Bushmen’s land ‘should be reserved for wildlife’ claims Botswana official

Bushmen children, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, 2004.
Bushmen children, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, 2004.
© Survival International

One of Botswana’s senior officials has argued that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), the ancestral home of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen, ‘should be reserved for wildlife’, despite the fact that the country’s High Court has ruled that the Bushmen have the right to live there.

Trevor Mmopelwa, Director of Wildlife and National Parks, claimed that allowing people to live in the CKGR would ‘make the management of CKGR extremely difficult in that there will be two conflicting rights existing side by side’. He failed to acknowledge the 2006 High Court ruling that the Bushmen have the constitutional right to live in the CKGR, claiming that ‘it is a matter for legal arguments’.

The CKGR was created in 1961 for the purpose of protecting the Bushmen’s territory. However, the Botswana government illegally evicted the Bushmen from their lands in 2002, and refuses to allow them access to a borehole which they rely on for water in the reserve.

While banning the Bushmen from using the borehole, President Khama, who has described the Bushmen’s way of life as ‘an archaic fantasy’, has granted permission to safari lodges to sink new boreholes in the CKGR. One due to open this month even has a swimming pool.

Mr Mmopelwa’s comments, reported in Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper, came in response to the Bushmen’s application for further litigation in a bid to gain access to the borehole.

President Ian Khama, who was returned to office after elections in October, is a board member of Conservation International.