Tribal People Win Community Right to Water in Kalahari Desert of Botswana
Earth Times, Jan. 27, 2011
Johannesburg – The Botswana Appeal Court on Thursday quashed a 2010 ruling that denied 650 Bushmen access to water on their ancestral lands in the Kalahari Game Reserve.
“The court has upheld our appeal and has found in our favour on every point,” Gordon Bennett, the lawyer for the Bushmen, told the German Press Agency dpa. “So they have decided that the Bushmen have the right to use the borehole inside the reserve.”
The 51,000-square-kilometre sandy reserve, the size of Belgium, has elicited an ongoing battle for ownership since 1997, when in three clearances since then virtually all the Bushmen were forcibly evicted from the land they have inhabited for some 30,000 years.
In 2006, after the longest and most expensive legal battle in the country’s history, Botswana courts ruled that the government’s eviction was illegal and unconstitutional.
Bennett said the five judges again found continued government attempts to prevent the mythical “first people” of southern Africa access to water as “inhuman and degrading treatment under the constitution of Botswana.”
The court also determined that the Bushmen could drill more boreholes as they needed, and that the government would have to pay all their litigation costs.
Bushmen spokesman Jumanda Galekebone said: “We are very happy that our rights have finally been recognized. We have been waiting a long time for this. Like any human beings, we need water to live. We also need our land. We pray that the government will now treat us with the respect we deserve.”
Last week the government granted Gem Diamonds a 3-billion-dollar licence to mine the reserve, thought to have the largest diamond deposits in the world. It has also allowed a tour operator to establish a luxury resort, complete with swimming pool.
“It’s clear that the government wants to open the Bushmen’s land for diamond mining and for tourism, and we believe this is the reason it forced the Bushmen off their land and the reason it continues to make it as difficult as possible for them to live there,” said Miriam Ross of Survival International, a London-based group championing the rights of indigenous people across the world.
Posted by Earth Times Staff
Botswana approves $3bn mine as Bushman water case gets underway 18 January
Botswana’s government has green-lighted a massive $3bn mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – in the middle of the Kalahari Bushmen’s appeal against the Botswana authorities’ refusal to allow them access to water there.
Gem Diamonds announced today that its application to open a huge diamond mine near the Bushman community of Gope in the reserve has been approved. The company claims to have secured the consent of the Bushmen on whose lands the mine will be located.
Survival, however, has repeatedly told Gem Diamonds that the Bushmen are entitled to independent advice on what the likely impact of the mine will be. No such advice has been given, and many Bushmen whose lands will be affected still live outside the reserve in resettlement camps after their 2002 eviction, as the government refuses to allow them to hunt or even access water in the reserve.
Survival and the Bushmen have always maintained that the Bushmen were evicted to make way for diamond mining. The government long denied this, claiming the diamond deposit at Gope was ‘sub-economic’.
A Bushman who wanted to remain anonymous said today, ‘Why does the government choose to issue the mining licence today, while our appeal for water is underway? It seems like this is their answer to our case. They are saying to us that even if we win our case and get water, the diamond mine will go ahead.
‘This is final proof that the government’s argument that they don’t want us to live in the CKGR to protect the wildlife is a lie. Who do they think will damage the wildlife? The people who have lived there for thousands of years, or a $3billion mine with roads, power lines, thousands of tons of waste and hundreds of people going to and fro?’
Survival Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Gem Diamonds’ claim that the Bushmen have given their consent to the mine would be laughable, if it weren’t tragic. How can people who are denied water to force them out of the reserve possibly be in a position to give their free and informed consent? Particularly when no-one apart from Gem Diamonds and the government has told them what impact this massive mine might have on them? Survival said for years that the government wanted to open up the reserve for diamond mining. The government denied it – but we have sadly been proven right.’
14 December 2006
Bushmen have right to diamond-rich land — court
LOBATSE — Botswana’s high court ruled yesterday that more than 1000 Bushmen had been wrongly evicted from ancestral hunting grounds in the Kalahari Desert and that they should be allowed to return.
The court ruled 2-1 for the Bushmen in the key issues of the case, which saw Africa’s last hunter-gatherers take on one of the continent’s most admired governments in a dispute over diamond-rich land and development priorities.
Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi, who delivered the swing vote in the case, said Botswana had been wrong to force the Bushmen out of the Kalahari reserve by cutting off their livelihood.
“In my view the simultaneous stoppage of the supply of food rations and the stoppage of hunting licences is tantamount to condemning the remaining residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to death by starvation,” he said.
The Bushmen’s lawyer, Gordon Bennett, said the court had opened the way for the Bushmen to return to lands that their ancestors had lived on for more than 20000 years.
“It’s about the right of the applicants to live inside the reserve as long as they want, and that’s a marvellous victory,” Bennett said.
The court said it saw no grounds for out-of-court claims by the Bushmen that the government and diamond giant De Beers wanted to clear the land for diamond mining — the basis of a major publicity push by western pressure groups who have backed the Bushmen’s cause.
Activists say more than 1000 Bushmen want to go back to the game reserve — an area of desert the size of Belgium that the government has set up as one of Africa’s largest protected nature reserves.
Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, delivering a minority opinion ahead of the verdict, said the case should be dismissed.
“The contention of the applicants that the government unlawfully deprived them of their land … must fail,” he said.
But Judge Unity Dow disagreed, saying Botswana’s government had “failed to take into account the knowledge and the culture” of the Bushmen when it expelled them.
“In 2002 they were dispossessed forcibly, unlawfully, and without their consent,” she said.
The Bushmen say their way of life was being wiped out as they were resettled into bleak camps where they were unable to use their traditional hunting skills.
Botswana argued that western activists, who have won the backing of South African antiapartheid hero Desmond Tutu and British actress Julie Christie, have romanticised a Bushmen lifestyle that vanished long ago.
It says the Basarwa, also known as the San, are a danger to wildlife, that the Kalahari reserve is a poverty trap which stops the San integrating into society and denies them access to health care and education.
However, the camps to which the Bushmen were sent were also proving fatal. Alcoholism and depression were rife.
The government says all but about 24 of the thousands of Bushmen voluntarily left the reserve.
Both parties had said they would appeal if they lost the case.