Thursday, July 18, 2024

Anger at BDF still haunts Botswana/Namibia relations

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation Dr Lemogang Kwape dodged a bullet this week as anti-Botswana Defence Force (BDF) protesters had planned to ambush and confront him upon his arrival in Namibia on Friday. 

Kwape confirmed in a brief interview that he was scheduled to travel to Namibia on an official visit to hold a consultative meeting with some communities in that country, but did not go.

He said the trip was cancelled due to ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases in the two countries. 

It is understood that the consultative meeting was aimed at addressing some issues raised by Namibian communities living along the border shared by the two countries who continue to complain about alleged harassment and killings by Botswana Defence Force. 

Relations between Namibia and Botswana hit a low ebb after the BDF killed several members of a single family along the border in 2020.

It has since emerged that protesters under the banner of the Namibian Lives Matter Movement wrote a letter dated 20 July 2021 addressed to the Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Alfea Sampofu notifying him of their intention to hold demonstrations against Botswana. 

The letter states that the movement sought to “handover a petition to the visiting Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation from Botswana on 24 July 2021 at your office on the continued intimidation, harassment and killings of innocent and unarmed Namibians by Botswana Defence Force.”

“We are acting as per the constitutional mandate that grants us the right to hold such peaceful protests intended to influence the stance of government which are necessary in a democracy. We take note of the situation under COVID-19 and thus we would only have 10 people standing two metres apart and holding posters and read a petition to the visiting delegation from Botswana,” reads the letter in part signed by the National Executive Chairperson of the movement, Sinvula Mudabeti. 

In a note addressed to members of the public, the movement announced that “There is a scheduled meeting between the Deputy Prime Minister Honourable Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwa and the Minister of International Affairs, Dr Lemogang Kwape from Botswana together with representatives of the Zambezi Traditional Authorities as well as our elected representatives, the Regional Councillors.” 

“In the meantime, you are encouraged to become active participants in the Botswana aggression because it affects our social, political and economic spheres affecting our lives and posterity,” reads the note. 

According to the movement, “given the stance that that our own government has taken, siding with Botswana against the lives of our people, we shall therefore aggressively pursue political participation to make our voices known and heard.” It added that as usual the government of Namibia “keeps denying that the meeting has to do with the border treaty of 2018 between Botswana and Namibia as well as the continued intimidation, harassment and killings of innocent and unarmed Namibians by trigger happy BDF yet the meeting is about border hostilities perpetuated by Botswana.”

The protesters intended to hold two public protests; One at Ngoma Border Post and another at the Governor’s office on 24 July 2021. 

“We urge all our members to wear their Zambezi/Namibia Lives Matter T shirts or black colour on Friday, 23 July 2021 and Saturday, 24 July 2021 and post their pictures and share them. We are collecting a collage of pictures from all parts of Namibia to register our displeasure at how government is handling this serious and sensitive matter,” the note states. It says an online petition would be in circulation and called on Namibians to read and sign it to “show your displeasure and genuine anger towards the aggressive BDF.” 

“We will broadcast announcements on radio, social media and via text to gather information of all our people who died at the hands of trigger happy BDF to be handed over to the visiting Minister of International Affairs from Botswana.” 

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper