Bushmen back in court over water rights

January 19, 2011

Bushman child, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, 2004. © Survival International

This page was created in 2011 and may contain language which is now outdated.

The Kalahari Bushmen pleaded for the right to water in Botswana’s Court of Appeal on Monday. A panel of five judges heard the case, and are expected to deliver their verdict on 27th or 31st January.

The Bushmen won the right to return to their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve after Botswana’s longest running court case four years ago. But a 2010 High Court ruling supported the government policy banning them from getting water from inside the reserve. Monday’s appeal was an attempt to overturn this ruling.

Without access to a well inside the Reserve the Bushmen are forced to travel distances reaching into hundreds of miles, by foot or donkey, to fetch water from outside.

If the Bushmen are unsuccessful in the appeal, the ruling will fly in the face of two UN Declarations which recognize water as a fundamental human right.

The hearing lasted for most of the day, with the Bushmen’s lawyer and a lawyer for the government each making their case before the judges.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, ‘The world is watching and waiting to see if the Bushmen will finally see justice. All the Bushmen ask is for a guarantee that the government will not stop them from getting water; how could any just court deny that?’