Sunday, May 22, 2022

Land Board accused of discrimination against Basarwa

Botswana Khweedom Council, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which represents the interests of Basarwa has accused Letlhakane Sub Landboard of discrimination.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Botswana Khweedom Council spokesperson Banyatsi Salutu said over 1 000 Basarwa who live in Metsiaela ward in Letlhakane do not have land for farming as a result of Letlhakane Sub Land Board which seems hell-bent on sabotaging and discriminating against them.

“In 2015, Basarwa who reside in Metsiaela ward approached former President Ian Khama requesting that they be formally allocated land for farming in Metsiaela which is their ancestral land. The former President ordered Serowe Land Board to do so and the responsibility was passed on to Letlhakane Sub Land Board. We were told verbally by the officers at Letlhakane Sub Land Board that such allocations will be done but to this day there is no progress. Basarwa are always sent from pillar to post whenever they enquire about the allocations,” he said.

Salutu claims the land in question extends from Metsiaela to Letlhakane-Mmatshumo Junction and Tsoronyane.

He emphasized that in Letlhakane, Basarwa have often been marginalized and neglected despite their pleas with the land board to afford them land for farming.

He said it is sad to note that while Basarwa have since been driven away from most of their ancestral land where they eked a living out of hunting, they have since been left in abject poverty. He said Article 5 of the African Charter is clear that every individual shall have the right to land and be treated equal.

“What we are now being told by Letlhakane Sub Land Board is that our ancestral land has been reserved for livestock grazing. Even the former Member of Parliament and Minister Lebonaamang Mokalake during his tenure had advocated that Basarwa should be afforded land for farming,” he said.

Salutu said what is even more disappointing and shocking is that portions of the land in question have since been allocated to some politicians and influential figures where they are currently doing integrated farming.

He said despite the developments, there is no communication from Letlhakane Sub Land Board. While he could not mention names, Salutu also claimed that some officers from the Letlhakane Sub Land Board have since benefited from the portion of the land.

In 2018 Khweedom wrote a letter to the Ministry of Lands Management Water and Sanitation services requesting that no land allocation should be done until the disadvantaged Basarwa are afforded land for farming. Sunday Standard is in possession of the letter dated 14 December 2018 to this effect.

“Our efforts have been fruitless up to now. The Ministry informed us verbally that they will discuss the issue and come back to us. However, our blame is entirely on Letlhakane Land Sub Board for not being truthful about this issue as we see allocations been done almost every day in our ancestral land. Despite these allocations there is no communication to us,” he said.

He said they have since written to Serowe Land Board about this issue and he also vowed that if there is no solution they will petition Letlhakane Sub Land Board. Salutu further said if the petition still bears no results they will have no option but drag Letlhakane Sub Land Board to court.  He emphasized that it is clear that Basarwa are discriminated and not taken seriously.

“Letlhakane Sub Landboard is possibly conniving with some politicians in Letlhakane to trample on the rights of Basarwa. Basarwa like any other tribe have the right to land. We will not rest until this issue is resolved,” he said.

Reached for comment by telephone, Letlhakane Sub Land Board Secretary Ntebaleng Thapelo said Serowe Land Board Council public relations office was better placed to talk to the media regarding the issue. Several efforts to contact Serowe Land Board were also futile as their telephones went unanswered last week.

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