A high court in Botswana dismissed a case the government had brought against four San men accused of hunting in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The men, some of whom may have been G/wi, escaped a possible penalty of up to five years in prison.

San children in the KalahariAccording to a report by Innocent Tshukudu published on August 5 in The Voice, a Botswana newspaper, the men supposedly had been seen personally by President Ian Khama in April 2012 while he was flying in his airplane over the CKGR. The president was on a hunting trip. Mongwegi Gaoberekwe, Mohame Belesa, Thoama Tsenene and Dipuisano Mongwegi were apprehended by police, who confiscated their personal possessions: bows and arrows, spears, and livestock.

The men said that they were unaware that it was illegal to hunt on their land—they were just trying to feed their families. They were represented in court by attorney Monamo Aobakwe of Duma Boko and Company. That Botswana law firm has been representing the San in their conflicts with the government since the English attorney Gordon Bennett, who had won several earlier favorable decisions against the government, was barred from the country just over a year ago.

Mr. Bennett had represented the San people in a major victory in the Botswana courts in 2006, which overturned the government’s earlier attempt to force the people completely out of their historic lands in the Kalahari Desert, where they have lived for millennia. Despite that court ruling—that the San people must be allowed to live and hunt in the CKGR—the government, under President Khama, imposed a complete ban on their hunting as of January this year.

His government’s policy does permit, however, hunting at private game reserves that are patronized by wealthy trophy hunters. Police and wildlife agents have intimidated and arrested scores of San hunters and, according to the reporter, it has imposed a “shoot-to-kill” policy against suspected poachers.

Survival International, a major human rights NGO headquartered in London, also reported the court victory. SI has consistently supported the San people in their ongoing struggles against the various repressive measures taken by the government of Botswana. The organization quoted Attorney Monamo Aobakwe as saying that his clients “are all overjoyed at the ruling.” He went on to express appreciation to SI for their continuing, essential help in trying to secure freedom and justice for the G/wi and the other San people.