Wednesday, September 23, 2020

“Only the government can end Survival’s campaign”

Mr Maribe’s article about Survival International makes many false claims.
He says that Survival is making money out of the CKGR Basarwa issue. This is not true. In fact, we have spent more on the issue than we have received.

But just suppose for a moment that Mr Maribe is right and the CKGR is the cash cow which is filling Survival’s bank accounts, and fuelling what he thinks is my lavish London lifestyle. What better reason, then, could there be for the Botswana government to make Survival end the campaign? It could do it so easily, by tomorrow in fact.

We have repeatedly explained that the only conditions which will bring the campaign to an end:
1) That the CKGR Basarwa be allowed freely to enter the reserve;
2) That they be allowed to access their own borehole; and
3) That they be allowed to hunt for their food without fear of being arrested and beaten.
In short, allow them back on their land, and allow them to eat and drink.

Let me repeat: that is the only way Survival will ever end the campaign. We have worked on this issue since the government first announced its intention of evicting the Basarwa out of the reserve after the diamond discoveries in the early 1980s, and we will continue for decades to come if we have to.

Mr Maribe also claims that if the Basarwa bring water from outside the CKGR, it’s the same as if they were allowed to use their own borehole. This is not true. Round trips from the three communities he cites (Gugama, Metsiamanong and Molapo) to the borehole work out at, respectively, 74 kms, 100 kms and 250 kms. If these communities are forced to go outside the reserve, to the nearest ‘relocation’ camp (Kaudwane for Gugama and Metsiamanong, and New Xade for Molapo), the round trip distances are, respectively, 130 kms, 302 kms and 384 kms.
These are up to three times longer than the original distances. I have measured them myself, more than once.

So, again, we ask, ‘Why aren’t the Basarwa allowed to access the water in the borehole inside the CKGR?’ There is, of course, only one
answer: the government is determined to carry on breaking its own laws by forcing the people out.
Incidentally, Mr Maribe makes much of the false argument that the illegal evictions were for ‘conservation’ reasons. He claims the first CKGR diamond mine, which De Beers pretended was ‘sub economic’ at the same time as it sold it for tens of millions of dollars, will do less damage to the reserve than the Basarwa communities. This is such obvious nonsense as to be laughable, and it’s also worth recalling that ‘conservation’ as a reason behind the evictions was not even thought of by the government until well after the event.

The Basarwa were told before the evictions that they had to leave the CKGR because of the diamonds. Presumably, when the government realised how unsavoury this would appear to diamond buyers, it changed its tune and said the Basarwa had to leave because it was too expensive to provide ‘services’ inside the reserve. This was not true either. In fact, the cost of the evictions and establishment of the relocation camps would have paid for the services for hundreds of years.

In all this, there is one fact which is unquestionably true: if the government continues to prevent the Basarwa returning to their ancestral land, it will continue to pay the price. The illegal eviction of the CKGR Basarwa was to clear the area for diamond mining. That is a shameful stain on Botswana’s history and its diamonds. It is made worse by the government’s continued vindictiveness in forbidding the Basarwa access to their own borehole. As always, only the government has the power to resolve the situation and end the campaign.

*Stephen Corry is Director of Survival International

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.