News / Africa

Botswana Bushmen Celebrate Borehole Victory

Two men from Kikao wait for water at the Mothomelo borehole
Two men from Kikao wait for water at the Mothomelo borehole
Joe DeCapua

In Botswana, Bushmen are celebrating a victory in their long legal battle with the government. For the first time in nine years, Bushmen are drinking water from the Mothomelo borehole in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The government removed the Bushmen from their ancestral land in 2002. The Bushmen won the right to return in 2006 but had to wage another court fight to gain access to water. There was further controversy when the government permitted Gem Diamonds to dig a mine in the reserve.

“The Bushmen have been waiting for water for a very long time,” said Rebecca Spooner, a campaigner for Survival International, “And although Mothomelo is the site of the original borehole, it’s fantastic news they’ve managed to reinstate it here.”

Survival International has been assisting the Bushmen in their legal challenges.

First of four

Plans call for more boreholes in the game reserve. “All of the boreholes are crucial,” she said, “Gem Diamonds has pledged to hand over four boreholes to the Bushmen communities.”

However, Mothomelo holds special meaning.

Spooner said, “This is significant because the government, when it came in and evicted the Bushmen… removed the pump for the borehole, so it’s quite symbolic they are now able to drink water from this very site.”

The official handover ceremony was held Monday.

The charitable NGO Vox United and Gem Diamonds worked out an agreement regarding the drilling of boreholes in the reserve.

“Gem is funding the boreholes and Vox United is doing all of the drilling,” Spooner said.

Other boreholes drilled by Vox United so far are saline. “So what they need to do is get some desalination equipment in there, which is also going to be very expensive,” she said.

Digging for diamonds

But the borehole agreement does not alter Gem’s plans for a diamond mind on the Bushmen’s ancestral lands. Survival International remains critical of the project.

“The mine will be very close to a community at Gope. So they are still going to have this huge mine, which is definitely going to affect the Bushmen quite negatively. But as part of their CSR, they will be giving the Bushmen water,” she said.

A CSR is a company’s corporate social responsibility.

Survival International says it’s unclear how many Bushmen will return to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve now that water will become available.

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