Who needs to ferry tanks of water in trucks now when the wilderness is alive with boreholes of free flowing water?
The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) may not need to load trucks with water tanks now after 10 boreholes inside the wilderness were recently refurbished and new ones drilled, to water the wildlife there.
Now it is feared the Bushmen are ready to take advantage of the latest developments inside the CKGR, with the new facilities most likely to attract hundreds of Bushmen into the wildlife area, thus defeating the Botswana government's effort to keep the CKGR clear from human habitation. Lack of water has always been the key factor that prevented the Bushmen from settling in the CKGR permanently.
In fact in August this year the Bushmen, assisted by human rights lawyer, Duma Boko, registered a new court case with the High Court seeking to force the government to supply them with potable water inside the vast wildlife-rich CKGR.
The Bushmen of Mothomela and Kikao settlements registered the latest case. Matsipane Mosetlhane and his wife Gakenyatsiwe Matsipane, lead the Bushmen application.
In their court papers, the lead applicants say they have been living in the CKGR following the famous court ruling of 2006, but without water life in the Kalahari desert is unbearable adding that they normally survive on water melons and monkey oranges.
"We spend a great deal of our time in the bush looking for any root or other edible matter from which we can extract even a few drops of water, " deposed the applicants.
The majority of the boreholes inside the CKGR were previously of low yields or none operational at all due to constant breakdown of engines, limiting the spacious wilderness to just four boreholes. The situation has changed now.
CKGR Park manager Dimakatso Ntshebe admits that now there are at least three boreholes and watering points located not far from the Bushmen settlements and that conflicts between the Bushmen and the Park management could be reignited, although he said the last time they had serious conflicts with the Bushmen, who took advantage of the CKGR boreholes, was in 2001.
The recently refurbished boreholes pump into the salt pans at Xade, not far from the Bushmen settlement of New Xade, which is about 50km away. Other newly drilled and refurbished facilities are at Xaka, 52km from the Bushmen settlement of Molapo, while Moriso borehole and another borehole, yet to be named, are about 50km from Gope settlement, where the government sealed a borehole which used to water the Bushmen.
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The Bushmen are known to be tough survivors who can travel for days to find their source of livelihood, and critics say with so much water in the CKGR now, any distance can never be a problem for them.
Although the Bushmen won a long legal case in 2006, returning them to the CKGR from where they were evicted, the government has refused to provide them with potable water. The Bushmen are allowed to carry water into the CKGR with trucks, but with water galore now, they might not even need to ferry water at all.
In fact there are fears that the newly refurbished boreholes may now result into a situation whereby the Bushmen remain permanently in the CKGR, thanks to abundant meat from a variety of wildlife as well as water galore.
Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) chief executive officer (CEO) Felix Monggae, whose organisation manages the borehole drilling, refurbishment and equipping project, sponsored by Botswana government at P14 million and Tiffany Foundation at $US 500, 000, on Friday said the nearest borehole to the Bushmen settlement is 50km away, adding that it is quite a long distance. He said initially they were supposed to drill another borehole 30km away from the settlement but extended the distance to 50km.
"I think they are very far from the settlement. Also the water is too salty for human consumption. The boreholes are not for people, they are specifically meant for wildlife," Monggae added.
Additional comment from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks could not be sourced on Friday as the responsible official was said to be on a trip to South Africa.
The Bushmen were relocated from the CKGR to New Xhade and Kauduane in 2002, in an exercise that human rights group, Survival International (SI) described as violent and cruel, although the Botswana government maintains the Bushmen volunteered to leave the reserves to be resettled elsewhere where they were given money, free education, and health facilities, among others.