When President Ian Khama ascended the highest office on the land, hopes ran high that he would bring a new and fresh dimension in resolving the long running standoff that has pitted Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve on one hand and Government on the other.
Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae, had not shown any keenness towards resolving the matter.
If anything he relished the opportunity the spar offered him to spar with critics, a good number of whom he viewed as foreign busybodies that had no business interfering in what he had classified as a purely internal affair.
The standoff came about when the Government of Botswana forcefully relocated a big number of Basarwa from the CKGR and settled them at such places like New Xade and other resettlement camps.
The matter ended up at the High Court, where Basarwa effectively challenged Government and won.
When Government chose not to appeal, it was believed that by and large the matter had been resolved as Basarwa would go back to their ancestral lands and live their way of life.
That was not to be.
Even as the Government did not appeal, they chose another route which as it turns out is more humiliating and frustrating to Basarwa who had celebrated their victory at the High Court.
Not only has Government opted to be disingenuous in its interpretation of the High Court Judgment, they also are doing everything to show a shocking level of meanness to a section of the Botswana population that has consistently suffered unparalleled levels of discrimination over many years .
What the Government of Botswana is doing in its treatment of Botswana can very easily be classified as racism, not least by outsiders like Survival International who as history will show have over the years been daft at capitalizing on Government’s mistakes on the CKGR matter.
There is no point in labouring on what has happened in the past.
The fact of the matter is that even after losing the court case, and chose not to appeal, the Government of Botswana still would not allow Basarwa in the CKGR access to a borehole they had used before the dispute came out of control.
At one point the Government sealed this borehole.
But it has been opened, not for the use by Basarwa but to drink the wild animals and tourists.
As one commentator so aptly described the whole circus, there is something “particularly distasteful” about closing down a borehole in the middle of the Kalahari.
It is encouraging that since he took over as President, Khama has paid a number of visits to people living in the new settlements as well as inside.
We applaud him for that.
What we however do not share is his fondness to turn himself into Father Christmas by always bringing blankets and other hampers while doing nothing to push a settlement by way of allowing all Basarwa who want to go back into the Reserve to do so.
On that note we want to remind President Khama that the goodwill he enjoyed when he became President is not forever. Also the patience of Basarwa is not finite. Doing nothing about the matter and hoping it will resolve itself is irresponsible.
We regret to note that Basarwa, certainly out of frustration have decided to once again resort to the courts for recourse.
It is also a matter of an even deeper regret that the stand off between Basarwa and their Government is fast finding its way into the international media, thanks to Survival International which has waited in the wings, patiently waiting for a slip on the side of the Botswana Government.
Not for the first time we find ourselves with no option but to urge President Ian Khama to apply his mind towards resolving this impasse.
We strongly feel it is not too late.
We also do not believe that the dispute is so intricate as to be beyond his powers as Head of State.
Our fear is that if the matter is allowed to fester on the economy of Botswana, particularly the tourism sector will suffer what may amount to an irreparable damage.