Thursday, December 14, 2006

The courts must be crazy

Botswana bushmen in legal setback
Bushmen from the Kalahari desert evicted from the land four years ago may not return, one of three judges presiding over the case has ruled.

In a blow to the bushmen, the judge decided in favour of the government which had evicted the group in 2002.

But two other judges have yet to rule on the case, the longest and most expensive in Botswana's history.

Botswana has argued that the bushmen abandoned their traditional ways long ago and have no claim to the area.

The BBC's Orla Guerin, who is at the court, says there has been a very subdued reaction from the bushmen who had gathered to hear the verdict.

The San people - known as bushmen - brought their case forward after being moved to functional but bleak settlements outside the Kalahari game reserve, where a new way of life was imposed.

But the government said the bushmen do not belong to the Kalahari any more because their lifestyle has changed, and their presence interferes with conservation.

The reserve was a poverty trap that denied them access to health and education, it said, arguing that the bushmen were better off in the settlements where they have clinics and schools along with food and water.

They also deny allegations that the bushmen were driven out to make way for diamond mining.

Botswana bushmen win relocation lawsuit
A Botswana court ruled Wednesday the government had no right to relocate tribes of San bushmen to camps from the Kalahari desert in 2002.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court in Lobatse said the government erred in turning off water supplies and forcing the San to move to specially built communities.

The case was the longest and most costly in Botswana's history, the report said.

Botswana Bushmen win battle for Kalahari home By Rebecca Harrison
Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi, who delivered the swing vote in the case, said Botswana had been wrong to force the Bushmen out of the Kalahari reserve by cutting off their livelihood.

"In my view the simultaneous stoppage of the supply of food rations and the stoppage of hunting licenses is tantamount to condemning the remaining residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to death by starvation," he said.

The court said it saw no grounds for out-of-court claims by the Bushmen that the government and diamond giant de Beers wanted to clear the land for diamond mining -- the basis for a major publicity push by western pressure groups who have backed the Bushmen's cause.

Botswana argued that western activists, who have won the backing of South African anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu and British actress Julie Christie, have romanticised a Bushmen lifestyle that vanished long ago.

It says the Basarwa, also known as the San, are a danger to wildlife, that the Kalahari reserve is a poverty trap which stops the San integrating into society and denies them access to healthcare and education.

About half of southern Africa's 100,000 surviving Bushmen live in Botswana.


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