Appeal judges rule that Bushman case be heard

The Gana and Gwi 'Bushmen' and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi have received significant support from three senior judges in the court of appeal. The Bushmen were appealing against a high court decision to throw out their case against the government because of technicalities to do with how the evidence was presented. The appeal judges have recommended that the high court should now hear the Bushmen's case, which contests the government's relocation of them from their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to camps outside the reserve.

The original case was brought in the name of Roy Sesana, a Gana leader, and 247 other former residents of the reserve. There were difficulties with presenting the evidence because Roy Sesana and most of the other applicants cannot read or write, and most were unable to attend the court hearing. Problems with presenting the evidence prompted the high court judge to dismiss the case on 19 April 2002.

But in the appeal, which began on 11 July 2002, the three judges, Mr Justice Tebbutt, Lord Sutherland and Mr Justice Akiwumi, acknowledged the importance of the case, and expressed the opinion that it should be heard by the high court. Given the difficulties with written evidence, the judges gave the Bushmen the option of having the case heard in Ghanzi, a town not far from the reserve and fairly close to the largest of the relocation camps. Holding the case in Ghanzi will make it possible for many more Bushmen to attend and give evidence in person. If this is not possible in the end, the case will be heard further away, in Lobatse, and written evidence will have to be provided.

The Gana, Gwi and Bakgalagadi are now hopeful that the case will be heard in full, and that the court will recognise their right to return to their land.

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