Botswana court rules against Bushmen in water case

A Botswana court on Wednesday ruled against a group of Bushmen who sought to re-open a crucial water well that supplied their village in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

In 2002, the Botswana government evicted the Bushmen and closed a borehole which was their only source of water, in the arid Kalahari region.

A court ruled in 2006 that the Bushmen had the right to stay in their ancestral land, and hundreds returned only to battle for survival with limited sources of water.

But Judge Lashkavinder Walia said on Wednesday that the Bushmen cannot reopen the well without first specifying how much water they intend to pump, in order to comply with water regulations.

“No evidence has been placed before me of the quantities required by the applicants,” he said in his ruling. “I find, therefore, that the applicants do not have the right ... to extract water.”

Door open for a new petition
The judge also urged government to clarify ambiguities in water regulations, and appeared to leave the door open for the Bushmen to make a new petition.

Government has argued that it is not required to provide water to people living in the game reserve, only to people living in formal settlements.

“This is very bad.
If we don’t have water, how are we expected to live? The court gave us our land, but without the borehole, without water, our lives are difficult,” Jumanda Gakelebone, spokesman for the Bushmen, said in a statement.

The Bushmen are southern Africa’s first inhabitants. The majority of them are poor and marginalised, and excluded from the government’s welfare services.

Some 100 000 of them remain in the region, spread across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.—AFP

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