Wednesday, June 23, 2021

BCP calls for implementation of Basarwa court ruling

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) on Friday called on the government to fully implement the historic ruling by the Court of Appeal that gives Basarwa access to water.

In a statement, the party said that “it notes with satisfaction that, in addition to those who took the matter to court, the Court of Appeal ruled that the benefits extend to all residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)”.

“We salute the heroic struggle of the residents of the CKGR and condemn the injustices that have been meted on these people by an intransigent government that also lacks compassion,” said Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, the BCP Secretary General.

Gobotswang said it was disturbing that ‘a marginalized and impoverished section of our population had to go all the way to the highest court of the land to be given the right to a basic human right such as water, in a country that prides itself of being a champion of democracy and dignity’.

The party regretted that multinational corporations closely connected to the most powerful have unrestricted access to water resources. He said, without making reference to Wilderness Safaris, which runs a luxurious tourism lodge within the reserve.

The party said it would be another sad day for Botswana if residents of the CKGR were to be forced to re-trace their steps back to court to fight for the provision of basic social services.

“The persecution and humiliation of residents of CKGR must come to an end while a permanent solution to all outstanding issues is being negotiated,” said Gobotswang.

The judgment, which attracted international news headlines, is seen as a major setback for the government, which the Basarwa have accused of using access to water as a way of driving them out of the CKGR.

Basarwa had appealed against last year’s controversial high court judgment that prevented them from accessing a well that they rely on in the reserve.

Ordering the government to pay costs, the judges also found that the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to “degrading treatment”.

Survival International described the ruling as “momentous”. It reported one of the appellants saying: “We’re very happy that our fights have finally been recognised. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

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