When Ian Khama assumed the position of State President, we implored on him to tackle the burning issue of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
We offered him the advice, for which he had not solicited, of course, that given his personal popularity and appeal, he stood the best chance to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all the concerned parties.
It was our firm belief at the time that Khama’s goodwill was sufficient enough not just to bring the contesting parties to the table, but to also convince each one of them to make concessions that would ultimately be for the good of everyone of them and the entire country.
To be fair to him, a few weeks after becoming State President, Ian Khama did apply his mind to the CKGR matter.
He called Basarwa leaders to his office and visited the settlement camps surrounding CKGR on a number of occasions, to hear from the people first hand what their concerns were.
That was commendable indeed.
We could not ask for more from a leader still fresh in his position and grappling to understand what is an old, complex and protracted stand off.
The truth though is that even as he frequently flew into these settlements, President Khama has not for once made any efforts to go to the bottom of the issue that has nagged the country for decades.
Just why were Basarwa removed from the CKGR in the first place? That is the question he must ask and, we dare say, answer.
A renowned conservationist, Khama should know better than most of us that it is possible for people to coexist side by side with animals, including animals in a Game Reserve. In fact, Basarwa themselves have proved that for a very long time.
The problem though is that it seems like even before he studied the matter in detail as to be able to form an informed opinion on how best to move forward on the protracted matter, President Khama relied too heavily on the same hardline officials who had been handling the matter long before he even joined politics himself.
These are the same officials whose contempt for Basarwa has become legendary. These are the same officials, chiefly at the Ministries of Local Government, Minerals and Office of the President who had done everything over the years to not only ridicule Basarwa but also dash and undermine whatever chances there might have been of Government striking a settlement with Basarwa of the CKGR.
These are the same officials that misled Government into not honouring and observing the High Court Judgment that went in favour of Basarwa.
These are the same officials that misguided the Government into circumventing the rule of law even as Government saw no need to appeal the High Court decision.
But then, like a bad penny, the CKGR will simply not go away. Instead it keeps coming back, clearly to haunt our government and remind our High Priests that it has never been comprehensively resolved.
We agree that the issue of removing Basarwa out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve has become a woeful distraction. But the reason why we have political leaders is so that they can resolve such distractions.
Of course, to some officials Basarwa are a nuisance, but then Basarwa are Batswana who are raising what to a large extent are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.
Like we say above, the concerns and complaints they raise have been addressed in their favour by the High Court of the country.
Instead of complying or appealing, the Government has shown bad faith by circumventing and skirting the issues and coming up with some of the flimsiest technicalities that can only be expected in a banana republic.
The situation is made worse by what seems to be our Government’s specialty: to leave the issues hanging and blindly hoping they will either resolve themselves or simply go away. The truth of the matter is that no one likes the kind of controversy the CKGR visits on our country.
But, unfortunately, for some of us, we won’t turn a blind eye because Basarwa removed from therein are, like every one of us, an integral part of this nation.
They deserve a fair treatment, especially when they raise what to them is a matter of life and death.
Consistently, they have argued that their removal from their ancestral lands in the CKGR does not only deny them their cultural heritage, but also that, perhaps more importantly, such removal exposes them to possible extinction as a tribe.
While Government likes to talk of new settlements as they are heaven, in some quarters the same settlements have been described as death camps where alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution and HIV/AIDS run supreme.
We have no intention to go into detail about the inhuman crimes to which Basarwa have been subjected to by Government officials, chiefly the Game Scouts, suffice to say it is not in the nature of Batswana as a people to close down a borehole that provides water to one of its own as has happened in the CKGR.
Those are serious issues of moral and human rights that unfortunately cannot be dragged under the carpet and then hope they do not come back unto the surface.
Basarwa leaders have consistently reaffirmed their desire to meet Government, most especially President Khama with the sole intention of settling the outstanding issues in this sorry saga.
On that score, we call on President Khama to revisit the CKGR matter with a fresh and open mind.
It is in his interest to do that. It is also in the interest of Botswana, Batswana, in general, and, of course, the affected Basarwa communities of the CKGR in particular.