As the country celebrates 50 years of independence, United Kingdom (UK) based resilient Non-Governmental organization Survival International (SI) this week renewed its attack on Botswana Government for its continual ill treatment of the Basarwa of Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
The controversial NGO categorically stated that they target Botswana’s golden jubilee to further de-campaign the country – which gained independence from the British in 1966.
The move follows previous de-campaigns that were directed to the international community to boycott Botswana diamonds as well as tourism – which are the backbone of her economy.
“Survival International has launched a campaign calling for an end to a draconian system in Botswana which has broken Bushmen families apart and denied them access to their land. Critics such as veteran anti-apartheid activist Michael Dingake have compared the system to the apartheid-era pass laws, and therefore Survival calls for end to that Bushmen’s apartheid,” a statement from the London based organization stated on Tuesday.
“The call comes in the fiftieth anniversary year of Botswana’s independence,” SI highlighted.
According to the statement, on the subject of the fiftieth anniversary, a certain Motswana of Sesarwa tribe told Survival, “I don’t even know anything about these celebrations.
They are doing this so that people will not think they are a bad government. They are celebrating; we are not. We’re still feeling the same way. They’ve been celebrating for the last 49 years.”
SI’s Director Stephen Corry pointed out in the statement that, “the Botswana government has viciously persecuted the Bushmen (Basarwa) for decades, first with violent evictions and then with a permit system designed to break families apart. If Botswana still wants to be seen as a “shining light” of democracy in Africa, it needs to listen to the Bushmen, uphold its own court’s ruling and end this appallingly unjust restriction on the Bushmen’s right to live on their ancestral land in the CKGR. I hope that this historic year will mark the end of the decades long persecution of the Bushmen.”
Survival International highlighted that most Basarwa are still forced to live in government resettlement camps, rather than on their land in the CKGR. It recalls that after having been brutally evicted and forced into government camps between 1997 and 2002, the tribe won a historic court victory in 2006 recognizing their right to live on their land in the CKGR.
Since then, however, this right has only been extended to the small number of the people named in court papers, SI said, “their children and close relatives are forced to apply for permits just to visit them, or risk seven years in prison, and children born and brought up in the reserve have to apply for a permit when they turn 18. Many fear that once the current generation has passed away, the Bushmen will be shut out of their land forever.”
It is understood that the government resettlement camps are poorly supplied, and diseases like HIV/AIDS are rife.
Survival has also written a letter to both President Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama and the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, who is also the President’s blood brother, Tshekedi Khama and cautioned them to uphold the court ruling as they celebrate the golden jubilee of the country’s 50th anniversary.
“I am extremely concerned to learn that, 10 years since the High Court ruling, the majority of the Bushmen from the CKGR still cannot live freely in their ancestral home,” the letter from the human rights organization to the Khamas reads in part.
In addition to this, Survival asserts that Botswana's hunting ban criminalizes the Basarwa as “poachers” when they hunt to feed their families, even though the court ruled that this was “tantamount to condemning them to death.”
“I urge you to mark this historic year by fully upholding the court ruling in time for Independence Day,” the non-profit organization concluded.
For his part, Botswana Government Chief Spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay rubbished SI in an interview with Weekend Post while insisting that their campaigns have not impacted negatively on Botswana and so they doubt it will ever do this time around in their fresh campaign against the country.
“They have not impacted on our diamond industry, and even our tourism industry is still intact, their campaigns have never directly affected us,” Ramsay stressed.
Besides, the government mouthpiece rhetorically asked “who in the whole world cares about SI? For starters they said the international community should boycott Botswana diamonds and tourism but people ignored them!”
He added that, SI “have not been saying anything new for the past 10 to 20 years calling for Botswana’s economic collapse but failed in their de-campaign.”
Some Basarwa were relocated under a dark cloud from the CKGR to settlements outside the camps particularly New Xade, and, although government had denied several times that the forced relocation was to pave way for mining activities in the reserve, a diamond mine was later constructed in the CKGR following the evasion.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.