Court to decide on
inspecting reserve for diamond exploration
The San have been fighting a long
court battle to live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
|GABORONE, 21 Jun 2005 (IRIN)
- The Botswana High Court is to consider an application to have a
settlement in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) inspected, to
determine whether the government is conducting diamond mining in the
State attorney Sidney Pilane's application, filed in response to
affidavits by 243 San Bushmen claiming that the government has been
carrying out diamond exploration at the Gope settlement in the reserve,
will be heard on 2 August.
The hearing is part of ongoing court proceedings arising from an
application by the San to overturn a government decision to resettle
them outside the CKGR, a place they consider to be their ancestral
Pilane's application was also in response to claims by Arthur
Albertson, a South African ecologist who gave evidence for the San
alleging that mining operations existed at Gope.
The state attorney did
not rule out the existence of prospecting operations in the game
reserve and said explorations for diamonds, gold, copper, oil and
uranium were taking place all over the country.
He told the court that government had the responsibility of
searching for and exploiting natural resources anywhere in the
country for the benefit of the country. "If found, such
natural resources will be exploited, and we are not apologetic
about the future prospecting in any game reserve," he said.
In January 2002 the government terminated the provision of water,
food and health services to the small San communities living in
the CKGR, arguing that it had become prohibitively expensive, as
the communities were scattered across the reserve.
The San, the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, took the
Botswana government to court in April 2002, seeking an order to
declare illegal the government's decision to terminate the
provision of basic and essential services to those who had refused
to leave the CKGR.
Instead, the government created the New Xade and Kaudwane
settlements just outside the CKGR, and set aside the game reserve
for wildlife and tourism development.
Last week a former official of the department of wildlife and
national parks, Joseph Matlhare, told the court in Lobatse, 60 km
south of the capital, Gaborone, that the government had wanted to
safeguard its relocation programme against sabotage and had made
it mandatory to obtain a special permit to carry water into the
Matlhare, a state witness, was the director of the department that
had to issue water permits after the government came up with the
controversial plan of relocating the San in 2002.
When the applicants' attorney, Gordon Bennet, wanted to know what
happened when tourists visited the reserve, Matlhare said they
were expected to bring enough water for their consumption.
"Those who wanted services had to leave the CKGR; the CKGR
residents were aware that all services would be terminated,"
He also justified the rationale behind the withdrawal of special
hunting licences from the San who remained in the game reserve,
which were then given to those who had relocated, saying this was
"part of government's efforts to stop services inside the