A toxic brew of suspicion against Botswana Government’s apparent divide and rule shenanigans is pushing some Basarwa in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) to renew an international campaign against the government and their leader Roy Sesana.
The concerned group of Basarwa who made contact with the The Telegraph this week disclosed how they intend to re-enlist the services of UK based human rights organisation Survival International and their banned lawyer Gordon Bennet to block government from restoring services in their ancestral land.
The group’s spokesperson, Mogolodi Moeti said they also intend to approach their local lawyers, Duma Boko and Co. to challenge Government’s decision to restore services in CKGR. The visibly emotionally charged Moeti accused their leader Roy Sesana of being a sell-out.
This follows reports that Sesana will soon take up a job as an employee of the Ghanzi District Council.
“We don’t understand what is really going on between Sesana and the Government. He has not consulted or at least briefed us on his meetings with government officials,” said Moeti.
Moeti who is one of the applicants that took the Government to court on numerous occasions has said they have learnt that Sesana is part of a committee that will work hand in hand with government to restore services in CKGR.
“What the government intends to do in our ancestral land is illegal. If the government is sincere in its intended restoration of services in CKGR, it should have started consultations with residents of CKGR and their lawyers first. Remember there are some court judgments that the Government should observe and consider when doing something in CKGR that affects us directly,” said Moeti.
According to Moeti, failure by the government to consult and involve them over the intended restoration of services should be seen as government’s ploy to deceive Basarwa.
He also questioned the wisdom of employing Sesana as a civil servant saying “in my understanding, someone who is already receiving old age pension should not be a civil servant.”
Moeti said when they took government to court on numerous occasions they did not seek the introduction of tourism activities in CKGR but “wanted to be given our land back.”
“Sesana was our representative and he was delegated to work with Duma Boko and Bennett on behalf of residents of CKGR. Hence government will not work or deal with us without legal representation, so we want Boko or Bennett to be involved in this,” said Moeti.
He further accused the Government of being in contempt of court saying one of the judgements stated that Government was not under obligation to drill boreholes in the CKGR.
“Those boreholes were drilled by some well wishers for Basarwa and that was done in accordance with the law and it is why we reject restoration of services that are imposed on us without involvement of us and our lawyers,” said Moeti.
He called on the government to be transparent and explain to Basarwa and their lawyers what necessitated its decision to restore services in CKGR.
“We recently learnt that Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi and other government officials held a meeting in CKGR and most of the residents of CKGR were not invited to that meeting. There are allegations that they intend to drill boreholes that would among others be used by residents and for tourism activities,” said Moeti.
He reiterated that they already have boreholes that they have drilled and they do not need government’s intervention as it has since made it clear before courts that it would not restore services in CKGR.
Moeti said as the concerned residents of CKGR they had attempted to “hold a meeting with Sesana but he has been evasive.”
Contacted for comment Bennett said “My legal opinion is that if the Government genuinely wants to restore services it must give a binding commitment to that effect. Otherwise it will allow people to become dependent on services that it could withdraw at any time, for any reason or for no reason. This can only add to the uncertainty and insecurity that has bedeviled the people of the CKGR.”
“This commitment,” he added “should be given in a simple agreement signed by Representatives of both the Government and the Bushmen, so that each side knows where it stands. An agreement could easily be drafted, at very little cost, but would bring much needed clarity.”
Survival International Press Officer Lewis Evans, said the organization welcomes the government’s promises to restore services to the communities living inside the CKGR.
However, Evans said, they share the Basarwa’s concern that this U-turn comes at a time when the government is keen to project a good image in the run-up to the 50th anniversary celebrations, and “we are not holding our breath that the promises will be carried out or continued after the celebrations are over. “
“Our primary concern, which is shared by many other Basarwa, is that the government continues to ignore the most pressing issue: that the majority of Basarwa are still being denied the right to live inside the CKGR,” said Evans.
He added that “in stark contradiction to Botswana’s High Court ruling, the government has so far only allowed the applicants of the court case to return, and their children, on reaching the age of 18, are forced to apply for permits that allow them to stay in the reserve up to a maximum of one-month at a time. As the government well knows, this policy means that there will be no Basarwa left in the reserve in a couple of generations time.”
“So, we welcome the decision to reinstate services (14 years after they were illegally stopped by the government), but what guarantee is there that they will last longer than this year, and what future is there for the Basarwa if the government does not uphold their legally granted right to reside on their homeland in the reserve?” wondered Evans.
He said any restoration of services should be carried out in consultations with the communities according to international laws.
“Our understanding is that the government has met with some of the communities inside the reserve, but we cannot comment on how successful the negotiations were as we are banned from visiting Botswana, so we cannot speak to Basarwa who do not have access to telephone or internet, only to those who are able to travel outside the reserve. This of course is another government tactic to prevent us being able to carry out proper consultation with the communities we have worked with for more than two decades,” he said.
With regards to Sesana’s employment, Evans said “we of course support Roy [Sesana] in his long-standing struggle for his people’s rights to be upheld.”
Immediate comments from Boko and Venson Moitoi were not available as their mobile phones rang unanswered this week. Government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay’s phone also rang unanswered while Sesana’s mobile number was off.