Saturday, September 26, 2020

“What is government waiting for?”

Dear Editor

I am the Chairman of Survival International. I and my fellow trustees are responsible for ensuring that Survival employees conduct themselves in an honest and proper manner, in accordance with English law and especially with our law of charities.

Over the last couple of months you have published a number of letters from Clifford Maribe, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which suggest that our staff’s handling of the CKGR dispute has failed to comply with these standards. In your 6 May edition, Mr Maribe made allegations of dishonesty and bad faith against Stephen Corry, in particular, which amplified the allegations he had already made in earlier correspondence.

Your readers may be interested to know that I wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other members of the Government about Mr Maribe’s charges more than a month ago. I explained that the trustees of Survival wished to know what it was that Mr Corry had specifically said or done that Mr Maribe believed to be false or dishonest, and to see the evidence on which he relied.
To take just one example, Mr Maribe has claimed that British MPs have dismissed ‘Corry’s campaign’ as ‘a malicious fundraising gimmick.’ I am not aware that any MP has ever said anything of the sort. I, therefore, asked Mr Maribe to identify the MPs in question, and to tell me when and where and to whom they are said to have made this comment.

If there is any basis for his allegations, Mr Maribe will have these details readily on hand, but my request for this information has been completely ignored. Mr Maribe can find the time to write to your newspaper to repeat his allegations but not, apparently, to produce any proof to support them. Could it be that Mr Maribe has not provided the proof I have asked for because he does not have it?

Mr Maribe has allowed his personal dislike of Mr Corry to interfere with the facts. This dislike appears to stem from Mr Corry’s claim that there is a clear link between the 2002 relocation and diamonds. In his 6 May letter, Mr Maribe says that Justice Dow held that there was no such link but this is simply not true, as Mr Maribe must know.
The Court was not asked to, did not need to and did not rule whether there was any connection between the forced evictions and diamonds. All the Applicants had to prove, and did prove, was that they had been evicted from the Reserve ‘forcibly or wrongly and without their consent’. Their eviction was a breach of the Applicants’ legal and constitutional rights, whatever the motive behind it.

Your readers will have to form their own view whether there is a connection, bearing in mind the Government’s repeated insistence prior to the ruling that a mine at Gope would be ‘sub-economic’, and the decision announced just a few months after the ruling that the Gope deposit will be exploited after all.

Finally, Mr Maribe says that Survival has been ‘challenged to put on the table credible alternatives of sustainable livelihoods for the affected communities,’ but that it has failed to do so. This is also incorrect; Survival has never been asked for its proposals. But more importantly, it is surely not for Survival or anyone else to make plans for the communities of the CKGR. Only the communities themselves can do this.

I have spoken about the CKGR to many people who have no connection at all with Survival. They express different opinions on different aspects of the case, as one might expect. Without exception, however, they have expressed their astonishment that more than 18 months after all three members of the Court urged the Government to sit down with the Basarwa and talk to them about their hopes and aspirations for the future, not a single Government Minister or officer has met with the Basarwa since the Attorney-General briefly saw Roy Sesana in April 2007. What on earth is the Government waiting for?

Yours faithfully,

Rafael Runco
Chairman, Survival International

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