Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Mosarwa activist faces criminal charges for entering CKGR

The government is challenging the Central Kalahari Game Reserve credentials of Basarwa rights activist, Jumanda Gakelebone, and could soon charge him with entering the game reserve without a permit.

Last Thursday, Gakelebone was arrested inside the game reserve by a joint team of anti-poaching game wardens and members of the Botswana Police Service. He was detained overnight at the Gantsi police station. He estimates the time of arrest to have been around four in the morning and to have been released well after nine in the morning the following day.

“They [arresting officers] said I didn’t have a permit to enter the game reserve but there is not a 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 had I been asked for a permit when I went into the game reserve,” Gakelebone says.

According to him, he has ancestral roots in both Metsiamanong and Menwatshe, settlements within the CKGR, and spent his childhood in both places. He says his national identity card shows that he was born in Menwatshe.

Survival International has been characteristically quick to publicise Gakelebone’s arrest to bolster its claims that Basarwa are being persecuted by the government. A press statement that SI put out last week quotes Gakelebone as saying, “I count [the reserve] as home. That’s where I was born. I do not need a permit.”

On the other hand, the acting Officer Commanding at Gantsi police station, Gadimphenye Modiradilo, says that Gakelebone needs a permit to enter CKGR because he is a Gantsi resident.

“He didn’t grow up in CKGR but in Gantsi where he still lives,” says Modiradilo, adding that as a non-CKGRer, Gakelebone needs a permit to go into the game reserve.

Gakelebone was in the company of Gordon Bennett, the United Kingdom-based lawyer who, in the last session of the Court of Appeal, successfully argued for Basarwa to be allowed water rights in the CKGR. Gakelebone, who is officially the coordinator of the now comatose First People of the Kalahari, was acting as guide and translator for Bennett and his team.

He says that he was apprehended between Metsiamanong and Molapo and bundled into a police van and taken to Gantsi police station where he spent the night not in a cell but the charge office. SI statement says that ‘the arrest left the Bushman’s lawyer, who was in the reserve to consult his clients over the Court of Appeal, ‘stranded in the desert without a guide or translator.’

“I have not been charged yet. The police said they would call me to collect the charge sheet,” Gakelebone says.

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