Botswana slams Bushmen land claims ‘gimmick’

Botswana launched a stinging attack on Tuesday on the human rights group supporting San Bushmen in a land claim in the desert Southern African country, calling it a “fund-raising gimmick”.

Judges from Botswana’s High Court continued inspections at Old Xade, within the borders of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where the San Bushmen lived before the Botswana government began evicting them in 1997.

“The government thinks the whole case is a fund-raising gimmick,” said foreign affairs spokesperson Clifford Maribe.

“The Basarwa [San Bushmen] are not the first people we have removed from game reserves in this country and most of the claims made by Survival International is being supported by the United Kingdom media, based in South Africa,” Maribe said.

He used the Tswana term for the San, which means “those who do not raise cattle”.

Inspections by the judges continued on Tuesday, moving from Metsimonong settlement, about 700km west of the capital, Gaborone, to Old Xade, officials said.

The San took the government to court in April 2002, seeking an order declaring it illegal to cut off services to the reserve, which was established in 1961 to protect the hunter-gatherer lifetsyle of the Bushmen.

The government claims that there are now only 17 Bushmen living in the reserve but rights groups say 200 have gone back in defiance of Gaborone’s campaign to resettle them outside the reserve, an area the Bushmen have been calling home for the past 20 000 years.

Once numbering millions who roamed freely in Southern Africa, there are roughly 100 000 San left, with almost half of those — 48 000 — living in Botswana, 38 000 in Namibia, 4 500 in South Africa, 6 000 in Angola, 1 600 in Zambia and 1 200 in Zimbabwe, according to rights groups.

The British-based group Survival International has supported the San Bushmen in their case and maintains that the indigenous people were driven out of the Kalahari reserve to make way for diamond mining. — Sapa-AFP

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