President Ian Khama has launched a charm offensive against Basarwa communities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), led by their leader Roy Sesana. The olive branch extended by President Khama seems to be working, at least for now, as a Basarwa delegation is expected to meet the President and selected cabinet ministers to resolve their differences and set a mutually acceptable working agenda going forward.
The planned Basarwa delegation visit comes in the wake of a watershed meeting between Roy Sesana, leader of the First People of the Kalahari (FPK) and President Khama last week. Sesana confirmed in an interview with Sunday Standard that he met with Khama and “showered him with greetings.”
“Yes I met with Khama, he was in the area I only met him just to shower him with greetings. We did not discuss anything concerning Basarwa and government. We just had a chat,” he said.
Meanwhile, Survival International, long standing allies of Basarwa, has been sidelined in the series of meetings. Jumanda Gakelebone, Basarwa spokesperson confirmed that a delegation of tribesmen will soon embark on a series of meetings with President Khama and selected cabinet ministers to discuss various issues that have been affecting them for some time. Gakelebone also said he is waiting for Sesana to brief him about his meeting with President Khama last week.
One of the contentious issues that Basarwa intend to table at the meeting is to request Khama to revoke the hunting ban imposed on Basarwa at the CKGR. Last year, five Basarwa tribesmen sued the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, seeking a declarator that the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Order of 2014 imposing a hunting ban at the CKGR is ultra vires, unlawful and unconstitutional. They wanted Khama to instruct the Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to make all arrangements necessary to enable the Basarwa tribe to apply for special game licenses or hunting permits.
The decision t exclude Survival International from the meetings is considered to be a kind of truce offering from Batsarwa to Khama, who has declared that SI are his sworn enemies and vowed never to allow them to set foot in Botswana. The change of heart is believed to have been influenced by government’s complaints that Basarwa were not negotiating in bad faith as they involved outsiders on issues between them and government.
Asked why they excluded SI from the peace talks, Gakelebone said they want to gauge government’s authenticity to determine how far 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 want these to be honest, heart to heart negotiations,” he said.
However, Gakelebone warned that they will not hesitate to invite SI if Khama and his cabinet prove not to be true to their word.
“The government has been complaining that we involve outsiders on internal issues and we want to give them, a chance,” said Gakelebone.
He also explained that Basarwa have never invited foreign organizations to come and assist them, as it is the foreign organizations that develop interest and offer support after hearing of the way they are being treated.
“These are human rights organizations. They develop interest when they hear of our plight and we cannot turn away a helping hand. As long as our concerns are not attended to outsiders will always offer to help us,” said Gakelebone.