Hundreds of Bushmen were left angry and frustrated after the Botswana president refused to enter into discussions with them during a meeting on Thursday.
President Khama, accompanied by four government ministers, met with Bushmen at the New Xade resettlement camp where they were dumped after being evicted from their lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002. Despite a three year-old High Court ruling that they have the right to live in the reserve, many still languish in the camps.
Since the ruling, the government has banned the Bushmen from accessing a water borehole on their lands; without it, they struggle to find enough water. Since attempts to negotiate with the government failed, the Bushmen have launched legal proceedings to gain access to their borehole.
However, President Khama ignored the new litigation, choosing instead to talk about upgrades to the New Xade site. When Roy Sesana, founder of the Bushmen’s organization, First People of the Kalahari, asked a question about the failed negotiations, he was told by the minister for wildlife and national parks that the President ‘doesn’t have to listen to this’.
Bushman spokesman, Jumanda Gakelebone, said, ‘The hope from us was that the president would address the problem of water and give us some answers which would show there is a relationship between us and him. But he was not interested in talking with us. We were not given the chance to speak.’
At the same time as denying Bushmen their right to water, President Khama, who is on the board of Conservation International, has drilled new boreholes for wildlife in the reserve, funded by Tiffany & Co, and has given the go ahead for a safari lodge, now open, complete with swimming pool.
‘Khama’s ‘policy’ is illegal and in violation of the Bushmen’s fundamental human rights. In spite of the continuing damage to the country’s reputation, this government seems determined to destroy the Bushmen. Tourists in the game reserve, where water is provided to the animals but denied to the indigenous peoples, will be trampling over the Bushmen’s graves.’