The United Kingdom-based human rights organisation, Survival International (SI), has threatened to take up a new case of Basarwa from Ranyane settlement in Ghanzi region and challenge the legality of their impending forced relocation by the Ghanzi District Council.
SI was responding to reports that the relocation at Ranyane was due on Monday. But this week Government spokesman Jeff Ramsay said the relocation allegations were false.
“The government of Botswana has no plans to remove those who want to stay at Ranyane,” he said.
SI spokesperson, Rachel Stenham, told The Telegraph that: “We will consider the best way to support the Basarwa at Ranyane as the case develops, and in the meantime we will be pushing authorities in Botswana to act to protect the Bushmen’s right to remain on the land.” ┬á
Stenham said Survival has not been asked for any funding support or legal assistance.
┬á“There are lawyers in Botswana working on the case. We will also be bringing the issue to the attention of the world’s media and supporters of the Basarwa so that the world can help put a stop to the forced evictions,” she said.
┬áShe further revealed that they have written to President Khama but have not yet received a response.┬á
The Director of Khwedom Council, Keibakile Mogodu, said he was aware that government intends to relocate about 600 Basarwa.
“We have been deliberating on the issue with government officials, yes I can confirm that government was due to relocate Basarwa on Monday,” he said.
Ramsay said the government is aware and concerned about a media disinformation campaign currently being waged against “this country by the London based neo-Apartheid organisation Survival International, with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa through its affiliate the so-called Khwedom Council.” ┬á
Last year and early this year, said Ramsay, there had been intensive consultations between local authorities and Ranyane residents, including five Kgotla meetings, who have indicated a desire to relocate elsewhere.
“A total of 31 households, representing just over 100 residents have so far registered a desire to be facilitated in relocating, with 26 households expressing a desire to be assisted in moving to Bere, four to Chobokwane and one family to New Xanagas,” said Ramsay. ?Ramsay added that there are other families at Ranyane who have indicated their desire to remain. The Government of Botswana has no plans to remove those who wish stay at Ranyane, he said.?“Finally, contrary to some media reports the Government has consistently provided the residents with water. When the borehole was temporarily shut down last year, water was trucked in until the borehole was restored,” said Ramsay.
According to the letter dated May 24, and signed by SI Director, Steven Corry, the organisation states that “our understanding is that the justification for the relocation is to make way for a new wildlife corridor…We have also written to the President of Conversation International as we understand that it has been involved in funding and implementing the Western Kgalagadi Corridor project with your government.”
The letter, which was copied to various foreign missions in Botswana, also urges government to halt the eviction and uphold Basarwa’s rights to their land.
Meanwhile, our correspondent, Morula Morula, reports that Gaborone lawyers, Onalethata Kambai, on Monday filed a case in the Lobatse High Court on behalf of Ranyane Basarwa who the government wants to relocate.
“Yes, we have filed the case and expect it to be heard very soon,” Kambai confirmed to The Telegraph on Monday. He declined to give details of what they want the Court to do.
“We cannot give such details at the moment, unfortunately. They will be available in Court during the hearing,” he said.
The government is apparently refusing to recognize the area as a settlement, claiming that it is a wildlife management area. The residents, on the other hand, claim that the government wants to move them in order to create more land for livestock farmers who are currently surrounding them. It is not clear who will be footing their legal bill.
This case comes at a time when another legal case on the relocation of Basarwa and government’s removal of people from their ancestral land is brewing up in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. In that case, the residents of CKGR want the government to implement all the terms of a Court of Appeal judgment passed a few years ago after a lengthy court battle. CKGR residents had won the case with costs.
They were financially assisted by Survival International.