Diamond companies move in as AIDS takes hold of evicted Bushmen

A new wave of diamond exploration is sweeping the lands of the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana.

A drilling company, TH Drilling, has confirmed it has started operations inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The news comes just four weeks before the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio film Blood Diamond. The Bushmen have appealed to Mr DiCaprio to help them, as they and many outside observers believe they were evicted from their land to make way for future diamond mining.

TH Drilling appears to be operating on behalf of Petra Diamonds, which has also confirmed in a statement that they are starting a large exploration and drilling programme inside the reserve. The company has identified 95 ‘magnetic anomalies’ (possible diamond-bearing rock) in the Gope area – Gope is a former Bushman community.

Petra says that the Gope area is ‘known to host strongly diamondiferous kimberlites’. Kimberlite is the rock in which diamonds are found.

As the diamond companies move in, the Bushmen who inhabited the land for thousands of years are starting to succumb to AIDS and other illnesses. A 29-year-old Gana Bushman woman from the reserve has recently died of AIDS in New Xade resettlement camp. Tumelo Sebelegangwana leaves one child of her own, and two children of her sister, who died earlier of TB.

Veteran human rights defender, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has made a video appeal expressing concern that the Bushmen ‘have been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and placed in resettlement camps under unacceptable living conditions’.

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