Fresh information has emerged suggesting that the Botswana Government refused to grant a visa to the Basarwa lawyer, Advocate Gordon Bennett because he facilitated the drilling of boreholes in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR at a time when government wanted to use access to water as a political tool to force Basarwa out of the reserve. Two Basarwa tribesmen who were allegedly assaulted by members of the Special Support Group (SSG) recently on suspicion that they were in possession of game meat said the revelations were relayed to them by the same security personnel.
“They informed us that our lawyer was barred from entering the country because he was instrumental in the facilitation of the drilling of boreholes in the CKGR when the government wanted to force us out of the reserve by not having access to portable drinking water,” said one of the men, Mogolodi Moeti in an interview this week. He said the officers told them that they were deployed to monitor that no hunting or gathering of any wild plant was taking place at areas surrounding the reserve.
According to Moeti, the officers further told them that they were deployed at the reserve after the completion of their marathon case against the government to also ensure that despite court orders or judgements, government policies were implemented. “They said since the High Court judgements relating to relocation and water rights in CKGR, many changes have been made and they should be obeyed. These changes include among others, being in possession of Omang (identity card) when entering CKGR, the recent ban on hunting and termination of other services in the reserve. They told us that our lawyer was banned from entering the country to ensure that the government can implement its polices without any disturbance,” he said. Moeti claimed that the officers also told them that they had been ordered to be strict in their policing of the reserve and use force when necessary.
“While they were assaulting me they told me that even the President was aware of what was happening; that they were busy beating me up. They told me that even if they kill me no charges would be laid against them because what they were doing to me was an order from the government,” he said. Moeti said the officers also warned him that he and other Basarwa should desist from taking government to court because that was a sign of disrespect. “I asked them if it was wrong for a Mosarwa to seek redress from the court against government. They told me that I was being made an example to dissuade others from attempting to return to CKGR or disrespecting government,” he said. Moeti said he was beaten with the butt of a gun and his house was searched for illegal game meat; but later released without charges. “Even up to now I don’t know what they were assaulting me for. I have since taken up the matter with the Ghanzi station commander to open a case. This was after I was taken to the hospital where I was attended to by a doctor,” said Moeti. Narrating how he met his ordeal, Moeti said he was from Metsimanong in the CKGR. On the way he met at least five SSG officers and a game wardens who searched him. “I told them that I was carrying goat meat. They released me after they had found nothing. After two days they came for me. They just entered the house around 3:00 AM in New Xade. I pleaded with them to wait for me outside but they just dragged me outside.
That is when my wife alerted our neighbours. After that they took me together with one of my neighbours and started assaulting us on the gravel road leading to Ghanzi,” said Moeti. Ghanzi station commander confirmed that five police officers and a warden were being investigated in connection with the assault. “We are winding up our investigation and soon we will refer the matter to the Directorate of Public Prosecution to chart the way forward,” he said. Before Bennet was listed as one of the Britons who need a visa to enter Botswana just a week after he successfully represented Basarwa who did not want to be relocated by government from Ranyane settlement in Ghanzi District, sources claimed that the lawyer was also summoned by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Director Donald Koboto following the former’s intension to visit CKGR.
“He was interrogated and permission to enter CKGR was refused,” sources said. Last year in a statement refuting reports that Bennet was declared a Prohibited Immigrant, government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said during Bennett’s recent stay in Botswana, he was at one point contacted by immigration officials about his work status. He said while Bennett was given permission to appear in court on behalf of the Ranyane residents, he was not authorised to carry out any additional business in Botswana, unrelated to the said case. At the time, it was not clear what other business Bennett had in Botswana but Ramsay says he had asked wildlife officials about the CKGR.