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BUSHMEN: the hunters now hunt guerillas

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The copper-colored woman looked toward the stars, holding up her infant to face the moon and praying it would be gifted with "the heart of the hunter." Her plea, according to writer Laurens van der Post, was for the child to receive the instinct for survival in the desolate stretches of southern Africa's Kalahari Desert. Mother and child were members of the Bushman race, one of the last nomadic groups of hunters and foragers in Africa.

Now, Bushmen truly are being trained to have the "heart of a hunter." But their quarry is not free-ranging land bucks or swift duiker antelope -- but men.

The South African Army is now inducting Bushmen into its ranks, teaching them to forsake traditional bows and arrows for R-1 rifles. And their phenomenal tracking skills, gleaned from centuries of stalking animals over the vast roadless stretches of southern Africa, are being employed to track down black nationalist guerrillas contesting South Africa's control of this disputed territory.

In the process, the Bushmen's way of life is being changed -- perhaps permanently. And the time may come when, because of their role in a war that they litle understand, the Bushmen themselves may become the hunted.

Bushmen are a unique race, their wrinkled amber skin and slight stature setting them apart from either black Africans or white settlers of this region. Along with the Khoi-Khoi (Hottentots), the Khoi-San peoples -- later dubbed the "Bushmen" -- are thought to be the original inhabitants of the African sub- continent. But their nomadic wanderings, coupled with their penchant for hunting -- including domesticated livestock as well as wild game -- clashed with both blacks and whites migrating from the north and south.

The Bushmen "refused to be tamed," as Laurens van der Post writes, and were pushed into the remote wastelands of Namibia, Botswana, and Angola.

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