Saturday, September 26, 2020

“CKGR issue is a cash-cow for Stephen Corry”

Dear Editor

In the March 02 ÔÇô 08, 2008 edition of The Sunday Standard newspaper, Stephen Corry claims not to understand how he is said to be deceiving people on the CKGR issue. Mr. Corry is not being truthful as he knows that the information he circulates is false and misleading and this has not only been pointed out by the Government of Botswana, but by numerous independent observers, including, local and international media, NGOs and Members of Parliament. Even Members of Parliament from his own country the UK, who visited the affected communities in Botswana, dismissed Corry’s campaign, labelling it a malicious fundraising gimmick.

The motive behind Stephen Corry’s obsession with the CKGR matter is well known. It is an obsession driven by the funds his London-based advocacy group raises from unsuspecting donors under the pretext that the money will be used to provide for the needs of Basarwa of the Kalahari. It should, therefore, be noted that, no amount of reasoning can move Stephen Corry on this matter for as long as he is able to milk unsuspecting members of the public out of their money to sustain his advocacy group and a lavish lifestyle in London.

The statement by Stephen Corry that Government demands that Basarwa carry in water from outside when there is a perfectly good borehole in their settlement is misleading. First of all, Mr Corry knows perfectly well that the borehole site he refers to is some 37km away from Gugama, 50km away from Metsiamanong and 125km away from Molapo, places where the people who have returned to the Game Reserve numbering approximately fifty (50) live. The arrangement that would be made to transport water from this location is, as a matter of fact, the same arrangement that would have to be made to transport water from any other point outside the Game Reserve to Gugama, Metsiamanong and Molapo. Secondly, the people who have returned to the Game Reserve frequently move in and out of the Reserve using their own vehicles to access the services provided at New Xade, and Kaudwane. Mr Corry’s rant about the water issue is simply an attempt to buy time as he cannot deliver on his empty promises to provide services to those who return to the Reserve.

As the former residents of the CKGR attest, relocation outside the Game Reserve offers access to far more superior services and better life prospects. These include healthcare, education for their children and numerous other socio-economic advancement opportunities which cannot be provided inside a Game Reserve. The people who returned to the Game Reserve have been informed and they know that the regulations which had always governed the Reserve remain in force. They know, as it has been explained before, that, these regulations impose restrictions that render the CKGR a poverty trap and while the decision to relocate may be unpopular with a few, it was necessary to ensure food security and socioeconomic advancement opportunities, not only for the former residents of the CKGR, but for the thousands of people living in the South-western part of the country who are still dependent on the wildlife resources of the CKGR for their livelihood opportunities.

Stephen Corry further alleges that there is an attempt to paint Basarwa hunters as poachers. The evidence presented by the Ministry speaks for itself. The massive slaughter of wildlife in the Game Reserve, which is clearly not hunting for the pot, will not be permitted, when the wildlife resource can be utilized in a sustainable way to provide for livelihood opportunities of not only the current but future generations of the people who reside in the south-western part of the country, including the CKGR and the nation at large. Only hunting in accordance with the provisions of a Special Game licence is permitted and those who violate the provisions will face the law.

On the impact of mining in the Reserve, Stephen Corry’s point is irrelevant and he is clearly attempting to side step and divert attention from the issue at hand, hoping nobody notices. The Ministry has pointed out, and Mr. Corry knows this, that the area around a permanent settlement will overtime have to be expanded in order to accommodate population increases and expansion of livelihood activities. This would not apply where a mine is developed because only a small area immediately around the deposit, i.e. within a 40 sq km radius, is normally cordoned off for the mine proper. The 40sq km area in this case is a very small area of the 52 000 sq km that the CKGR covers. It has also been pointed out that no permanent settlement, to merit further expansion of the area, will be developed within the 40 sq km area which will be rehabilitated back to its wilderness state at the end of the mine’s lifespan, which in the case of Gope is an estimated lifespan of 17 years.

The mine development, like any other, will obviously have an impact on the environment, but the point is that, the impact, when you take the entire CKGR area, will not be of the same scale or magnitude as that of a permanent settlement. With a permanent settlement, as the findings of the 1985 Fact Finding Mission established to investigate the emerging land use conflicts in the CKGR indicate, wildlife and veldt foods are depleted. That mission found that in the area around Old Xade, wildlife and veldt foods were virtually eliminated within an area of 5 000 sq km. This was obviously related to the lifestyle of the residents, who had largely abandoned their traditional, nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life i.e. hunting on foot with bows and arrows, in favour of a sedentary lifestyle and hunting with traps, spears, dogs, on horseback and occasionally using guns and four-wheel-drive motor vehicles. Hunting on horseback was the most common as horses could outrun all the animals except the hartebeest. Often all animals in the herd were killed after being chased on horseback and maimed with spears. The meat was then cut and dried (biltong) and sold to a fledging market of non-residents who frequently visited the Reserve.

The way of life of the people who return to the CKGR will, no doubt in the long run, impact negatively on efforts to preserve the unique wildlife heritage inside the CKGR. In fact, as more and more land is taken up in the Reserve to cater for human settlements, land reserved for wildlife will overtime shrink or become smaller and smaller to a point where there will be no CKGR. This is what the demands of Mr. Corry and his collaborators seek to achieve which is unacceptable as it simply lacks foresight.

It should be noted that the people who relocated outside the CKGR can visit the Game Reserve for visits to the grave sites of their loved ones or for spiritual purposes. All that is required of them is to record, free of charge, the purpose and duration of their visit with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. This is done because movement into and out of all National Parks and Game Reserves in the country is monitored. With respect to implementation of the High Court order of December 13, 2006, all 189 applicants, their spouses, children and an additional thirty (30) people who were in the original list of applicants, but failed to prosecute their case, have been granted unrestricted access to the CKGR. All that is required of them is to produce identity documents (National ID/O-mang or other identity document) to facilitate verification.

The Ministry wishes to point out that the CKGR issue is an emotive issue and to Stephen Corry it is a cash-cow for his London-based advocacy group and upkeep.

Yours
Clifford Maribe
Head of Research and Foreign Affairs (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

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