After a long battle, the Radiation Protection Inspectorate (RPI) has finally been awarded a piece of land by the Ngwato Land Board where a radiation facility will be constructed in Pilikwe Village in Tswapong North.
The issue has re-ignited divisions between villagers and government with the pressure group, which is against the project, threatening to sue the government over the issue.
The Director of the Radiation Protection Inspectorate, Thapelo Otukile, has confirmed to Sunday Standard that his department had been awarded a piece of land by the Ngwato Land Board that they have long applied for.
“The department has finally been allocated a piece of land in Pilikwe where the facility will be constructed,” he said.
He explained that the project was planned for implementation during the National Development Plan 10 when funds are available.
Otukile revealed that the facility is expected to be constructed before the year 2016, adding that “it should be emphasized that the facility is not a disposal site but an area where disused radiation source can be reconditioned to be brought back to the use or repackaged and sent back to the manufacturer”.
He said that it should be clearly understood that Botswana does not generate nuclear waste since there is no nuclear power plant that generates both liquid and solid nuclear waste.
He further stated that the country has no capacity and capability as well as land to dispose of such waste if it happened that the country has the capability of producing nuclear waste.
Otukele said his department was never at loggerheads with Pilikwe residents but instead, they engaged all the concerned parties and will continue to consult with their stakeholders because it is an ongoing process.
He pointed out that RPI mandate is to provide safe use of nuclear technology to protect the public, environment and users against adverse effects of ionizing technology.
“I am aware of the issue but as you know, I was elected early this year as the new councilor therefore I am not in a good position to comment on the issue as yet until after being briefed,” said Ace Moinami, the area councilor.
Village headman Bokopano Koodibetse declined to comment saying that he could not issue contradictory statements as there is a task force looking at the matter.
Dr Sebusang Sebusang, a member of the task force selected by the villagers, said he is very disappointed by the Ngwato Land Board for allocating RPI with a piece of land before they can conclude the negotiations.
“What the Land Board has done is really embarrassing,” he said.
He threatened that even though the department may have won and was allocated the site, the battle is not yet over as the task force may consider taking the legal route as a last resort.
“We want both parties to engage each other rather than taking the legal route, which should not be the case,” he said.
Sebusang said of most concern is the fact that the minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Johnie Swartz, under whom the RPI falls, never addressed the residents over the issue since the discussions started a few years ago.
“We still want the minister to address the residents of Pilikwe,” he said.
Sebusang added that they have realized that there is no political will to address the issue.
He appealed to the government for an amicable resolution of the matter.
Meanwhile some residents say that they “will do what it takes to defend our village as the project will bring disaster to our village”.
They claimed that there are few individuals within the village and in Gaborone who they labeled as “sell outs” who they allege go against the will of the people as they have connections with the high ranking officials.
“We know these sell outs as well as their agenda and will do our best to defeat their intentions.”