By Ahni Sep 7, 2011
Cross-Posted from Intercontinental Cry
The Kalahari Bushmen are celebrating a major victory in their struggle to return home with their Indigenous rights intact. For the first time in nine years, the Bushmen have access to drinking water!
The partnership itself arrived just three months after another major victory, in January, when Botswana’s Court of Appeal overturned an unfortunate High Court ruling in 2010 that denied the Bushmen’s right to water on their ancestral lands.
As Survival International reported at the time, the Court of Appeal found that:
- the Bushmen have the right to use their old borehole [the Mothomelo well]
- the Bushmen have the right to sink new boreholes
- the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to ‘degrading treatment’.
- the government must pay the Bushmen’s costs in bringing the appeal.
A few days after the key ruling was handed down, Botswana decided to approve a massive $3 billion diamond mine near the village of Gope. The approval was reportedly issued on the condition that the diamond deposit’s owner, Gem Diamonds, refused to provide the Bushmen with any access to water.
Whether or not the government issued that condition, Survival International confirms that the Bushmen now have access to at least one fully-operational, solar-powered well.
As it turns out, Vox United re-drilled the very same well that the Appeals Court singled out–the well that the government sealed during their forced relocation of the Bushmen in 2002.
Ever since the relocation took place, the Bushmen have been struggling in court for their right to return home.
The first major step in that struggle came in 2006, when a more reasonable High Court ruled that the relocation was “unlawful” and that the Bushmen have the legal right to live on their ancestral lands. The government promised that it wouldn’t appeal the ruling, however, they have continuously obstructed the Bushmen’s actual return; in part, by making them pay their own way back, by arresting hunters and by banning the Bushmen from using the Mothomelo well.
“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.”
Vox United has already drilled other wells; however, they will require desalination equipment before the Bushmen can use them day to day. “[It's] going to be very expensive,” said Spooner.
Fortunately, with Gem Diamonds making good on its end of the deal with Vox Uninted, there’s no reason to think that they won’t come through here as well.