How Basarwa of Ranyane lost against Gov’t
The 114 applicants wanted to be provided with water and other amenities
Residents of Ranyane settlement in the Gantsi District waited for almost a year for a judgement to be delivered at the Gaborone High Court, only to be told that as long as they have chosen to remain in a wildlife management area while others agreed to be relocated to other areas, they are not entitled to free services from government.
Residents had taken government to court over the termination of water services, mobile clinic and Draught relief programmes in their area. They demanded such services to be restored.
In a Judgement that took Justice Terrence Rannowane ten Months to prepare, Ranyane residents were told that the Council cannot be ordered by court to extend such services to unrecognised settlements such as theirs.
“In summary, I find that Ranyane is an unrecognised settlement situated within wildlife management area. The provision of services thereat including water and Ipelegeng programmes was a temporary arrangement and all the rightful beneficiaries and consumers of the services were aware of this arrangement. The termination of such services followed extensive consultations with the residents,” Rannowane ruled.
Rannowane reserved this judgment last year December and by the time he delivered the judgement on Wednesday this week; just two of the 114 applicants in the matter were present in court. The duo said it was because others could not make it to Gaborone on short notice owing to the long distance and the remote location of their Settlement.
Ranyane is located about 300 km East of Gantsi Township, making it around 1000 kilometres from Gaborone. It is inhabited mostly by Basarwa tribe, some Bangologa as well as Bakgalagadi tribes. It has a Headman, an elected Councillor as well as a specially nominated Councillor. According to the 2011 population census, the settlement had 182 people.
The attorney, representing the 114 applicants in the legal battle for restoration of services, Onalethata Kambai of Kambai Attorneys in Gaborone who represented them on voluntary basis said he had to travel to Ranyane to inform the people of the outcome of their court case.
“On the face of it, it is appealable, but we are going to consult the clients first. Left as it is, the judgment sets a bad precedence that people cannot co-exist with animals,” Kambai expressed his disappointment with the judgment.
However he insisted that it is the applicant who would make a decision of whether or not to appeal against the judgment.
Tale of Ranyane
The conflict of services between Ranyane and the Gantsi District Council started in 2011 following the population census which revealed that the number of people living in the area was going up. From then, the Council announced its plan to relocate the Basarwa who had settled in the area over the years to neighbouring settlements such as Bere. Met with résistance from residents, the government then took away the only borehole engine which was pumping underground water to supply the settlement and the legal battle ensued.
One of the applicants in the matter Heebe Karakubis, 57, says she was born and grew up in Ranyane. The government insists that she was not born in Ranyane but rather a nomad who travelled from other parts of Gantsi District.
However the evidence she submitted before court was that she and other residents used to live on wild fruits and berries such as kgengwe and mokawa as well as hunting wild animals for sustenance around Ranyane area. The lifestyle changed after independence when the government passed laws banning hunting. Since then most residents earn their living by working in farms around the settlement and in government draught relief programmes such as Ipelegeng.
The explanation by government is that in the 1960s, boreholes were sunk along a stretch of land from Gantsi District to Lobatse known as the trek route boreholes. They were used for watering cattle which were driven on foot, donkey or horseback to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Lobatse and Ranyane was one of those boreholes drilled for such purpose.
Since selling cattle to BMC was not an everyday event, the boreholes were used for other purposes including as source of water for Basarwa who were ordinarily nomadic and lived around various pans during rainy season. The borehole was later used as an artificial insemination camp.
Ranyane residents told court that before the camp was established, there were Basarwa who were already living there. The government subsequently closed the artificial insemination camp and stopped operating the borehole. The Basarwa tribe continued living in Ranyane as they used to before independence.
Records from the Department of Animal Production show that Ranyane and other boreholes were decommissioned in the 1980s; and the artificial insemination camp was moved to Metsimantsho settlement.
In 1992, Ranyane residents say they requested the Council to provide them with a borehole engine so that they can draw water for the settlement. The very same year, officials from the Gantsi Land Board and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks informed the residents in a kgotla meeting that Ranyane was a Wildlife Management area and that their presence in the areas was obstructing the movement of the animals.
However three years later, in 1995 Metsimantsho Councillor Paul Mokgethisi, moved a motion calling for the re-opening of Ranyane borehole for use by Basarwa who were then residents at Metsimantsho, Ncojane and various pans such as Gakhwa, Zwgkata, Kaangwa, Dibakang, Uzwe, Ngwamasisi, Rulane and others.
The council adopted the motion since Basarwa in those areas, though generally nomadic, were living precariously during dry seasons. The motion according to the Council was adopted with understanding that Basarwa would get water temporarily at Ranyane until a settlement is identified for them. Since then the Council provided maintenance of the engine, constructed a reservoir and water reticulation pipes in Ranyane.
“The council undertook to operate the borehole as a temporary measure as it was within the wildlife management area and those who settled there were made aware of this arrangement and this included the then Councillor for the area. It was only in 1996 that people started converging in that area increasing the population from 39 in 1991 to 94 in 2001 and to 182 as per 2011 census,” Rannowane noted in his judgment.
The Gantsi District Council had argued that, following the reopening of the borehole in 1995, there was an influx of Bakgalagadi and other Tswana speaking farmers who left their farms and other communal boreholes to take advantage of free water in Ranyane. Some of them brought with them large numbers of livestock (300 herd per farmer) and quickly became dominant in decision making. This state of affairs did not help the situation and exacerbated the costly and unsustainable nature of the provision of services and the Council could not cope.
“It had become clear, it was averred, through kgotla consultative meetings that it was not the original Basarwa people who were intended to be temporarily assisted with water at Ranyane but other ethnic groups with large numbers of cattle who had incited them to renege from the original agreement. That was apparently because they had left their own farms and boreholes behind and were amassing riches at the expense of Council,” Rannowane further stated.
The Council stopped the operation of the engine on the 8th December 2011. The engine was in working order when removed. The Basarwa people were told the engine was removed because they were now sharing water with other tribes especially Bakgalagadi who had settled in Ranyane and reared more domestic animals.
However the Engine was brought back in 2012, but the Council was no longer providing free diesel. The residents had to sell their lifestock to buy the needed 210 litres of diesel which costs around P21 000.00 Month plus an extra P1000.00 for transporting it from Gantsi.
In the event the engine is malfunctioning, they have to go for many weeks or months without water as compared to when the Council was running it as it would immediately send an officer to fix it. The current engine used at Ranyane was bought by the residents after they mobilised their resources to buy it at a whooping amount of P10 000.00.
Although the court has reaffirmed the Council’s stance that Ranyane is an unrecognised settlement, several developments and services were brought to Ranyane just like in all other areas within the Gantsi district including the installation of a Headman of Arbitration in 1998. A kgotla, shelter for mobile clinic and a toilet were constructed by Ranyane dwellers through the draught relief programme. They also fenced the Ranyane graveyard and debushed the main road through the same programme.
The Independent Electoral Commission even put up a polling station at the area during previous elections and the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Planning recognised Ranyane when a Councillor was specially nominated to represent Ranyane/Metsimantsho ward in the Gantsi District Council.
On the 1st May, 2013, the Council engaged in a house to house campaign where the people were told to relocate or suffer the consequences as the Council intended to terminate the provision of services by way of removing the borehole engine amongst other services.
On the 24th May 2013 there was an urgent meeting addressed by government officials and at the said meeting the Land Board Chairperson, Nelson Molepolole is said to have told the Ranyane inhabitants that they had to relocate otherwise the government would engage the Police and the Special Support Group to monitor those who refused to relocate. If fact Molepolole is said to have threatened those who refused to relocate that their houses will be demolished using earth moving equipment.
Some residents gave in to the forceful relocation while some resisted and successfully launched a legal action against government.
On July 2013, the then Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Olebile Gaborone addressed a meeting where he tried to persuade the resident to relocate but the majority refused. In one of the meeting the Minister promised that the government would respect the court order and would do nothing to contradict or disobey it.
That very same Month the government stopped all draught relief programme from Ranyane.
Before the programme was terminated, there were 40 residents of Ranyane employed on a rotational basis earning around P400 per Month. They relied on the money to support themselves and families. Since the termination of the programme they contend they do not have alternative employment or source of income and hence they have been reduced to live in dire destitution.
Some residents had to move to neighbouring settlements such as Kole and Metsiamanong where the services have not been terminated. Some relocated so as to take up work in draught relief programmes while others had to safe themselves and their livestock from thirst.
The resident are of the view that these unpleasant state of affairs were deliberately designed by the government to punish those who refuse to relocate from Ranyane and to compel them to move out and that in the absence of reasonable explanation for termination of the said services, the government’s conduct amount to unjustified and unfair discrimination in the distribution and provision of services.
The government stand is that it never intended to force Basarwa to relocate from Ranyane but rather that the house to house campaign of May 2013 was to “take the inventory of belongings of those who were willing to relocate and also to deal with possible family issues such as a situation where within a family some members would wish to relocate whilst others would want to remain behind.
It further suggested that the Basarwa prior to the influx of other ethnic groups had never shown any indication of reneging from the understanding that their stay was temporary.
The government further contended that the Bakgalagadi and Tswana Speaking groups influenced a motion to declare Ranyane a recognised settlement despite the low number of residents.
The government stand is that due to low number of residents coupled with the fact that it was located within a wildlife management area, Ranyane could not be declared a recognised settlement.
As regards the provision of drinking water, Rannowane concluded that the matter should be resolved with the Water Utilities Corporation, which is responsible for provision of such a service throughout the country and that the provision of a mobile clinic is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health not of the Gantsi District Council.
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