NEWS 2005


Pilane disputes expert’s evidence

Staff Writer
2/10/2005 2:56:02 PM (GMT +2)

Lead state counsel Sidney Pilane has disputed a statement by expert witness, Arthur Albertson that hunting and gathering could sustain the Basarwa inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

When cross-examining the ecology consultant at the Lobatse High Court on Tuesday, Pilane said that the Basarwa have actually gone to court to force the government to re-instate food rations and other basic services to the CKGR. The Basarwa have filed a case seeking to block their relocation from the CKGR and the re-instatement of government services.

In his reports, Albertson stated that hunting and gathering could adequately and sustainably provide basic nutritional needs for the residents of CKGR. However, asked to comment on an affidavit by Basarwa activist Roy Sesana, Albertson declined saying it is difficult. He said for older people the food rations would be essential, as they cannot carry out hunting and gathering. However, Pilane said Sesana’s affidavit referred to young and old people who required the ration because they were destitute.

Albertson explained that residents could be entirely sustained on veld products and food rations can only be used when they are available. He said at the time he was conducting his research for Basarwa pressure group First People of the Kalahari (FPK), there were families who relied heavily on veld products and the food rations were arriving erratically. “Some even said they had not received them in several months,” Albertson said.

Pilane insisted that Basarwa have come to court stating that food rations were their essential basic need but Albertson said he could only comment on the context of ecology.

Reading statements from Albertson’s research documents, Pilane said that even in his (Albertson’s) statements, he had attributed to the unsustainability and inconsistency of hunting and gathering.

Meanwhile, Albertson said that he had identified the ‘most important’ 21 plant fruit species that were used by the residents of the CKGR. He said there well over 100 species that he had not listed and that he used to have the information in the raw data. However, he no longer has a complete record of the species. He said that he generated the 21 species he presented in court from memory. He said he was already familiar with plant food species and his knowledge came from his research in the general investigations of land use patterns. Albertson said although he made notes during his research, he no longer had the data. Albertson was commissioned by FPK to prepare reports and produce a large-scale map. However, he did not furnish the FPK with the list of the plant species. He said he looked at six different areas, namely Metsiamanong, Molapo, Mothomelo Gope, Kikao and Gugamma for the most important plant species. He determined the most important species by observing the frequency by which the residents collected them and what they told him. He said he did not decide on the percentage of people to question and neither did he divide the people he questioned on plant species into age and gender. “Methodology changes and can be adapted as you go along - if you are not sure of how many people.” Albertson said that he spent weeks (two to 10 weeks in each area) trying to get information. Although he had said he had made six trips to the areas, he however relented when probed further that it would have been eight trips in total. He said he had certainly travelled more than once to each settlement and could provide estimates of what he remembers. Albertson said he did not have reliable numbers of people in each settlement. He said many residents were away hunting and gathering but that the FPK had done an extensive registration of people with names. He said most people he had talked to were older and had a good understanding of the most important species of plants. Albertson said he did not prepare a questionnaire before proceeding with his study but he had a clear idea in his mind. He said his questions were written down but he did not have a list. He observed the residents gathering the plants and eating them but did not record who was eating. “People eat all the time.” Albertson said in his study, he needed to find out how people use land especially veld products. He said he set out to study both the diet of plant food for people and wild animal though he had no comprehensive list.

Pilane quipped that there was an advantage in documenting data. He said if Albertson did not have information on the numbers of people he talked to, then how could he say they were representative of those in the villages.


Pilane shouts to quell whispers in court

Staff Writer
2/10/2005 3:14:40 PM (GMT +2)

The lead state counsel in the Basarwa relocation case, Sidney Pilane seems to hate whispers - especially by his learned opponents in court. To register his dislike on Tuesday, he did the opposite at the Lobatse High Court. He shouted in court.

When he was cautioned by one of the judges in the three-man bench, Justice Maruping Dibotelo to lower his voice, he said he was irritated by the whispers of Basarwa lawyer, Gordon Bennett. Pilane was not happy that Bennett kept whispering to him when he (Pilane) was cross-examining expert witness Arthur Albertson. “I want answers from him, not you,” Pilane told Bennett while pointing at Albertson. He said he had been encountering such interferences from Bennett in his cross-examination.

Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi said that Bennett was entitled to stand and raise objections but not to whisper. It was not the first instance that the judges had to intervene to calm a heated exchange between the two lawyers.

Meanwhile, during Tuesday’s cross-examination, Albertson who had been asked to comment on the state expert witness, Dr Kathleen Alexander’s evidence of an eco-region map said it appeared to be accurate. However, he said that to pass a proper judgement, he needs to know the source.

He later stated that he disagreed with the map in regard to the eco-system in the Ngamiland area and the description of vegetation.

He said he had studied eco-systems of Botswana but not eco-regions. Albertson said he had not studied all eco-types of Botswana. His extensive studies of the eco-systems covered the northern and western parts of Ngamiland, the western boundary of Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and inside the CKGR, Kgalagadi District and North East Districts. He said he had done other scientific research for different clients.

Albertson is an ecology consultant called by Basarwa as an expert witness. He was hired by the Basarwa pressure group the First People of the Kalahari (FPK) to study and map the CKGR and train Basarwa. The Basarwa have gone to court to stop their relocation from the CKGR by the government.