The Ramatlabama-Mabule veterinary fence: A case of disregard for due process, community well-being and international relations

Dear editor ,In the serene landscapes where the Ramatlabama and Molopo rivers flow, a shadow looms over the vibrant communities of Botswana. The construction of the Ramatlabama-Mabule veterinary disease control fence, touted as a measure to safeguard Botswana’s beef export market in the European Union, has ignited a firestorm of controversy, revealing a glaring disregard for due process, community welfare, and environmental preservation.

In the serene landscapes where the Ramatlabama and Molopo rivers flow, a shadow looms over the vibrant communities of Botswana. The construction of the Ramatlabama-Mabule veterinary disease control fence, touted as a measure to safeguard Botswana's beef export market in the European Union, has ignited a firestorm of controversy, revealing a glaring disregard for due process, community welfare, and environmental preservation. At the heart of this contentious issue lies the lack of transparency and adherence to national law established regional protocols. Despite the shared nature of the Ramatlabama and Molopo rivers, as stipulated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Shared Watercourses, there has been a conspicuous absence of consultation with South Africa, let alone obtaining its consent. This oversight not only violates international agreements but also jeopardises regional cooperation and goodwill.

The affected villages, including Thlareseleele, Ramatlabama, Borobadilepe, Phihetswane, Ditlharapeng, Mokatako, Phitshane, Dikhukhung, Leporung, Tshidilamolomo, and Mabule, stand on the brink of losing vital resources integral to their livelihoods. The consequences of this project extend far beyond mere inconvenience; they encompass the loss of access to river water, firewood, wild fruits, medicinal plants, cultural and religious sites, dams, hand-dug wells, and dry-season grazing — a cornerstone of their existence. Furthermore, the environmental impact cannot be overstated. The destruction of riverine vegetation, soil erosion, and the silting of the rivers pose a grave threat to the delicate ecological balance of the region. The burgeoning tourism potential, once seen as a beacon of hope for economic growth, now faces an uncertain future, eclipsed by the short-sighted pursuit of beef exports to the European Union. The rationale behind this project — protecting Botswana's access to the European Union beef market — bears a bitter irony. While ostensibly driven by economic considerations, the true cost is borne by the very communities it purports to benefit.

Editor's Comment
Let’s get the constitutional amendment right

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