Botswana Government has said they are in the process of reviwing the total hunting ban with the view of allowing those killing for the pot, especially Basarwa, to do so, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Conservation has said.
In the meantime a charm offensive that was launched by President Ian Khama last year on Basarwa communities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) seems to have achieved little success as Basarwa have now turned the heat on the Tourism Ministry.
Basarwa are now accusing Botswana senior government officials of peddling lies and misleading Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and the international community alleging that government has relaxed some restrictions to allow them to enter the reserve. Basarwa say they are still not allowed to enter without producing permits.
Basarwa Spokesperson, Jumanda Gakelebone said it is either the Minister is being economical with the truth or his officials have lied to him that Basarwa are enjoying some benefits after they were allowed free entry into the reserve. He argued that Basarwa are still starving with no food, less water and still forced to produce monthly permit to enter the reserve.
Last year Gakelebone said they excluded their ally Survival International from the peace talks, because they wanted to gauge government’s authenticity to determine how far President Khama and his cabinet are willing to bend to accommodate the needs of Basarwa.
“We felt it would be wise not to involve SI at this stage. We wanted the talks to be honest, heart to heart negotiations,” he said.
But this week Gakelebone called on Tshekedi Khama to visit them to get clear answers because even law enforcement authorities have a tendency of threatening to lock them up in cells if they enter the reserve without permits.
Gakelebone who is also a Councilor for New Xade Ward in Gantsi appealed to Tshekedi Khama to visit and share with them information relating to permits to enter the reserve because his officials in Gantsi never shared any correspondence relating to free entry into the reserve with them.
He said even at Kgalagadi Council Chambers no one has been informed about such developments.
“If the restrictions have been relaxed why were nine Basarwa recently arrested charged with illegal entering of the reserve?” asked Jumanda.
But Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama insisted that they have relaxed some restrictions in CKGR to enable Basarwa staying outside and inside the reserve to enter without permits.
“As much as I know restrictions have been relaxed and maybe it is just that some section of Basarwa have not been informed about the issue. I will investigate the matter and advise the relevant officers to follow proper channels and allow Basarwa to enter the reserve freely,” said Khama.
He said they are still consulting on how they can possibly relax some restrictions to allow them to kill for the pot without jeopardizing the purpose of imposing the hunting ban.
Khama said they intend to review the hunting ban to allow some tribes, particularly Basarwa to kill for the pot (consumption) and not commercial purposes.
“We are looking at how we can regulate and monitor how Basarwa and some Batswana in general could be allowed to kill for the pot in certain areas because the number of animal we feared for extinction have stabilize. I strongly believe that we should revisit our strategies and put some stringent measures when allowing some members of the community in certain areas to kill for the pot. We want to curb a situation where people would exploit Basarwa and use them to kill animals for commercial gain while hiding behind their back,” said Khama.
Councillor for Gantsi Eastern Farm Ward, Babane Thite shared Jumanda’s sentiments saying no information has reached them on government decision to relax restrictions to enter the reserve.
‘‘If the decision was taken three months ago, it has not yet reached us and I think its prudent for the minister to visit us because we are not even benefiting anything from the mine which is in CKGR,” said Thite.
He said nine Basarwa men were recently arrested, tortured and charged with illegally entering of the reserve and wondered why the minister has said the restrictions were relaxed some three months ago while there is nothing on the ground to show for it.