The tone and content of Stephen Corry’s article (Sunday Standard Opinion March 23, 2008) confirms what the Ministry has consistently pointed out that no amount of explanation or reasoning would move Stephen Corry on the CKGR matter. It is evident that Mr. Corry is under the illusion that he can bully Botswana into acceding to his ill-informed and unreasonable demands. Clearly his ways, including his way of thinking, are flawed. His simplistic and misguided pronouncements clearly show that he is unfamiliar with the policies, programmes and initiatives targeted at remote area communities in the country which guide Government and the country’s development process.
Mr. Corry’s flaws have repeatedly not only been exposed out by the Government of Botswana, but also by numerous independent observers, including, Members of Parliament from his own country, the UK. He, however, persists in circulating misleading and false information about Botswana.
Those who know Mr. Corry and are familiar with his agenda have pointed out that the funds he raises from unsuspecting donors, using the CKGR relocation issue, drive him and his malicious campaign against Botswana. In these circumstances, fundraising in a legitimate and transparent manner is simply an unattractive proposition to Stephen Corry. It will, therefore, be foolhardy of anyone to expect Stephen Corry to reason and make any meaningful contribution to the well-being of Basarwa communities in Botswana, as unlike Government, he is not accountable to anyone.
It should be pointed out that there are many legitimate and well-meaning NGOs that assist Basarwa and they do so in good faith and with integrity. These are welcome partners in Government’s efforts and endeavors to provide for the well-being of Basarwa and all other people who live under similar conditions as Basarwa in the remote parts of Botswana.
Government has challenged Stephen Corry and his collaborators to put on the table credible alternatives/strategies for sustainable livelihood opportunities for remote area communities and the people who return(ed) to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. None has so far been forthcoming. Instead, the public continues to be subjected to recycled falsehoods that Government mistreats Basarwa.
One would expect a simpleton to come up with the conditions made by Stephen Corry. Government has on numerous occasions refuted his false and misleading allegations about, amongst others, the beneficiaries of the December 2006 High Court Order and provision of services and hunting inside the CKGR.
The High Court clearly pronounced itself on who the beneficiaries are as the following statement from the judgment indicates;
“It is important to identify who the Applicants are so that the outcome of this action binds only those persons” ……. “One hundred and eighty-nine Applicants authorized Attorneys Boko, Motlhala and Ketshabile to represent them in this action and it is those Applicants whose names appear in the Table A annexed to the judgment who are parties to this action” [Dibotelo J. p8 of the judgment].
To this end, all the Applicants, their spouses, children have been granted unrestricted access to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Government even went further to include in the list of beneficiaries an additional 30 people who were in the original list of applicants, but who failed to prosecute their case. All that is required of them is to produce identity documents (National ID/Omang or passport) before they enter the CKGR for verification purposes. The returnees may take anything which is legally permissible into the Game Reserve, including building materials as long as they are to be used for constructing non-permanent structures. Any other person outside this group will require a permit to enter the CKGR as movement into and out of all National Parks and Game Reserves in the country, including the CKGR, is of necessity, monitored and controlled in accordance with applicable laws.
It should further be noted that the people who relocated outside the CKGR are free to 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.
Demands made by Stephen Corry that Government should allow unmonitored movement into and out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve are totally not justified and unreasonable and therefore cannot be accepted.
Government has also explained that the residents of the Game Reserve are at liberty to make their own arrangements to bring in unlimited amounts of water into the CKGR. It must be recalled that the Court decision clearly stated that the Botswana Government is not obliged to provide services inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and there is no law that Government is breaking on this issue as Mr. Corry alleges in his article. The people who return(ed) to the Game Reserve frequently move in and out of the Reserve using their own vehicles and as such can bring in water using these vehicles. The people have been informed and are well aware of the difficulties associated with their choice to return to the Game Reserve. Persistent attempts by Stephen Corry to pressure Government to provide services inside the CKGR (in the form of Mothomelo borehole) are therefore a ploy on his part to shift focus away from the empty promises he made to incite people to return to the Game Reserve.
Stephen Corry further alleges, falsely, that Basarwa are not allowed to eat and drink and cannot hunt for their food as they are fearful of being arrested and beaten. What Mr. Corry is calling for is unrestricted/uncontrolled hunting and a massive slaughter of wildlife inside the CKGR as the cases of poaching activities in the CKGR cited by Government clearly indicate. Creating conditions that will facilitate the massive slaughter of wildlife in the Game Reserve cannot be allowed when this resource is and can be utilized in a sustainable manner 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 former residents of the CKGR.
This is the reason why only hunting in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 45 is permitted and those who violate the provisions will face the wrath of the law. Regulation 45 clearly stipulates that “persons resident in the CKGR …….. maybe permitted in writing by the Director to hunt specified animals ……….. in such areas as the Director may determine” The Director’s permission is in this regard granted through the issuance of special game licences (SGLs) which are issued free of charge and may only be issued to citizens who are primarily dependent on hunting and gathering of veldt products for their food.
Despite the fact that the former and current residents of the CKGR are no longer primarily dependent on hunting and gathering for food and in line with the December 2006 High Court order, special game licences (SGLs) valid for a period of one (1) year were issued to eligible applicants at New Xade and Kaudwane between September and October 2007. A total of 116 special game licences were issued. Those whose special game licences were not renewed were either not at their settlements, were engaged in gainful employment or had pending poaching cases at the time of issuance of licenses. All the people who were in the Game Reserve refused to have their special game licenses renewed, stating that they had not been instructed to do so by their lawyers and organizations.
Mr. Corry’s claim that people cannot hunt for their food is not only baseless but false as well.
Mr Corry also makes reference to diamond mining in an attempt to link it to the CKGR relocation. This he does in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including the following statement in the High Court judgment;
“The issue was not only irrelevant, but such assertion lacks credibility……Gope is too far from the other settlements for mining at that site to require relocations of residents from other settlements. In fact, to relocate people from Molapo (inside the CKGR) to Kaudwane (outside the CKGR) would necessarily mean bringing people nearer to the mine site than away from it”……“While diamond mining as a reason for the CKGR relocations might be an emotive rallying point ……..the case before this Court does not fit that bill. It would be completely dishonest of anyone to pretend that that is the case before this Court.” [Dow J. pp192, 193, 194 of the judgment].
The above clearly shows that Stephen Corry is a person of doubtful probity.
The public should not make any donations to his campaign as supporting such activity is tantamount to condemning Basarwa to a life of poverty and deprivation. Supporting such a cause would also be a disservice to a people who need healthcare, education and access to socio-economic opportunities that would help them, their children and future generations lead sustainable livelihoods.
*Clifford Maribe is Director of Public Relations, Research and Information Department (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)