The ongoing debacle between residents of Khumaga village and the government of Botswana could have far reaching effects on Botswana’s respect for human rights as government has reneged on its compensation promises.
The erection of the fence in Khumaga which will cost government P36 million will see residents losing part of their land, which they have occupied since the pre-independence era. The idea of erection of a fence was coined by government under the pretence of separating the people from wild animals.
Khumaga is adjacent to Makgadikgadi National Park, something which has seen residents involved in wildlife and human conflicts as well as engaging in tourism activities such as operating camp sites. Despite the proposition by government, that the fence is meant to benefit both the residents and government, there are suspicions that the erection of the new fence is a multi-million pula ploy by tourism magnates, including President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama, who is also Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, to advance their tourism interests.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, of which Botswana is a member, outlines principles to be pursued by government on issues regarding acquisition of land from indigenous people. The UNDRIP establishes in article 32(2) that states have a duty to consult indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”.
Such consultations, according to UNDRIP , should comply with a number of minimum requirements, including that: “Consultations must be formal, full and exercised in good faith; there must be a genuine dialogue between governments and indigenous and tribal peoples characterized by communication and understanding, mutual respect, good faith and the sincere wish to reach an accord. UNDRIP also says that consultations have to be undertaken through indigenous and tribal peoples’ representative institutions; and also that consultations have to be “undertaken with the objective of reaching agreement or consent to the proposed measures”.
Despite Tshekedi making assuring statements in the past that he was determined to reach an amicable settlement decision with the residents, government gestures, such as continuing with installation of the fence suggests a different story. The Ngwande Trust, which is owned by the Khumaga community, has always believed that the decision to erect a new fence is a plan by the Tourism ministry to protect the interest of one of the leading tourism companies, Chobe Holdings which has numerous interests in tourism in Botswana, including in Boteti around Khumaga village. The Khamas have interests in Chobe Holdings with their nephew Dale Ter Haar serving as one of its directors.
Chobe Holdings, which is headquartered in Maun, is the mother company of Desert and Delta Safaris and Ker and Downey Botswana, which operates combined 19 luxury lodges and safaris in Botswana and Namibia. The lodge and safaris are sparsely located in tourism rich areas including Okavango, Maun and Boteti (where Khumaga is situated). Some of the lodges owned by Chobe Holdings’ two companies include Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango, Xugana Island Lodge and Leroo La Tau among others.
In 2013 Chobe Holdings challenged the ownership of Gwaraga land, a wildlife rich area owned by the Ngwande Trust. Chobe Holdings contended that Ngwande Trust’s acquisition of the land will conflict with its operations and argued that it was never consulted when the Land Board handed the land to the Trust. According to councillor for Khumaga/Moreomaoto Thomas Kgethenyane, the residents, though they opposed the government’s proposal, went into negotiation on “give and take basis” of which government agreed to some of their demands.
As per the initial agreement, government was to allow the community Trust and individuals who held camp site licences to continue having access to the other side of the fence and also to be allowed to operate their businesses freely. Recently, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Rule Jimmy Opelo accompanied by other officials from the ministry issued a directive that everybody should move to the other side of the fence contrary to the “give and take” preposition initially agreed on.
“We were informed the relocation affects everybody, and that there is no more space left on the other side of the fence for allocation of camp sites,” said Kgethenyane, “This is not what we agreed but government is going ahead with its plans.” WeekendPost has been informed that the government’s ‘bullying’ approach will see residents losing the land, lucrative farming areas as well as their camp sites leases and licences. As the conflict between government and Khumaga resident grows thick, councillor Kgethenyane has promised to bring the matter to the attention of the international community, if government continues with its action.
“As we speak, government is hiding information on the entry points after erection of this new fence. Everybody is in the dark about it despite earlier assurance by government that residents would be allowed to have access to the river,” he said. “The whole thing was a lie, people are being driven into poverty with no beneficiation in the tourism activities and people will lose their ploughing fields.”
KEY PLAYERS ON KHUMAGA SAGA
Slumber Tsogwane –Boteti West MP and Minister of Local Government “Consultation does not mean agreement, but Khumaga residents know what the Government wants to do as they were consulted, and Government continues to engage them. Of course not all people agree with the Government’s decision, and I am not aware of their intention to go to court. If it is something that they want to do, there is nothing wrong with it.” April 2016 Tshekedi Khama- Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism“I do not believe in imposing decisions. I try to reach consensus with people because if you impose decisions on them, you will face some sort of resistance. When things are done right, people will appreciate and there will be no criticism.” February 2016
A heartfelt message of good wishes from Minister Mmusi Kgafela to his self-exiled brother and Bakgatla paramount chief, Kgafela Kgafela II, this week urged the latter to consider calls for his return to Botswana to visit his tribe and family.
“On behalf of our father’s people, your people, I wish to inform you that Bakgatla are thinking of you, and they miss you dearly. They request that you should find time to visit them. Please come to Botswana to spend some time with them, to see and greet them,” said Mmusi as part of his 50 years birthday message to Kgafela Kgafela II, who has vowed never to set foot in Botswana.
However, Mmusi Kgafela did not shed light on how his brother will deal with the arrest warrant, which triggers once he sets foot in Botswana.
The Bakgatla Kgosikgolo, who went on a self-imposed exile in 2012 to South Africa, faces a decade-old-plus warrant of arrest issued by the Village magistrate court after his non-appearance in Court over criminal charges relating to flogging of his subjects. Kgafela described the charges as ‘political persecution’ before jetting out to his second home in South Africa, Moruleng, where he is also a Chief.
Asked over his views on the complications around the warrant of arrest, Mmusi, a lawyer by training, said, “what people need to understand is that a warrant of arrest is not a prison sentence.”
He continued: “There is a need for reconciliation and discussions to put all these issues behind us. We need to move on. What I have also realized is that the state is not keen on pursuing the matter as they have not sought his extradition,” he said.
In 2017, the then Minister of Defence, Justice, and Security, Shaw Kgathi, told Parliament that the arrest warrant issued against Bakgatla Kgosi-kgolo is still valid.
“….because a Court order once issued remains valid and enforceable unless it is rescinded by the Court that issued it, in this case being Village Magistrate Court. It may also be revoked by a higher court being the High Court or the Court of Appeal,” Kgathi said.
As things stand, the Government will arrest Bakgatla Kgosi Kgafela II if he crosses over to Botswana, Parliament heard.
Kgathi responded to a question by the then Mochudi West Member of Parliament, Gilbert Mangole, who wanted to know if the arrest warrant imposed on Kgafela was still valid. Further, he wanted clarity on what it would take for the Government to trigger the removal of the warrant to enable Kgosi to visit his tribe in Botswana if he so wishes.
Could Mmusi be under pressure to facilitate Kgafela’s return?
Although Mmusi denies the claim, some royal sources opine that he (Mmusi) is under pressure to help President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi fulfill his 2019 electoral campaign pledge to the tribe. The President had pledged that he would “not rest until their chief, Kgosi Kgafela Kgafela II, is back home.”
Mmusi, however, says Masisi has not personally engaged him on Kgafela.
Kgafela’s former lawyer, Advocate Sydney Pilane, has in the past told this publication that he suspects that as the leader of the BDP, President Masisi hopes that if he brings Kgosi Kgafela back, BaKgatla may be grateful to the BDP, and benefits might accrue in consequence.
While Mmusi says the matter will need to be discussed and dealt with, private attorney Kgosiitsile Ngakaagae who was prosecuting Kgafela, warned that there is nothing to address or facilitate.
“There is no need for political intervention. Kgosi Kgafela is officially a fugitive from Justice. It’s for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to issue a nolle prosequi (we shall no longer prosecute) to enable his return. Constitutionally the DPP cannot be dictated to by politicians. The matter is beyond the President unless he violates the DPP’s constitutional mandate,” charged Ngakaagae.
“An arrest is intended to bring someone to Court. Secondly, a party who has become aware that a warrant has been issued against them can apply to Court before it is implemented for it to be discharged.”
The only option for the state currently, which the state is reluctant to pursue, is to drop the charges and withdraw the warrant of arrest or decide on a deliberate non-enforcement of the warrant, according to lawyers who spoke to this publication.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently told his parliament that the deployment of his army to Mozambique had cost close to a billion rand, with the exact figure placed at R984,368, 057. On the other hand, the Botswana government is yet to say a word on their budget concerning the deployment.
In his National Assembly report tabled last week Tuesday, Ramaphosa said:
“This serves to inform the National Assembly that I have authorized the employment of 1,495 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for service in fulfillment of an international obligation towards SADC, to assist Mozambique combat acts of terrorism and violent extremists in the Caba Delgado province. This deployment had cost close to a billion rand, with the exact figure placed at R984,368,057.”
The soldiers, he said, are expected to remain there for the next three months.
Botswana, however, is yet to publicize its expenditure. Asked by this publication over why they have not and whether they will, the Minister of Defence, Justice, and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, said they would when the time is right.
“As you may be aware, nobody planned for this. It was not budgeted for. We had to take our BDF resources to Mozambique, and we are still doing our calculations. We also need to replace what we took from the BDF to Mozambique,” he said.
This week, President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Botswana government would share the sustainment of the Mozambique military combat deployment. SADC has given Botswana its share to use according to its needs.
The costs in such deployments are typically categorized into three parts-boots on the ground or handling the system, equipment, and operational sustenance logistics.
It is unknown how much combat pay, danger pay, or sustenance allowance the soldiers will get upon return. However, President Masisi has assured the soldiers that they will get their money.
Masisi has said deployment comes when the country is faced with economic challenges that have been exacerbated to a great extent by the COVID-19 Pandemic, which is inflicting enormous health, financial, and social damage to all nations.
Botswana has sent 296 soldiers who left on Monday to Mozambique to join the SADC standby force.
Parliament fumes over being snubbed
In the 1994 Lesotho mission, the Botswana Parliament was engaged after the soldiers were long deployed. A repeat of history this week saw members of parliament grilling the executive over snubbing parliament and keeping it in the dark about the Mozambique military deployment.
Zimbabwe pledges 304 soldiers
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has pledged 304 soldiers to the SADC Standby Force Mission in Mozambique to train an infantry battalion-size unit at a time, Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has said.
In a statement to journalists, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said the contingent would consist of 303 instructors and one specialist officer to coordinate the SADC Force Headquarters in Maputo.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said that in terms of Section 214 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Parliament would be informed accordingly.
During the Extraordinary Summit of the 16-member regional bloc held in Maputo, Mozambique, last month, member states resolved to deploy a force to help Mozambique contain insurgency in its northern provinces where terrorists have left a trail of destruction that also threatens regional peace.
Former director general of the Directorate of Intelligence Service, Isaac Kgosi has been awarded doctorate in International and Diplomatic Studies by a Slovenian institution-New University after successfully defending his doctoral dissertation last year.
The institution‘s website shows that in February 2020 Kgosi defended his dissertation titled ‘Southern African Development Community [SADC] Diplomatic Conflict Management Response for Enhancing Human Security: The Case of Mozambique.’
“Faculty of government and European Studies hereby certifies that Seabelo Isaac Kgosi born in Francistown, on 15th December 1958 completed all obligations of the international and Diplomatic Studies doctoral programme on March 22,2021. On these grounds the Faculty of Government and European Studies is conferring upon him the scientific title of Doctor of Science in International and Diplomatic Studies, abbr:PhD,” reads the institution’s conferment certificate dated O6 July 2021.
Kgosi’s thesis was a study of SADC’s mediation and diplomacy in the Mozambican conflict that is mainly between the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) government and forces of the National Resistance (Renamo) that was once mediated by the late former president Sir Ketumile Masire in 2016 when it re-emerged after a revival by Renamo in 2012, driven by several grievances including allegations of economic marginalisation, regional economic imbalances and breach of the 1992 Rome General Peace Accords which had ended the post-independence civil war fought from 1977 to 1992. The escalation of conflict in Mozambique in early 2016 resulted in displacement of citizens in affected areas whilst thousands of people crossed the borders into Malawi and eastern Zimbabwe as refugees.
Efforts to search for and locate the document were unsuccessful at the time of going for press.
Kgosi’s curriculum vitae suggests that he has a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Intelligence and Security obtained from Brunel University, a public research university located in Uxbridge, West London, United Kingdom. The latter qualification was obtained in 2007.
It is not yet known on whether Kgosi will use his qualifications to seek employment locally or internationally, or will decide to open a consultancy firm in line with his experience and academic achievements once the dust surrounding him goes way.
The former spy chief is currently fighting to clear his name in a series of cases against the state, which accuses him of owing the tax man, capturing images of the intelligence agents, as well as their identity between the 18th and 25th February 2019 as well as the identity cards of the officers engaged in a covert operation of the DIS. He is also accused of instructing Bank of Botswana (BoB) to open three bank accounts that were used to loot public funds amounting to over P100 billion together with former president Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Kgosi has countered on all the cases demanding the evidence which links him to the crimes levelled against him, all of which the state is currently struggling to submit before the courts. The state has lost and appealed the photographs case while the P100 billion case has been described as a big lie by various institutions.