Monday, May 27, 2024

Basarwa fight Land board over “human rights violations”

Botswana Khweedom Council (BKC) a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which represents the interests of Basarwa(Bakhwe) has written a letter to the  Bamangwato Land Board appealing against abuse, human rights violations and tribalism by Letlhakane Sub Land Board. The land board is accused of denying the Basarwa community of Metsiaela/ Buuhe ward in Letlhakane the right to have land. Metsiaela/Buuhe ward is occupied by close to 4 000 Basarwa(Bakhwee)  who were relocated from Orapa and Damtshaa Mines paving way for developments in the mines in the early 70’s. At the time Basarwa initially eked a living as hunters and gatherers living a nomadic life. Some of them worked in farms and cattleposts. The local government recognized Metsiaela/ Buuhe ward as a gazetted settlement and subsequently declared the area to be allocated plots for residential, industrial, commercial and agricultural purposes.

Speaking to the Sunday Standard the BKC spokesperson Banyatsi Salutu confirmed that they wrote a letter appealing to Ngwato Land Board Secretary over the unfair treatment Basarwa get from Letlhakane Sub Land Board. He said in 2008 the first batch of Basarwa was allocated over 100 residential plots only and the vast majority was left landless. He also said they were not afforded commercial and agricultural plots the reason being that they do not have Identity Documents. Salutu claims  most of the Basarwa in that community live as squatters. “The local government through Letlhakane Sub Land Board demarcated plots in 2019 in Metsiaela Buuhe Ward and none of those Basarwa that were left in 2008 were afforded residential plots including commercial and agricultural land.

These ranges from youth, people living with disability, orphans, women and even senior citizens,” he said. He said most people in Buuhe/ Metsiawela ward are marginalized and living in abject poverty. Salutu said most of them cannot participate in government empowerment programmes mainly because they do not have land. He pointed a blaming finger at Letlhakane Land Board for continuing to ignore their pleas and sabotaging Basarwa.

“Despite the waiting list of most of Basarwa in Metsiaela who do not have land, we continue to see plots being allocated to outsiders and we feel that this motivated by tribalism and favoritism from Letlhakane Sub Land Board. There is also no consultation when these allocations are done,” said Salutu “We feel that land allocation should be done fairly amongst all communities in Botswana and many factors must be considered by the Sub Land Board such as preservation of cultural sites and burial places. This land board is currently doing the opposite. Our efforts to engage Letlhakane Land Board on this issue have failed many times “he added.

Salutu said as BKC they feel that Letlhakane Sub Land Board is deliberately denying Basarwa land a situation which has left them in misery and abject poverty. The Sunday Standard is in possession of a letter by BKC dated 09 January 2023 appealing to Ngwato Land Board to attend the situation as a matter of urgency. Part of the letter reads “We appeal to Ngwato Land Board to investigate this matter in good faith, Principle of Morero, Lefatshe Boswa and other norm practices in Botswana to consider our pleas and assist those eligible for plot allocations in Buuhe/ Metsiaela community to ensure none of them live in squatters. Several efforts to contact Letlhakane Sub Land board proved futile last week as their phones rang unanswered.

Reached for comment on Friday Ngwato Land Board Secretary Ephraim Mosimanegape said that he had not yet accessed the letter from the BKC as he was on leave. He promised to look at the letter when he assumes duty on Monday. “I have just been informed by Botswana Khweedom Council about the letter. I will look at it on Monday as I am on leave,” he said.

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