It has been over four months since Pitseng Gaoberekwe’s corpse has been lying in a government mortuary in Ghanzi awaiting to be buried in his ancestral land, next to his late father’s grave in Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
The government has resisted efforts to have Gaoberekwe buried in the CKGR. The family of the deceased has pleaded with the court and authorities, albeit unsuccessfully, to be given access to bury their family member in CKGR.
The High Court in Gaborone this week gave an order that the son of the deceased, Lesiame Gaoberekwe, be arrested and imprisoned if the corpse is not buried within 10 days.
In a defiant spirit, Lesiame said he is not willing to bend and bury his father anywhere else beside the CKGR. “Maybe it is better if I get jailed because I want to bury him next to his father, there is a graveyard in CKGR,” he said.
The burial debacle has sparked much controversy from various quarters of the society and opinion leaders.
BASARWA ARE SPOILT – SIDNEY PILANE
Speaking to the media, Advocate Pilane who is representing the government on the matter said Basarwa are spoilt and must be treated like anyone that comes to court.
“Basarwa must pay costs. When you come to court, and you lose the case you pay costs, but we told the judge not to instruct them to pay the cost, but I think in the future they must pay costs so that they do not think they can just run to court and not pay the costs . We are making them used to having things for free, there are poor Batswana out there, but we did not make them get used to be done everything for free.
There is no evidence that the deceased wanted to be buried in CKGR and there is no evidence that he was living in CKGR, but we work with evidence in court. The evidence that we have indicates that the deceased has been living in New Xade since 1997. The government has stopped Pitseng to be buried in CKGR because it’s a game reserve. Should we allow every Motswana to be buried in CKGR? Is that what we should do? What will then be a point of having national reserves? Why should Basarwa have that right when we don’t have that right?”
BASARWA NEVER ASKED FOR ASSISTANCE FROM GOV’T – MOTSAMAI
A Member of Parliament for the constituency in which the family hails from, Motsamai Motsamai has also added his voice on the matter saying the government should not interfere with the way of life of the Basarwa who lived in peace in CKGR.
“This is ridiculous. I doubt if one corpse can taint a reserve that is the size of Lesotho. Pilane says Basarwa are spoilt, that was not right. They never asked assistance from government, it wanted to change their lives. What could have been done was to improve their lives in the CKGR so that they can know how to make economic sense out of the game they were hunting. This is not right, we are talking about old people who have been in the CKGR.
My view, the court should have determined those who were born in the CKGR, and they should be buried there. It is their ancestral land. Only the next generations could be buried elsewhere. Initially, they said the death was caused by Covid related ailment, but look at the period that has elapsed, Covid corpse do not stay for long, it was just a gimmick from the state, from there Pilane passes this kind of remarks. I will meet with the family for final decision. The court was to make a ruling on the matter of costs, as he is in Gov’t mortuary.”
BASARWA HAVE SACRIFICED A LOT – GAKEMOTHO KHWEBE SATAU
Gakemotho Khwebe Satau, who is the regional Chair for Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) has also added his voice on the matter:
“I concur with the bereaved who needs access to CKGR in order to lay his father at a rightful last home. This case is a symptom of anomalies not addressed during the 2006 court ruling. The rulings divided descendants of the CKGR between the applicants and those who were coerced by the government to relocate. Those coerced to relocate cannot claim heritage rights to CKGR as their demise. The 2006 case focused on eviction only without other human rights. No other fringe rights were included in the rebuttals.
We need to do that now. Those evicted had no bargaining power or their heritage rights inclusive of social cultural and economic freedoms were excluded from the narratives of eviction and the results of the court ruling came as a surprise. The eviction did not touch on issues of access and benefits sharing, since they were forced to relinquish those rights.
In Botswana, the Bakhwe have sacrificed a lot; land as conservation and mining areas without royalties, their language, their identity and their traditional economies among others. Bakhwe in totality have suffered systematic exclusion at the hands of arrogant and devilish government. And the Botswana government succeeded in their exploitation, keeping them fragmented through resettlement program and lies to Batswana and the world in general. Bakhwe have tried their level best to lobby the government of the day to recognize their human rights obligations by hiding calls from human rights organizations, scholars, independent UN special missions, African Commission, SADC etc.
but were refused to listen. Now is the time for us Bakhwe to unite and find a fit in to the broader society as people who have rights, land and resources and deserve to be respected accorded the bargaining power in development discourses and decisions. Apparently, God sent Batswana have pledged to support on the case. I am preparing to pledge towards that call and have been encouraging people to be at the forefront to support against the ordeal that has befallen our fellow men. Encouraging other Bakhwe to lead the struggle and support at the forefront. ”
THE CKGR IS NOT A GAME RESERVE. IT’S A HOME – NGAKAAGAE
A prominent attorney Kgosi Ngakaagae who has mobilized financial assistance to help the family to get the best legal representation has through his Facebook account called on the government to allow the family to bury their father in CKGR.
“We need to disabuse ourselves of the thinking that the CKGR is a game reserve. The CKGR is first and foremost a home for the inhabitants of the first people of our country. They are entitled to be buried there, the same way I am entitled to be buried in Mahalapye, or Serowe. They are entitled to live there the same way I am entitled to live in the Gammangwato area. We need a reset of attitudes, on this score. The arrogance of Batswana tribes (which run the government), is atrocious. It epitomizes the worst expression of man’s inhumanity to man. One day, we will look at our handling of the CKGR, issue, and our treatment of fellow citizens (Basarwa), with unforgivable shame.”
BASARWA HAVE BEEN ROBBED OF THEIR ANCESTRAL LAND -TAOLO LUCAS
A Bobirwa legislator Taolo Lucas who is vocal about the social injustices and equal rights to minority posits that the government has stolen the Basarwa land.
“It is disheartening to note that the systemic marginalization of Basarwa follows them to their graves. The Basarwa have been robbed of their ancestral land and even after they have won that famous landmark case on their access to the CKGR, several legal and administrative hurdles are placed on their way to access the land of their forefathers even just to use that land as their final resting place.
Burials, in all cultures, have deep spiritual, emotional and sentimental dimensions and to deny a person burial at the place of their choice is tantamount to defining the spirituality and the human rights of such individuals. As a country, we have trampled on all manner of rights for Basarwa, and it’s time we stop paying lip service to Basarwa socio-economic, political and cultural empowerment. I associate with those who are taking the matter on appeal. It is my hope that the Appeals Bench will transcend narrow stereotypes and issue a final verdict that shall recognise the dignity and human rights of Basarwa.”
African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or donâ€™tâ€™ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.
This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. â€śThere has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.
This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumersâ€™ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â€ť Dr Mhizha said.
The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.
It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. â€śInnovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâ€”the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. â€śNicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,â€ť Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.
Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.
â€śThe Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,â€ť Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.
During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.
The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.