The the legal rights of indigenous subsistence is often


The paradox between
investment in developing countries and securing the legal rights of indigenous
subsistence is often subjected to controversy. In this essay, I will focus on
particular case of the San tribe population, partially located in Botswana. Unlike
its African counterparts, Botswana’s system of governance during colonial rule
was mirrored during its post-independence years, and the UK still remained
influential in decision making. Since gaining independence in 1966, Botswana is
hailed as the development success story of Africa, largely due to its diamond
deposits found in the early 1970s. However, the heavy reliance on diamond
mining caused concern for economic development. Consequently, their colonial
hungover facilitated the formation of property rights, that would ultimately
stimulate agricultural development, whilst remaining attractive to foreign
investment for mining.  Even though
diamond mining and agricultural development stimulated substantial economic
growth, the establishment of rigid property rights lead to detrimental effects
on the San tribe, making land acquisition uncomplimentary to indigenous


the Development Jackpot

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The economic success
of Botswana following its independence was largely facilitated by the diamond
mining industry. A large influx of foreign investment enabled Botswana to build
upon its system of good governance and establish property rights for land
acquisition. In turn, this enabled a further development in agriculture, in
particular the development of land rights for commercial farming. At the time
of independence in 1966, the Botswanan elite ‘relied on advantages bestowed
upon them by finding themselves governors of a largely historically and
ethnically cohesive state with strong linkages between pre-and post-colonial
forms of rule’ (Andreasson 94). This helped to establish ‘public institutions
in Botswana which enjoy a high reputation for efficiency and their ability to
work effectively with businesses and other economic stakeholders’ (Andreasson
106). Government policies in Botswana reflect ‘the modern state as per
conventional Western development theory’ (Andreasson 104). As a result,
Botswana faces an inherent problem of conventional development theory that is
‘characterized by trade-offs’ (Vira). On one hand, there is a drive for
‘production and consumption’ whilst aiming to maintain ‘conventional measures
of prosperity’ (Vira). However, the ‘conventional means of prosperity’ is
ambiguous by nature, traditional subsistence is often excluded because of a
lack conformity to the norms of western prosperity (Vira). In the following
sections I will evaluate the significance of the diamond mining industry and
agricultural development in Botswana.


2.1  Diamonds are forever?  

In the 1970’s the
large Anglo-American diamond corporation, De Beers, discovered mineral deposits
in Botswana. This created a significant opportunity for foreign investment. The
government responded with massive expenditures in ‘physical and social
infrastructure as well as support for economic policies, which sustained the
private market and the growth of private investment’ (Andreasson 98). When
compared to its African counterparts, Botswana shows a significant advancement
of institutional efficiency.  Information
gathered in the Heritage Foundation’s Index for Economic Freedom, which
evaluates levels of property rights protection and freedom of capital movement,
shows that Botswana is rated alongside Czech Republic and Norway (Andreasson
98). This has had a significant effect in encouraging foreign investment. In
1977 the government issued the Mines and Minerals Act, which was amended in
1980 and 1999. The objective of the act was to ‘create a competitive
environment to stimulate private sector exploration…protection of private
property rights…accepting foreign investors as an integral part of business
community as well as their entitlement to make and repatriate profits’
(Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection).  Domestic policy was aimed to create an
inviting economic landscape for foreign investment in mining. Although this was
an essential asset to economic growth, domestic policy makers understood that
solely relying on diamond mining was not sustainable for economic growth.


2.2  The Drive to Diversify  

Following the success
of diamond mining, the Botswanan government sought to stimulate agricultural
development in rangeland beef production in order to diversify their economy.

The government used its system of governance and ‘created institutions designed
to improve interactions between state, capital and societal actors’ (Andreasson
51). One notable policy included the Financial Assistance Policy (FAP) which
was introduced in 1982 and ‘consisted of a capital grant to assist the start up
or expansion of manufacturing, agriculture and tourism projects’ (Sekwati 81).

In addition, domestic policy makers ‘allocated land according to their ability to utilize it’
which ultimately resulted in the ability of some individuals to accumulate
large holdings of ‘efficiently utilized land’ while others were denied land
through ‘lack of resources, disability or lack of livestock’ (Curllis and
Waston  21). The nature of communal land,
as used by the San, was heavily debated in domestic policy making because of
its lack of ownership and utilization and therefore productivity. The
government took advantage of these ambiguous land rights and terms of utilization
in 1991. The National Policy on Agricultural Development (NPAD) stated that
large areas of communal land suffered rangeland degradation and ‘recommended
the fencing of a large part of the communal areas as commercial ranches’ (Curllis
and Waston 10). Consequently, this forced communities to move out of lands, to
make way for more productive forms of commercial farming.


populations: No Place at Home.

In 2007 the United
Nation adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The
declaration emphasized the security of indigenous populations ‘right to
development in accordance with their own needs and interest’ (United Nation Declaration).

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria
Tauli-Corpuz, explains how the declaration addresses that ‘undocumented land
rights are a primary cause of conflict and a threat to investment in developing
countries’ (Hill).  Due to intensive land
allocation policies to promote mining and productive agricultural development,
indigenous tribes have been overlooked in developing property rights in
Botswana. This has created paradox in the international image of Botswanan
development, although the government has seemingly created efficient
institutions and good governance, the lack of acknowledgment of indigenous right
has created a contradiction to that notion. The development of rigid property
rights not only limits the physical and educational accessibility of indigenous
tribes, but in combination with domestic policies centered on productive land
use, domestic policies have pushed the San out of their native subsistence.


3.1  The San tribe

The hunting and
gathering subsistence of the San tribe has been seriously under threat as a
result of domestic land policies and property rights. A rough estimation
predicts that there are almost 60,000 San living in Botswana. Reallocation of
the San bushmen began in 1986, followed by further evictions in 1997, 2005 and
2007. This was primarily to make way for drilling in diamond reserve holes
(Survival International). This was justified under government policy because it
promoted development. Gradually Botswana acknowledged the environmental
degradation and emphasized the diversification of land use in name of
conservation and productivity. The ambiguous nature of land policy in Botswana
lead to the assumption that land being used by hunting and gathering was not
productively utilized and ‘incompatible with wildlife conservation’ whilst
pursing commercial agriculture in beef and diamond mining (Survival
International). The San tribe were marginalized by legal restrictions and their
failure to promote conventional forms of economic development. This has been
partly because of the ‘government’s failure to recognize the occupancy and use
of what they assumed was vacant, idle or unused land’ (Curllis and Waston 21). Not
only have property rights largely benefitted large corporations for diamond
mining, rigid bureaucracies have ‘exacerbated by poor communication of policy
decisions to rural household’ (Curllis and Waston 22). Thus, leading to formal
and social exclusion of land rights in Botswana.  

stated in the Guardian article with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, indigenous
communities, such as the San, have not only faced formal exclusion from
property rights but also violence and mistreatment (Hill). The violence against
the San tribe include, beatings, shootings and government reallocation programs
which forced communities into housing camps (Survival International). In recent
years international attention has brought high court rulings in favor of the
San tribes rights to return to their native lands (Sarkin and Cook), in reality,
‘the majority have been refused entry to settle in the reserve, and no hunting
licenses have been issued’ (Survival International). The mistreatment of
hunting and gathering societies has caused a serious threat to their native


conclusion, although Botswana is celebrated as the economic success story of
Africa, it has had serious implication on the indigenous community. Domestic
policy making in promoting productive land use and foreign investment has
constructed ambiguous land rights. The UN’s declaration has sought to support
indigenous communities, however, conventional forms of economic prosperity
through economic productivity clearly take priority. It raises the question
whether indigenous communities have a place in conventional western economic
development, property rights and formal institutions. The San tribe are
excluded from these entities and forced to conform to prosperity in purely
economic terms. Although this is only the surface of the debate, it brings to
attention that educational and social exclusion of hunting and gathering
societies remains an inherently complex debate in celebrated success story of