Saturday, May 28, 2022

Indigenous people of Okavango bracing for a fight with gov’t over oil mining

Botswana Government and Basarwa of the Kalahari are headed for what promises to be a bruising second round encounter over the Canada based mining house, ReconAfrica concession.

An oil and gas mining company, ReconAfrica has so far entered Namibia where it has also faced stiff opposition.

The first time the two locked horns it was over the relocations of people from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It became a fight to the end, joined along the way by international organisations like Survival International a London based NGO that prides itself for fighting for the rights of indigenous people across the globe.

Gakemotho Satau of the Kuru Family of Organisations has spoken out against what he terms a lack of consultation on the part of Botswana Government.

He signalled that  Botswana Government is headed for a collision course with the indigenous people in the Okavango.

Speaking from the Okavango over a zoom call, Satau said the minister responsible for mining, Lefoko Moagi recently visited and held a closed door meeting with  traditional leaders.

Satau and other activists were pointedly told not to attend because they are from “pressure groups.”

Satau fears that the imminent oil and gas exploration would damage the ecologically fragile Okavango.

He calls repeated insistence by officials that consultation has happened as nothing more than word play.

“Botswana Government is staging rhetoric as consultation,” says Satau.

He said there has been only one closed meeting where a government minister introduced ReconAfrica executives.

“No consultation was made.”

Satau kept pointing out that with the envisaged mining, Okavango is in real trouble.

Kuru Family of Organisations plans to get resources to pay for an expert view on Social Impact Assessment on indigenous people who live in the Okavango and rely on the ecological wellbeing of the river basin for food.

They have already sent a delegation to Nigeria to visit the Niger Delta where big oil mining is happening to get first hand experience of what impact the mining has had on the people living there.

Öur people that went to Nigeria are scared by what they saw. We think there is potential for poisoning of our people here,” said Satau.

Other than the impact on the Okavango Delta, Satau says they are also worried about what will happen to Tsodilo Hills.

“Ecological life downstream is most likely going to be affected.”

Satau said he was still haunted by what happened to their people when they were removed from the CKGR.

“Relocations from the CKGR has affected us physically, emotionally and psychologically,” he says.

He still has no kind words for Sydney Pilane, then Special Advisor to President Festus Mogae.

Pilane was to also double as the lead attorney for Government in the case against Basarwa of the CKGR.

“We are in an unfortunate situation. The sad thing is we cannot rely on our chiefs. They have either been captured or they have been threatened that they will lose their job if they spoke against Botswana Government. We had organised a capacity building workshop for them. When the minister arrived they left the workshop to attend his meeting,” said Satau.

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