John Hardbattle served in the British army, studied at Oxford University, and farmed cattle in Ghanzi before taking up the cause of Bushman rights.
Hardbattle co-founded the community organisation First People of Kalahari (FPK) in 1991 with Roy Sesana to spread a simple message: The Central Kalahari Game Reserve belonged to the Bushmen, and they deserved a role in determining their future. FPK soon became a political platform for Botswana’s Bushmen facing eviction from their ancestral lands, and who to this day have no representation in Botswana’s parliament or in its House of Chiefs. In an attempt to rectify this and at the same time to fight the coming evictions, John Hardbattle travelled to the United Kingdom and the United States to alert the international community to the Bushmen"s plight and to garner public support for the Bushman cause.
Hardbattle made light of the fact that Botswana"s post independence constitution limited entry into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve "for the protection and well-being of Bushmen.” a point he presented to an audience at the United Nations and the international press
Furthermore Hardbattle alleged that the eviction of the San from their ancestral lands was not about over-hunting, nor was it about development, but was in fact because the Botswana government together with major diamond producers located in Antwerp and Israel, were concerned that FPK would begin to demand a share of any revenue generated through diamond mining in the Kalahari. Hardbattle generated significant interest and concern for the plight of the San on his trip, attracting support from Gloria Steinem, First Peoples Worldwide, Cultural Survival and Survival International, alongside the publication of a number of articles in the international press
At the same time a number of significant donations were raised for FPK. As a result of Hardbattle"s efforts, the Botswana government was forced to back down from its eviction and resettlement programme. John Hardbattle died suddenly and unexpectedly of lymphatic cancer in 1996 at the end of his brief campaign.
Following his death, the Botswana Government resumed its efforts to forcibly remove and relocate the San people from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.