Bushmen describe eviction horror in court

September 3, 2004

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Botswana's High Court has heard the first Bushman witnesses in their case against the government tell their harrowing stories of eviction from their ancestral land. Tshokodiso Botshilwane from Metsiamenong in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve gave evidence on 27 and 28 July. He told the court how government officers arrived in trucks and ordered everyone to move. He watched helplessly as they dismantled his huts, but refused to leave the reserve himself, sleeping instead under a tree for many days. He implied that whatever the statutes said, the Bushmen have always lived in the CKGR, and said the government of Botswana could not claim to respect the Bushmen's opinion when their views had not been taken into consideration. 'I prefer death to relocation,' he told judges. Amogelang Segootsane from Gugama described how government officials had emptied the tank that had held his community's water, leaving them 'having to rely on desert melons as their source of water.' The land 'belongs to my forefathers and all my children who were born there,' he told the court. Segootsane gave evidence on 26 and 27 July. Motsoko Ramahoko on 30 July described the government officers who forcibly relocated he and his community from Gope to the resettlement camp Kauduane as 'arrogant and so vicious that they could even kill a person.' They told him nobody would give him water if he refused to move. Kauduane, he said, was noisy, with no job opportunities, and was full of drunkards. People there had to eat dogs, and HIV/AIDS was spreading. The government 'removed us from the graves of our fathers,' he said. He wanted to return to Gope and to be able to hunt and gather, even without government services like water: 'I want my land back.' The Bushmen's case has now been adjourned until November. 'We want the case to be concluded as soon as possible, so that we can return to our land,' said a Bushman representative today.
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