Survival International reported last week that De Beers has capitulated to their pressure and has announced that it will not do any more diamond exploring in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). SI believes that this decision is a “huge victory for the Bushmen [the San].” The renewed commitment to exploring for diamonds, and the decision by SI to mount a new campaign against the company, had only been announced a few weeks ago.
On Thursday the company denied that its decision had anything to do with the SI pressure to stop operations. It claimed, instead, that it had consulted with San communities inside the reserve, near the areas where they intended to prospect for diamonds, and had simply listened to the objections of the indigenous residents.
According to Lynette Gould, a De Beers’ spokesperson, “while De Beers respects the right of organizations like Survival to make their views known, it is the views of local communities and the organizations that they invite assistance from that we take into account.” She emphasized that the De Beers decision was based on the comments of the San people themselves.
The G/wi and G//ana peoples, two San societies that have lived in the CKGR for millennia, were exiled from their homes due to explorations for diamonds. The government of Botswana claimed that forcing the San people to resettle into camps outside the reserve was done entirely for their benefit, but the nation’s highest court two years ago decided against the government, in favor of the G/wi and G//ana people. The court ordered the government to allow the San to return to their homes.
So far, however, the government has not permitted the people who have returned to the CKGR to hunt or to drink water from their wells. SI renewed its campaign against De Beers because the company cooperates with the government by prospecting for diamonds while the indigenous people are still prevented from living decently in their homes. Does the current announcement suggest that De Beers will help promote better treatment for the San?