Basarwa lawyer, Advocate Gordon Bennett, is alleged to have been served with papers from the immigration officials declaring him a prohibited immigrant as he was about to board a plane to the United Kingdom. This follows his interrogation at the hands of two government departments this week.
The Briton, who is credited with successfully challenging the legality of Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)‘s forced relocation from their ancestral land by the Botswana Government, also won another different legal battle recently in which the government sought to relocate Basarwa tribesmen from Ranyane settlement in Ghanzi District.
Sunday Standard has established that sometime this week, Bennett was escorted by security agents from a hotel in Gaborone to Immigration Headquarters. It is understood that at the immigration offices, Bennet was interrogated by Immigration Director Mabuse Pule.
He was questioned as to what his mission and interests in the country were at which Bennett is alleged to have responded by asking Mabuse why he could not have asked him about that over the phone.
“The immigration boss told Bennet that he could not do that because his phone, (Bennett) has been bugged,” sources said. Sources also claimed that Bennet 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.
It is also understood that Ditshwanelo, the Centre for Human Rights, is allegedly behind the interrogation of Bennet by security agents. The Human Rights Organisation was allegedly against the involvement of Bennett in the recent case against government.
“His interrogation is a result of sabotage by Ditshwanelo. The organisation believes that the involvement of Bennet in the case was likely to impact negatively on its relationship with the government. The organisation has a problem with him because of his association with Survival International among others,” said a source.
Those close to Ditshwanelo say the organisation had a heated meeting with Basarwa at which it expressed its displeasure at the involvement of Bennett in their case.
“Ditshwanelo believes that its relationship with government is likely to be strained because it is currently conducting a natural resource mapping exercise to come up with a people centred land management plan that includes looking at community use zones, culture and potential for tourism for the area,” said another source.
The aim of the mapping exercise is to present the findings to the government of Botswana as an alternative management plan for the CKGR.
However, Basarwa are said to have “told Ditshwanelo to get lost as they vowed not to terminate their relationship with Bennett”.
Reached for comment, Ditshwanelo official, Donald Nnoto, declined to share contacts of his colleagues who could comment on the matter saying he was in South Africa.
“I can’t give you Mma Mogwe’s (Ditswanelo Director) number; she does not have a cellphone. With regard to the publicity officer, I can’t do that because we are not allowed to share other colleagues’ numbers with a third party,” he said.
Recently, the Human Rights organisation denied as untrue reports that it had invited Bennet, and stated in a press statement that “DITSHWANELO wishes to state unequivocally that it did not invite or facilitate Advocate Gordon Bennett’s representation of the Applicants”.
Government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay on Friday said that he was not aware that Bennett was interrogated by the security agents or heads of government departments.
“I haven’t been told about that. What I know is that he was in the country recently,” said Ramsay.
Recently Lobatse High Court Justice Lot Moroka ordered that Basarwa and their families ‘shall not be removed from Ranyane less than 48 hours after those persons have informed the Applicants’ attorneys by telephone of their proposed removal’.
Moroka also ordered that the court’s order shall not prevent the provision of ‘food rations and other social services to the residents of Ranyane’ and shall not prevent ‘law enforcement agencies pursuing their lawful duties’.