With the High Court expected to deliver judgement over the highly controversial case involving the relocations of Basarwa from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has joined the anti government brigade by distancing itself from the government’s official line.
The BCP says the relocations were forceful and flawed in many ways.
BCP Vice President, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, who led the BCP fact finding delegation into the CKGR recently said his team did not come across a single person who did not want to go back into the Reserve.
Dr Gobotswang said life in the settlements is unsustainable as all the people literally live on government handouts in one way or another.
He said contrary to government propaganda, life in the government created settlements is horrible, inhuman and unsustainable.
He said life in such settlements is characterized by idleness, alcoholism and general hopelessness.
“People are very, very angry against government. They want to go home,” said Gobotswang.
He, however, made it clear that BCP would not join the bandwagon trying to associate relocations with diamonds, saying the nearest known diamond deposits are at Gope, 250 kilometers away from the places where people were moved.
“Our conclusion is that government is trying to make way for wildlife and tourism,” said Gobotswang.
“It would appear like a decision was made in 1984 to remove the people in favour of wildlife,” he adds.
He, however, said as much as there are differences, the BCP strongly feels the issue is a domestic one that should be left to Batswana to resolve on their own.
His biggest disappointment is that from the onset Basarwa were duped into false negotiations and then moved from pillar to post.
“It was never clear who Basarwa and their representatives were actually negotiating with. At one point, it would be the Ministry of Minerals, the next, it would be the Office of the President before taking them to the Ministry of Local Government.”
Not only did this underscore bad faith on the part of government, it also confused and disoriented Basarwa and their representatives, said Gobotswang.
“All indicators that force was used to rattle and intimidate Basarwa are there,” he says as a matter of fact.
“Maybe the government intensions were good and well meaning but there were no proper consultations.”
He says the only way forward is for government to observe the international protocols on tribal peoples and minorities.
“Our position is very simple. Basarwa were simply not resettled so that they could get nearer to developments. In the areas from which they were uprooted there are schools, health posts, and shopping structures,” he said.
He said the BCP position is that everything should be moved back to the “pre-relocation status quo.”