Bushmen aren't forever - the diamonds of the Kalahari

| 14th February 2015
All that glitters is not gold ... Diamonds. Photo: Judy van der Velden via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
All that glitters is not gold ... Diamonds. Photo: Judy van der Velden via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Thirty years after diamonds were first discovered in Botswana's Kalahari desert, the Bushmen have been evicted, and the first diamonds have gone on sale. Happy Valentines!
Survival International continue to allege that the Bushmen have been forced off their lands because of diamonds ... No economically viable diamond deposits have been discovered in the CKGR.

The first diamonds mined from the Ghaghoo mine in ancestral homeland of Africa's last hunting Bushmen have been on sale this week for Valentine's Day, according to Survival International (SI) investigators.

And as far as Gem Diamonds is concerned, it seems the Bushmen might as well not exist: the company's 'Sustainable Development Framework' and 'Corporate Social Investment Policy' make no mention of their existence.

Meanwhile, SI reports, "the tribe continues to face persecution by the Botswana government, which is intent on driving them from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve."

Botswana's government has repeatedly denied that diamonds were the reason for the forced and illegal evictions of the Bushmen between 1997 and 2005 - one of its claims was to protect the wildlife.

But, says SI, "its hypocrisy has been exposed by allowing diamond mining and fracking exploration to go ahead in the reserve."

A Bushman whose family was evicted told SI: "The residents of the Reserve are not benefitting anything from the mine. The only benefits go to communities living outside the reserve, while our natural resources are being destroyed.

"We strongly oppose the opening of the mine until the government and Gem Diamonds sit down with us and tell us what we will benefit from the mine."

Read my lips - no diamond mining in the Kalahari!

In 2002, Botwana's President Festus Mogae said: "There is neither any actual mining nor any plan for future mining inside the Reserve." In 2004 the Botswana government again claimed there were "no plans to mine anywhere inside the reserve." .

Current and former British legislators and ministers including Lord Jones, Jenny Tonge and Hilary Benn also denied that the evictions of the Bushmen were due to the discovery of diamonds. Lord Jones said in 2004:

"Survival International continue to allege that the Bushmen have been forced off their lands because of diamonds ... No economically viable diamond deposits have been discovered in the CKGR."

But in Sepember 2014, as reported by The Ecologist, Gem diamonds opened its $4.9 billion Ghaghoo diamond mine on the ancestral homeland of the Gope Bushman community in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). This mine is the source of diamonds that have just gone on sale.

And there is clear evidence that the eviction of the Bushmen to make way for diamond mining has been Botwana's plan ever since diamond deposits were discovered in the CKGR in the early 1980s.

The government's true agenda was revealed on 2nd October 1986 when Botswana's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Moutlakgola Nwako, announced its decision to relocate the Bushmen. (See timeline, below.)

And despite its repeated denials it appears that the 'evict and mine' plan has been government policy ever since.

Botswana's 2015 'conservation conference'

In 2015, President Khama, board member of US organization Conservation International, will host a 'United for Wildlife' conference on the illegal wildlife trade in Botswana.

The consortium of the world's largest conservation organizations, headed by Princes William and Harry, has been criticized for failing to acknowledge that tribal peoples hunting for food are not poachers.

The Kalahari Bushmen have lived sustainably alongside the reserve's wildlife for generations but continue to face persecution in the name of conservation. Bushmen caught hunting to feed their families are arrested, beaten and tortured.

Survival's Director Stephen Corry said: "The Bushmen's right to hunt for food is a fundamental human right confirmed by Botswana's High Court ... Tribal people and Survival International are calling on the United for Wildlife conference in Botswana to issue a statement on tribal subsistence hunting. Is it criminal or is banning it criminal?"



Diamond mine timeline

Early 1980s - A diamond deposit is discovered in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve within the territory of the Bushman community of Gope.

12 October 1986 - Botswana's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr Moutlakgola Nwako, announces the government's decision to relocate the Bushmen.

1996 - A formal evaluation of the mine is completed.

May 1997 - First evictions of Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve take place.

1997 - Anglo American drills two exploratory holes in the reserve.

31 August 1997 - Anglo American (the majority shareholder in diamond company De Beers) "denied any knowledge of its activities within the reserve" to South African paper 'Sunday Independent'.

1999 - Mineral exploration camps are set up a few miles from the Bushman community of Molapo.

July 2000 - Botswana's 'Midweek Sun' reports that Botswana's Minister of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs, Boometswe Mokgothu, told Ghanzi District Council that "the relocation of Basarwa (Bushman) communities from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is to pave way for a proposed Gope Diamond Mine."

2001 - In its draft management plan for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana's Government Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) writes, "DWNP should continue to point out that mining is incompatible with the Game Reserve's objectives."

2002 - Bushmen tell Survival, "Foreign Minister General Merafhe went to the reserve and told us we had to be moved because of diamonds."

2002 - A second wave of Bushman evictions from the reserve. The Bushmen's water borehole is destroyed.

7 November 2002 - President Festus Mogae claims, "the program of assisted relocation of Basarwa (Bushmen) from areas of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve ... was in no way related to any plan, real or fictitious, to commence diamond mining in the reserve."

2004 - The Botswana government releases a statement which claims: "There is no mining nor any plans for future mining anywhere inside the CKGR as the only known mineral discovery in the CKGR, the Gope deposit, has proven not commercially viable to develop the mine."

2005 - Third wave of Bushman evictions from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

2006 - The Bushmen win their historic case against the government. High Court Judge Justice Dow states that the Bushmen were evicted "forcibly, unlawfully and without their consent."

May 2007 - De Beers sells its deposit at Gope to Gem Diamonds, for $34 million. Gem Diamonds' chief executive calls the Gope deposit "a problematic asset for De Beers" because of the Bushman campaign.

5 September 2014 - Gem Diamonds' official opening of the Ghaghoo (formerly Gope) mine worth an estimated $4.9 billion. The mine lies within the territory of the Gope Bushmen and just 3.2 kilometers from their community in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

February 2015 - the first Kalahari diamonds go on sale in jewellers around the world.


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