Basarwa from Ranyane settlement in Ghanzi region have engaged lawyers to challenge the legality of their impending forced relocation by the Ghanzi District Council.
The protest is led by Gaborone based lawyers, Kambai Attorneys on behalf of Basarwa. Information reaching Sunday Standard indicates that Ditshwanelo and Gaborone based law firm, Matomela Attorneys were also enjoined in the protest on behalf the Basarwa.
In a letter dated 25, January, 2013, and addressed to Ghanzi District Council, Kambai Attorneys state that there was no consultation by the local authority on the relocation saga.
“Our clients instruct that quite apart from the ostensible reason for their forced relocation, the delegation that visited them were not on a consultative mission. They record that during the meetings, authorities addressed them in a condescending attitude or approach; instructing them to relocate from Ranyane,” said the lawyers.
The Chairman of the land board reportedly stated in a kgotla meeting that those who refused to relocate were going to have their houses demolished in the same manner as residents of Xade and other areas in Ghanzi District.
A few residents who registered for voluntary relocation confess that they registered out of trepidation following utterances by the land board chairman to bring a JB to demolish their houses, Kambai Attorneys say.
But the residents had resolved that until the land board assures them that private farms around Ranyane are also being relocated for the same reasons, they refuse to be relocated to Bera or any place.
The residents also refuse to be relocated to an area which is about 200km from Ranyane and in a different political Constituency. They argue that during the meetings, the land board failed to consult clients on the issue of what would happen to the remains of their ancestors who have been buried at Ranyane cemetery; will the Council exhume the remains?
“In any event, your office must comply with the provisions of section 8 (1) of the Constitution of Botswana with respect to compulsory repossession and compensation for the destruction of their properties, it is our considered opinion that your office has failed to comply with the aforesaid mandatory constitutional provisions with respect to relocation of our clients,” state Kambai Attorneys.
The Ranyane residents also contend that if the Council Authorities found that the location of Ranyane residents was distracting the movement of animals, then private farms fenced in and around Ranyane (farm 21 and 41) would obstruct the movement of animals and should also be relocated for same reasons.
“Our clients inform us that the main reason for their proposed relocation is that Ranyane is situated in Wildlife Protected Area (WPA) the Council Authorities allege that the settlement distracts the movement of animals from CKGR to White’s Pan…” But the residents state that the reasons for the relocation are to allocate private farms around Ranyane to more “deserving citizens”.
The Ghanzi District Council has since stopped provision of certain service including maintenance of the borehole engine which is critical of the provision of water early December last year.
“We are instructed to demand that as we hereby do the immediate and unconditional restatement of services which the District Council used to provide to our clients; maintenance of and supply of diesel for the operation of the borehole engine at Ranyane. The Ghanzi District Council should also show cause why Council Services like LIMID are not being extended to the residents,” said the lawyers.
The lawyers argue that it paradoxical that the same services are being provided to the residents of Grootlagte and Bera and they also live around areas where there are wild animals.
“Our clients therefore feel strongly discriminated by this move and have instructed us to resist any unfair and unlawful discrimination meted out at them by any government officials. The District Tribal Authority must also open the Kgotla facilities at Ranyane for use by the residents,” the lawyers demanded.
In 2002 many Basarwa were relocated from various settlements in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and they successfully won their legal battle against the government and have since returned to their settlements inside the reserve.