A supplement on Botswana fell out of the Independent last Saturday - a "World Report" no less - which attributes the state's wealth to diamonds and its pact with De Beers. "Thirty-three percent of GDP comes from the girl's best friend," it reports - and on the back page there's a charming tourist piece exhorting the tribal Bushmen (or San) and their videocam-friendly "unique dances".
Produced for the newspaper by World Report Inc, it is designed to look like editorial but is just a Botswana ad, depicting a shangri-la in the marriage of benign capitalism and indigenous civilisation. Yeah, right.
You have only to go to http://www.iwant2gohome.org/ to learn that 1000 Bushmen are appealing for help after the Botswana government relocated them from their ancestral lands of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to reservation camps. This is to make way for diamond mining. Survival International reports:
The Botswana government has brutally evicted the Gana and Gwi Bushmen from their land in the Central Kalahari, and De Beers diamond company is exploring for diamonds there. The Bushmen are calling for a boycott of De Beers and Botswana diamonds until they are allowed back on their land.
SI recently asked Leonardo DiCaprio to join their campaign (he stars in The Blood Diamond out soon). And only the other week the Independent itself reported in its Pandora diary that SI approached model Linda Evangelista to step down as the face of De Beers and Harrods.
Actors Colin Firth and Julie Christie have already spoken out in support of the Bushmen. Julie Christie said, "Diamonds as the cause of misery and suffering are not a thing of the past. The Bushman evictions in Botswana are a clear demonstration that local people are still suffering because of these stones."
De Beers is a controversial presence in Botswana. At http://www.survival-international.org/ it's reported, for example:
De Beers Botswana has made a 100,000 pula ($15,000) donation directly to the country's High Court, bringing accusations of interference in the judicial system. The company has also announced plans for further donations.The gift comes as De Beers Botswana is immersed in a legal battle with the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) over the sacking of 461 mine workers who went on strike in 2004. BMWU secretary-general Jack Tlhagale said the donation should have been made to a ministry and not directly to the High Court.
It is astonishing that the liberal Indy should have prostituted itself for blood diamond money. But then as World Report Inc comments on its website: "Our Special Reports provide a platform which enables politicians and business leaders to voice their opinions directly to a highly influential sector of the UK: the readers of The Independent newspaper."