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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 13:01 GMT
Bushmen take Botswana to court
San Bushmen in Botswana
The San have roamed the Kalahari for 30,000 years
Bushmen from the Kalahari desert are taking the Botswana Government to court, in an attempt to retain their right to stay as nomads on the land of their ancestors.

The San people - as Kalahari Bushmen are known - say their 30,000-year-old way of life is being destroyed.

Since 1985 the Botswana authorities have relocated thousands of San people to settlements outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Officials say the programme is for the San's own good.

Water, health and education services are provided in the 63 resettlement villages, where most of the Kalahari San people have already been moved.

Cut services

Only a few hundred San now live in the 52,000 kmē game reserve.

A resettled San woman
Many have been moved to resettlement villages
In January the government told them that water and other services would be terminated.

In recent weeks water tanks have been removed from the six San settlements that remain there.

The special game permits which enabled the San, the last remaining hunter-gatherers in Africa, to hunt a limited quota of wild animals and gather veldt foods and fruits, have been withdrawn.

Hidden wealth

Botswana's Government denies it is forcing the San people to move. Officials say the San have been consulted and offered generous compensation.

San families living on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Some San say they'd rather die than leave the reserve
But the BBC's Carolyn Dempster says many of the San who have been relocated tell a different story.

They speak of an impoverished existence in resettlement villages, and say they depend on government food rations for survival.

The central Kalahari is rich in diamond and other mineral deposits.

Our correspondent says a successful land claim by the San might make it more difficult for the government to exploit any mineral finds.

See also:

18 Mar 02 | Africa
Botswana Bushmen's last stand
23 Jan 02 | Africa
Botswana cuts Bushman services
19 Jul 01 | Africa
Losing battle for Kalahari
04 Feb 02 | Africa
In pictures: End of a way of life
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Botswana
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