Richtersveld case highlights racial discrimination in Botswana

October 29, 2003

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The judgment earlier this month in the Richtersveld case highlights once more the issue of racial discrimination in Botswana. South Africa's highest court ruled that the Indigenous Richtersvelder people had both communal land ownership and mineral rights over their territory. Laws which tried to dispossess them were 'racial discrimination'.

As mining information website reported this month, 'The ruling that Indigenous people who own land under their own, unwritten, law have the right to have this upheld in spite of other legal systems which are subsequently imposed by the state has interesting implications for Botswana… if the South African ruling is applied, then the Bushmen own their ancestral land.'

At the KhoiSan development conference held in Botswana last month several speakers denounced the government for 'discrimination', 'assimilation', 'forced evictions', and 'reducing them [the Bushmen] to permanent destitution'.

Last year the UN Committee on the elimination of racial discrimination outlined its concern 'at expressions of prejudice against the Basarwa / San [Bushmen] people, including by public officials' and 'at the ongoing dispossession of Basarwa/San people from their land, and about reports stating that their resettlement outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve does not respect their political, economic, social and cultural rights.'

More information: Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or [email protected]
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