Sunday, January 29, 2023

Can UN grant dead Mosarwa man his final wish?

The dead Mosarwa man whose corpse is languishing in a state mortuary may get his final wish to be interred in his preferred final resting place inside the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR), that is if the Botswana government heeds a call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

While government is fighting tooth and nail to stop Pitseng Gaoberekwe’s corpse from being buried inside the CKGR, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Friday asked Botswana to allow all ethnic groups originating from the CKGR to return and settle there unconditionally. According to the UN Committee’s finding, “The High Court of Botswana ruled in 2006 that the Government’s refusal to grant Basarwa and Bakalagadi indigenous peoples access to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve without a permit was illegal and unconstitutional. The Committee, however, noted with concerns that some indigenous groups are still not permitted to settle back in the reserve. It asked Botswana to fully implement the High Court’s decision by allowing all ethnic groups originating from this reserve to return and settle there unconditionally.”

The decision by government to demand a permit in order for the body of Gaoberekwe to enter the reserve is reportedly against the 2006 judgement which, according to his lawyers, directed that residents of CKGR do not need a permit to enter the reserve.

The family and the Gantsi District Council recently resolved their impasse over where the body of the 75-year-old man should be buried and who should bear the costs through a consent order.

This was after the Council took the family to court in an attempt to have the differences between the parties over where the deceased should be buried resolved by the Court. The Council had insisted that he be buried in New Xade while his family maintained that he should be buried in CKGR where he was born.

According to sources, little did the family know that the consent order (reportedly proposed by the Council) was a calculated move by the government to waylay the family of Gaoberekwe. 

According to a High Court order issued by Justice Jenifer Dube, the family of Gaoberekwe was “directed to remove the corpse of Mr Pitseng Gaoberekwe from the mortuary where it is currently kept and to bury it at their own expense within seven days from the date of this order.”

Justice had noted in her judgement that the Attorney General (for and on behalf of the Director of Wildlife and National Parks) had made no “appearance” when the matter was heard before the High Court despite being cited in the matter.

The family’s lawyer Nelson Ramaotwana confirmed that the family had been denied access to the Reserve when they attempted to transport the corpse inside the Reserve. 

In a letter addressed to the Attorney General, Ramaotwana stated that “it was further stated in Court that the 4th Respondent (Attorney General on behalf of the department of wildlife) was served with Notice of Sat down and said 4th Respondent was aware that the matter was coming up for hearing today (09/03/2022).’”

He stated further that in light of the Court Order the family intended to collect the deceased body from the mortuary on the 11th March 2022 for transmission to Central Kalahari Game Reserve for burial.”

“We are instructed therefore whether 4th respondent has any objections for the removal of the deceased body for burial at Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).  If there is objection, we furnish us so that we can liaise with the High Court and the Judge handling the matter to set down the matter for arguments,” the letter reads in part.

Ramaotwana told Sunday Standard on Friday that he was yet to receive response from the Attorney General adding that his clients were approaching the High Court to resolve the current standoff.

In a response to the family letter seeking permit for the burial of Gaoberekwe, the director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Kabelo Senyatso, said in a letter dated 18 March 2022 that, “Please note that only the 189 applicants in the 2006 Roy Sesana and others vs Government of Botswana case can be buried in CKGR, and Mr Pitseng Gaoberekwe is not on this list.”

He added that, “In brief, your request for Mr Oteng Victor Moilwa to transport the corpse of the late Mr Pitseng Gaoberekwe into CKGR is not acceded to.” 

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