The Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Botswana says there has to be a spirit of give and take in the ongoing standoff between the government and Basarwa over the relocations from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Paul Malin told The Sunday Standard in an interview that with the court case now over there is a ?real opportunity? to resolve the long running dispute.
?At this stage we are listening very carefully for signs of a dialogue. We can only repeat what the judges said that the legal settlement can only go that far. For a lasting settlement, parties have to talk,? said Malin.
He said it has to be appreciated that in the final analysis the issue will have to be resolved by citizens of Botswana and their government.
A group of Basarwa took the government to court arguing that the relocation from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was unconstitutional.
Basarwa were awarded in a judgment handed by a three judge panel at the Lobatse High Court in December.
The court found that Basarwa had a constitutional right to remain inside the Reserve, if they so wished.
Government swiftly moved to implement the judgment without appealing.
Basarwa also did not appeal the main points of the case, except to argue that they would want government to pay their costs.
The new problem, however, is that the government says they are not obliged to provide services, like water, inside the Reserve, which is a purely legalistic interpretation of the judgment handed in December last year.
Malin said with Basarwa?s legal right to remain inside the Reserve now established, he would, on behalf of the European Union, wait to see how the implementation of such rights will go.
?After the court judgment, this is an opportunity to resolve the issues. It is very important to note that government did not appeal. The only appeal by Basarwa is on costs and that is a separate matter,? said Malin.
Malin called for dialogue, saying as a development agency with particular mandate to alleviate poverty, the European Union Delegation in Botswana has followed the matter with curious interest.
He said that Basarwa are among the poorest people in Botswana, hence the European Union?s interest in the matters.
?President Festus Mogae has been to New Xade. But it seems like a bit more needs to be done in promoting dialogue and the European Union will encourage that,? said Malin.
He, however, said the Delegation will not enter the dispute on either side.
?We do not want to be involved. We only want to be supportive, especially in the promotion of a dialogue,? he said.
He underscored the fact that the standoff between the government and Basarwa is a very sensitive matter that has to be approached with utmost caution and care.
?As the European Union, we have a political dialogue with the government of Botswana as enshrined under the Cotonou Agreement, which broadly covers human rights and observation of the rule of law. It is on those grounds that we have a basis to be talking to the government of Botswana on this matter.?
Malin added that although only a small number of Basarwa is involved, the issue is not only sensitive but also ?visible.?