De Beers wrong about Bushman evictions

July 20, 2005

This page was created in 2005 and may contain language which is now outdated.

De Beers has made several allegations about Survival in its media release of 5 July. In spite of this, Survival will continue its campaign until the Bushmen are allowed to return to their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana. Bushmen have recently been tortured there for hunting and the Botswana government's violation of Bushman rights remain at an acute level.

Contrary to De Beers's claim, Survival's assertions that diamonds are at the root of their evictions are supported by numerous incidents described in our paper, 'The Bushmen aren't forever.' These include the fact that several Bushmen were told that they were being evicted to make way for diamonds, and that the minister of minerals informed the local council of the same thing in 2000. The following year, even De Beers's own consultant, Dr James Suzman, told Survival, 'mining and tourism may have been part of the equation.'

The De Beers managing director in Botswana welcomed the evictions in 2002 and De Beers continues to attack the CKGR Bushmen by claiming they hunt from vehicles with 'high-velocity rifles'. This is not true. The fact that they do not use firearms or vehicles to hunt has now been admitted in court by the former director of the wildlife department.

De Beers also claims that there were no Bushmen in its CKGR mining concession at Gope, where – as it has made clear to Survival – it hopes to mine one day. Gope is in fact on the ancestral land of the Bushmen and they were there when De Beers arrived, a fact confirmed in De Beers's own surveys.

De Beers is reportedly working on a policy concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples. However it told Survival in 2002 that it does not think that Indigenous rights should be applied in Africa. It cited four anthropologists it claimed supported this position. But one, Prof Ingold of Aberdeen University, said that he did not recognise the views De Beers attributed to him. Another of the four was De Beers's own consultant, Dr James Suzman, who believes there is no place for Indigenous rights in Africa.

Survival has no wish to undermine the Botswana economy as De Beers alleges. We are calling for a boycott of De Beers in order to put pressure on the company and the government (they are 'Siamese twins' according to the country's president) to respect Bushman rights. The vast majority of Botswana's people has not profited significantly from Botswana's wealth. Although the country has had one of the world's highest growth rates since diamonds were discovered there in the 1960s, half the population still lives below the poverty line despite belonging to one of Africa's richest countries. The propaganda, vigorously promoted by De Beers, that Botswana is a shining example of African democracy is also false.

Contrary to De Beers's claims, Survival has not prevented dialogue between local NGOs and government in Botswana.

De Beers lists four organisations which it claims, 'believe that diamonds have played no role in the evictions.' These are: 1) the Kuru family of organisations; 2) the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA); 3) the Kalahari Peoples Fund and; 4) Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human rights.

Our response to this is follows:

1) The Kuru family of organisations, which grew out of the local Dutch Reformed Church mission, is currently negotiating with De Beers to receive several million dollars. It plays no role with the Bushmen of the CKGR. We believe its funding has engendered a conflict of interests.

2) WIMSA has recently asked us to stop our work. We have responded asking whether they claim to represent the wishes of the CKGR Bushmen – in fact, they do not – and are awaiting a reply. Contrary to De Beers's claim (and confusingly), a part of WIMSA is First People of the Kalahari which has not only asked for Survival's help, but fully endorsed Survival's actions and which does believe diamonds are behind the evictions. WIMSA also encompasses the Kuru family (above) which stands to receive millions from De Beers. (WIMSA's Botswana arm, as opposed to that in Namibia, has said that no organisation has any mandate to oppose the wishes of the local Bushmen.)

3) The Kalahari Peoples Fund has not said that diamonds have played no role in the evictions. Its view is that diamonds is one of several factors.

4) Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, has been funded by several European governments to negotiate with the Botswana government over the CKGR issue. It is run by the daughter of an ex-minister for mines and a special adviser to the president, a man who is also a director of a diamond exploration company with concessions inside the CKGR. Survival believes it too has a conflict of interests.

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