'Help me get back my land'

A San Bushman appealed to Botswana’s High Court on Wednesday to overturn an eviction order and allow him to live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, describing it as the land of his great grandparents.

Testifying in a watershed land-claim case in Botswana, Matsipane Mosetlhanyane said his home was demolished in a 2002 campaign to resettle the Bushmen to villages outside the game reserve.

“This is my land because it belonged to my great-grandparents. They passed it on to my father, who in turn passed it on to me and told me it’s my land,” said Mosetlhanyane.

“I want the court to help me get back my land from the government,” he said. “I want to be told, ‘Matsipane, this is your land’.”

The Bushman was being cross-examined by state counsel Sidney Pilane, who flatly responded: “This will never happen.”

The court is hearing a case brought by 243 San Bushmen challenging their relocation from the game reserve, one of the world’s largest sanctuaries and an area they claim as their ancestral home.

London-based Survival International, which has been waging a 30-year campaign in support of the rights of the San, maintains they were driven out of the Kalahari to make way for diamond mining, a claim the government has denied.

President Festus Mogae’s government maintains that the San’s traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle has been lost and that providing water and other services to their villages inside the reserve had become too costly.

The hearings that opened in July before the High Court are expected to continue until March.

Once numbering millions, there are roughly 100 000 San left in Southern Africa with almost half of those—48 000—in Botswana.

Others are spread across Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to rights groups.—Sapa-AFP

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