A $4.9bn diamond mine will open on September 5 in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the ancestral land of Africa’s last hunting Bushmen, exactly ten years after the Botswana government claimed there were “no plans to mine anywhere inside the reserve.”
The Bushmen were told they had to leave the reserve soon after diamonds were discovered in the 1980s, but the Botswana government has repeatedly denied that the illegal and forced evictions of the Kalahari Bushmen – in 1997, 2002 and 2005 – were due to the rich diamond deposits. It justified the Bushmen’s evictions from the land in the name of “conservation”.
In 2000, however, Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs told a Botswana newspaper, “the relocation of Basarwa (Bushmen) communities from [the Central Kalahari Game Reserve] is to pave way for a proposed Gope Diamond Mine”; and in 2002, the Bushmen told Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, “Foreign Minister General Merafhe went to the reserve and told us we had to be moved because of diamonds.”
The mine opening has also exposed Botswana’s commitment to conservation as window dressing. The government falsely claims that the Bushmen’s presence in the reserve is “incompatible with wildlife conservation,” while allowing a diamond mine and fracking exploration to go ahead on their land.