GUMARE: Former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Gilson Saleshando says he will not rest until Batawana and the government of Botswana apologize for having undermined and abused the rights of Bayei for the past fifty years. As a way of doing damage control he suggested that the Batawana tribal leadership and the government should call a kgotla meeting or find any other means to formally make an apology which he says might do them (Bayei) better even though they will never forget the abuse and ill-treatment they were made to undergo over the years.
Speaking in an interview with The Telegraph in Gumare over the weekend at an event meant to recognize Bayei as a tribe by the Minister of Local Government, Slumber Tsogwane, Saleshando said Batawana abused their imaginary dominant power, not only to exploit other tribes, but by also taking possession of their ploughing fields and forcing them to work for free in the same fields among other things. He stated that despite their obvious suffering, the government still turned a blind eye and acted as if everything was normal, which is why he strongly believes the government also took part in the abuse and therefore should be made to account and atone for their misdeeds. At the meeting, he said he had hoped one of Batawana tribal leaders would at least stand up and apologize, and that when it did not materialize, he was left shocked and asked himself why such a simple thing could not be done.
“I personally believe Batawana should swallow their pride and apologize to the Bayei. These people have abused and violated our rights for so many years now. They felt superior in everything and have for a long time treated us as part of their property. What they failed to notice is that they are in fact the tiniest minority compared to us, the Bakgalagadi, Bambukushu and Basarwa. They only felt dominant because they were favored by the British and BDP governments and have had support from the past powers”, he said.
The Batawana tribal leadership was highly represented at the meeting.
They were led by Kgosi Charles Letsholathebe.Commenting on the accusations leveled against them by Saleshando, Kgosi Letsholathebe made it clear that he was not aware of any animosity between the two tribes, and therefore couldn’t be made to apologize based on opinions raised by an individual.
Saleshando said the recognition of Bayei by Tsogwane is the end of phase one of the struggle, adding that they are now heading to phase two which will include advocating for the recognition of their language to be featured on national radio, national television and elsewhere. He said their wish is for their school going children to be taught in their vernacular, considering that schools in the Okavango region have not been doing well academically because of the language barrie. He made it clear that unlike his tribesmen he wasn’t as excited because some tribes such as Bakgalagadi and other ethnic groups have to date still not been recognized. Therefore he suggested that they too should organize themselves better and follow suit.