Advocate Duma Boko has pleaded with a panel of the Court of Appeal that justice should prevail in a case in which some Basarwa of the Central Game Reserve (CKGR) are appealing a High Court decision that barred them from burying their father in the reserve.
Boko made the passionate plea during his closing submissions before Justices Lakhvinder Singh Walia, Mercy Gaarekwe and Leatile Dambe. High Court Judge Itumeleng Segopolo had dismissed the family’s application and ordered Gaoberekwe Pitseng’s family to bury him in 10 days. The judge had also ordered that failure by the deceased’s son to comply with the order, cited as the main applicant, Lesiame Pitseng, would mean jail time for 30 days. The Basarwa tribesmen had dragged government before the High Court after the Director of Wildlife and National Parks barred them entry into CKGR to bury their father who was born and bred in the contentious Reserve. The body of Gaoberekwe who died last year on Christmas Eve in New Xade is still languishing in a mortuary in Gantsi.
Making closing submissions; Boko said; “I hope justice will prevail.” Before taking his seat, Boko rose to his full height and explained to the judges that; “By justice to prevail, I meant that the deceased be buried in CKGR.”
This threw the court into stitches with Justice Walia who was seemingly amused replying that; “He will be buried.”
Earlier on, Boko had told the Court that a number of people continued to be buried in the reserve even after the Roy Sesana judgement in which the government was found to have forcefully relocated the Basarwa from their ancestral land. Boko noted that anybody who had lived in the Reserve was entitled to benefit from the Sesana judgement. He said there was no designated graveyard in New Xade. “No evidence has been placed before this court, therefore compelling burial there,” said Boko.
He added that; “This particular deceased is entitled to be buried in Metsimanong in CKGR.” Boko said though there are claims that Pitseng’s place of abode at time of his death was New Xade and he was benefitting from services provided by Gantsi District Council under its destitute program.
He added that whether there was a house or not, if it was not because of his illness (so that he could be taken care of by his children) Pitseng would have resided in CKGR. Boko said the common understanding between Pitseng’s family and the Council was that his relatives must bury him at the place of their choosing, which is the CKGR.
“The District Council said we will not be party but you can bury him at a place of your choosing,” said Boko. He added that the Council also indicated that; “We would participate if you bury him in New Xade but elsewhere, we won’t.”
Representing the State, Advocate Sidney Pilane argued that the Director of Wildlife made an administrative decision when he barred the body of Pitseng from being buried in the Reserve. That decision, Pilane argued, had not been reviewed as the law dictates. “The decision of the director stands and it cannot be ignored,” said Pilane. He said the Gantsi District Council had intended to bury Pitseng who was a permanent destitute and did not say anything about designated cemeteries in New Xade.
“We pray that the Court must dismiss the appeal so that we get finality in this matter. The deceased has been lying in the mortuary for more than a year now,” he said.