A travel company based in South Africa received permission on Friday from the government of Botswana to build a tourist lodge near a G/wi settlement in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). As part of the deal, the company has permission to sink numerous bore holes to provide water for the guests they expect to entertain.
The Safari & Adventure Company, which also operates in Zambia and Namibia, will be taking significant amounts of water from the ground, even though the nearby San people are still denied the right by the government to use any water from the single borehole on their land. The government did not consult the G/wi about the decision to build the lodge near their community.
According to Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, “the government has the gall to tell the Bushmen to make the 400 km round trip to collect water from outside the reserve when tourists will be showering and sipping their drinks nearby.” He rants about the illegality of the government’s discriminatory actions, which he calls “pretty normal stuff” when the San people are involved. He predicts that the tourists will stay away when they are alerted to the way the G/wi are being treated.
VOA News interviewed Corry about the situation. He indicated that the San trying to live in the CKGR have to rely on melons and rain for their water needs. He argues that blocking the people from access to water violates not only Botswana’s own laws, it also violates international law. The San people are only asking for permission to hunt and to use water in the CKGR, rights which they have enjoyed for decades before they were evicted by the government in 2002.
Corry told the VOA News, “we will point out [to the tourism company] that it is simply unacceptable for there to be tourists drinking their gins and tonics and water close to a community of Bushmen who are denied water and who are in fact denied the right even to hunt.”
BBC News also reviewed the situation last week. Their story quotes Jumanda Gakelebone from the human rights group First People of the Kalahari: “If you do not give someone water to drink, how do you expect that person to live?” He added that people who were forcibly moved to the resettlement camps have been contracting HIV/AIDS in their new homes.
According to the BBC, the government of Botswana is still defensive about their actions. “It is not that we are stopping them from collecting water, what we are saying is we will not allow a permanent settlement,” one official told the reporter. “If you are going to have people living in a game reserve, the wildlife is then decimated and it is not sustainable,” he added.