Thursday, September 24, 2020

“Govt’s handling of the CKGR issue not sincere”

I take the strongest exception to Mr Maribe’s allegation (29.3.08) that I have deliberately mislead your readers about the CKGR, and I invite him either to substantiate or to withdraw his claims.

Mr Maribe alleges, for example, that I have made “empty promises to incite people to return to the Game Reserve.” I have never promised anybody anything to return to the Reserve. If Mr Maribe has evidence to the contrary, let him produce it.

He claims that I “offer imaginary images (sic) of people living in isolation, with unrestricted/uncontrolled hunting and game-meat feasts as the order inside the CKGR.” I have done no such thing. If Mr Maribe can identify a single occasion on which I have advocated unrestricted or uncontrolled hunting in the CKGR, let him do so.

Mr. Maribe says that there are no people and no homesteads at Mothomelo, and that I have falsely alleged the contrary. What I actually said was that there is a community of about 30 people which spends much of its time at Mothomelo. My statement is true and I stand by it.
The community stays at Kikao when there is water in the Kikao pan. When the water is exhausted it returns to Mothomelo. It has built new homesteads in both settlements, which I have seen for myself. When I visited the Reserve in December, many members of the community were at Kikao, where I was able to meet and spend time with them.

It is beyond me why Mr Maribe should think that I have invented this community. The notion is absurd.
Mr Maribe says that I have falsely claimed that people need the borehole at Mothomelo because they lack the resources to bowse water into the Reserve from the outside. Let him explain then how residents could possibly afford to buy, repair and fuel the vehicles they will need to cross what Mr Justice Dibotelo has described as “one of the most difficult terrains on earth”.

With all the means at its disposal, the Government never attempted to bowse water from outside the Reserve. Let Mr Maribe explain why he now expects the residents to do so, when they have virtually no resources at all.
Mr Maribe complains that I “erroneously believe that hunting can take place inside CUZs”. I do believe this, but my belief is not erroneous. It is based upon what the Regulations actually say.
I urge Mr Maribe to take another, more careful look at these. He will see that Regulation 18 is made subject to Regulation 45, which says that “persons resident in the CKGR at the time of its establishment or who can rightly lay claim to hunting rights in the CKGR may be permitted in writing by the Director to hunt specified animals and collect veld products in the game reserve…”

The Government introduced this Regulation itself. Nobody else had a hand in it. Your readers may like to ask themselves why the Government should have referred to “hunting rights” in the CKGR if it did not believe that the residents had such rights. What would have been the point? They may like to ask what purpose the Government could possibly have had in mind if it was not to allow residents to hunt in the CKGR to provide for their own subsistence, so long as they did so in a controlled and sustainable manner.

Mr Maribe makes no attempt to address these questions either. Instead, he alleges that I have “untruthfully” claimed that the Director of Wildlife has never issued a permit under Regulation 45. My statement is true, and I repeat it. If Mr Maribe can produce such a permit, let him do so.

Mr Maribe thinks that special game licences (or “SGLs”) are the same thing as permits. They are not. He claims that the SGLs have been issued to eligible applicants at New Xade and Kaudwane to hunt outside the Reserve “in accordance with the December 2006 High Court order.” This is wrong too. The High Court made no order whatever about hunting outside the Reserve. It was solely concerned with the Government’s decision to ban hunting inside the Reserve. Mr Maribe should read the judgment again.

The Court held that this decision was unlawful and unconstitutional because it was motivated by a desire to persuade or force residents to leave their homes, and not by any concern for wildlife. The same motivation appears to explain the Government’s refusal to permit residents to hunt inside the Reserve even now, and its refusal to allow them access to the borehole at Mothomelo.
If there is some other explanation for the Government’s conduct, why has Mr Maribe not told your readers (or my clients) what it is?

No other explanation appears to have been offered even in Botswana’s report to the UN Human Rights Committee. Within the last few days the Committee has formally expressed its “concern” at the Government’ conduct and has told it that it should allow all those relocated in 2002 to return to their homes. It has also said that the Government should take “all necessary measures to facilitate the enjoyment of Covenant rights by those persons upon their return.”

These are the rights which the Government pledged itself to protect when it signed the UN Civil and Political Rights Covenant. It is in the interests of all Batswana that it is made to honour that pledge.
If it does, the Government will restore not only to the residents of the CKGR the rights of which have been so unjustly deprived, but to Botswana itself the good standing which it has hitherto enjoyed in the international community. If, on the other hand, the Government decides to ignore its pledge, this unhappy saga is set to continue for years to come.

*Gordon Bennett is a London based Barrister who represented the CKGR Basarwa against government of Botswana last year.

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