Mr. Gordon Bennett’s article on the CKGR relocation issue (Sunday Standard ÔÇô Opinion, March 16, 2008) is flawed and misleading to the public. Even though Mr. Bennett offers nothing new but regurgitates misinformation originating and circulated by Survival International, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs feels compelled to respond and set the record straight on some of the issues he raises.
Mr. Bennett alleges that there are 30 people in Mothomelo. This is false. Records of all entries into the CKGR and reports of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks teams deployed to patrol the Game Reserve indicate that there are no homesteads/dwellings or any people residing in Mothomelo. The only people found in the Game Reserve reside at Gugama, Metsiamanong and Molapo.
Mr. Bennett also claims that the people who return(ed) to the Game Reserve cannot afford fuel and resources to run and repair their vehicles. The frequent movement of these people into and out of the Game Reserve using their vehicles, however, renders Mr. Bennett’s claim yet another falsehood. He further said that it would not be difficult to bouse water by donkey from Mothomelo to the other settlements, but very difficult to transport water from outside the Game Reserve to these settlements. It seems difficulties only figure in Mr. Bennett’s calculations if water has to be transported from outside the Game Reserve. If water can be transported by donkey from Mothomelo to Molapo, then it surely can be transported from Kaudwane to Gugamma and Metsiamanong as the distance between Kaudwane and Metsiamanong is almost the same as the distance between Mothomelo and Molapo.
The Ministry wishes to point out that, it has now become clear that persistent attempts by Mr. Bennett and Survival International to pressure Government to provide services inside the CKGR (in the form of Mothomelo borehole), are nothing but a ploy to shift focus away from the empty promises they (Bennett and Survival International) made to incite people to return to the Game Reserve.
Mr Bennett also mentions the issue of community use zones (CUZs) inside the CKGR. It is clear from the content of his article that he is lacking on this subject. Government has stated on numerous occasions that the former residents of the CKGR have been mobilized to form Community Trusts which will manage community projects and activities in their respective CUZs once the management plan for the CKGR is approved and implemented. It should be noted that community use zones may only be used to conduct commercial tourism activities and for sustainable use of veld products, but not for any form of hunting. It seems Mr Bennett erroneously believes hunting can take place inside community use zones.
Government has cited the examples of Sankoyo, Khwai and Mababe communities to illustrate what it envisages for the former residents of the CKGR with respect to CUZs. The Sankoyo community, for example, runs a lodge and a campsite. In 2005 these projects generated for the Sankoyo community enough revenue to provide for, a P300.00 monthly stipend for the elderly in the community (60 years and above); P500.00 at the end of the year for all households in the community; 7 houses/shelter for the under-privileged; food baskets for all orphans in the community; sponsorship for tertiary education for JC and form 5 leavers in the community; financial support for bereaved families; loan scheme of up to P30 000.00 for community members at very low interest rate; standpipes for all 53 households in the community, waterborne toilets, to mention but a few. The community further made a donation of P50 000.00 to Masiela Trust Fund. Sankoyo Trust has in its employ over 20 members of that community.
These are viable options for sustainable livelihoods that Government has put on the table. Mr Bennett and Survival International have so far offered nothing to support their unreasonable demands and to show how the people would be assisted to exit a life of poverty inside the Game Reserve. Rather, they only offer imaginary images of people living in isolation, with unrestricted/uncontrolled hunting and game-meat feasts as the order inside the CKGR. This is 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. These services, as it has been stated before, cannot be provided inside a Game Reserve.
Mr Bennett further contends that people should be issued hunting permits and not special game licences. This is misleading and it is not clear what he is referring to by this if at all he knows what he is talking about. As far as Government is concerned, the former and current residents of the CKGR are entitled to Special Game Licences. These are issued free of charge and may only be issued to citizens who are primarily dependent on hunting and gathering of veld products for their food. However, despite the fact that the former and current residents of the CKGR are no longer primarily dependent on hunting and gathering for food, a special dispensation was made to enable them to have access to game meat and veld products. Regulation 45, which Mr. Bennett makes reference to 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”
To this end, and in line with the December 2006 High Court order, special game licenses (SGLs) valid for a period of one (1) year were issued to eligible applicants at New Xade between 04 and 06 September 2007 and at Kaudwane between 04 and 19 October 2007. A total of 116 special game licenses were issued. Those whose special game licenses 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. Bennett is not being truthful when he says that the Director of Wildlife has chosen not to issue a single permit under Regulation 45.
* Clifford Maribe is head of Research and Public Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs