Botswana bushmen awaiting fate

2006-07-11 15:03

Gabarone - Botswana's longest-running court case in which its San Bushmen are fighting for rights to ancestral land will hear final submissions next month as the trial nears completion, say lawyers.

State lawyer Dittah Molodi said on Tuesday that after written submissions in the case in which the Bushmen were suing Gaborone over rights to live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), "final oral submissions before the court are expected to start on August 28".

The judges would later decide whether the Bushmen could return to the large wildlife sanctuary they had called home for the past 20 000 years.

Miriam Ross, a spokesperson for the London-based Survival International, which had waged a 30-year campaign in support of the Bushmen, confirmed that it would hand its final written submission to Botswana High Court by Friday.

200 Bushmen file urgent application

She said: "Our lawyers will go back to court next month, but we have not been informed of the exact date yet."

Making headlines as far away as London and New York, the emotive land claim issue resumed earlier this year after a five-month break - called by the Bushmen's lawyers to raise funds.

A group of 200 Bushmen filed an urgent application in April 2002, challenging their eviction from the game reserve, but the case was thrown out on a technicality. The high court agreed in 2004 to hear the complaint.

Survival International maintained they were driven out of the Kalahari to make way for diamond mining, a claim the government had denied.

The government had maintained that it resettled the Bushmen in villages, where it could provide them with water and social amenities.

But, the plight of the Bushmen had nevertheless blemished Botswana's international reputation as a model for democracy and tolerance in Africa.

Once numbering millions, roughly 100 000 San Bushmen were left in southern Africa, with almost half of them - 48 000 - in Botswana. Others were spread across Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.