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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Court Bars Community's Access to Water - Botswana

A Botswana judge has prohibited the Basarwa people of the Kalahari from re-equipping a borehole or drilling a new one in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve - this is due to an ongoing dispute between the Basarwa and the government over land rights - African News Online
The Basarwa lost access to the borehole in 2002, when the government sealed it as part of an effort to force them from the reserve, saying their presence was not compatible with preserving wildlife. In 2006, the High Court declared their evictions unconstitutional and many have since returned to the area.

Last week, Lakhvinder Walia, a judge of the High Court in the south-eastern town of Lobatse, rejected the community's attempt to regain access to the water.

"Basarwa have chosen to settle in areas far from those facilities," the newspaper Mmegi reported him as saying. "They have become victims of their own decision to settle an inconveniently long distance from the services and facilities provided by the government."

He added: "...the government is under no obligation to provide any essential service to them. If the government has no obligation to provide an essential service, it is under no obligation to facilitate any such service."

Survival International, a British group that supports the rights of indigenous peoples, quoted a community leader, Jumanda Gakelebone, as saying: "This is very bad. If we don't have water, how are we expected to live? The court gave us our land, but without the borehole, without water, our lives are difficult."

The Guardian newspaper quoted Gakelebone as saying that the community planned to appeal the High Court’s ruling.

The lands of the Basarwa - traditionally hunter-gatherers who are sometimes referred to as Bushmen - are mainly located in the southern half of the game reserve, a major tourist attraction in Botswana and one of the driest places in the world.

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