Botswana Police are investigating allegations of lynching and harassment by white farmers against residents of Barolong.
The long simmering racial tension between white farmers and black residents recently threatened to boil over after a white farmer allegedly flogged two village youths, before shooting and killing five of their donkeys and a dog. The farmer suspected the youths of trespassing.
Some aggrieved residents told Sunday Standard that if government does not intervene, the tension may escalate to open and bloody confrontations.
The residents allege that firewood is a source of energy to their lives but when they go to white farmers to ask for firewood from within their farms, they are insulted with racist words.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, Tshireletso Moswela explained that he went to fetch firewood using a donkey cart with his friend, Lesogo.
He said they parked the donkey cart outside a near-by farm.
While collecting firewood, some farm workers who were patrolling the farm saw them and told them to stop what they were doing. Then one of the workers phoned the farm owner who arrived immediately.
Moswela said the white farmer told him that ‘Ke tlile go go bualya e be ke go latlela mo mosimang was thakadu, e be ke bolaya ditonki tsa gago tota”, meaning ‘I am going to kill you together with your donkeys and throw your bodies in a ditch.”
He said the farmer then ordered him to lie on the ground and lynched him.
Moswela said while whipping him, the farmer stopped then started shooting randomly at the donkeys at close range as the used cartridges fell on top of his head.
“I was very terrified that after killing the donkeys he would turn the barrel of the gun towards me,” Moswela said.
He said after killing the donkeys, he was given one more whipping before being ordered to go.
“I am very bitter about what the farmer has done,” said Joseph, Moswela’s father, adding that he is left with nothing and those donkeys were his source of income.
Joseph said the farmer came to his house with the police and openly said in front of the police that Minister Mokaila gave him permission to kill whatever trespasses on his farm, adding that he was very surprised that the police said nothing to him at all.
“We are having serious problems with white farmers in this area,” said Joseph.
He said if something is not done quickly, they will be forced to take the law into their own hands.
“I am aware of the incident and I told the farmer that he will face the law,” said the Member of Parliament for Barolong and Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila.
He said he had visited some of the white farmers trying to explain to them the lives and the importance of the firewood to Batswana but some agreed while others refused.
“I can not say these are racism clashes between white farmers and the community,” said Mokaila, adding that he was trying his best to bring the two parties together and get them to live peacefully.
He appealed to residents to learn to request for firewood and not to steal because this might put their lives in danger.
The station commander of Lobatse Police Station, Superintendent Cynthia Setilo, said they were investigating an incident in which five donkeys were allegedly shot by a farmer recently.
She explained that the incident happened when two youths were allegedly collecting firewood from a farm.
“I am not yet ready to reveal the name of the suspect because the suspect has not been officially charged and has not appeared before court,” she said, adding that the suspect has another similar case that is already before the court.
Setilo said after they have completed their investigations, the farmer is likely to be charged again.
The headman of Phitshane Village, Mompati Morumolwa, conceded, “We are having serious problems with white farmers around my village.”
He said tension between the white farmers and the community is brewing and explained that the clash between the two parties is primarily caused by firewood.
“It all started about three years ago when I called both the community and the farmers, especially white farmers, to a kgotla meeting,” he said, adding that the community accused the farmers of denying them access to firewood and ill treating them. On their part, he said, the farmers blamed the community of stealing firewood and illegally cutting the farm fence.
He said both reached an agreement that the community should always seek permission from a farmer when they want to collect firewood from a particular farm but that has never happened.
“I do not know what to say because there has never been any improvement between the two parties and the situation is now getting out of control.”
Morumolwa said what scares him most is the fact that some people might lose their lives if this kind of attitude continues.
He appealed to the residents to stop the bad tendency of collecting firewood from farms illegally.