Survival protest yesterday – ‘Bushman women dying for diamonds’

March 13, 2008

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Botswana’s Attorney General, the Governor of the Bank of Botswana and the CEO of De Beers Botswana were greeted outside Chatham House in London yesterday by protesters holding blown-up photographs of Bushman women who have died due to the eviction of the Bushmen from their land.

The CEO of De Beers Botswana Sheila Khama, Botswana’s Attorney-General Athalia Molokomme and the Governor of the Bank of Botswana Linah K Mohohlo were at Chatham House for a public meeting hosted by the Botswana diamond industry. Molokomme and Mohohlo are on the board of Debswana, De Beers’s joint venture with the Botswana government.

Diamond giant De Beers sold its concession on the Bushmen’s land to Gem Diamonds in 2007. Gem Diamonds says the find contains more than $2.2 billion-worth of diamonds, and it plans to develop a mine as quickly as possible.

Botswana’s High Court declared the evictions ‘unlawful’ in 2006. But the government is preventing the Bushmen from returning to their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve by banning them from using their own borehole there.

Bushman woman Qoroxloo died of dehydration and starvation in the reserve in 2005. Her relatives were arrested trying to take food and water to her. Gakemeitswe (not her real name) died of AIDS in a relocation camp in 2006 after being evicted from the reserve, and Dibe died ‘of a broken heart’ soon after being evicted against her will.

Jeweller Pippa Small, who attended the vigil, said, ‘Jewellery is becoming more ethically aware and consumers are becoming more aware of the background of the stones. I just don’t want to work in a material that has caused damage or death or misery to anybody.’