See also:
» 28.01.2011 - Botswana split over Kalahari court ruling
» 09.02.2010 - Khama accused of trampling on Bushmen’s rights
» 07.08.2009 - San communities in Botswana get USADF funding
» 29.10.2008 - Victory for Botswana bushmen as mining company withdraws
» 11.01.2007 - Botswana's San look set to return home
» 15.12.2006 - CKGR case fallout could spell doom for Botswana
» 26.10.2006 - Botswana state media "muzzled" in San expulsion affair
» 08.09.2006 - Reviewing government evictions from Kalahari of San people

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Human rights | Society

Botswana govt unhappy with San ruling

afrol News, 15 December - The government of Botswana has accepted the High Court order that the San people ("Bushmen") be allowed to access their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with grudges. State representatives indicate they will not make the San people's return to the reserve easy, while Batswana human rights groups urge government to negotiate.

A Botswana High Court in Lobatse earlier this week ruled in favour of the Gana and Gwi clans of the San people - Southern Africa's oldest population group - after several years of legal tussle. The court found the forceful eviction in 2002 of the San groups to be both "unlawful and unconstitutional" But the government is already attaching a lot of strings to access to the reserve.

While the judgment was greeted with jubilation by the San plaintiffs, but the Batswana government would not allow this to continue after it has announced its conditions for accessing the disputed area.

A statement issued by the Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme, confirmed the government's dissatisfaction with the landmark ruling by laying strict conditions for the implementation of the court order to take place.

"The Central Kalahari Game Reserve remains state land," Mr Molokomme said, adding that the land is owned by the state and that it is subject to the laws of the republic. He said the government would allow only the 189 persons who filed the case to return to the land. Others, he said, would have to apply for special permits.

Mr Molokomme also seemed to question the court ruling when allowing the San to "construct non-permanent structures" in the reserve and that returnees could go with their own water for "subsistence needs", as park authorities deserve the right to restrict the supply of water.

In 2002, the Botswana government created water scarcity in the reserve by closing the main borehole. Interestingly, the San were not to be allowed to go with their domestic animals and the government maintains that nobody would be allowed to hunt without obtaining special permits - despite the court's ruling that a refusal to allow the San to hunt "was tantamount to condemning the residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to death by starvation.".

The South African news agency 'Sapa' reported that San representatives today had reacted with defiance. "The ruling says that we own that land," said Junanda Gakelevone of the First People of the Kalahari, a group representing the San. "We have constitutional rights to stay and occupy that land," he claimed.

Mr Gakelevone further said that the court ruling also had entitled the San returnees to take domestic animals with them. "We are going back to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with our horses and donkeys," he said.

Human rights groups in Botswana are disappointed with the government's apparent desire to make the San's return to the reserve as complicated as possible. A coalition of five local human rights groups - including Ditshwanelo and the Botswana Council of Churches - today urged the government and the San to find a good and negotiated solution for a smooth return.

The rights groups were in particular concerned over the conflict potential regarding the ruling that the termination in 2002 of services - such as water - to the San living in the reserve "was neither unlawful nor unconstitutional." The court also decided that "the government is not obliged to restore basic and essential services."

"Recognising that the Court ruling has not dealt with fundamental developmental issues," the human rights groups said they believed and emphasise that "negotiation between the affected parties remains a viable option. Such negotiations will ensure participatory processes that deliver a sustainable solution," a statement said. "We were encouraged by the reference made by the judges to the negotiations approach to address the issue," the groups added.

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