Beers urges Botswana to halt Bushmen evictions
Dec 2005 15:51:00 GMT
By Spencer Mogapi GABORONE, Dec 5 (Reuters) -
The Bushmen issue has touched a raw nerve in the largely desert southern
African country of 1.7 million and some commentators say it has damaged
Botswana's credentials as a rare African example of good governance and
democracy.The world's top diamond company, De Beers, is pressing Botswana to
stop removing San Bushmen from their land for fear high-profile protests will
hurt sales of the precious stones, the government and De Beers said on Monday.
A spokesman for President Festus Mogae said De Beers Chairman Nicky
Oppenheimer had urged Botswana to reconsider its policies of relocating San
Bushmen from the vast Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
But despite a potentially damaging campaign by British pressure group Survival
International, the government had no plans to change its stance on the
Bushmen, who have lived in southern Africa as hunter-gatherers for thousands
"De Beers is worried that the Survival International campaign has the
potential to hurt Botswana diamond sales," said spokesman Jeff Ramsay.
"But to be honest they did not bring anything new to the table.
" Botswana, the world's top diamond producer by value, has moved hundreds
of San Bushmen from their traditional hunting grounds in the Central Kalahari
saying they must leave the reserve to benefit from education, water and health
But Survival International says the government wants to free up land for
potential diamond mining and has accused it of torturing evicted Bushmen,
leading high-profile protests against De Beers and picketing of a glitzy New
York store launch.
The government and De Beers deny the relocations have anything to do with
diamonds, but De Beers is worried the campaign will tarnish its image in the
De Beers Botswana Managing Director Sheila Khama confirmed that the firm,
which operates the diamond mines that have given the once-poor country one of
the highest per capita incomes in Africa, was worried the Bushman spat could
Ramsay said the only route to compromise was for the First People of the
Kalahari -- a group representing the Bushmen which is backed by Survival
International -- to drop a court case against the government aimed at stopping
Hearings into the case began last year but have been repeatedly adjourned due
to legal delays and a lack of funds on the part of the San Bushmen to pay
their legal team.
Ramsay said the San Bushmen should sever ties with Survival International and
urge the NGO to halt its campaign against Botswana. De Beers is 45 percent
owned by Anglo American.
De Beers runs Botswana's mines in conjunction with the government. Ramsay said
Botswana would meet De Beers again soon to discuss the issue.