DE BEERS WRONG ABOUT BUSHMAN EVICTIONS
19 July 2005
De Beers has made several allegations about Survival in its media release of 5 July. In spite of this, Survival will continue its campaign
until the Bushmen are allowed to return to their ancestral lands in the
Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana. Bushmen have recently
been tortured there for hunting and the Botswana government's violation
of Bushman rights remain at an acute level.
Contrary to De Beers's claim, Survival's assertions that diamonds are at
the root of their evictions are supported by numerous incidents described in our paper, 'The Bushmen aren't forever.' These include the
fact that several Bushmen were told that they were being evicted to make
way for diamonds, and that the minister of minerals informed the local
council of the same thing in 2000. The following year, even De Beers's
own consultant, Dr James Suzman, told Survival, 'mining and tourism may
have been part of the equation.'
The De Beers managing director in Botswana welcomed the evictions in
2002 and De Beers continues to attack the CKGR Bushmen by claiming they
hunt from vehicles with 'high-velocity rifles'. This is not true. The
fact that they do not use firearms or vehicles to hunt has now been
admitted in court by the former director of the wildlife department.
De Beers also claims that there were no Bushmen in its CKGR mining
concession at Gope, where - as it has made clear to Survival - it hopes
to mine one day. Gope is in fact on the ancestral land of the Bushmen
and they were there when De Beers arrived, a fact confirmed in De Beers's own surveys.
De Beers is reportedly working on a policy concerning the rights of
indigenous peoples. However it told Survival in 2002 that it does not
think that indigenous rights should be applied in Africa. It cited four
anthropologists it claimed supported this position. But one, Prof Ingold
of Aberdeen University, said that he did not recognise the views De
Beers attributed to him. Another of the four was De Beers's own
consultant, Dr James Suzman, who believes there is no place for indigenous rights in Africa.
Survival has no wish to undermine the Botswana economy as De Beers
alleges. We are calling for a boycott of De Beers in order to put pressure on the company and the government (they are 'Siamese
twins' according to the country's president) to respect Bushman rights. The
vast majority of Botswana's people has not profited significantly from
Botswana's wealth. Although the country has had one of the world's
highest growth rates since diamonds were discovered there in the 1960s,
half the population still lives below the poverty line despite belonging
to one of Africa's richest countries. The propaganda, vigorously promoted by De Beers, that Botswana is a shining example of African
democracy is also false.
Contrary to De Beers's claims, Survival has not prevented dialogue
between local NGOs and government in Botswana.
De Beers lists four organisations which it claims, 'believe that diamonds have played no role in the evictions.'
1) the Kuru family of organisations;
2) the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities
in Southern Africa (WIMSA);
3) the Kalahari Peoples Fund and;
4) Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human rights.
Our response to this is follows:
1) The Kuru family of organisations, which grew out of the local Dutch
Reformed Church mission, is currently negotiating with De Beers to
receive several million dollars. It plays no role with the Bushmen of
the CKGR. We believe its funding has engendered a conflict of interests.
2) WIMSA has recently asked us to stop our work. We have responded
asking whether they claim to represent the wishes of the CKGR Bushmen -
in fact, they do not - and are awaiting a reply. Contrary to De Beers's
claim (and confusingly), a part of WIMSA is First People of the Kalahari
which has not only asked for Survival's help, but fully endorsed Survival's actions and which does believe diamonds are behind the
evictions. WIMSA also encompasses the Kuru family (above) which stands
to receive millions from De Beers. (WIMSA's Botswana arm, as opposed to
that in Namibia, has said that no organisation has any mandate to oppose
the wishes of the local Bushmen.)
3) The Kalahari Peoples Fund has not said that diamonds have played no
role in the evictions. Its view is that diamonds is one of several factors.
4) Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, has been funded by
several European governments to negotiate with the Botswana government
over the CKGR issue. It is run by the daughter of an ex-minister for
mines and a special adviser to the president, a man who is also a
director of a diamond exploration company with concessions inside the
CKGR. Survival believes it too has a conflict of interests.
SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE