Botswana Court Ruling Pleases De Beers

The High Court of Botswana said Wednesday that it saw no grounds for out-of-court claims by the First People of the Kalahari and their supporters that the government and diamond giant De Beers wanted to clear their ancestral hunting grounds in the Kalahari Desert for diamond mining. The court’s declaration was part of a case in which it ruled that more than 1,000 Bushmen had been wrongly evicted from their homes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and that they should be allowed to return.

While the court agreed 2-1 with the Kalahari Bushmen’s claims that they were unlawfully removed from their land, it unanimously ruled that diamonds played no role in the dispute between the Kalahari Busmen and the Botswana Government. This part of the ruling pleased De Beers.

“De Beers has always maintained that diamonds were not the reason for the relocation,” Sheila Khama, chief executive of De Beers Botswana, said in a statement. “I am pleased that all of the judges in the case have recognized and unanimously confirmed this.”

Western groups who back the Bushmen’s cause claimed that the government and De Beers wanted to clear the land for diamond mining. The groups used these two entities as a rallying cry of a publicity campaign to gain public support for the Bushmen.

“While diamond mining as a reason for the CKGR relocations might be an emotive rallying point… the case before this court does not fit that bill,” said Justice Unity Dow. “It would be completely dishonest of anyone to pretend that that is the case before this court. Those looking for such a case will have to look somewhere else.”

De Beers’ in its statement, said: “None of De Beers’ concessions in the CKGR currently show any signs of generating an economically viable deposit, and even if a viable diamond deposit were found and mined successfully, there would be no need to arbitrarily remove or resettle any communities. De Beers has a Community Policy that underwrites its absolute respect for the rights and interests of the people amongst whom it lives and works. De Beers welcomes the presence of local populations near its mining and exploration activities, in the belief that operations should serve as a source of local employment and economic advancement.”