Kalahari Bushmen win appeal

Botswana’s Court of Appeal has struck down an earlier ruling that denied Kalahari Bushmen access to water on their ancestral land, in a judgment that reportedly slammed the government’s treatment of the Bushmen as “degrading”.

The judgment represents a major setback for the Botswana government, which the Bushmen have accused of using access to water as a way of driving them out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The Bushmen had appealed against last year’s controversial high court judgment that prevented them from accessing a well that they rely on in the reserve.

According to the United Kingdom-based lobby group, Survival International, which has been providing legal support, the panel of five appeal court judges found that the Bushmen have the right to use their old borehole, which the government had banned them from using, and to sink new boreholes in terms of Botswana’s water legislation.

Ordering the government to pay costs, the judges also found that the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to “degrading treatment”.
Survival International described the ruling as “momentous”. It reported one of the appellants saying: “We’re very happy that our fights have finally been recognised. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.

“We pray that the government will now treat us with the respect we deserve.” After the government evicted them from the park in 2002, the Bushmen took the authorities to court.

Four years later they won a landmark ruling that the eviction was unconstitutional, and that they had the right of residence on their ancestral land.

However, the government reacted by banning the Bushmen from using a well which it had capped during the evictions, forcing them to travel outside the reserve to access water. This move was upheld last year by high court Judge Lakhinder Walia.

Further fuelling the controversy was the government’s drilling of new wells in the reserve for wildlife, while it also gave the nod to Wilderness Safaris to open a luxury tourism lodge.

The Botswana government’s actions have prompted the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to condemn it for denying the Bushmen’s “right to life”.The Botswana government’s actions have prompted the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to condemn it for denying the Bushmen’s “right to life”.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Report details abuse of Bushmen

The Basarwa say the government denies them all services – except policing them.

Botswana faces questions over licences for fracking companies in Kalahari

Botswana has been accused of sacrificing the Kalahari to commercial fracking while ignoring the concerns of access to scarce water.

Selling those authentically exotic San

An exhibition contributes to the understanding of San history, but at what expense to authenticity?

Egypt clashes erupt despite proposal to end crisis

Islamists fought protesters outside the Egyptian president's palace, while inside the deputy proposed a way to end a crisis over a draft constitution.

Crackdown in Botswana reserve ‘not about Bushmen’

Botswana police say they are targeting poachers, not Bushmen, amid claims of intimidation from a Basarwa settlement in the Kgalagadi Game Reserve.

Protesters clash with troops in Cairo, dozens hurt

Protesters threw rocks at troops guarding Egypt's defence ministry as thousands marched in Cairo to denounce violence against demonstrators.

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday