Please zoom in or out and select the base layer according to your preference to make the map ready for printing, then press the Print button above.

Small scale land-grabbing by political and economical elites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Gaborone, Botswana


The Greater Gaborone is known as the hotspot of Botswana’s land regime. The region represents the City of Gaborone and the surrounding villages: Tlokweng (east of Gaborone) and Mogoditshane (west of Gaborone). It has 102,000 ha, of which tribal communities own 64%, 21% is state land, and 15% is freehold land [1]. Both Tlokweng and Mogoditshane predate the city of Gaborone, the capital of independent Botswana in the early 1960s. Since then, Gaborone has experienced strong economic growth and has been recognized as the focal point of the country’s administrative, commercial, educational, industrial, and financial fields. The city’s population has increased from 3,900 in 1964 to almost 274,000 in 2022. Greater Gaborone represents 17% of the national population, but a much higher share of the national economic output, which has always put enormous pressure on the demand for land for housing, trade, industries, and other activities [2]. The strong demand for land began in Gaborone in the 1960s and 1970s, but it quickly spread to suburban villages, resulting in an almost insatiable demand for land characterized by auto-allocation, illegal land transactions, and land grabbing in order to exact diamond in the Greater Gaborone area. Where large-scale land-grabbing cases are more intended for production of fuel or food, scale-scale land grabbing in Botswana are more intended for lining or water supply.

There are two views on the political economy of Botswana, either a great success with high economic growth and development, or an economy characterized by corruption and dispossession of the poor. African miracle growth, governance, stability, and democracy are projected by the country's leadership and western commentators[3]. This view was contrasted by an authoritarian description of liberalism: mediocre record on poverty and human rights, especially the issue of the San (indigenous peoples of southern Africa) [4]. Elitist land reforms have been carried out to replace community ownership systems with private ownership models since the 1970s. 

These reforms were put in place under the pretext of the country's economic, social, and human development but led to land grabbing by elitist minorities at the expense of rural majorities[1].  These include subsistence farmers and those who depend on veld (natural) harvested products as a source of livelihood. The fencing of communal land has reduced the amount of land available for grazing. The losers in this case are small farmers or subsistence farmers who cannot afford to rent ranches. In addition, this has resulted in the loss of additional revenue streams. Land grabbing is accompanied by displacement and relocation of rural communities and San communities are the first victims of these forced relocations. It was the indifference to the San’s land-use systems that caused this dispossession. The San exploited the land in different ways from the dominant groups such as the Tswana and the Bantu. The most publicized case is the relocation of the San communities of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) which took place in 1997[2]. Despite initial government denials that relocations were motivated by mining and tourism interests, in 2013 there were diamond mining activities in the CKGR. Indeed in the context, the government participates in profiteering in the mineral sector. The state became an equal partner when establishing a joint venture diamond-mining company with DeBeers following the discovery of diamonds in 1967. The CKGR case follow this logic. The protest campaign led by the London-based organization Survival International shows the country’s sensitivity to external pressure. Survival International has tried to prove the link between the relocation of CKGR communities and diamond mining. The assimilation of the case to blood diamonds prompted the government to change its strategy towards the organization. Between 1997 and 2002, approximately P44 million (3,5 million euros) were spent on the three colonies for physical infrastructure, such as water, schools and health facilities, as well as livestock delivery and plant shell construction [5].

The consequences of this forced relocation to settlement camps were serious [6]. It caused social disintegration of families as some children were separated from parents or a husband from his wife. The consequences were also severe for those who moved to government settlement camps like New Xade. The Basarwa became vulnerable to several social problems, now concentrated in closer quarters. Basarwa experienced cultural shock[7] and this crisis is manifested in the HIV/ AIDS pandemic, which before the relocation was not a significant problem.

To fight against land grabbing, the San communities have successfully used existing legislation and structures in challenging relocations. In one of the longest trials ever conducted in Botswana, San communities successfully challenged relocations from the CKGR. San groups used the provisions of the Tribal Land Act to address displacement from their traditional lands. Theoretically, the Tribal Land Act guarantees equitable access to land to all citizens of Botswana. San communities have also embarked on activities to reclaim the land they lost to other groups in Botswana. These efforts are at the heart of Participatory Geographical Information System mapping (PGIS) exercises facilitated by the KFO (Kuru family of Organization), an affiliated group of eight NGOs working in Botswana that has the common goal of empowering the most vulnerable group of indigenous peoples in southern Africa. 

Cases of small-scale land grabbing in urban and peri-urban areas have had several adverse effects. First, it allowed a few powerful people to accumulate land and property cheaply at the expense of poor residents. This process has raised social and political discontent. Secondly, it has resulted in an almost impossible demand for urban and peri-urban land, as evidenced by long waiting lists, litigations, appeals for land quotas, and chaotic scrambles. Thirdly, when communal land designated for public uses such as schools, recreation and other community facilities is privatised and converted into commercial areas or housing estate, residents of the Greater Gaborone are deprived of easy access to social and communal activities, which lead to the negation of their rights as Botswana residents. Fourthly, the allocation of large tracts of residential land to private sector developers has resulted, contrary to conditions attached to the acquisition, in the exclusion of housing for the poor. 

Many cases of land grabbing have taken place in Botswana, and although not all of them have led to direct dispossession of land as in the case of the CKGR San, they have all increased inequalities in land ownership, caused social and political concerns, and indirectly disadvantaged local residents and communities with respect to the lack of land for social facilities in their neighbourhoods [1]. Eventually, poor people’s rights to the city have been compromised and traditional leaders and the state ease land grabbing in rural and urban areas. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Small scale land-grabbing by political and economical elites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Gaborone, Botswana
State or province:Gaborone
Location of conflict:Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

City's population of Greater Gaborone: 274,000 in 2022.

Total area of Greater Gaborone: 102,000 ha

Total area of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve: 52,800 ha

Project area:52,800
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:49,000 people
Start of the conflict:01/01/1960
Relevant government actors:Government of Botswana
Former President Festus Mogae
Botswana's economical and political elites
DeBeers Botswana Mining Company
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Kuru family of Organization (organisation fighting to empower San communities)
- Survival International (human right organisation fighting for the rights of indigenous or tribal peoples)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
San people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession


Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Application of existing regulations
Use of the Tribal land Act to be compensated
Proposal and development of alternatives:San groups used the provisions of the Tribal Land Act to address displacement from their traditional lands.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:San Communities have been compensated but the compensation was nothing compared to the loss of their land: roughly P44 million was spent on public facilities.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Tribal Land Act

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1]Faustin Kalabamu & Paul Lyamuya, 2021. Small-scale land grabbing in Greater Gaborone, Botswana. (Online)

[2]Kenneth Good, 2008. Diamonds, Dispossession and Democracy in Botswana.

[3] Morten Jerven, 2010. Accounting for the African Growth Miracle: The Official Evidence of Botswana 1965-1995

[4]Kenneth Good, 2007. Authoritarian liberalism: A defining characteristic of Botswana

[5]Boga Thura Manatsha, 2009. Chiefs and the Politics of Land Reform in the Northeast District, Botswana, 2005–2008

[6]Motsomi Ndala Marobela, 2010. The State, Mining and the Community: The Case of Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.

[7]Keitseope Nthomang, 2004. Relentless colonialism: the case of the Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) and the Basarwa in Botswana.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Survival International website

Meta information

Last update07/06/2022
Conflict ID:5865



Basarwa people

Basarwa people in demand for their indigenous rights © the gazette news

Greater Gaborone

The City of Gaborone and the surrounding villages: Tlokweng (east of Gaborone) and Mogoditshane (west of Gaborone)

Bushman woman Xoroxloo Duxee from the Metsiamenong community, died of dehydration and starvation in 2005 after the government blockaded the reserve and armed guards prevented her people from hunting, gathering or obtaining water, Botswana. © Survival International

Notice banning Bushmen from hunting at the entrance to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana 1989. © Survival International