Vol.23 No.142

Thursday 21 September 2006    
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BCP calls for negotiations in CKGR dispute

Staff Writer

9/21/2006 4:42:23 PM (GMT +2)

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has called on the government and Basarwa to go back to the negotiating table over relocations from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). The party said this week that its fact finding mission to the CKGR found that no real negotiations took place between the two parties except persistent appeals by NGOs on behalf of Basarwa.

BCP acting president Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang who headed the fact-finding mission said that the courts would not resolve the CKGR dispute as it is a human rights and development issue. "If government wins the case, the Survival International (SI) campaign would continue and if Basarwa win, the government might ignore them when they return to the park (CKGR)," he said. Though the Botswana Human Rights Organisation - Ditshwanelo blames the collapse of talks on the confrontational tactics of SI, the BCP fact-finding mission realised that the British-based NGO entered the fray long after the talks between Basarwa and government had collapsed. "It appears SI only became involved when the negotiations had effectively collapsed since the government did not appear to be negotiating in good faith," said the report of the BCP fact-finding team. The report pointed out that Basarwa should not be treated as fauna and flora nor be forcefully assimilated, or integrated into mainstream Botswana society. It criticised the government's notion that all Batswana are indigenous. It appealed to the government to accept that the Basarwa are the indigenous people of Botswana. As such, the report suggested that issues of land and cultural rights should be respected. The BCP report condemned the government's position that Basarwa in general and residents of CKGR in particular deserve the benefits of development like the rest of Batswana hence the need to relocate and assimilate them. The report said the link between diamonds and the relocation of Basarwa from CKGR is born out of the failure by government to clearly articulate convincing reasons for the relocation. The BCP team found that the real reason for the relocation seems to be the erroneous official view that wildlife and human population cannot co-exist.

"The government seem to think that mankind is the only threat to wildlife therefore cannot allow them to co-exist," said Gobotswang. He decried that the current set up, which has been imposed on Basarwa makes it difficult for them to survive. He argued that imposing a new way of life on people could destroy them.

"Livestock rearing has never been part of the Basarwa lifestyle, as a result, a lot of them are suffering," he said. He decried that some people in Kgalagadi area took advantage of Basarwa and sold them old cars in exchange for the cattle given to them by government after relocation. Interviews by the fact-finding team indicated that some people did not even know where their cattle are. The handouts from government have also created tension among families. "The village elders told us that they constantly mediate among couples who fight over these handouts from government," Gobotswang said.

The BCP team found out that the relocation has resulted in immense social, economic and cultural cost to Basarwa. The relocation treated Basarwa as a mono-cultural group yet this is not the case.

"They speak distinct languages to an extent that sometimes they are forced to use Setswana. This poses a real threat and has led to social conflict," he said. The settlement structure of Basarwa was also drastically transformed as they were allocated plots in typical modern street formation, which is contrary to their culture. "The high alcohol abuse has led to escalating assault cases and there is fear that their language might extinct," Gobotswang said. Send us your comments about Mmegi newspaper Search For Old Newspaper Editions To advertise contact us through email

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