It goes without saying that the standoff between Botswana Government and Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is hurting the image of Botswana.
The standoff has been in the news now for over twenty years.
Government of Botswana behaviour has often been characterised by two-faced hypocrisy, double standards and in some cases outright wickedness and crude insensitivity.
How else does one begin to describe the spirited efforts by Botswana Government to ensure that all the legal victories won by Basarwa at the courts are hollow?
How else does one even begin to explain Government attitude to effectively ban from the country a lawyer who has been representing Basarwa at the courts by placing on him tedious immigration restrictions normally put on terrorist suspects.
Following court judgments that effectively said what Botswana Government was legal victories at the courts.
Botswana Government’s slovenly attitude towards Basarwa, who as a group are by far the most wretched, is to say the least shameful.
A failure by Botswana Government to accept that Basarwa in the CKGR are neither inferior nor old but simply different from many other tribes is unfortunate.
What Botswana Government has achieved through this willful recklessness has been to isolate the country abroad, including from long time allies and turn it into a butt of jokes to old critics like Zimbabwe and Angola.
Botswana’s Government’s history in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, especially as it pertains to forced removals of Basarwa is a history replete with deceit, double standards lies and contradictions.
When it all started Botswana Government denied the potential of a diamond mine ever opening inside the reserve.
Not only did they say the diamond deposits discovered were too minute to ever be mined economically, they also said opening such a mine in an environmentally pristine and ecologically sensitive area such as the reserve would be an affront to the country’s sensibilities.
As we speak a diamond has been developed in the middle of the Reserve and a few months ago it was opened by none other than President Ian Khama.
And that is not all.
At the height of the controversy over forced removals, Botswana Government denied plans to develop high end tourism hotels and safari camps inside the Reserve.
As we speak, Wilderness Safaris – a tourism multi-national with close links to the Khama family has developed camps inside the CKGR.
In the meantime Basarwa have nothing to show for their efforts over the years which ended up with the courts finding in their favour.
Botswana Government insists that only Basarwa that had taken government to court can go into the reserve. Even then they have to apply with the authorities. And can only stay for such length of time as determined by government.
All those Batswana who have sympathised with Basarwa have been demonised as unpatriotic or as being in the pockets foreign agents or some such organisations like Survival International.
We call on Government to call Basarwa to the table.
We are very much aware of the extent to which Government has effectively obliterated the leadership of Basarwa.
But we are worried that campaigns such as that one started by Survival International calling on the world to boycott Botswana’s tourism have a potential to not just hurt the tourism sector but the image of the country.