Mining company Gem Diamonds has gained approval from the Botswana government for a controversial diamond mine on the land of the Kalahari Bushmen, under the condition it does not provide the Bushmen with water. The government has, however, reserved the right to use water boreholes drilled by Gem for wildlife.
The Bushmen living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve face severe water shortages. The government has banned them from operating a disused borehole which was their main source of water before the government unlawfully evicted them from their land.
A consulting firm visited the Bushmen earlier this year, supposedly to obtain their views on diamond mining on their land. The company’s project manager joined the board of Gem Diamonds soon after the project ended, calling the impartiality of the consultation process into serious question.
Gem Diamonds claims that the Bushmen are in favor of the mine, but the Bushmen have had no independent advice on its probable impact.
‘It’s absolutely scandalous that the Botswana government is insisting that Gem Diamonds does not provide the Bushmen with water. The government is clearly determined to go to any lengths to keep the Bushmen off their land, ” said Survival International’s director Stephen Corry. “As to whether the Bushmen are in favour of the mine – the lack of information provided to them means they are in no position to be able to say. It is likely that they don’t even know they will not be able to access water from the mine site.”
The UN has compared the treatment of the Bushmen to the enslavement of Africans in America. A report states the Botswana government uses arguments justifying the eviction of the Kalahari Bushmen from their traditional homelands similar to those used to defend the transatlantic slave trade. Racism against the Bushmen permeates throughout the Botswani culture.