Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 11:12 UK

Botswana Bushmen refused borehole

San woman
The bushmen had been resettled outside the reserve

The government of Botswana is refusing to allow Kalahari Bushmen access to a water borehole.

In 2006, the Bushmen won a landmark legal victory against the government allowing them to return to land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The court found they had been illegally driven off the land by the authorities.

The bushmen are the oldest people in Sub-Saharan Africa and the case was the longest and most expensive in Botswana's history.

Several hundred Bushmen have decided to return, but because they cannot use the borehole, they have to bring the water in by truck or they have to collect their own rainwater.

"If you do not give someone water to drink, how do you expect that person to live?" asks Jumanda Gakelebone from the local rights group First People of the Kalahari.

"Some of the people who have been relocated have been affected by HIV/AIDS so living without water makes their health much worse," he told the BBC.

Several boreholes have already been sunk for a diamond mine in the reserve, and more will follow when planned tourist lodges are built.

But the Bostwanan government says the growth of a settlement could damage the environment.

Map of Botswana and Kalahari

Botswana's High Commissioner in Britain, Roy Blackbeard, says "It is not that we are stopping them from collecting water, what we are saying is we will not allow a permanent settlement."

"If you are going to have people living in a game reserve, the wildlife is then decimated and it is not sustainable," he added.

But director of Survival International, Stephen Corry, says the government is just smarting from losing the legal case: "It is vindictiveness. The government does not want them in the area. It is very unhappy that the Bushmen won the court case against it, so this is just an attempt to keep the Bushmen out."

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