An almost two-decade fight pitting the Botswana Government against Survival International is likely to return to the international spotlight – the London-based human rights organisation has revealed.
According to Survival International, plans to wage a war against Botswana are at an advanced stage following the recent arrest and detention of Basarwa children of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) on suspicion that they were in possession of game meat. Survival International also indicated that the decision to revive its campaign against the Botswana Government was necessitated by its continued refusal to allow one of the tribesmen to buried in the contentious Reserve.
Ghanzi Police Station Commander Modiro Lekone denied as untrue allegations that the Police’s Special Support Group in collaboration with officers from the Department of Wildlife detained Basarwa children in connection with game meat.
For his part, Basarwa activist Smith Moeti said the children were taken into custody for questionning on suspicion that they had in their possession game meat.
“I can confirm that the children were found in possession of a few bundles of game meat after a search was conducted at Old Xade. The officers interrogated and threatened them with corporal punishment. They were later released afrer it was discovered that they were hungry. They were traumatised by the ordeal that they endured at the hands of officers,” Smith told Sunday Standard.
Fiona Watson of Survival International said; “We’re preparing a series of campaign actions in response, and stand ready to resume our campaign in earnest should the government persist in this cruel and unjust policy.”
Survival International condemned as “inhumane” the Botswana Government’s decision to prevent Pitseng Gaoberekwe’s family from burying his body in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
Survival’s Research and Advocacy Director Fiona Watson also labelled the ongoing saga “a scandal, and a clear-cut case of discrimination.”
The organisation said authorities in Botswana are continuing their efforts, through the courts, to ensure Gaoberekwe’s body is buried far from his ancestral land, in defiance of his family’s desire to bury him inside the reserve.
“They are also stepping up their persecution of other Bushmen living inside the reserve. Police recently detained around 20 children aged from 5-17 years old, travelling from the reserve to Ghanzi on a bus, because they claimed to have discovered game meat on board,” Survival said.
It stated that, “The children were reportedly detained all day without either being given food, or their parents being informed.”
Survival said the news has sparked concern that the government is resuming its campaign to remove the Bushmen from the reserve, even though their historic 2006 court victory confirmed they have the right to live there.
The organisation said the 2006 ruling also upheld the Bushmen’s right to hunt for food in the reserve, but the government has not issued a single hunting license since. “It’s persecution of children for allegedly being in possession of game meat is therefore particularly troubling,” the organization said.
Watson said “Survival has been following “the saga of Mr Gaoberekwe’s burial with increasing concern.”
” Treating the family in this way is inhumane, a scandal, and a clear-cut case of discrimination. The government knows full well how important it is to the Bushmen that they can visit their ancestors’ graves, so its refusal to allow the burial in the CKGR looks very much like the opening salvo in a move to force the Bushmen out of the reserve once more,” she said.
Watson added that “Presumably, if they won’t allow this burial inside the CKGR, they won’t allow others either.”
“So it seems to us, and to many Bushmen, that they want to stop the Bushmen from being buried on their land, and in that way slowly force them out of the CKGR, knowing that they need to live close to where their ancestors are buried,” said Watson.