‘Sad day’ for Kalahari bushmen

2010-07-22 08:09

A court in Botswana has ruled that indigenous dwellers in one of

the driest parts of the world will not be allowed to drill wells for

water.

The Botswana High Court said yesterday the Bushmen people were not

entitled to use a well already established on their traditional land in the

Kalahari Game Reserve or excavate a new one.

The government has argued that the Bushmen’s presence in the

reserve is not compatible with preserving wildlife and that living in such harsh

conditions offers few prospects.

In 2006, another court allowed the Bushmen to return to desert-like

homelands where diamond mining claims and a new luxury tourist lodge led to

their eviction by the government.

Hundreds returned and their leaders protested that they were denied

water in a scheme to drive them away again.

After the ruling yesterday, community spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone

said they will seek legal advice to fight the ruling.

Gakelebone said: “It’s a sad day. If we don’t have water, how are

we expected to live?”

He said in a telephone interview that a tourist lodge with a

swimming pool and a bar and wells at diamond claims lay just a few kilometers

from Bushmen settlements.

He said watering holes for wild animals were paid for by diamond

and tourist firms, but Bushmen were prevented from carrying water into the game

park for their families.

Survival International, an international support group for

indigenous peoples, immediately condemned the ruling in the southern African

country.

Group director Stephen Corry said: “In the last ten years, Botswana

has become one of the harshest places in the world for indigenous peoples. If

Bushmen are to be denied water on their lands when it is freely provided it for

tourists, animals, and diamond mines, then foreigners should be asked if they

really want to support this regime with their visits and jewellery

shopping.”

The Bushmen’s water case was heard in the Botswana High Court in

early June, but judgment was reserved until yesterday.

Gakelebone said the government first sealed a well used by the

Bushmen in 2002 to drive them off their land to make way for tourism and

mining.

Community leaders won their right to return on constitutional

grounds in the 2006 case but they were still prevented from reopening the old

well, he said.


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