In last week’s Sunday Standard, Head of Public Affairs, Clifford Maribe, attacked me for supposedly having an ‘elaborate plan to deceive unsuspecting members of the public’ on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) relocation issue. I do not understand what I am saying which is supposed to be deceptive. Mr Maribe might like to re-examine the facts.
Demanding that Basarwa living in the reserve only use water which they have carried in from outside, when there is a perfectly good borehole in their settlement, is a malicious policy designed quite simply to keep them out. That much is obvious. Most Bushmen do not have vehicles that could help them transport the water.
Further, the diamond mine planned for the CKGR will, of course, need millions of liters of water and will extract as much as it needs from any number of new boreholes or pipe it in from outside. Why aren’t the Basarwa, who have lived on that ground their whole lives, not allowed to use any of the water there? They aren’t asking the government to reinstate the borehole or provide any ‘services’. They are perfectly capable of doing that themselves; but they are not allowed to.
Mr Maribe should look again at the 2006 High Court ruling which condemned the relocations. The court recognised that removing water sources from the CKGR was part of the illegal policy of forced relocation, as it ‘would necessarily lead to some, if not all, of the affected residents leaving the Reserve’. By refusing to allow them to operate a borehole within their community, the government continues to force the Basarwa out unlawfully.
It is a fact, which the government has not denied, that game in the reserve was increasing prior to the evictions. Mr Maribe’s attempt to paint Basarwa hunters as poachers stripping the CKGR of its resources is false. The High Court ruling recognised the rights of the Basarwa to hunt within the CKGR. Denying them this is, as Judge Phumaphi said, ‘tantamount to condemning (them) to death by starvation’.
If the government was really concerned with conservation, it would not be welcoming a mine within the CKGR. Mr Maribe says that the mine’s impact would be small and temporary. This is, of course, nonsense. A 1999 Environmental Impact Assessment for the same mine said that significant areas in the reserve would be ‘irrevocably degraded’ by mining. Of course, they will be. Where in the world is there a major open-pit mine which has not seriously degraded its surroundings?
It has now been 14 months since the High Court declared the right of the Basarwa to live and to prosper on their own lands inside the CKGR. The government continues to do everything it can to subvert the court and flout the law.