The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (“BOFEPUSU”) says the recent Court of Appeal judgement in the Basarwa case “is a sad indictment on the Government of Botswana, which for several years has waged an unrelenting campaign of savage brutality and oppression against a defenceless ethnic minority”.
President Ian Khama and a number of his family and professional associates are behind Wilderness Safaris, which has built a lodge on land that was taken away from Basarwa of the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve.
Khama’s nephew, Marcus ter Haar, and the president’s personal lawyer, Parks Tafa, are directors of Wilderness Safaris, which has in the past been linked to President Khama.
In 2002, Basarwa were forcibly expelled from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR), but were reinstated their land in 2006. Despite the court ruling, the government banned them from accessing a borehole, which they rely on for water. The Court of Appeal last week, however, judged in favour of some CKGR residents’ claim to use the Mothomelo borehole located in the Reserve at their own expense.
BOFEPUSU issued a statement on Friday that, “the oppression of Basarwa for the sake of protecting the commercial interests of a few Government cronies cannot be allowed to continue. BOFEPUSU calls upon the Government to place human interests before the mining interests and tourism interests of a handful of its cronies. It is most disgraceful in this day and age that a government can go to court and waste tax payers’ money defending the ill-treatment of its own people.”
The union called on the Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme, to step down. “The Attorney General should shoulder some of the blame for this great embarrassment to our country by offering to relinquish her post. An attorney general must be someone who is able to take principled stand on matters of fundamental rights and must be able to resist the temptation of placating the executive by going to court to defend the oppression of a defenceless minority.”
Government on the other hand has issued a statement that, “while we do not agree with certain aspects of the basis on which the decision was reached, we recognise that this is a decision of Botswana’s highest court from which there is no appeal. As such, the Government of Botswana will, in line with its established policy of respect for the decisions of the Courts and the rule of law, facilitate implementation of the decision of the Court as reflected in the order.”
The press release further stated, “we note that the decision has attracted commentary from certain quarters, and that various claims are being made about what the court of appeal actually decided. We would encourage such commentators to study the court’s judgment to ensure that what is conveyed to the public is accurate. “The Botswana Government is of the firm view that the CKGR is a national resource to be used for the benefit of all citizens of Botswana, and that any issues regarding the reserve cannot be resolved by recourse to the Courts. In that regard, the Botswana Government shall continue the dialogue which has been ongoing with the residents of the CKGR and other stakeholders, with a view to finding a lasting solution to the matter.”