Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘CKGR Consultative Community should report directly to Khama’

As evidence that it has turned a Bushmen pressure group into an extension of the civil service, the government has not only hired the leader and chief campaigner of the First Peoples of the Kalahari (FPK) but has also co-opted two other members into the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve Consultative Community.

With the government restoring essential services to the CKGR after a decade, FPK leader, Roy Sesana, has been hired as a community facilitator working under a social worker in the Ghanzi District Council. Remunerated at the first notch of the B2 scale (P3900 a month), Sesana has been engaged on a three-year contract. As parliament has just learnt, Sesana’s duties include chairing the CKGR Consultative Community whose membership comprises six members from the five settlements in the game reserve. Sunday Standard learns that the members of the Community are Matsipane Mosetlhanyana from Mothomelo, Amogelang Segoetsane from Gugamma, Kgatlhego Digobe from Metsiamanong, Kebonyeng Kepese from Gope and Monegwe Gaorapelwe from Molapo. Sesana, who is himself from Molapo, is the sixth member. All were applicants in a 2002 court case in which people forcibly removed from CKGR sought to return.

Earlier having indicated that he is unhappy with Sesana working for the government, FPK deputy leader, Jumanda Gakelebone, is also dissatisfied with the CKGR Community.

“The Community is in the dark about its mandate,” he says referencing prior interaction with its members. “From speaking with them, I got a very clear impression that they don’t know what they are supposed to do. I asked them some very straightforward questions and couldn’t get clear answers. I am now certain that they are just like me ÔÇô they don’t know what the mandate of their committee is.”

The mandate issue appears to be contentious in the Umbrella for Democratic Change circles. Doubling as UDC activist, Gakelebone represents New Xade in the Gantsi District Council. In parliament, CKGR is represented by Gantsi North MP, Noah Salakae, who also raised the mandate issue on the chamber floor a fortnight ago. When the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso, provided information about Sesana’s employment and the Community, Salakae asked her to state what the mandate of the latter was and never got a clear answer.

Making clear the fact that he has no fundamental problem with the existence of the Community, Gakelebone adds that he is troubled by the manner in which it operates. Given that the unfolding FPK-government rapprochement followed direct engagement between Sesana and President Ian Khama, the councillor says that the Community should report directly to the latter.

“The Community reports to a social worker who reports to the council secretary who reports to a director in the ministry who reports to the permanent secretary who reports to the minister who reports to the president. A reporting process with so many layers necessarily means that there is too much bureaucracy. It also means that our concerns have been downgraded because from dealing directly with the president, we are now dealing with a junior officer in the civil service,” Gakelebone says.

His personal preference is that through its chairperson (Sesana), the Community should report directly to Khama and parliament.

Gakelebone also expresses doubt as to whether the Community will achieve any meaningful results because it has not been constituted to deal with the one issue that FPK has been agitating for all along: the restoration of full residency rights to everyone with CKGR roots. One such is the right to hunt which explicitly clashes with the current hunting ban that has been imposed by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. The other is the right of return for people who were not part of the court application. Under the current dispensation, the latter require a permit to enter the game reserve and cannot stay for longer than a month. 

Gakelebone says with regard to the latter: “If Tshekedi [President Khama’s younger brother and Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism] doesn’t need a one-month permit to visit his home village ÔÇô Serowe, why should we? I am sure people will understand why we are not excited about Botswana’s golden jubilee because we have nothing to celebrate. I can’t see Sesana’s committee achieving anything because it avoids the one issue that we care about. If the committee manages to secure us what we want, Sesana’s contract wouldn’t even have to last three years because his work would be done in less than a week.”

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