The government of Botswana has started to implement its controversial scotched earth policy to starve Basarwa out of Ranyane Settlement in the Ghanzi District ÔÇô documents passed to the Sunday Standard have revealed. A report compiled by Kambai Attorneys who are representing Ranyane residents reveal that since 18th June 2013 the Ghanzi District has stopped providing diesel fuel for an engine used to generate water for residents and their livestock. Denying Basarwa water is a calculated political tool by Botswana government to force Basarwa out of their settlements. (See story on Page 3)
The council has also terminated other services which it has customarily provided and are essential for the survival of Ranyane residents. It has also emerged that the council is now refusing to provide any employment to residents it had previously employed on a drought relief programme, Ipelegeng and Cluster policing. The Ghanzi District is also accused of refusing to provide the monthly visitation of the Mobile Clinic to Ranyane which was stopped without any explanation, thereby denying the residents access to medical facilities. Basarwa lawyers say after the Government of Botswana issued a public statement on 7th August 2013, that the Ghanzi District Council should under no circumstances engage in any acts that might reasonably be regarded as an attempt to forcibly relocate residents of Ranyane who wish to remain there; they have a legitimate expectation that that the Council or its employees will not engage in such acts.
Alternatively, Basarwa say, Ghanzi District or its employees will not also terminate any services without the express approval of the Government of Botswana or without allowing the residents an opportunity to be heard. At the time the service were withdrawn Basarwa lawyers say the explanation from the District Council authorities and the Central Government was that the services were not withdrawn but temporarily suspended pending the assessment following relocation of some residents to Bere in June 2013. Despite repeated enquiries, Basarwa lawyers say, the “District Council has failed, refused or ignored demands to restore services at Ranyane.”
Basarwa lawyers say their clients have no option but to conclude that the services were withdrawn or suspended indefinitely in a bid to compel/coerce them relocate from Ranyane against their will to settlements or places where the Council provides services. “Our clients will submit that the Ghanzi District Council’s decision to terminate services indefinitely undermines the Government ‘s commitment made by statement dated 7th disassociated itself from any act which may be viewed as intended to compel the residents relocate from Ranyane against their will,” said Kambai Attorneys.
The Basarwa’s latest letter follows a confidential report which was passed to the Sunday Standard explaining how government planned to starve Basarwa out of Ranyane Settlement. The report, entitled “Ranyane Relocation Phase II”, presented by the Ghanzi District details the government’s military scorched earth strategy to force the remaining Basarwa out of Ranyane Settlement: Boreholes will be sealed. Food baskets, old age pensions and mobile health services will be terminated. The report, which is complete with timelines, revealed that government would on the 28th July meet with remaining Ranyane residents to inform them of termination of services (food basket, old age pension allowance, pay point and destitute, monthly mobile health stop, and Headman of arbitration).
Ghanzi District was, the report stated, undertaking another relocation of Ranyane residents to Bere and Chobokwane as from the 12 August to 20 August 2013. The report shows that a total of 20 families had shown interest to be relocated; 11 households were assessed on 26 June at Ranyane, 10 are already in Bere and have not been assessed. The report further stated that as part of an effort to relocate those who resisted relocation, government was to apply for a court order on 10th September. Curiously, at the time the government had already pegged its plans on a court eviction order being granted in its favour even before approaching the courts. The report states that “eviction order available (on 10 September) and on the same there will be eviction of those who resist relocation”.
Another option, the report stated, would be removal of engine, bore hole sealing, dismantling of kraals, demolishing Kgotla toilets, stand pipe and mobile toilets. It appears from the recent letter by Basarwa attorneys that the government has settled for the last option. But in a statement issued by Government spokesperson at the time the document was leaked to Sunday Standard, the central government distanced itself from the report. “ To reiterate, government wishes to completely disassociate itself from the referred to draft ‘Ranyane Relocation Phase II Work Plan’ and further reassures the residents of Ranyane and the public at large that its proposed timeline of actions has not, and shall not, be implemented”, reads the statement in part.