The government may have bolstered the theory that Survival International (SI) has made all along ÔÇô that Bushmen communities in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) were forcibly relocated to make way for western companies to exploit the land.
An academic paper published in the latest edition of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies says that a good portion of the reserve has been parceled out to these companies.
“The relocation was intended to free up their land to be ceded to conservation, tourism, fracking and diamond mining, with half of the reserve now reported to be allocated to multinationals,” write Professors Monageng Mogalakwe of the University of Botswana and Francis Nyamjoh of the University of Cape Town in the paper.
This claim has been made before in the United Kingdom’s Guardian which stated that some CKGR residents had no idea that their areas had been earmarked for drilling until they were shown a map during the making of a documentary film called The High Cost Of Cheap Gas. The Guardian says that the map revealed that “half the game reserve has been allocated to multinationals.” One of those interviewed for the story was Seranne Junner, a lawyer whom, from the paper’s description, would have worked with SI to defend the Bushmen’s right to occupy their traditional lands within the CKGR. Junner is quoted as saying: “I personally do not know of any or much public awareness on this aspect within Botswana at least. I know there’s quite a lot of public awareness relating to the fracking that’s ongoing or that is trying to be implemented in the Karoo area in South Africa but as for Botswana, I would be interested to know how many of our population on the ground is aware ÔÇô and government departments themselves are aware ÔÇô of the consequences of these ongoing activities.”
The government is typically secretive about CKGR affairs that relate to the exploitation of the reserve. For a long time, it denied SI reports that the residents were evicted to make way for diamond mining. The official line was that while De Beers had indeed found diamond deposits at Gope, the mining of such deposits was not economically viable. A few years later, however, it turned out the deposits were worth US$5 billion and mining has started.
Next to the diamond-mining are tourism ventures which Mogalakwe and Nyamjoh say don’t benefit the Bushmen (or San as they refer to them) who live in the game reserve.
“The tourism industry continues to exploit indigenous minorities’ ‘San’ culture and heritage as a prime element to the exotic, wilderness tourism narrative promoted, while at the same time denying these communities rights to ancestral land, to cultural and livelihood practices, and with no access to tourism benefits beyond the minimal income from menial jobs or performing the staged authenticity promoted by exclusive luxury tourism operators. This has led to criticisms such as Survival International’s ongoing campaign for tourists to boycott Botswana’s tourism industry due to the mistreatment of the San,” they write.
Wilderness Safaris, a multinational company that President Ian Khama and several of his family members have a stake in, owns a lodge in the CKGR.