There are 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Angola. They are the indigenous people of southern Africa, and have lived there for tens of thousands of years.
In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), and the game they depend on.
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds.
In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. They are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS.
Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.
Although the Bushmen won the right in court to go back to their lands in 2006, the government has done everything it can to make their return impossible, including banning them from accessing a water borehole which they used before they were evicted; without it, the Bushmen struggle to find enough water to survive on their lands.
The Bushmen launched further litigation against the government in a bid to gain access to their borehole. A hearing was held in June 2010 but the judge later dismissed their application.
At the same time as preventing the Bushmen from accessing water, the government has drilled new boreholes for wildlife only and allowed safari company, Wilderness Safaris, to open a tourist camp in the reserve.
The Kalahari Plains Camp was opened after Wilderness Safaris entered into a lease with the government. However, the lease made no provisions for the rights of the Bushmen on whose ancestral lands the camp sits, nor were they consulted about the venture.
While Bushmen nearby struggle to find enough water to survive on their lands, guests can sip cocktails by the camp’s swimming pool.
In addition, the government has:
Refused to issue a single permit to hunt on their land (despite Botswana’s High Court ruling that its refusal to issue permits was unlawful),
Arrested more than 50 Bushmen for hunting to feed their families,
Banned them from taking their small herds of goats back to the reserve.
Its policy is clearly to intimidate and frighten the Bushmen into staying in the resettlement camps, and making the lives of those who have gone back to their ancestral land impossible.