Lawyer – Bushmen’s land belongs to government

The Botswana government's lawyer claimed in court this week that the Gana and Gwi Bushmen's home in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) belonged to the government, and that it could decide who was allowed to live there.

Sidney Pilane said on Wednesday, ‘CKGR is state land and belongs to the government. Who lives in it and who doesn't is a matter for the government. Government can remove anybody from it who doesn't have a permit to be there.'

International law recognises tribal peoples' rights to ownership of their lands, and obliges governments to identify the land and protect these rights.

The Bushmen's court case against the Botswana government recommenced this week after a two-week adjournment. The Bushmen, who were evicted from the reserve in 1997, in 2002 and again in 2005, are fighting for the right to return to their land and to hunt and gather freely there.

The case began in July 2004 and has faced long delays. All the evidence is due to be heard by 15 May this year.

In two separate cases, twelve of the evicted Bushmen are awaiting trial for hunting in the reserve. Ten of the twelve were tortured by government officials.