Elsewhere in the pages of this newspaper, we publish a letter from Survival International (SI), an organisation that is viewed askance by the powers that be.
We hope that for once people will suppress their prejudice and read the letter from SI director, Stephen Corry in the spirit of engagement.
As the letter states it has been three years since that landmark judgment in the case between Basarwa of Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) and the government. After the conclusion of the case, it was widely expected that the court had brought an end to the marathon stand-off. The Botswana government believes in the rule of law. Botswana is not a rogue state that does not respect the courts and the constitution that gives the government legitimacy. Botswana has always been an acclaimed oddity in Africa states when it comes to adherence to democratic values. But in the Basarwa case, our government has repeatedly flunked the democratic test.
After the Lobatse High Court had made its ruling that Basarwa should be allowed back into the CKGR, all we have seen so far are the actions of a bitter government that is hell bent on disrespecting the judiciary, a vital organ in a democratic state. In the past three years, we have heard of Basarwa who want to go back into the CKGR being subjected to all manner of persecution. The move is meant to break the resolute spirit of those who want to go back to their ancestral home in the CKGR. These are not just the isolated acts of over-zealous government officials who do not know what they are doing. It is very clear that these actions are sanctioned by those at the top - men and women who act with impunity. They are powerful figures who believe that it is their God given right
Government might have had good intentions to keep Basarwa out of the CKGR but at least, the majority of the High Court lords who presided over the case did not think so. It should not be difficult for our government to recognise that in every conflict, there are two sides. The least that the government could have done is to appreciate that the matter was decided by the High Court and not some wise politicians and senior bureaucrats. It is a recipe for disaster when the executive implements court judgements selectively. We have seen many nations careering down this unenviable road. We do not want to go down this beaten path to abyss. We understand that Basarwa have volunteered that if government allows them access to a borehole that they have been using for time in immemorial, they will refurbish it at their own cost. This appears like a good compromise but lo and behold, they have been rebuffed by a vindictive state machinery.
It would be callous and inconsistent with Setswana custom if it is true that the Botswana government has sunk 10 boreholes for wildlife in the CKGR and allowed the construction of a Safari Lodge in the reserve complete with a swimming pool while our own people are denied access to just one borehole. This is homicide by another name and our government cannot be proud of the reckless and shameful conduct that seems to place no value in human life no matter how they are despised.
Respect a man, and he will do all the more.
- John Wooden