SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
- 1 September 2005
BOTSWANA: COURT IN CHAOS - GOVERNMENT LAWYER 'ARRESTED' - BUSHMAN
RESERVE SEALED OFF
The Botswana government's lead attorney in the Bushman case was
ordered to be arrested and imprisoned. In some of the most
extraordinary scenes ever witnessed in any high court, attorney
Sidney Pilane, refusing to allow any policeman to touch him, fled
arrest in a vehicle driven by another government witness, the
Assistant Director of Parks. In a separate development, the
government announced the closure of the Bushmen's reserve to
for 'administrative reasons'.
As special advisor to the President, Pilane may be hoping that his
power surpasses that of the Botswana judiciary. He repeatedly
to stand up when the judges were speaking to him. He was warned
that unless he did so he would be cited for contempt. He still
refused to stand up, leaving the court little alternative than to
commit him to prison.
The court ordered he should be arrested immediately and brought back
to court on Monday morning. This was the climax of Pilane's
examination of the state's star 'expert witness', American ecologist
and former employee of the Botswana government, Kathleen Alexander.
Pilane was questioning her on material that the judges had already
ruled should not be discussed. (A minute-by-minute account of this
morning's events in court is appended below.)
Alexander had already made no secret of her contempt for tribal
peoples and hunter-gatherers. She wants them all out of any
areas in order to favour the animal inhabitants. Echoing remarks
by the president, she said that they had to evolve, claiming that
'culture' had nothing to do with ancestral land and they could
practise it anywhere.
Amongst her asides was her comparison of inbreeding amongst animals
'to what happened to the ruling elite in England. The Queen's people
would stay together and not mix.' Although she claims to want
everyone out of all protected areas, she herself lectures to
tourists - inside game reserves - who each pay US$10,000, plus tips,
for their trip.
Reacting to the fact that one of the Bushman's lawyers is British
that their case is funded by donations raised internationally,
last week said, 'We do not want Europe to interfere and tell us what
to do or not to do. We resent their involvement in our affairs. They
should leave us alone.' The Bushman case is already the longest and
most costly in Botswana's history, despite being brought by the
country's poorest inhabitants.
A severe crackdown on the Bushmen was revealed by Survival last
One of those recently tortured for hunting has died, others have
arrested, their own organisation has been barred from their reserve,
and so have their lawyers. Guards have been posted around the
to stop Bushmen returning home. The government has even changed the
country's constitution, removing what Bushman protection it
Today, the government reinforced its determination to remove the
Bushmen and end their way of life by announcing that no visitors
would be allowed into their reserve, 'for administrative reasons',
until further notice. Bushmen who have defied the government and
returned to their lands after being thrown out in 2002 have been
barred from using radio transmitters to talk to the outside world.
From now on, whatever happens to the Bushmen in the Reserve will
place behind closed doors.
The government is clearly angered by the international media which
has reported extensively on its attacks on the Bushmen. The latest
journalists to go in were from the BBC TV's most prestigious news
In response to the latest developments, Survival today called for a
total boycott of Botswana tourism and of its diamonds, mined and
by the government and De Beers.
Stephen Corry, Survival's director, said today, 'History is now
written. The destruction of so many American Indians and Australian
Aborigines are some of the most shameful chapters in the history of
recent centuries. If the Botswana government is not brought to its
senses very quickly now, our own century will see the calculated and
deliberate destruction of the central Kalahari Bushmen.
none of the signs are good. The government is already on trial in
own country. Its own lawyer has fled arrest. If the court buckles,
then this trial spells more than the end of the Gana and Gwi
The 'higher court' of world opinion is perhaps the only hope left.'
Photos and footage available. For more information contact Miriam
Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email mr@...
To read this press release online click visit
Background to the ordered arrest of the government's attorney on 1
1. In July 2005, Dr Alexander and a number of government officials
entered the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to conduct an inspection.
2. The Bushmen's lawyers were given no notice of the visit and no
opportunity to advise their clients whether they should cooperate
with Dr Alexander and the officials.
3. They objected to the introduction of any evidence from Dr
Alexander about what she had seen or done during the inspection. On
Tuesday 30 August, their objection was upheld, so that Dr Alexander
was not permitted to give any evidence of what she claimed to have
seen in July.
4. By Thursday 1 September, Dr Alexander had been in the witness box
for seven days. She was still being asked questions by Mr Pilane.
Pilane asked her whether she had seen diseased animals in the
and Dr Alexander said that she had. The Bushmen's Counsel asked Mr
Pilane to clarify when it was that she claimed to have seen the
diseased animals, so as to establish whether the evidence was
precluded by the order which the Court had made on Tuesday.
5. When Mr Pilane declined to do so the Court itself asked Dr
Alexander to clarify when it was that she claimed to have seen
diseased animals. She replied, 'In July'.
6. Mr Pilane requested a five-minute adjournment, which was granted.
After the adjournment, Mr Pilane did not appear in court until after
the judges had already returned and resumed their positions on the
7. There was then a discussion between the court and Mr Pilane in
course of which Mr Pilane sat down. When he was asked to stand up,
repeatedly declined to do so. He was offered two opportunities to
explain why he should not be cited for contempt, and did not accept
that he was in contempt. The court then ruled that he was in
contempt, and that he should immediately be arrested and taken to
prison. It directed that he should be brought back before the court
at 9.30 on Monday morning, when the attorney general should also
appear. After the court rose several police officers attended court
to arrest Mr Pilane. He declined to accompany them and was driven
from the court in a government vehicle.
'We come from the land, we will die for the land.' Mama Yosepha
Alomang, Amungme, Papua, 2004.
Tribal peoples worldwide fight to be allowed to live on their own
land. Visit our website http://www.survival-international.org to
We help tribal peoples defend their lives, protect their lands and
determine their own futures.
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