Bushmen's costs mount as case delayed

As the court case deciding the fate of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen comes to the end of its second week in 2006, the proceedings have already fallen more than one week behind schedule.

Yesterday, a two-day adjournment was called by the judges to decide again on an issue that had been the subject of a court order last August.

At that time the government lawyer, Sidney Pilane, had been ordered by the court that he must not refer to a report on the Bushmen's land that had been written a year after evidence began. His behaviour to the court as a result of that decision resulted in his being imprisoned for four days for contempt. This week he tried once again to enter the report as evidence. Mr Pilane is the same lawyer who last September ordered the military to open fire on the Bushmen with tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to take food and water to their relatives within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The court also lost two days last week when the judges took time off to attend a legal ceremony.

The new delays come after an agreement that the case should be concluded within a further ten weeks.

The Bushman case is already the longest and most costly in Botswana's history, despite being brought by the country's poorest inhabitants.

Stephen Corry, Survival's director, said today, ‘The government lawyers are aware of the serious funding problems facing the Bushmen and seem to be using that against them. Rather than attempting to facilitate a smooth court process, they are trying to draw this case out as much as possible. To say that things are not looking good for the Bushmen is an understatement.'

For more information call Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]