Vol.23 No.125

Wednesday 23 August 2006    
   Cartoon Strip  
   Business Week  
   Arts/Culture Review  
BNF speaks on CKGR

8/23/2006 1:03:49 PM (GMT +2)

Pursuant to the BNF resolution adopted at its Lobatse National Conference in July 2006 which reaffirms the party's position that it strongly condemns the government policy of forcibly relocating Basarwa of CKGR to New Xade and further urges the BNF leadership to speak out on this question, the Political Education Committee met on Sunday August 6 2006 and resolved to take a number of steps geared towards assisting the party to act upon its resolution.

The general feeling of the BNF members at the Lobatse conference was that the party has been rather slow in addressing this critical question. We wish to reiterate the BNF position that it condemns in the strongest of terms the colonial-style forced relocation of Basarwa of CKGR to New Xade in 2000. The reasons advanced by the government for this ill-advised policy are flimsy and shrouded in secrecy and therefore unacceptable to the BNF. To say that this ill-advised policy has severely tarnished this country's image internationally with grave and far reaching implications is a serious understatement. It is deeply regrettable that millions of the taxpayers' money are being wasted by government in a vain attempt to defend its indefensible policy against international organisations that have rallied behind Basarwa of CKGR. As far as we are concerned, this protracted and painful plight of Basarwa is directly attributable to the government's blind and ultimately suicidal bluster and arrogance in pursuit of a patently wrong policy even in the teeth of stiff and mounting national and international opposition. The on-going court case between the government and some Basarwa of CKGR is largely meaningless because whatever its outcome, this political problem will not go away. This is a problem that has been crying out for a political solution since the 1980s. The BNF calls upon the government to take the following measures in order to redress and put an end to this self-inflicted political imbroglio which is now threatening the economy of the country ;

*Firstly, the BNF rejects the government's simplistic view that indigenous peoples like Basarwa have only two options - either to remain locked up in an ancient lifestyle in the game reserves and perish 'like the dodo' or relocate to remote places like New Xade and succumb to assimilation into the cultures of dominant ethnic groups. In our view, development is not just economic, social and political but also cultural. It must respect the cultural identities of the people. Development, however well meaning, is not something that can be done to the people or imposed on them against their will. It must be endogenous, people-centred or driven by the needs and aspirations of the people themselves. We wish to emphasise that however illiterate, poor and downtrodden people may be, they have ideas about what they want which must be respected. People must be the architects and authors of their own development. Condescending top-down bureaucratic approaches to development coupled with whatever material incentives are always doomed to fail. In sharp contrast, the BNF believes in rights-based development strategies which respect and enhance the cultural identities of the people instead of assimilation into other peoples' cultures. In other words, for us there is a third and more viable development option, namely to modify the traditional lifestyles of Basarwa by judiciously and creatively combining the old and the new in ways that maintain and enhance their cultural identity while allowing their society and economy to grow and evolve. This development strategy must be pursued with their active involvement and participation at all levels. We therefore call upon the government to immediately and unconditionally allow Basarwa to return to their homeland or CKGR where their ancestors are buried because their cultures, economies and identities are inextricably intertwined with their traditional lands and resources.

*Secondly, we wish to remind the government of its onerous obligation to respect and protect the constitutional rights of Basarwa {Section 14 (1) of the Constitution of Botswana} on the 'Protection from Freedom of Movement' and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 12 both of which enshrine the right of all people to choose their own residence.

*Thirdly, government must order the game scouts and other agents of the state machinery of coercion to stop with immediate effect any further harassment of Basarwa of CKGR.

*Fourthly, we call upon the government to recognise in law the rights of these communities to own, develop, control and use their homelands and resources including their land tenure systems and the right to continue to harvest the animals and plants on which their lifestyles depend.

*Fifthly, Basarwa of CKGR must be allowed to be co-owners and co-managers of the game reserve in line with the principle of community involvement in the management and utilisation of wildlife and natural resources. This principle was adopted by the Department of Wild life and National Parks in respect of similar communities living in or near game reserves and national parks elsewhere in the country.

There is no reason why Basarwa of CKGR should be an exception. Once organised along these lines, Basarwa should be able to derive direct monitory benefits from the proceeds of tourism and pay tax to the government. To facilitate the implementation of this policy, government must revisit the recommendations of its own commission of inquiry into the CKGR of 1985 which proposed that the reserve was big enough to be divided into two zones, one for wildlife and another for human settlement.

This is the trend elsewhere in the world and the government cannot expect to swim against the tide without paying a heavy price.

*The Department of Wildlife and National Parks should recognise the fact that Basarwa have lived for many years in harmony with their harsh environment and therefore they are excellent ecologists, conservationists and custodians of their natural environment and its resources.

Their rich traditional conservation knowledge should be creatively blended with modern methods of conservation to ensure the sustainable utilization of the wildlife and natural resources of CKGR. Forcible relocation to some distant place over 70 kilometres away has the opposite effect of rendering them 'poachers' because they will always be tempted to go back and hunt for wildlife and harvest the natural resources in places where they have lived for many years only to be brutalised by the game scouts.

We call upon the government to sign, ratify or uphold relevant international conventions in respect of indigenous communities such as the Draft UN Declaration on Indigenous Communities, ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous Communities and Agenda 21.

*Where there are compelling reasons to relocate any community in future (in this case we are unaware of any), government has an obligation to consult and adequately compensate the communities involved. Basarwa have their own spokesperson such as the First People of the Kalahari who should be genuinely consulted on policies that impact directly on their lifestyle. Any frantic 11th hour 'consultation' of the opposition parties to solicit for their support for the government's colonial-style and outdated forcible resettlement of an entire community will not serve any useful purpose. Furthermore, any attempt to whip up a false sense of patriotism by portraying all those who differ with the government on how best to address this question as enemies of the state is equally counter-productive.

The Botswana National Front (BNF) is convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that a genuine implementation of the measures outlined above would go a long way towards providing an amicable and lasting solution to this problem and salvage the battered image of this country in the eyes of the international community. The Political Education Committee of the BNF resolved to take the following measures to help the party in the implementation of its own resolution. The first step was to issue this press statement explaining the party position. Secondly, our next course of action is to organise a seminar on October 13, 2006 aimed at further sensitising the BNF leadership to the issues involved in this vexed relocation of Basarwa of CKGR to New Xade. These activities will then culminate in disciplined countrywide mass actions in a show of solidarity with the oppressed and exploited Basarwa of CKGR. Finally, the BNF fully endorses the initiative taken by its Councillors in Jwaneng who recently debated and adopted a motion condemning the relocation and further called upon the government to allow Basarwa to return to their homeland.

Dr Elmon M Tafa on behalf of the BNF Political Education Committee August 9, 2006 Send us your comments about Mmegi newspaper Search For Old Newspaper Editions To advertise contact us through email

Mmegi, 2002
Developed by Cyberplex Africa