Govt and residents face possible reconciliation over radiation facility

Pilikwe residents have agreed to negotiate and possibly reconcile with government out of court, following a three-year raging war over the building of a radiation facility in the village.

The dispute, which was supposed to be argued on Wednesday before Lobatse High Court judge Modiri Letsididi, did not proceed as expected, but instead took place in the court chambers.

The hearing has been postponed several times since last year.

Attorney Bugalo Maripe, who is representing the residents, said the two parties met yesterday in the court chambers in agreement to withdraw the matter. He said the two parties had also written a joint letter requesting that the matter be struck off the roll. “We will not be pursuing the matter further as we have agreed to take the case off the roll in light of a reconciliation that is already in progress. We will only be returning to court on May 27 for a consent order regarding the withdrawal of the case,” he said.

The village chief, Gasebalwe Seretse, said the two parties have agreed through a recent Kgotla meeting to go back to the drawing board and negotiate for a way forward. He said the meeting that was addressed by the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Nonofo Molefhi opened dialogue on the issue and they reached agreement that the matter should be struck off the roll.

“We are not happy with the idea of setting the radiation facility in our village and most importantly with how we were never properly consulted, the Minister admitted that there were irregularities regarding consultation therefore we have agreed to negotiate afresh,” he said.

Seretse further said they were not totally against the government to build the radiation facility but they were simply concerned about their wellbeing and the safety since the environmental assessment was not done before agreeing to set the facility in their village. He added that residents of his village were not consulted prior to the construction.

“Our task team is spearheading the negotiations with government. We are waiting on them as the residents for a way forward regarding the facility and what they have agreed upon with the government,” he said.

The residents, through their attorney Maripe, had first filed papers before court demanding that government stop erection of the radiation facility.

Led by Dr Sebusang Sebusang, the residents took the legal route after the Ngwato Land Board allocated the government land for the project despite their disapproval.

Their main contention was that the environmental impact assessment was not done properly, and government did not consult with them despite fears that the project would result in radioactive poisoning of their village. The residents wanted the project removed from their village. Government on the other had for a very long time said in its answering affidavit that the case should be thrown out of court.

It was the government’s position that they had consulted extensively since the announcement of the project and that it received all necessary approvals.

Furthermore, in their papers, government attorneys said the villagers welcomed the project, as it would create jobs for them.

Their gripe was that the applicants who took the matter before court are only a small ‘pressure group’ that decided to fight in court.

This dispute can be traced back to 2012, when government announced that it would build a radioactive facility in Pilikwe, once the Ngwato Landboard had approved its land application. The facility, which was to be carried out under the National Development Plan 10, would have to be used for the disposal and recycling of radiation material. The Attorney General, Ngwato Land Board, Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and the chairperson of the Radiation Protection Inspectorate, were all cited as the respondents in the case against the residents.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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