Last Thursday (4/2/10) H.E. the President Seretse Khama Ian Khama met, listened and responded to the concerns of New Xade residents, who had assembled at their village Kgotla (traditional meeting place).┬á Since assuming office President Khama, like his predecessors, has as a matter of routine convened and addressed many such gatherings around the country.
┬áAs individuals with even a passing knowledge of Botswana society and culture will know, Kgotla meetings are a key mechanism through which political leaders, government officials and other activists customarily consult with local communities on issues of public concern. A traditional hallmark of such gatherings is that any question may be asked and all opinions are welcome.
Today this is true irrespective of an individual speaker’s gender, class or ethnicity. The Kgotla is thus understood as an institutional expression of such indigenous core values as freedom of expression, mutual respect, and accountable leadership.
Given the above, it is unfortunate, if not surprising, that a certain London based organisation (Survival International), which presumptively claims to represent the interests of a segment of our multi-cultural society, has once more paraded its ignorance and contempt for local social norms, as well as the basic truth, in its latest concocted diatribe entitled “Bushmen angry at the president’s empty meeting.”
Insofar as Thursday’s open meeting was covered by local journalists, interested citizens will already know that there was nothing exceptional about the gathering, in which residents including Mr. Roy Sesana of the First People of the Kalahari organisation, where given the opportunity to freely air their concerns.
According to a record of the discussions, Mr. Sesana’s contribution included a plea to Government to assist members of his community with cattle fencing. Additional issues raised by Mr. Sesana and others at the meeting included worries about the effectiveness of local community development trust committees, delays in the implementation of community wildlife protection initiatives to better combat poaching, and the general need for more jobs especially among the village’s educated youth,┬áas well as call for greater security in the context of instances of vandalism against public property.
There were further calls for the local health public health clinic to be expanded and staffed with full-time, rather than rotating doctors, and the main gravel road linking the village to the national road network be bituminized.
At the┬áNew Xade meeting residents also commended Government for the ongoing upgrading of telecommunications services and village electrification.┬á
In his responding remarks, H.E. the President thanked the community members for their varied contributions, assuring them that they would receive his administration’s further attention. He also announced that the village would soon be assigned a full-time youth officer whose mandate would include seeking ways to generate employment opportunities.
A no time during the public meeting, however, was the issue of ongoing discussions between area representatives and Government over a final management plan for establishing community use zones in the adjacent Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve raised, much less cutoff as has been falsely alleged. What was communicated is that consultations in the matter with the affected communities are still ongoing and that the implementation of a final plan would require stakeholders in the affected communities to come together in administering the proposed community based resource trusts.
Organisations such as Survival International, who seem intent on tarnishing the good name of Botswana, shall not succeed in distracting this Government from focusing on its┬ámandate to deliver quality services to our people in consultation with them. ┬á┬á┬á
*Dr Ramsay is head of Government Communications Systems