Final argument in Bushmen case delayed

Final arguments in Botswana’s longest-running court case, in which San Bushmen are fighting for rights to ancestral land, will be heard next month after judges agreed to an adjournment request on Monday.

The Bushmen’s lawyer said he had applied for an extension as he had only received written submissions from state attorneys last Wednesday.

“We were due to start the final oral arguments today [Monday], but I did not receive the defence’s written submissions by August 11, as had been agreed,” Gordon Bennett told Agence France-Presse at the court in Lobatse, east of the capital Gaborone.

“I only got them last Wednesday and therefore did not have adequate time to file our written submissions.”

The Bushmen have been given until Thursday to file their written submissions with the High Court in Lobatse and the oral hearings will then start on September 4 and run until September 8, added Bennett.

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

The Bushmen maintain they were driven out of the Kalahari to make way for diamond mining, a claim the government has denied.

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

Others are spread across Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.—Sapa

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