Scudder 2005; Giraudo (2011); Sapignoli (2012); Taylor (2012);
Bolaane (2013); and Barume (2000, 2014).
guidelines on resettlement and that efforts will be made to en-
sure that resettled people are able to have the full array of ben-
efits available to people who are affected by conservation and
development projects.
Agriculture is the most important livelihood source for people in
Tsholotsho. Agricultural methods range from cultivating the soil
using ploughs, oxen, or donkeys borrowed from other people
to using hand-held tools such as hoes. We saw one family that
used a plough that was pulled by members of that household.
Planting seeds is also done using hand-held tools, mainly hoes,
shovels, or rakes. Some Tshwa adults and older children work
in the fields of other ethnic groups in exchange for a portion of
the crop produced. This kind of share-cropping pattern, how-
ever, was not common among the people we interviewed.
Tshwa women with pearl millet seed
The lack of draught power and farming implements was men-
tioned frequently. Planting was being done at the time we were
in the field (November-December, 2013). Some people had
kitchen gardens either in their compounds or next to them. Ac-
cording to interviews, the crops being most frequently planted
were maize, sorghum, melons, and beans. A listing of the crops
grown is shown below:
beans (Phaseolus mungo, mung bean, and
Phaseolus acutifolius, teppary bean)
beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
cabbage (Brussica oleracea)
cantaloupe (spanspek) (Cucumis melo, var. cantalupensis)
carrot (Daucus carota)
cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata)
guava (Psidum guajaya)
maize (Zea mays)
melon (sweet melon, Cucumis melo)
millet (pearl millet, Pennisetum typhoides)
onion (Allium cepa)
pawpaw (papaya) (Carica papaya)
pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo)
sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)
tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)
It was not possible for us to get detailed information on crop
production from local farmers, but we did hear about crop yields
from agricultural extension personnel (AGRITEX) and mem-
bers of agriculturally oriented non-government organisations
(e.g., CTDT), who said that crop production levels of Tshwa
were considerably below those of other ethnic groups in the
area such as the Ndebele and the Kalanga.
One of the issues that people highlighted was damage to crops
by wild animals, including elephants, antelopes, baboons, and
rodents and birds. An important activity of people was bird-
scaring in the period of the year when sorghum and millet were
ripening. Keeping livestock, especially cows, goats, and don-
keys out of the fields was necessary and the responsibility of
both adults and children. Most households constructed fences
of thorn branches, poles, and shrubs.
People cited several constraints on agricultural production in-
cluding insufficient or too much rainfall, destruction of crops
by both wild and domestic animals, insect problems such as
grasshoppers and locusts, plant diseases, lack of access to
draught animals, insufficient numbers and varieties of seeds,
especially of drought-resistant crops, and lack of agricultural ex-
tension assistance. It should be noted that government officials
from AGRITEX said that they tried to provide as much advice
and technical assistance as they could, but they were faced
with budgetary, personnel, and transport constraints. Several
non-government organisations were assisting Tshwa and other
people in Tsholotsho District, including Community Technology
Development Trust (CTDT), Organisation of Rural Associations
for Progress (ORAP), and PLAN International, but they, too,
said that they faced constraints in providing assistance to local
Very few Tshwa had livestock of their own. Of 149 households
interviewed, 106 said that they had no livestock. Forty-three
said that they had livestock of some type. For purposes of this
report we defined livestock as domestic animals, including
poultry (chicken and ducks). Of the 43 households that had
livestock, 31 had chickens; 18 of those had chickens only, and
13 had chickens in combination with other animals. Nineteen
households reported that they had goats; 5 reported that they
had donkeys, 4 had cows, and one had sheep. No households
reported having horses. People remarked about the importance
of donkeys for transport and for pulling wagons and ploughs –
the lack of draught power was raised repeatedly in interviews.
There was a total of 9 households that looked after domestic
animals for other people. Of those, 5 had their own animals,
and 4 had no other animals. Two people reported that they
were allowed to use the milk of the animals that they cared for.
In one case, the individual was given food in exchange for his
livestock-related labour but no cash. Some people in Tsholot-
sho reportedly got access to livestock through the usisa system,
a long-term cattle loan system where the benefits of the cattle,
such as milk and draught power, are exchanged for manage-
ment and oversight. Unlike in neighbouring Botswana, people
were not given a calf after a period of herding-related service.
One of the constraints affecting the people of the Tsholotsho
area was the presence of tsetse fly (Glossina morsitans) which
carries nagana (sleeping sickness); this disease affects both
livestock and people. Wild animal elimination (mainly through
shooting) was used as a strategy to control tsetse fly in north
western Zimbabwe from 1919 to the mid-1970s (Alec Camp-
bell, David Cumming, pers. comm. 2011, 2013) as well as other
diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). In the 20th
century there were efforts to establish veterinary cordon fences
to prevent the movement of livestock and curtail the spread of
diseases such as rinderpest, Contagious bovine pleuropneu-
monia (CBPP, lung sickness), and FMD. Vaccination cam-
paigns were undertaken by Veterinary Services in order to deal
with livestock diseases in the 1980s and 1990s into the new
Since Tshwa have so few livestock, they often do not avail
themselves of opportunities to get immunisations for their ani-
mals, and only one cattle owner said that he used the govern-
ment-sponsored dip tanks for dealing with tick-borne diseases.
One of the recommendations arising from the work on livestock
issues in Tsholotsho is the establishment of a revolving loan
scheme or a repayment by progeny scheme, which would be
aimed at increasing access to livestock, especially sheep and
Lack of food security
The San of western Zimbabwe faced challenges regarding food
security. As noted previously, Tshwa access to land was lower
than that of other groups. Their low crop yields and their limited
amount of livestock coupled with unpredictable weather pat-
terns that have affected Tsholotsho District in recent years,20
20 The district experienced a severe drought period in 2012, flooding in
early 2014 and poor rains in late 2014/early 2015. In 2012, people
were preparing to leave their homes and move elsewhere, but they
were having trouble getting permission to take up residence in new
ib45r1c3.dpuf )
means that food security in general is poor. We observed a
large variation in sources of food for Tshwa villages, with some
people indicating a substantial reliance on natural resources
(gathered bush foods) and others focusing on utilising small
fields for agriculture. A number of individual informants men-
tioned they had not eaten a satisfactory meal in several days. A
common factor was people’s reliance on food/drought relief pro-
vision or food-for-work projects (facilitated by NGOs, including
World Vision and Plan International, and the state) to the point
that food relief has become one of the most important livelihood
source for people in Tsholotsho.
Like other people in Zimbabwe, the Tshwa were affected by the
hyperinflation and economic stagnation that prevailed in the
first decade of the new millennium. Whilst a tentative return to
growth since 2009 has fostered relative improvements in the
country, a number of organisations working with the Tshwa
maintain that these are marginalised and suffer from discrimi-
nation. Some of the problems people face stem from physical
isolation and a lack of access to external support.
With an absence of draught power a San family pulls a plough that they received in exchange for traditional healing of a Ndebele man
Piece work
As with comparable San communities elsewhere in Southern
Africa, irregular labour, or “piece work”, is an important source
of income for Tshwa households. Some of the Tshwa in Tsholot-
sho work for Ndebele and Kalanga as field hands, herders, and
domestic workers. They assist these and other groups in col-
lecting water, firewood, poles, and termite earth, constructing
homes, building fences, ploughing fields, and harvesting crops.
In general Tshwa work for a relatively low payment if they re-
ceive cash, and the same is true if they are paid in kind (that
is, in food and other goods). There were also a few Tshwa who
worked at Hwange Colliery, and some Tshwa were hopeful
about the employment possibilities in a newly discovered dia-
mond area in Dogwe, Tsholotsho.
At least four Tshwa had worked on neighboring commercial
farms such as those in the Gwayi Lands. A few Tshwa in the
past worked for the Department of National Parks and Wild-
life Management Authority in Hwange National Park but there
are no Tshwa employed currently in Hwange or by the National
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZNPWLA). We at-
tempted to learn why no Tshwa were employed in Hwange but
were unable to find out the reasons. We were told of six people
who worked in Bulawayo, two in government offices, two as
mechanics, and two as gardeners. Expansion of the number
of formal sector work opportunities in Tsholotsho was called for
by the Tshwa.
As few formal employment opportunities exist amongst the
Tshwa, the majority of other livelihoods strategies are depend-
ent on the environment, using combination of traditional knowl-
edge, crafts and harvesting.
An important source of income for some people in Tsholotsho
District is timber product extraction. Six Tshwa men told us that
they cut poles for other people. They also build fences for other
people. Several people said that they cut valuable timber such
as teak (Baikiaea plurijuga), which they sell to commercial buy-
ers. These buyers are linked to companies who use the teak
for furniture manufacture and for sale to other companies that
require railway sleepers or supports for use in mine shafts.
Frequently several community members in a village generate
income from harvesting trees and carving large pestles and
mortars for processing grains. These items are sold to neigh-
Tshwa women and children returning with a substantial harvest of mopane worms
bouring communities for up to $10 and are an important income
sources for the Tshwa.
There were also people who had worked in the past for com-
mercial timber operations in Tsholotsho and Bulilima Mangwe
and in the Northern State Lands (previously called the Northern
Crown Lands) of neighbouring Botswana, such as on the Nata
Ranches. Forestry activities also took place in the 1990s in the
Forest Reserves and communal areas under the guidance of
the Forest Act of Zimbabwe (1948, amended several times),
which only a few people appeared to be familiar with. Expand-
ing knowledge of some of the implications of environmental leg-
islation such as the Forest Act would clearly be useful. Several
people said that they had run afoul of the Forest Act and had
been arrested by members of the Forest Protection Unit. There
was clear resentment among some Tshwa and other groups in
Tsholotsho of forestry enforcement personnel.
Traditional activities
We saw no evidence of hunting by Tshwa at the time we were
there. Most people said that they did not do any hunting, and
that the main source of protein came from the gathering of mo-
pane worms (Gonimbrasia belina). Mopane worms also form an
important seasonal cash or goods income, as they are sold or
traded with Ndebele and Kalanga neighbours. At times they are
also traded for beer.
Scavenging used to be a useful strategy and made up a por-
tion of the subsistence returns of Tshwa in the past. Historically
people searched the skies for vultures and other raptors, which
they believed might indicate the presence of a dead animal or a
kill by lions, leopards, or cheetahs. They would then go to that
place and, if there were predators or scavengers on a carcass,
they would attempt to scare them off by shouting, clapping their
hands, running at them, or cracking a whip. In some cases, the
predators would leave their kill and move off into the bush, al-
lowing the Tshwa to help themselves to whatever meat was left.
Today, scavenging of carcasses is still done occasionally, but at
some risk of arrest by game scouts or police.
Some Tshwa in Tsholotsho have dogs, but they maintain that
the dogs are not used for hunting but are kept to warn them of
predators or people coming to their residences and. The meat
of wild animals was reportedly an uncommon part of the diet
among the Tshwa in western Zimbabwe in 2013. Some people
said that in the past they had gotten to eat some of the meat
from problem animal control (PAC) operations of the Zimbabwe
Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, but
they had not had such meat during the previous year. They also
complained that the Tsholotsho District CAMPFIRE (Commu-
nal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources)
personnel had not given them any meat from culling operations
for years. Several mentioned that game meat consumption was
a part of Tshwa culture.
Gathering of wild plants was and is an important part of the live-
lihoods of many Tshwa households. Data obtained on Tshwa
in northern Botswana in the 1980s indicated that over 100 spe-
cies of plants were exploited for food, medicines, manufacturing
of tools and other items, clothing, and construction purposes
(Hitchcock 1982, field notes, 2013). The collecting of thatch-
ing grass was done by 90% of the 149 households that we in-
terviewed. Some of the thatching grass is used for domestic
purposes, while people also sell the grass to their neighbours or
to people who would visit Tsholotsho in search of grass to pur-
chase. Table 16 presents data on economically valuable plants
and insects that are exploited by Tshwa for domestic use or for
sale. It can be seen that there are a number of different species,
many of which are non-timber forest products (NTFP).
Tshwa children collecting mopane worms
Table 16. Economically valuable plants and insects used by Tshwa and Shua groups in western Zimbabwe
and northern Botswana
Common Name
Devil’s Claw, grapple plant
Commiphora spp.
pyracanthoides) plants as
host to larvae of beetles
Wild currant bush
Gemsbok Cucumber
Wild coffee bean
Scientific Name
Adansonia digitata
Dactylopius coccus
Hoodia pelifera,
H. gordonii
Sclerocarya caffra
or birrea
Vangueria infausta
Tylosema esculentum
Terfezia pfeilii
Grewia flava
Bauhinia petersiana
Local Name
Cochineal, an insect that feeds
on Opuntia spp. (prickly pear)
Antidote to the poison is from
the bulb Ammocaris coranica
Ghaap, xhooba, !khoba
Mongongo, mokongwa, mangetti
Small fruit on vine
Morama, tsin bean cam (Naro)
Kalahari truffle, kama, dcoodcoo
khuuts’u (Naro)
kg’om (Naro) ‡aus (Hai//om)
Food, medicine
Collected and sold for use in
carmine dyes, food coloring
Headaches, made into a tea for
medicinal purposes
Used in making arrow poison
among Tshwa and Shua in the
Plant used in allaying thirst and
hunger, has very high potential
commercial value
Making wine, fruits into candy,
Nuts for consumption, wood for
stools and other items
Used for food
Nuts and roots for consumption
Fungus that is eaten and sold
Berries that are collected, eaten,
and sold
Procured, eaten for moisture
purposes, seeds consumed
Seeds procured, consumed,
Note: Data obtained from fieldwork by Robert Hitchcock and from Tanaka (1980:56, 71, Tables 8 and 12; 2014); Tanaka and Sugawara (2010)
Fishing is a strategy employed by Tshwa in Tsholotsho. Some
of the fishing is done in rivers such as the Little Inkwazi or the
Maitengwe (Nata) or in pans such as Dzivanini. A common
fishing method is to use fish baskets (dumbu). Tshwa, mainly
adult males, also use spears for fishing; two kinds of spears
are used, a thin spear shaft made of Grewia branches, with a
wire tip inserted in the end which is used as a kind of search-
ing spear. People also use more substantial spears with iron
blades, but these are rare as most people said that they had
gotten rid of their hunting and fishing spears, presumably for
fear of being arrested. Hooks and fishing line were used by both
adults and children. There was no evidence of the use of poi-
son for fishing or for hunting among the Tshwa in Tsholotsho in
2013, though poison from plants for arrows was reportedly used
in the past in the region (see Parry 2007). The only fish that we
saw in people’s residences were barbels (sharp toothed catfish)
(Barbus barbus and Clarias gariepinus) though people reported
catching other types of fish such as bream (tilapia). According
to informants, fishing is on the decline in many areas, in part
because of changing environmental and economic conditions.
 managementandforestry
Tshwa communities in Tsholotsho have taken part in activities
related to CAMPFIRE. This programme, which was initiated
in the late 1980s (Peterson 1991; Jones and Murphree 2004,
2010; Borgerhoff Mulder and Coppolillo 2005:45, 260-263,
288-291) is the Zimbabwean version of what is known in other
parts of Southern Africa as community based natural resource
management (CBNRM) projects, sometimes also described
as integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs),
that were initiated In the 1980s, 1990s and early part of the new
These projects were based on a number of assumptions. First,
it was assumed that Southern African governments would be
willing to devolve authority over natural resources to the local
level and would enact legislation to make this possible. Sec-
ondly, it was assumed that local people would be willing to par-
ticipate in community based conservation and development. A
third assumption was that government, traditional authorities,
and non-government organisations would be willing to con-
sult local people and have them be involved in planning and
decision-making. A fourth assumption was that if local people
had the rights over natural resources and got the benefits from
them, they would work to conserve them. Fifth, since CBNRM
combines natural conservation and rural development, it was
assumed that both human and wildlife populations would ben-
efit. A sixth assumption was that sustainable use of resources
would ensure that resources were available for both present
and future generations.
The main goal of communities that opt to get involved in CBNRM
programmes is subsistence and income security. The Tshwa
have taken part in the CAMPFIRE programme, and several Tsh-
wa mentioned that they had found that CAMPFIRE had reduced
their access to natural resources (further research would be
needed to make an accurate assessment of these statements).
Over time there have been changes in CAMPFIRE, and the ben-
efits that went directly to local communities were reduced, with
district councils taking up to 85 per cent of the funds derived from
community-based natural resource management activities. In
Tsholotsho the numbers of jobs in CAMPFIRE programmes had
declined to the point where in late 2013 fewer than five Tshwa
were employed in CAMPFIRE programmes.
The majority of the people to whom we spoke were unaware
of the various government land and resources acts that affect
community-based natural resource management, such as the
Land Acquisition Act of 1992 or the Forest Act of 1948. One
person said that he had been prosecuted under the Forest Act
for having tried to smoke out bees in Inseze Forest Land north
of Tsholotsho town. The issue of the use of fire was seen as an
important one, since some people felt that burning off the debris
on new fields was useful to do, while others said that in the past,
fires were set at certain times of the year in order to encourage
the growth of plants that could be consumed by livestock. A
few people said that they had heard of the fast track resettle-
ment programme that began in 2000, but noted that they had
not been affected either directly or indirectly by this programme.
They did say that they heard of other people in Zimbabwe who
had been affected by the Fast Track Resettlement Programme
(for discussions of this programme, see Scoones et al. 2011;
Dube and Moyo 2015).
One person from Dlamini village said that he was unhappy
with the government’s decision, made under the Communal
Lands Act of 1982 (amended in 2002) and the Communal
Lands Forest Produce Act of 1987 (amended in 2001) to al-
low the Tsholotsho District Council to enter into an agreement
with a commercial logging company. He said that local people
in Tsholotsho did not benefit from forestry concessions, only
the company and the council. He recommended that revisions
be made in the government legislation on land and forestry to
allow local communities to benefit more directly from conces-
sion agreements. Another man said that the movements of
cattle from one area to another, known locally as the lagisa
system, had been affected negatively by the decision of the
Tsholotsho District Council and Matabeleland North to get
Appropriate Authority status from the Zimbabwe government.
Zimbabwe, as other Southern African nations, may face in-
creasingly unpredictable and extreme weather patterns related
to global climate change. Areas such as Tsholotsho District are
susceptible to both drought (as of late 2014, early 2015) and
flooding (as seen in early 2014). In almost all the communities
we visited elements of climate change were mentioned as lead-
ing issues in relation to food security. Interviewees stated on a
number of occasions the increasing unpredictability of season
weather patterns, particularly rainfall. Discussions indicated a
lack of adaptation to these ongoing issues, possibly as there are
few existing resources and alternatives to current food security
and livelihood strategies.
In particular the following issues appear recurrent for com-
• Agricultural production: Differing timing, frequency
and strength of seasonal rains lead to poorly timed
sowing and limited harvests from rain damage or lack
of water.
• Livestock: Unpredictable rainfall affects the availability
of grazing, animal health and cost of livestock farming.
• Water for human consumption: Water sources tradi-
tionally relied upon including rivers and seasonal pans
have become unreliable due to variability in the timing
and availability of rainfall and temperatures, which af-
fect evaporation rates.
• River and pond levels, including fishing: Inhabit-
ants of several settlements near the river mentioned
that fishing used to be a regular (seasonal) food source,
but now was rare.
• Food security, including gathering natural prod-
ucts (including mopane worms, tubers, water lil-
ies): Differing seasonal availability of a number of sta-
ple plants and particularly mopane worms. Whilst in the
past these may have formed a substantial part of the
Tshwa diet in certain seasons, they can no longer be
relied upon.
• Storms; several people said that rain and wind storms
were more severe than they had been in the past, and
some of them said that they wanted an early warn-
ing system to be established which would warn peo-
ple of potential droughts, floods, tornados, and other
potentially disastrous events. They also said that the
early warning systems should draw on local ecological
knowledge about weather, climate, and environmental
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Access to clean water is a significant problem in Tsholotsho.
During the course of our survey, we saw people collecting rain-
water from puddles in the roads using tin cans. We were asked
to avoid driving through water on roads due to the reliance on
this water source. Most of the Tshwa potentially have access to
boreholes. However most of these require payment for water
(fuel and maintenance costs) and we were informed that main-
tenance issues are common - numerous boreholes in settle-
ments we visited had broken pumps or casings. Lack of funds
to pay the fee ($3 per month at several villages) in particular
necessitated that other water sources be utilised. Household
sizes varied, but some of the households had as many as 7-10
people residing in them.
Just over 1 in 4 households we surveyed said that they had
access to clean water sources. One of the issues related to
obtaining water was the distance that people had to go to the
water points. There were cases where people had to go 3-5
kilometres to a water source. Water quality was cited as a prob-
lem by a number of the people that we interviewed. None of the
people to whom we spoke said that they used effective methods
to treat their water to make it safer to drink. Non-government
organisations told us that they encouraged people to boil their
water, but Tshwa told them that they lacked sufficient firewood
to do so. Some interviewees stated that if time allowed they
would put fire ash in the water, asserting that leaving the ash to
settle at the container’s bottom removes many of the impurities.
They also sometimes used cloth as a filter. This may reduce
sediment and make saline water more palatable, and theoreti-
cally may inhibit bacterial growth through raising alkalinity, but
is unlikely to reduce serious waterborne disease and may have
other health consequences.
Some of the people who live in the areas where there are sea-
sonal water pans collect water from them during the rainy sea-
son, though some pans were frequented by elephant herds that
dirtied the water and can present a physical risk. Villages within
walking distance of Gariya Dam—a water reservoir—collect
water from there. When the dam is high, they noted, the water
quality was good, however, during the dry season the remain-
ing water becomes fouled by cattle, game and elephants using
the dam.
Wells (jinaa) were dug in the Maitengwe River using buckets,
tin cans, and shovels. At the time we observed these wells (De-
cember, 2013) they were less than 30 centimetres to 1 meter
they would like to have more health programmes available to
them. Some people said that there were insufficient numbers
of clinics in the region, however the quality of service provision
from these clinics appeared adequate compared to many we
have seen in other rural areas in Southern Africa. We found
most communities very open in discussing HIV/AIDS and issues
of sexual health, which was unusual and welcome compared to
experiences in San communities elsewhere in Southern Africa.
The health status of many Zimbabweans, especially children,
has improved over the past several decades. Part of the reason
for health improvement is the expansion of physical infrastruc-
ture and health services in rural areas. The government of Zim-
babwe has also made significant efforts to improve preventative
and curative health care. The infant mortality rate in Zimbabwe
in 2012 was 28.23 per thousand live births, as compared to 62
per thousand live births in 2000 (Zimbabwe Ministry of Health
and Child Welfare data).
Zimbabwe, however, is facing some major health challenges.
One of the most important of these challenges is HIV/AIDS.
While in general the HIV prevalence rate appears to be relatively
low in Tsholotsho compared to rates in other parts of Southern
Africa, there were substantial numbers of people being treated
Some deeper wells were seen in the river, which had acacia
thorn tree fences around them to protect them from cattle,
goats, and other domestic stock. Wells were also dug by hand
for purposes of watering livestock. These hand dug wells were
seen along the Maitengwe River. This water was said to be of
good quality, likely because of filtration through the sand river-
Sanitation is also a problem in rural Tsholotsho. Only three
households had sanitation facilities that they used; the rest of
the households said that they went to the bush for defecation
purposes. Some people had ablution facilities, and there were a
number of people who washed at places along the sand rivers
and pans. One of the problems with open defecation is disease.
We were told that some people came down with illnesses that
they attributed to the lack of sanitation facilities in the area.
General health, HIV/AIDS, TB and chronic illness
Health challenges include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, wa-
ter-borne diseases, hookworm, tick-borne diseases, sleeping
sickness, and infant diarrhoea. The infant mortality rate is mod-
erate but could be reduced substantially by improved access to
maternal and child health (MCH) in general. Women said that
A basic well in the river bed
for HIV in the Tshwa villages we visited. For example, in one
group discussion of 11 San women, 8 disclosed their status, 7
of whom said they were HIV positive.
Knowledge of HIV transmission was generally good, and avail-
ability of condoms appeared sufficient and often supplied for
free, though teenage pregnancy rates were reportedly high (see
below Women and Children’s health). Some people were aware
of factors such as multiple partners, early diagnosis and not us-
ing traditional healers for HIV-related illness, as well as seek-
ing early treatment for tuberculosis (TB). Antiretroviral drugs
(ARVs) were available at the clinics and hospitals in Tsholotsho
free of charge. One of the difficulties people faced was having
sufficient food and clean water necessary to ensure the effec-
tiveness of the ARVs, and some felt this strongly affected their
ability to carry out family duties.
Other health problems that people we interviewed mentioned
were TB, malaria, respiratory infections, and infant and child
diarrhoea. The latter problem was mainly addressed with oral
rehydration therapy (ORT). Long-term solutions to reducing di-
arrhoea prevalence include changing hygiene practices and in-
creased use of latrines. Some health personnel noted that there
were sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhoea
and chlamydia that were reported among people in Tsholotsho,
including the Tshwa. Schistosomiasis (bilharzia or snail fever) in-
fections were low compared to people living along Lake Kariba
or the Zambezi, though not uncommon. TB infections were said
to be common and we noted possible symptoms among many
people we interviewed; a number of informants referred to the
frequent unfiltered tobacco smoking exacerbating this problem.
However frequency of drug resistant TB is relatively low.
Tshwa are taller and heavier now than they used to be. We did
not hear of diabetes in Tsholotsho and we were told by health
workers that the Tshwa had very low serum cholesterol, low
blood pressures, and little in the way of heart disease. But diets
today are higher in carbohydrates and refined sugars, and ac-
cording to health workers there are indications that adult-onset
diabetes is on the increase among some San, and that cardio-
vascular disease is more common today than it was in the past,
as are various kinds of cancer (see also Zimbabwe Ministry of
Health and Child Welfare data).
Though bed nets had been distributed, malaria was reported
as a problem, particularly in the rainy season, and there were
cases where almost entire villages came down with malaria;
the problem was so severe that the residents had difficulty col-
lecting sufficient food or water or doing agricultural and other
kinds of work. In 2011 there was a serious outbreak of scabies
in Tsholotsho District which particularly affected the Tshwa, and
is known to have greater adverse effects in resource-poor com-
munities, though this has not occurred on such a scale since.
Hookworm was reported as a problem by several people.
Participants stated that other acute illness amongst the Tshwa
was treated in hospitals, accessed through local clinics, which
was also reflected in data collected; however, as we have seen
with other remote resource-poor communities, individuals with
severe chronic health issues cannot always access quality
health services, and we came across a number of elderly and
one young disabled girl who lived with considerable health dif-
ficulties and without access to state services.
Women and Children’s Health (also see Gender section)
The health and well-being of children and pregnant and lactat-
ing women and other segments of the population have been
monitored under the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment sys-
tem and by Ministry of Health personnel in the health posts,
clinics, schools, and communities of western Zimbabwe. Some
of the adults, mainly women, and children who had worked in
tobacco fields or on commercial farms said that they had ill-
nesses, some of which may relate to tobacco poisoning or to
the use of pesticides. Some people noted that gastroenteritis
was a problem for some of the infants and young children, par-
ticularly at times of the year when seasons changed.
Several of the focus groups raised the issue of teenage preg-
nancy, which they said was widespread. They stated that many
San girls fall pregnant by the age of 13 and attributed this to a
number of factors: dropping out of school due to lack of funds;
poverty and transactional sex; not listening to parent’s advice.
Suggestions to combat teenage pregnancy included building
schools nearer the villages and assisting with funds and clothes
for children. Rape and domestic violence were cited by some
people we interviewed as significant problems.
Whilst the nutritional situation amongst the Tshwa varied, it
generally appeared and was reported as low; the very poor nu-
tritional situation among some households must be addressed,
as must the income levels. A significant percentage of family in-
come is expended on food. Many people said that they were not
getting sufficient food to meet their needs. They also said that
the food that they did get was not balanced nutritionally. The
lack of protein in particular was cited as a major problem. The
food that was provided by government and NGOs was appreci-
ated, but people said that there were long periods when they
did not get any food. It would be useful to evaluate the livelihood
support programmes that exist in Tsholotsho and come up with
recommendations for their improvement.
Tshwa are very active, going on forays for foraging and visit-
ing purposes, carrying infants, and engaging in extensive work
activities both in their communities and in the bush. There are
periods, however, when people go hungry, especially during the
late dry season, and under-nutrition is a problem with which
some Tshwa have to contend. As one Tshwa man put it, “Look
at us. We are thin. We are dying from hunger.” It should be
noted, however, that not a single life was lost to starvation dur-
ing the severe droughts of 1982-1985 and the early 1990s and
early part of the new millennium, thanks to the effective nutri-
tional and health surveillance and relief programmes that were
established by the Zimbabwe government and non-government
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Limited substance abuse in Tsholotsho District, consisting
largely of marijuana use but some harder drugs, was mentioned
by a handful of informants during our research, but alcohol
abuse was mentioned frequently. Some Tshwa did occasionally
frequent shebeens (often unlicensed local shops which sell tra-
ditional, but sometimes stronger commercial, alcoholic drinks),
most of which were owned by members of other ethnic groups.
Tshwa rarely own shebeens. Some Tshwa people do brew tra-
ditional beer in order to generate income. Most people said that
they did not have the expendable income to spend on traditional
beer or other forms of alcohol.
Alcohol addiction is common in Southern Africa, and has been
observed to have particularly devastating effects on San com-
munities (Felton and Becker 2001:52, 60-63; Dieckmann et al.
2014). Alcohol related violence was responsible for substan-
tial numbers of injuries to women, children, and men in Tshwa
villages. Some villages reported recent serious incidents from
conflicts related to alcohol abuse, including stabbings and
domestic violence. A significant number of alcohol related
crimes in San communities was confirmed by local police of-
ficers in Tsholotsho. Alcohol consumption is a major cause of
social conflict. Of particular concern in San communities is
the abuse of alcohol to reduce hunger pangs or to alleviate
boredom due to unemployment and a lack of traditional or
other livelihoods activities. Another concern is the payment
or exchange of goods for alcohol by other ethnic groups. This
occurs, for example, with mopane worms harvested by Tshwa
in Tsholotsho District.
Several women suggested that a “community wellness pro-
gramme” should be instituted and include an alcohol and to-
bacco awareness component as well as a component dealing
with sexually transmitted diseases. Having a culturally sensi-
tive intervention programme for substance abuse that treats not
only the symptoms but also addresses some of the root causes
of the problems would go a long way toward assisting the peo-
ple in the communities of western Zimbabwe.
A common but mistaken perception of San peoples in
Zimbabwe is that they do not wish to participate in educa-
tion and that they “resist civilisation”. In fact, most Tshwa
parents we met understood the importance of education
and encouraged their children to attend school; however
our data indicated that more than half of the school-aged
Tshwa children were not attending school. In many cases,
Tshwa parents and other adults stated that they want their
children to be educated in schools. However, few Tshwa
raise a significant income with which to pay school fees,
alongside other deterrent issues including long distances to
schools, social issues such as teenage pregnancy and tru-
ancy, and a lack of appropriate curriculums in schools.
Pre-primary education/early childhood development
There is some pre-primary education, most of it provided by
Tshwa parents. In Sanqinyana village the community has con-
structed a basic preschool and raised private donations for ma-
terials. The quality of instruction was not clear, as it appeared
that no teacher training had been provided. However, there was
strong motivation within the community for mother tongue Early
Childhood Development (ECD) provision. Construction had be-
gun on a similar preschool at Gariya village, though at the time
of our visit the community had run out of money for materials
and construction had been suspended. There were discussions
of setting up other preschools in Tshwa communities. Tshwa
parents definitely considered ECD to be an important facet of
Tshwao language development for their children.
Primary and secondary education
Tshwa children rarely complete primary school and progress
into secondary education (see section 2.3). The costs, and to
a lesser extent distance, appeared to be the primary reasons
for the high number (41%) of children of a school-going age
who were not enrolled in formal education. Tshwa parents indi-
cated that their children were occasionally discriminated against
in schools, and the children were also sometimes subjected to
bullying by their peers and to corporal punishment by teachers
and administrators. There is a high dropout rate from school,
resulting in low levels of qualifications necessary for getting
jobs in the formal economy of Zimbabwe. School dropout is a
particular problem for Tshwa girls, some of whom left school be-
cause of the ways in which they were treated and in response to
pressures to engage in work in their families’ homes and fields.
Teenage pregnancy was also mentioned several times in group
interviews as a cause of Tshwa girls dropping out.
There are 30 primary schools in the Tsholotsho North Constitu-
ency and 13 secondary schools. None of the schools meets
the national standard for teacher-pupil ratio. All of the schools
are day schools except for Tsholotsho High School, which has
boarding facilities. The Tsholotsho District Council owns 29 of
the 30 schools; the other school, at Thebano, is owned by a
mission. The pass rate for Tshwa students is very low. Parents
said that the students were willing to learn, and that they appre-
ciated the efforts of the teachers in the schools. They did want
to see greater access to books and curricular materials, which
may be limited in some rural schools.
Tertiary education and vocational training
Few, if any, of Zimbabwe’s Tshwa have attended university. This
in a marked difference from the Shua of Manxotae and Nata
areas of Botswana who have received advanced university de-
grees and are working either for government (e.g., for the Min-
istry of Finance and Development Planning) or for non-govern-
ment organisations such as the Botswana Khwedom Council, a
national representative San body. This disparity between these
two related San groups merits further analysis.
Vocational training for Tshwa and other people in Tsholotsho is
available on a limited basis through food security projects. There
are NGOs that work at the local level, and some people have
gone to Tsholotsho, Nyamandlovu, and Bulawayo for training.
Workshops have been held by the Tsoro-o-tso San Development
Trust and other non-government organisations including World
Vision, Plan International and Médecins Sans Frontières, includ-
ing some relating to education, health, language, and practical
skills, for example, in agriculture, water, and sanitation.
There are significant efforts to promote multiculturalism and di-
versity by local non-government organisations and by individu-
als. The Constitution of Zimbabwe defines all black Zimbabwe-
ans as indigenous and therefore does not recognise the San
as distinct indigenous peoples. As noted previously, the new
Constitution (Government of Zimbabwe 2013) does, however,
recognise “Koisan” as a language (see section 2.5, this vol-
ume), one of 16 official languages in the country.
We asked the question “what languages are spoken in your
household?” as part of our survey. It was found that the number
of Tshwao speakers was 29; three people said that they spoke
Ganade, a Tshwao language. The vast majority of Tshwa were
Ndebele speakers, while the next most common language was
Kalanga (forming 62% and 35% respectively of languages re-
ported as spoken every day). Two people spoke Nambya, six
spoke Shona, three spoke Tonga, and two spoke English. Mul-
tilingualism was common.
One question that came up frequently, and merits further re-
search in order to resolve, was why the San on the Botswana
side of the border especially along the middle third of the Nata
River, who have cultural and linguistic similarities with the
Tshwa of Zimbabwe, were able to speak their language (most
often Shua) to a greater degree than those on the Zimbabwe
side of the border. Additionally, there is very little information
on the numbers of Tshwa and Shua and the degree to which
there are differences in terms of social identities and languages
among them. The uncertainty over the classification of group
names and language names is something that could be cleared
up through concerted linguistic work, some of which has been
carried out in Nata, Botswana by William McGregor of Aarhus
University and by Andy Chebanne of the University of Botswa-
na. Jeffrey Wills of the University of Zimbabwe has been coor-
dinating efforts with the Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust in
documenting Tshwao on the Zimbabwe side of the border.
The Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust held cultural festivals
for Tshwa in 2013, including one at Gariya on 17 August. The
Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust and the Creative Arts and
Educational Development Association (CAEDA) have also col-
laborated over several years with local communities and with
personnel from the University of Zimbabwe in the documenta-
tion of the Tshwao language. Workshops and meetings have
been held with Tshwa communities as part of an effort to pro-
mote Tshwa cultural and language revitalisation.
As previously mentioned in this report, the Tshwao language is
at a critical juncture where without formal support and develop-
ment it as at risk of extinction, due to the low number of fluent
Tshwao speakers. Most fluent Tshwao speakers are elderly and
a number pass away each year. However, a proportion of the
Tshwa community and individuals from civil society, academia
and government are pursuing the documentation and teaching
of Tshwao language in the district. A large proportion of Tshwa
we spoke to viewed the continuity of their language as very im-
portant, which can be evidenced by the community constructed
ECD centres for the purpose of teaching language and culture.
As of early 2015, community members, Tsoro-o-otso San De-
velopment Trust, University of Zimbabwe and Great Zimbabwe
University are assisting with Tshwao development, partnered
with various experts from regional and international academia.
This has included drafting of a dictionary, grammar and devel-
oping orthography. However, substantial support and invest-
ment will be needed to ensure that Tshwao teaching materials,
well trained teachers and acceptance of the language into the
national curriculums (at least at ECD/early primary grades) is
Our discussions with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary
Education indicated that the Ministry expects to produce basic
school materials in the Tshwao language but it is dependent in
part upon having good basic linguistic information. It remains to
be seen whether the Zimbabwe government will have the re-
sources and capacity to develop orthography of Tshwao along
with culturally appropriate educational and language materi-
als. Given the volume of work required a time frame of 5 to 10
years should be expected for Tshwao language and curriculum
development to be taken forward within the national education
framework. Substantial local efforts would be needed during
this period to maintain the language’s use.
Group discussion
Whilst traditionally San cultures had very differing roles for men
and women, gender relations were commonly equitable, with
some groups having been historically described by anthropol-
ogists as among the most equitable in the world. In practice
we have observed limited gender discrimination in San com-
munities across Southern Africa over the last decade. Gender-
based violence certainly occurs in some San communities, the
majority with men as aggressors though it is not uncommon to
hear of wives beating husbands. Additionally there are more
men in San local leadership roles across Southern Africa (e.g.
headmen, traditional leaders), though where women leaders
do emerge they are well respected and not limited to low-level
representation. Often San women, particularly younger women,
prefer to discuss matters in an informal environment rather
than in meetings or workshops as their participation in the latter
might be seen as wanting to impress men, which can be con-
sidered culturally inappropriate.
Tshwa villages in Tsholotsho District appear to have both fe-
male and male leaders, though we observed a greater num-
ber of men in these roles. On questioning, a number of women
leaders told us there was no discrimination against women,
as this was foreign to Tshwa culture. One female focus group
stated that women were commonly known as the family deci-
sion makers, in contrast to neighbouring Kalanga and Ndebele
households, though Tshwa women would often appear submis-
sive towards men despite this decision making role. We were
also told by a number of groups of men that they were happy to
have women leaders, and that in fact other Africans and whites
were the groups who discriminated against women rather than
the Tshwa. Questions arose as to whether the Tshwa were em-
ulating neighbouring groups in their practices such as having
women do the bulk of the household work, having males domi-
nate political discussions, and having more men in positions of
influence than women. The Tshwa, in answer to this question,
said that they felt that at least some Tshwa were following some
of the models of their neighbours.
Female focus groups stated that gender based violence was
low in the San community, though others described that it did
occur sometimes and attributed it in part to alcohol abuse (see
Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Health section).
Cultural Identity
Despite the lack of language skills and apparent dilution of tra-
ditional knowledge, San or Tshwa identity seemed to be strong.
Frequently Tshwa respondents established the differences be-
tween the Tshwa and their neighbours in terms of livelihood,
representation and cultural variations. Despite this, intermar-
riage with other ethnic groups was mentioned several times as
being completely acceptable.
Culturally, cross-border relationships between Zimbabwe and
Botswana are important to the people of Tsholotsho. Tshwa
have relatives on both sides of the Zimbabwe-Botswana border
and would like to visit them without risk if at all possible and
maintain links with them. Cross-border issues are therefore a
concern since some Tshwa and others who have crossed the
border into Botswana have been arrested and deported back
to Zimbabwe. According to Tshwa in both Zimbabwe and Bot-
swana, the presence of electrified fences along the Botswana-
Zimbabwe border has raised concerns about people’s safety.
The need for children to learn Tshwao and to pass on tradi-
tional knowledge was raised frequently. Whilst traditional heal-
ing dances may not be performed very often, use of traditional
medicine is still widespread, as is the use of bush food, with
some plants apparently specifically known and collected by the
Tshwa. Children certainly took part in gathering of some food
items during our research, notably harvesting mopane worms.
In a number of discussions the historical connections with the
land were brought up; several informants mentioned family his-
tory in the Hwange National Park area, where Tshwa were pre-
viously resident and evicted during colonial rule.
Whilst we were informed that some, especially younger male
Tshwa were working in Bulawayo, typically as gardeners, and
examples of some Tshwa working in Botswana or South Africa
were given, the general impression was one of limited social
mobility and migration. As mentioned elsewhere the low edu-
cational attainment of the Tshwa is undoubtedly a factor in this
situation. However, whilst the Tshwa’s distinct cultural identity
was often mentioned within the community, despite reasonably
Figure 9. Overview of representative institutions
relevant for the San of Zimbabwe
homogenous communities and the lack of migration there ap-
pears to be a lack of successful transfer of cultural practices
and language to younger generations of Tshwa, which warrants
further attention.
Discrimination on the basis of culture, ethnicity
and language
Whilst we observed limited discrimination on the basis of ethnic-
ity compared with some other San groups in Southern Africa, it
was present to some degree. On a national level in Zimbabwe,
very little is known about San people. Many Zimbabweans we
met outside of Matabeleland North knew of the San, but not
that any lived in Zimbabwe, and those who did know of the
Tshwa typically reiterated stereotypes of San culture (nomadic
hunters). Care should be taken not to reinforce such stereo-
types and occasional comments of this nature by government
staff and others to the media and in public speeches should
be avoided. This aside, the Government of Zimbabwe on the
whole presented a positive outlook towards ensuring San rights
are to be respected and the Zimbabwean public appears inter-
ested in San culture and livelihoods.
In Tsholotsho District relations with other ethnic groups ap-
peared generally positive, though some discrimination is pre-
sent. Local representation is inclusive of all ethnic groups but
ethnic nepotism is a particular point of concern, especially with
regard to cases mentioned where resettlement of Tshwa due
to encroachment for grazing land by more affluent groups oc-
curs (see section 4.10 below). Some cultural discrimination
was reported. For example, one elderly informant who was
half Tonga and half Tshwa emphasized that, whilst both groups
were minorities, no person had ever verbally abused her for be-
ing Tonga, but it had frequently occurred in reference to being
Tshwa on the basis of culture or appearance. However, it was
also clear that some aspects of Tshwa culture including tradi-
tional medicine and certain bush foods were highly regarded
by non-Tshwa.
As Tshwa people have adopted the languages of their neigh-
bours over time, little discrimination occurs based on Tshwao
language use; however rapid action is required to prevent this
language from becoming extinct.
During our research we met numerous Tshwa headmen and
leaders, both men and women. The leadership structures con-
formed more to Zimbabwe local governance structures than tra-
ditional leadership roles in Tshwa culture (see Figure 9). How-
ever, with the exception of kraal heads, of which there are two,
none of these people had official positions within defined local
governance structures. Therefore representation and political
influence outside of their Tshwa communities varied, and was
dependent to some extent on personal relations, though some
San headmen are frequently consulted by local government. A
few individuals appear to be recognised across the Tshwa as
representatives, and though they have no official role or title,
they do present community issues to district officials or other
state structures.
In areas where San live with other ethnic groups it was stated
that only a few San village headmen existed. This could be a
source of friction, especially where land allocation is concerned.
Several San community members highlighted issues with non-
San village heads who had told them to move their homesteads
due to grazing or other land requirements of non-San neigh-
bours. The Tshwa felt their local representation was poor in
such circumstances.
There are at least half a dozen Tshwa traditional authorities in
Tsholotsho, and one Tshwa is a local chief. There is also one
Tshwa district councillor in the Tsholotsho District Council. A
goal of the Tshwa is to increase their participation in govern-
ment and civil society activities. Another goal is to get more
people into local-level, district-level, provincial, and national-
level government positions, since this is seen as a way to foster
development in their communities. In March 2015, Tsholotsho
Rural District Council (TRDC) agreed to sign a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) with the San to collaborate on issues to
do with development and leadership in their communities.
The Tshwa would also like to play a greater role in regional and
Africa-wide activities involving San and other minority peoples.
As early as 1995, a delegation of San and development work-
ers from Namibia and Botswana visited the Tsholotsho and
Bulilima-Mangwe districts and found that there were some
2,500 Tshwa in the two districts, some of whom expressed
their wish to be part of a larger San regional organisation (Axel
Thoma, pers. comm. 1995, 2012, 2013). In 2013, some Tshwa
representatives took part in regional meetings of San organisa-
tions, including ones sponsored by WIMSA (Working Group of
Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa) and various interna-
tional donors. A regional San planning meeting was hosted by a
faith-based organization, Habbakuk Trust and WIMSA in Bula-
wayo from 23-27 July, 2014 in which issues concerning San
were discussed. One of the participants in the meeting was the
Member of Parliament for Tsholotsho North, Roseline Nkomo,
who pledged to support initiatives to empower and promote the
rights and welfare of San people in Zimbabwe. It was clear from
this meeting that greater efforts are needed to coordinate the
efforts of non-government organisations working with San and
other peoples in western Zimbabwe.
During group discussions held during the survey, the Tshwa
stated that they hope that broad-based participation and knowl-
edge sharing opportunities will increase in coming years. They
also hope to participate in meetings on indigenous peoples and
minorities in the future and to work alongside other groups in
Zimbabwe to facilitate equity, social justice, and human rights in
the country. However, the Tshwa’s own representative structure
has yet to emerge, and as discussed above little local govern-
ment representation yet exists. Access to justice is also an is-
sue, since they do not always have equal access to customary
and state courts for redress of wrongs and when tried before
courts they are often given longer sentences.
 rights-basedapproach
The issue of indigeneity
As mentioned earlier (section 2.5), the GOZ—like most gov-
ernments in Southern Africa—does not recognize the concept
“indigenous peoples” in its modern analytical understanding.
Instead, the Zimbabwe government espouses in public state-
ments and policies what it terms “indigenisation” which in line
with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (IEEA,
2007) refers to localisation, empowerment, and expansion of
economic opportunities for all Zimbabwean groups considered
to have been disadvantaged before independence. But unlike
Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa the Zimbabwean govern-
ment does not even have a government unit or programme de-
voted specifically to minority affairs.
It is, however, important to note that many hunter-gatherer and
former hunter-gatherer groups in Southern Africa—including
the Tshwa of Zimbabwe—identify themselves as indigenous
peoples (Saugestad 2001; Sapignoli 2012; Lee 2013). Not only
because many of them believe that they represent clear and ar-
chetypal examples of “first comers”, having resided in the areas
for generations. But also because they have a history of hunting
and gathering, and foraging that is viewed as an important part
of their identity both by them and by some of their neighbours;
they furthermore have a long history of marginalisation and dis-
crimination that has put their distinct culture and identity under
threat. The San thus meet the African Commission’s criteria for
indigenous peoples, and are therefore recognized as being in-
digenous by the African Commission on Human and Peoples
Rights (ACHPR 2005, 2006).
One of the misunderstandings of states about indigenous peo-
ples’ rights is the idea that protecting the rights of indigenous
peoples necessarily means that government would be giving
special rights to one group over another, and that separat-
ing certain groups out as indigenous would be reminiscent of
apartheid (separate development). This could potentially lead
to unfair situations with respect to the delivery of services and
development assistance. Indigenous peoples are quick to point
out that they are seeking equitable treatment, not special treat-
ment. They want the same rights as other groups: the right to
representation, the right to organize and take part in the politi-
cal process, the right to be consulted, and the right to benefit
equally from development projects.
The rights-based approach
This is why San human rights activists and NGOs have sug-
gested that a rights-based approach be taken to the issues fac-
ing San in Zimbabwe. Some of the kinds of rights to which San
drew attention in our discussions were as follows:
Subsistence rights are those rights related to the fulfilment of
basic human needs (e.g. water, food, shelter, and access to
health assistance and medicines). The Tshwa realise full well
the need for conservation of wildlife, plants, and other resourc-
es. At the same time, they feel that they should be able to ex-
ploit resources as long as they do so sustainably.
Development rights are those rights to engage in development,
or the raising of the social, economic, and psychological wellbe-
ing of people. Tshwa have sought to enhance their develop-
ment and have sought to get government and civil society to
help them in this process.
Land rights include individual or collective tenure to land and
resources, including for economic benefits, culture and identity.
Alongside the right to utilise natural resources detailed above,
the Tshwa seek better representation and participation in solv-
ing local land disputes, where some perceive their right of oc-
cupation to be less respected than grazing rights and, when it
occurs, in resettlement processes.
Heritage rights include those rights to culturally and ideologi-
cally significant property such as sacred sites, places on the
landscape that are viewed by local peoples as important. In-
digenous peoples view land as holy, as having far more sig-
nificance than simply as a material or economic good. Some
groups have argued vociferously for the protection of sacred
sites, including caves and rock shelters containing rock art and
open, boulder-strewn areas where there are engravings (petro-
glyphs). The protection of archaeological sites, historic sites,
and shrines and other sacred sites was seen as particularly
important. This issue arose in the discussions surrounding the
setting aside of the Matopos Hills (in Matabeleland South) as a
national monument/park (Ranger 1999). Several Tshwa told us
that they wanted to have access to the rock art and archaeologi-
cal sites and shrines inside Hwange National Park without hav-
ing to pay the entrance fees for the park, and they wanted to be
able to do ceremonies at these localities. In other words, Tshwa
wanted on the one hand to promote conservation of natural re-
sources, but they also wanted to ensure that cultural heritage
rights were taken into consideration.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are those rights of groups to
their unique knowledge and cultural information, much of which
is informal and is transmitted orally from one generation to the
next. San have sought to have governments, international or-
ganisations and multinational corporations recognise their intel-
lectual property rights and compensate them for the exploitation
of culturally significant knowledge (Wynberg, Schroeder, and
Chennells 2009). Tshwa, like other indigenous peoples, would
like to see their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) be drawn
upon in conservation and development efforts. They also want
to have intellectual property rights over valuable commodities in
their areas. Some of the plants for which there are discussions
concerning intellectual property rights are (1) Hoodia spp. (e.g.,
Hoodia gordonii) which is a succulent that has thirst and hun-
ger-allaying properties, (2) Devil’s Claw or grapple plant (Harpa-
gophytum procumbens), a nuisance plant on the one hand, and
one that is useful for medicinal purposes on the other. Devil’s
Claw is used for treating headaches, and there is a market in
South Africa, Europe, Canada, and the United States for the
product; (3) morama (tsin bean, Tylosema esculenta), a bean
that grows on a vine which is high in proteins, fats, and nutri-
ents, (4) mongongo (Schinziophyton rautanenii) nuts and oils,
and (5) marula, both of which have been described previously.
Efforts are being made to expand the exploitation and sale of
those products, with an eye toward ensuring sustainable utilisa-
tion by non-government organizations in Zimbabwe and else-
where in Southern Africa, and the Tshwa of Tsholotsho would
like to be a part of these efforts.
Biological property rights include rights to people’s biological
materials, including their bodies and genetic materials such
as DNA. In Southern Africa, efforts were made by indigenous
groups and their supporters to have the bodies, body parts, and
cultural property of individuals who had been taken to Europe
for display or analysis returned or repatriated to the countries
from which they came (Parsons 2002). The Tshwa, aware of
some of the efforts of other countries in Southern Africa, notably
Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia would
like to see greater care taken regarding the obtaining of genetic
materials and would like the return of biological and cultural ma-
terials from other countries and their institutions. This point was
raised during the course of visits to communities by geneticists
and their colleagues in Southern Africa in 2015 (Pankhorst and
Stone 2015).
The Tshwa in Zimbabwe experience considerable levels of
poverty, lack of service provision, lack of representation,
poor access to education and some discrimination. These find-
ings correspond with issues facing San communities in remote
rural areas of Southern Africa, especially in remote areas of
Botswana, Namibia and Angola, though the loss of language
in particular is far more acute among the Tshwa. The Tshwa in
Zimbabwe appear to often live in close proximity to other eth-
nic groups, principally Ndebele and Kalanga, somewhat more
so than seen in the other countries mentioned. While all ethnic
groups in Tsholotsho District experience similar issues of pov-
erty and lack of service delivery as the Tshwa, the further extent
to which the Tshwa were affected was marked, and the lack
of representation and poor educational attainment were very
Supporting the Tshwa will require policy change, advocacy and
programme implementation. There are a number of conclu-
sions that can be reached about the Tshwa and their neigh-
bours in western Zimbabwe and what they would like to see for
Communities must have the power and authority to under-
take projects and development activities that they deem nec-
essary. What this means is that power and authority must be
devolved from central, regional, and district levels not just to
the community-based organisation level, but to the sub-groups
of the communities involved, including classes, socioeconomic
groups such as groups of craft producers, ethnic minorities,
households, and individuals.
Local institutions should be self-governing; they should not have
to answer to higher-level authorities for all of their activities. At
the same time, those institutions should be allowed to have the
power and authority to make decisions regarding such issues
as benefits distribution from programmes such as CAMPFIRE.
All members of the community, not just the elites or members
of specific ethnic groups, should have a significant say in the
operations of community-based organisations. All community
members should be able to participate in all aspects of the in-
stitution’s planning and project implementation and decision-
Crucial to the success of a community-based organisation are
transparency, openness, and flexibility. Community-based or-
ganisations and non-government organisations must set their
own priorities and mobilise themselves to achieve those priori-
ties. Mechanisms must be developed in coordination with such
organisations, which foster accountability and responsibility,
and not just participation.
Natural and cultural resource management and governance
regimes must take account of diverse interests. Careful atten-
tion must be paid to constraints within government, private and
non-government sectors in terms of the ways in which they
treat specific groups (for example, ethnic minorities or people
who are perceived as being non-members). If it is determined
that there are biases in the ways that groups are treated, efforts
must be made to ensure that all actions are equitable and that
they do not either favour or harm a specific group. Equity and
fair treatment are keys to successful sustainable development
and natural resource management.
It is in the best interests of community-based natural resource
management and local communities if the state and other agen-
cies recognise those communities, including but not limited to
the Tshwa, officially as proprietary units with de jure rights
over land, wildlife, veld products, minerals, and other natural
resources over which they maintain legal control in perpetuity.
The conservation and development work undertaken at the lo-
cal level must be planned and monitored in detail in order to
ensure environmental sustainability, and the institutional ca-
pacities of the community-based organisations, communities,
households, and individuals involved.
It is very important for the Government, national institutions and
civil society to conduct detailed social, economic, and political
assessments of communities and to implement methodologies
that are sensitive to community and individual differences to
ensure that class, gender, age, power, identity, disability, occu-
pational, and other characteristics are taken into consideration.
The constitutional, management and administration systems
of community organisations and projects should not be overly
complex from an organisational standpoint. The implementa-
tion of community-based natural resource management activi-
5. conclUsIons
ties is both time-consuming and labour-intensive. Working at
the rhythm of communities is critical in local-level development.
Democracy, equity, participation, open-ended consultation, in-
formation sharing and group and individual responsibility are all
keys to success in project implementation. Government institu-
tions, non-government organisations, and communities should
all be willing to allow bottom-up decision-making and open to
allowing local people, regardless of their ethnic, class, or social
backgrounds, to make their own choices regarding conserva-
tion, development, and governance and to benefit from the vari-
ous activities being implemented. The devolution of authority
must be done through negotiation and interaction rather than
through statutory mandate and the imposition of strict rules and
conditions. The differing traditional leaderships of San commu-
nities, which were often consensus-based with defined leaders
for different objectives according to their knowledge and experi-
ence, should be recognised in the process of defining San lead-
We have provided a range of recommendations below
based on data, observations, interviews and interna-
tional standards. Certainly many of these recommendations
depend on investments—finance, time and skills—and hence
will require government and donor resources in order to imple-
ment them. Whilst some recommendations are specific to the
situation of the San in Zimbabwe, many are applicable to all
residents of Tsholotsho District, and no doubt other rural com-
munities across the country.
(1) Government should review the status of other minori-
ties in Zimbabwe alongside the San, and consider the
creation of an office of minority affairs at the national
level. This could commence with follow-up work on the
Tshwa San of Matabeleland South and of the Doma
(Vadema) in the Zambezi Valley.
(2) A stakeholder workshop to discuss the recommenda-
tions of this report should be held at the community
level in the Tsholotsho district, in district council offices
in Tsholotsho town, and in the Matabeleland North pro-
vincial office in Bulawayo, and in government and civil
society offices in Harare.
(3) A coordinating meeting should be held among all of the
stakeholders to discuss the implications of the current
(4) Urgent attention should be paid to the issue of minor-
ity languages in Zimbabwe, including undertaking
research on the Tshwao language, which is seriously
Short- and medium-term:
(5) An applied research programme should be undertak-
en in which land and resource issues are addressed
among minority peoples in Zimbabwe.
(6) Give wide-ranging powers to the new Human Rights
Commission, as recommended in the most recent re-
view of Zimbabwe by the Working Group on the Uni-
versal Periodic Review.
(7) Expand coordination among government agencies,
donors, non-government organisations and commu-
nities in western Zimbabwe.
(8) Government and local authorities should ensure that
San communities and representatives be involved in
discussing and designing government initiated pro-
jects and interventions that will affect them.
(9) Encourage cross-border cooperation on indigenous
peoples and minority issues: Zimbabwe should un-
dertake an investigation of the efforts of neighbouring
countries to address minority and indigenous peoples’
issues. This would entail evaluating the various offic-
es, such as the San Development Programme in the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia, the
Remote Area Development Programme in the Minis-
try of Local Government and Rural Development in
Botswana, and the KhoeSan related offices in South
(10) Zimbabwe government should strengthen its dialogue
with the Working Group on Indigenous Communities/
Populations of the African Commission on Human
and Peoples’ Rights and invite it for a country mission
to Zimbabwe.
(11) Zimbabwe government should expand its involve-
ment in international conventions concerning minori-
ties and indigenous peoples including considering
sending a delegation to the meetings of the United
Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
(12) Zimbabwe government should seek to obtain the
services of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of
Indigenous People, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, for a visit to
assess the situation of minority and indigenous peo-
ples in Zimbabwe.
(13) Zimbabwe government should promote discussion
with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on
Convention No.169 (the Indigenous and Tribal Peo-
ples Convention.
(14) Zimbabwe should increase national awareness of
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of In-
digenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to which Zimbabwe is
a signatory, with a view to strengthening participatory
development strategies for minorities in Zimbabwe
and invoking rights-based approaches.
(15) The Zimbabwe National Archives and the Univer-
sity of Zimbabwe should consider collecting the
various reports on minority and indigenous peoples
in Southern Africa; these would include the recent
(2014) report on the situation of the San in Namibia
6. RecommendatIons
(Dieckmann et al. 2014), the statement by the gov-
ernment of Botswana to the 2014 meetings of the UN
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, statements
made by Southern African governments made at the
World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the vari-
ous reports of organisations such as the International
Labour Organisation (2010), and the African Commis-
sion on Human and Peoples’ Rights and some, if not
all, of the policy papers of the various governments.
(1) Secure de jure (legal) rights to land for Tshwa popu-
lations, in line with recommendations of national
reports on land tenure and recommendations of the
Land Commission and government and non-govern-
ment policy recommendations on land reform.
(2) Ensure that where resettlement occurs, risks have
been accurately evaluated, and families affected
have participated in consultations and provision has
been made for compensation and resettlement as-
Short- and medium-term:
(3) Undertake additional research on land use and land
tenure among Tshwa, with an eye toward coming up
with recommendations for addressing land access
and land tenure security issues.
(4) Examine possibilities for innovative communal land
tenure developments for the San people in Zim-
babwe by drawing inspiration from group rights
schemes in Southern Africa and other parts of Africa.
(5) In line with article 10 of the UNDRIP, indigenous peo-
ples should not be forcibly removed from their lands
or territories. Where resettlement is unavoidable and
agreed with Free, Prior and Informed Consent, en-
sure that compensation meets requirements to re-
establish long-term livelihoods and that information
is widely available to those affected.
(1) Assess current annual drought relief provisions by civil
society and state, including participation of community
representatives and health services, to identify and pre-
empt times of acute food shortages.
Short- and medium-term:
(2) Efforts must be made to improve livestock and agricul-
ture knowledge and skills, through trainings, monitoring
and/or local livestock and agriculture mentoring sys-
(3) Alongside training and technical support, increase
provision of seeds and farming implements to remote
communities, ensuring appropriate seasonal timings of
seed delivery.
(4) Promote availability of draught power, if not through
provision of animals then through loan systems ar-
ranged in local communities.
(5) Provide access to livestock through a livestock loan and
repayment by progeny scheme.
(6) Ensure veterinary services can be accessed in remote
Short- and medium-term:
(1) Seek to raise living standards through a diversified de-
velopment approach, use a poverty alleviation strategy
aimed at reducing the constraints affecting communi-
ties, households, and individuals.
(2) Conduct a thorough examination of the CAMPFIRE
programme and other CBNRM or environmental pro-
grammes with a goal of improving benefits to local com-
munities and individuals.
(3) Research the viability of opening or expanding markets
for agriculture, natural resources and tourism for the
(4) Local government should sensitise community leaders
to different livelihood practices and land uses, including
use of natural resources as practised by the Tshwa.
(5) Increased monitoring of land disputes within or between
communities and facilitation of conflict resolution should
be implemented to ensure that marginalised groups, in-
cluding those with lower numbers of cattle, are treated
(6) Promote the establishment of recognised natural re-
source rights for communities, especially in regard to
natural products where ongoing livelihood or food reli-
ance exists, including the areas in which they are col-
(7) Consider improve San employment opportunities within
the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority or Ministry
of Tourism and Hospitality, particularly for San with
heritage links to Hwange National Park and/or tracking
(8) Expand the research on the effects of global and local
climate change among the Tshwa and their neighbors
in western Zimbabwe.
(9) Monitor the occurrences and impacts of changing sea-
sonal rainfalls that has greatly affected agriculture, fish-
ing and bush food harvesting, and severe weather that
has resulted in serious floods.
(1) Ensure immunisation provision reaches the most re-
mote areas.
(2) Improve knowledge, availability of testing and treat-
ment for both malaria and tuberculosis (TB).
(3) Ensure adequate provision of bed nets during high-
risk malaria seasons, or consider subsidising local
businesses to provide bed nets.
(4) Institute a “community wellness programme” that in-
cludes an alcohol and tobacco awareness component
as well as a component dealing with sexually trans-
mitted diseases.
(5) Implement a culturally sensitive intervention pro-
gramme for substance abuse that addresses some of
the root causes of the problems.
(6) Households who care for orphans and vulnerable
children should be particularly monitored and/or sup-
ported to ensure children are reaching minimum nutri-
tional standards.
(7) Ensure local representatives identify and report indi-
viduals at risk to social or health services, including
elderly, disabled, orphans and vulnerable children.
(8) Ensure adequate provision of food and water to peo-
ple on ARVs.
(9) Implement alcohol education and treatment pro-
grammes in Tsholotsho District, including participatory
discussions with affected communities.
(10) Monitor shebeens and business centre stores for
compliance with the law.
(1) Expand the availability of functional water facilities
and improve maintenance of water points, including
increasing the local availability of spare parts.
(2) Supply water purification tablets/equipment, or train-
ing for basic or UV-based purification measures,
where short-term water needs cannot be met, particu-
larly to families with infants and chronic health prob-
(3) Increase provision of information and basic infrastruc-
ture for sanitation to reduce open defecation.
(1) Improve access to education through subsidising of
school fees and expanding the numbers of schools
and training institutions.Short- and medium-term:
(2) Examine and solve issues related to uniform and
clothing provisions which act as barriers to school at-
tendance for very poor families.
(3) Include sensitisation training for education staff on
Tshwa school attendance issues and investigate
whether curricula are culturally appropriate.
(4) Establish peer support programmes for Tshwa chil-
dren at risk of dropping out of school.
(5) Alleviate transportation problems through the addi-
tional provision of local transport or encouragement
of the private sector in this area.
(6) Support community preschool programmes in Tshwa
communities, through provision of funding, infrastruc-
ture, and teachers, building upon current independent
community efforts.
(7) Recognise diverse needs of both learners and com-
munities, including involving Tshwa parents.
(8) Evaluate and where necessary expand school feed-
ing programmes.
(9) Increase access to vocational education, particularly
for San youth.
(10) Make additional curricular materials available in the
schools and communities, some of which should be
devoted to ethics and rights-based education.
(1) Support financially the development of an orthography
for the Tshwao language.
Short- and medium-term:
(2) Support the translation of available culturally relevant
San basic education materials into Tshwao for both pre-
schools and primary schools (e.g., the Government of
Namibia approved ECD materials in Khwe and !Kung)
to encourage teaching in mother tongue.
(3) Subsequently plan the Zimbabwean development of
Tshwao materials.
(4) Support Tshwa elders to teach in ECD or similar set-
(5) Support expansion of linguistics research among
Tshwa, particularly through encouraging Zimbabwe
students and linkages with foreign universities with
relevant experience (including University of Botswana,
and European and South African university experts on
Tshwa and Shua).
Short- and medium-term:
(1) Practice gender-based programmes which are sensi-
tised to San culture rather than blanket approaches,
preserving aspects of traditional gender equality.
(2) Improve availability of contraception to young women
and ensure that family planning advice is available, par-
ticularly targeting those at risk of school dropout.
(3) Encourage programmes and activities for youth and es-
pecially young women, in light of drop out and teenage
pregnancy rates.
Short- and medium-term:
(1) Publicise San culture in a more positive light in the na-
tional media, avoiding negative stereotypes and pater-
nalistic development approaches common in Southern
Short- and medium-term:
(1) Ensure local non-Tshwa representatives encourage
balanced representation in Tshwa areas, and actively
discourage ethnic nepotism.
(2) Expand opportunities for Tshwa and their representa-
tive to attend district, provincial, national, and interna-
tional meetings and workshops.
(3) Support the capacity development of Tshwa institutions
and organizations, and expand the capacity of Tshwa
institutions and traditional authorities to address issues
of development.
(4) Incorporate additional Tshwa leaders in traditional, dis-
trict, provincial and national authority structures.
(5) Provide training sessions for leadership especially in
understanding the different leadership structures of
ethnic groups and government in Zimbabwe.
(6) Assist in coordinating and facilitating community leader-
ship training as has been done in other Southern African
countries such as Namibia (Biesele 2003; Dieckmann
et al. 2014) and Botswana (Hitchcock 1988; Hitchcock
and Vinding 2004).
Short- and medium-term:
(1) Examine the recommendations of the African Commis-
sion on Human and Peoples’ Rights Working Group of
Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities and
provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPs), including
those related to land, resources and self-determination
and consider how these provisions can be implemented
in Zimbabwe.
(2) Ensure that rights enshrined within the Zimbabwean
Constitution, national acts and international conven-
tions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory are applied with
equal merit to all populations within the country.
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7. IndeX
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) 22, 54
Agriculture 7, 13, 22, 30, 32, 39, 41, 50, 59, 60
Borehole 34, 46
Chief 8, 53
Communal Areas Management Program
for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) 37, 43, 45, 56, 59
Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) 45, 59
Dams 34, 39, 46
Doma 3, 8, 58
Education 8, 10, 11, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 36, 49, 50, 51, 52, 56, 60
Elephants 15, 34, 37, 40, 46
Fast Track Land Reform Programme 22, 36
Fire 32, 33, 37, 42, 43, 45, 46, 56, 59
Fishing 15, 45, 46, 60
Food relief 32, 41
Foraging 22, 49, 54
Forestry 37, 38, 42, 43, 45
Gender 25, 26, 27, 48, 52, 56, 61
Gukurahundi 19, 36
HIV/AIDS 8, 11, 35, 47, 48, 58
Hunting 12, 13, 15, 16, 32, 33, 38, 43, 45, 54
Hwange National Park 11, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, 37, 38, 42, 52, 54, 59
Independence 18, 19, 22, 54
Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act 22, 24, 54
International Labour Organisation (ILO) 25, 58, 59
Land rights 37, 54
Livestock 8, 10, 13, 17, 19, 20, 31, 32, 34, 39, 40, 41, 45, 46, 47, 59
Local government 7, 18, 53, 58, 59
Matabeleland North 7, 10, 11, 14, 18, 26, 28, 32, 35, 36, 45, 53, 58
Matabeleland South 7, 14, 18, 19, 26, 54, 58
Medicinal Plants 12
Mining 13, 39
Mopane worms 32, 33, 42, 43, 46, 49, 52
Nata River 14, 50
Ndlovu, Davy 10, 21, 26
Nutrition 8, 48, 49
Poaching 16, 37
Police 11, 37, 43, 49
Poverty 10, 18, 32, 48, 56, 59
Resettlement 8, 18, 19, 22, 30, 36-39, 45, 53, 54, 59
South Africa 10, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 24, 25, 36, 38, 52, 54, 55, 58, 61
Southern African Development Community (SADC) 18
Tourism 13, 22, 30, 59
Traditional Healers 4
Tshwao Language 8, 10 26, 32, 50, 51, 53, 58, 60
Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust (TSDT) 8, 13, 14, 18,
36, 50, 51
Tuberculosis (TB) 35, 47, 48, 60
United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues
Universal Periodic Review 8, 24
Ward 8, 10, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 31, 36, 49, 51,
52, 53, 55, 59
Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa
(WIMSA) 13, 18, 53
World Heritage Site 38, 39
Zimbabwe Constitution 24
... The Zimbabwe Census documents the numbers of people in Zimbabwe and their demographic and socio-economic characteristics without mention of San (Hitchcock et al. 2016a). ...
... The majority of Tshwa today reside in Tsholotsho and Bulalima-Mangwe Districts of the Matabeleland North and South Provinces of Zimbabwe. Tshwa people have adopted the languages of their neighbours over time, therefore little discrimination occurs based on Tshwao language use; however rapid action is required to prevent this language from becoming extinct (Hitchcock et al. 2016a). ...
... The average arable plot size was less than 100 m², and no San had arable land over a hectare in size. There was a significant number of people who claimed to be landless, meaning that they did not have the means to grow enough food for their households and therefore had to depend on other people or the government to provide them with food and cash (Hitchcock et al. 2016a). ...
Full-text available
Report on behalf of IWGIA on Food Security of San in Southern Africa
... This article considers the experiences of southern African San, who today number some 130,000 in seven countries (Table 1). The focus is primarily on the ways in which San were affected by the struggles for independence in Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe (see Brinkman 2005;Dieckmann et al. 2014;Hitchcock et al. 2016;Huntley 2017;Kreike 2004). Consideration is also given to the impacts of conservation initiatives on San in the region. ...
... The Tshwa, who number some 7800 in western Zimbabwe and northern Botswana today, were some of the first San to be removed from a protected area, in this case the Wankie Game Reserve (later, Hwange National Park), in 1927-1928(Davison 1977Hitchcock et al. 2015Hitchcock et al. , 2016Hitchcock et al. :16-17, 2018Haynes n.d.). In 1929, hunting legislation was passed in Rhodesia (the Game and Fish Preservation Act of 1929). ...
... The situation in Zimbabwe continues to be complex, not just because of its treatment of indigenous peoples, but in general (Hitchcock et al. 2016(Hitchcock et al. , 2018. The carrying out of land reform activities after 2000 saw hundreds of commercial farmers dispossessed, along with the loss of jobs and homes for those who had worked for them. ...
Full-text available
There has been a long-standing debate about the roles of San in the militaries of southern Africa and the prevalence of violence among the Ju/'hoansi and other San people. The evolutionary anthropology and social anthropological debates over the contexts in which violence and warfare occurs among hunters and gatherers are considered, as is the “tribal zone theory” of warfare between states and indigenous people. This paper assesses the issues that arise from these discussions, drawing on data from San in Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Utilizing cases of how San have been affected by military forces and wildlife conservation agencies in what became protected areas in southern Africa, this article shows that indigenous peoples have been treated differentially by state and nongovernmental organizations involved in anti-poaching, shoot-to-kill, and forced resettlement policies. Particular emphasis is placed on the !Xun and Khwe San of southern Angola and northern Namibia and the Tshwa San of western Zimbabwe and northern Botswana, who have been impacted by militarization and coercive conservation efforts since the late nineteenth century. Principal conclusions are that conservation and militarization efforts have led to a reduction in land and resources available to indigenous people, higher levels of poverty, increased socioeconomic stratification, and lower levels of physical well-being. San have responded to these trends by engaging in social activism, forming community-based institutions, and pursuing legal actions aimed at obtaining human rights and equitable treatment.
... Currently, faculties in Zimbabwean universities do not have renowned Stone Age scholars. Recently, international researchers have taken a keen interest in the Tshwa (San) hunter-gatherers in western Zimbabwe (Hitchcock et al., 2016). San cultural heritage and identity, which is threatened with extinction, is not actively promoted and publicised in postcolonial Zimbabwe (Chingwe, 2019;Hitchcock et al., 2016;Lee and Hitchcock, 2001). ...
... Recently, international researchers have taken a keen interest in the Tshwa (San) hunter-gatherers in western Zimbabwe (Hitchcock et al., 2016). San cultural heritage and identity, which is threatened with extinction, is not actively promoted and publicised in postcolonial Zimbabwe (Chingwe, 2019;Hitchcock et al., 2016;Lee and Hitchcock, 2001). Official narratives are silent about the San people, who are considered the 'first' inhabitants of Zimbabwe (Fisher, 2010: 137). ...
This article critically assesses how heritage has been appropriated in various contexts to create national, partisan, and corporate identities in Zimbabwe. Using iconography, we attempt to establish how various players have created visual identities based on iconic archaeological artefacts and places. We discern that archaeological evidence has played a vital role in the invention and re-invention of national identity and patriotic iconography. Archaeological evidence has influenced the branding of corporate bodies, including universities, which are the major focus of this paper. Visual manifestations of the ancient Zimbabwe Culture (madzimbahwe), especially Great Zimbabwe, dominate the branding process. The Zimbabwe bird, Conical Tower, and motifs associated with the drystone built heritage form the key visual elements in the country’s branding enterprise. We advance the argument that the period associated with madzimbahwe has been projected as the only ‘Golden Age’ of ancient Zimbabwe. Consequently, other heritages, diverse histories, and past cultural achievements have been marginalised.
... The Haddad of Chad grow a vareity of crops and, like other foragers, their reliance on a diverse range of crops has expanded over time[1]. The same is true for the Tshwa San of western Zimbabwe[54]. It is interesting to note that of the 149 Tshwa households surveyed in Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe, only 4 had cattle of their own, but 90% of them engaged in agriculture. ...
... The Haddad of Chad grow a vareity of crops and, like other foragers, their reliance on a diverse range of crops has expanded over time[1]. The same is true for the Tshwa San of western Zimbabwe[54]. It is intersting to note that of the 149 Tshwa households surveyed in Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe, only 4 had cattle of their own, but 90% of them engaged in agriculture. ...