The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       February 2007      Number 02

A Phyrric Victory
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 13th of Dec. the High Court in Botswana finally announced its decision on the longest lasting case in its history. This was the suit by a group of San (Bushmen) who had been evicted from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. The ruling was unanimous that they where in legal possession of the land. The ruling (with one dissent) was also made that the eviction was unconstitutional. Thus, many people have hailed this as a victory for the San. A major setback was the ruling (with Unity Dow dissenting ) that the stoppage of Government services was legal.

The reportage was informative. All local papers had extensive coverage, the most interesting being The Echo which quoted a cousin of Roy Sesana (who led the suit) as saying he had no desire to leave his business and return to the CKGR. Internationally, there was no report in Time or Newsweek, a mention in the Washington Post and a scandalous broadcast on the BBC. The BBC showed Unity Dow giving her minority opinion only and repeated the claims of Survival International, a British-based group that has long claimed the removal was to make way for diamond mining, a claim which has never been proven. (SI even drug DiCaprio and the film "Blood Diamonds" into their propaganda, although the film has nothing whatever to do with Botswana.) They demanded immediate action by government.

The Botswana government did move swiftly, but not in the way some had hoped. The ruling was made that the San could move back into the CKGR - but only the small group of 189 who had brought the suit! Furthermore, the government was not going to supply services (such as water), no permanent structures could be built and no livestock could be brought in. This means that 50 years of change would have to be erased. (Despite the misguided idealism of many such as Desmond Tutu, the San had long since ceased their traditional life and few would want to return to it. I visited the CKGR shortly before the removals and found permanent settlements with water supplied by trucks, livestock, crops and hunting by rifle.)

The rest of December was dull as usual. Most people go on holiday and very little gets done. There was a party at the museum on the 15th which was a farewell to the director who has been transferred to Library Services. Our choir went caroling at the hospital on the 18th and at the biggest mall on the 22nd. We spent Christmas day with The Elstons (Polly's friend Maggie) including a dip in their pool (although chased out by lightning and bees). Next day we went out to the Cooks' and had a second Christmas dinner. We also put together a mystery puzzle called "Poirot's Christmas". It was an easy puzzle and the mystery was solved.

New Years was delightfully dull and things are just now returning to normal. The hot days are broken now and then by a bit of rain.

The Millennium Seed Bank went on a collecting trip at the beginning of December (without me) and came back with Nananthus magaretiferous, a mesemb which is named for the pearly spots on its leaves. This has long been an unsettled question. Although claimed for Botswana (it appears in our red data list over my protest), it was proven only for the Namibian side of the border.

Among many interesting books I received at Christmas is "Karoo Veld" edited by Karen J. Esler, Sue J. Milton and W. Richard J. Dean , [2006, Briza, Pretoria, P184 ($37)]. We had met Dean in Prince Albert and learned he was supervisor for the Master's Degree of my local counterpart, Nonofo Mosesane. This is interesting since Dean is an ornothologist, Nonofo was working on Marula trees (Sclerocarya - used for the liqueur Amarula Cream) and the book is basically a range management text.

This last point is, of course, why it is not as interesting as it could be. Most of us do not have ranches in the Karoo and are interested mainly because of the succulents which abound there. This may relate to another objection which I have which is that there is too much Afrikaans. For example, a picture caption reads, "Palatable bossies and opslag flowering abundantly in a road verge". Those of us who speak English need to know that bossies are little bushes (shrublets) and opslag refers to annuals and tuberous plants.

The book lists a translator, but almost all the plant names are given in Afrikaans. There is an index in the back which gives scientific names, but it is a nuisance to have to constantly flip back and forth. (To be fair, most people don't like to use scientific names and Karoo plants have few English ones.)

I also disagree with the definition of the boundary between Karoo and Kgalagadi. Maps in the book show it well south of Botswana. I believe the south west of Botswana is predominantly Karoid. I shall give a talk on this when we get back to Bakersfield.

Nananthus magaretiferous

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