Mosarwa activist, Jumanda Gakelebone, has confirmed that he will contest for the New Xade seat in the Gantsi District Council in the 2014 general election.
Gakelebone, who is standing unopposed, says that he will contest under an Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.
“I was encouraged by people in my community to run for political office and I also feel that I would be able to better represent my people if I am part of the political decision-making process,” he says.
His understanding of politics is that only a Mosarwa councillor can competently represent the aspirations of a Basarwa community which, in 1997, was uprooted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and transplanted in what is now known as New Xade. However, the problem with that reasoning is that ever since New Xade came into being, it has always been represented by Basarwa councillors. The current one, Thaethae Gakelebone, is married to his uncle. Gakelebone’s explanation is that “we as a party feel that we can make better representatives.”
Long associated with the opposition, Gakelebone says that UDC was the natural choice for him.
“I am lifetime member of the Botswana National Front and have never voted for the Botswana Democratic Party,” he says.
A long-time Basarwa rights activist, Gakelebone came to prominence through his association with the now defunct, First People of the Kalahari which teamed up with United Kingdom-based pressure group, Survival International, to resist the removal of communities living in the CKGR. Last year he was detained at the Gantsi police station after he entered the game reserve without a permit. This requirement is not made of native CKGR residents but Gantsi police said that their investigations had revealed that Gakelebone was actually a townboy from Gantsi Township. Gakelebone fought back, saying in a Sunday Standard interview that “there is not a single person in the whole of Botswana – indeed in the international community – who doesn’t know that Jumanda was born and bred in the CKGR. And never before have I been asked for a permit when I went into the game reserve.”
According to him, he has ancestral roots in both Metsiamanong and Menwatshe, settlements within the CKGR, and spent his childhood in both places. He said that his national identity card shows that he was born in Menwatshe.
Survival International was characteristically quick to publicise Gakelebone’s arrest to bolster its claims that Basarwa are being persecuted by the government. A press statement that it put out quoted Gakelebone as saying, “I count [the reserve] as home. That’s where I was born. I do not need a permit.”