NEWS 2005


Why Lift Arms Against Unarmed Citizens?

Veronica Onkemetse Molosiwa

The President of the Republic of Botswana has indicated that the Basarwa inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) are free to hunt "provided they used traditional hunting weapons, such as bows and arrows". When asked, the residents I met in the CKGR in December 2004 stated that they were unaware of this policy.

Now that armed government officials are camped out in the villages within CKGR do we think that the people will be able to continue to gather and hunt food? This is intimidation against a people who, though normally peaceful and contrite, have felt the need to rise up in physical violence. This is what people do when they face a great injustice.

The officials blockading the CKGR must check the Omang of each of those trying to gain entry. They will find places of birth such as Molapo and Metsiamanong. What would any other Batswana say if they met a roadblock and were told they could not enter their home village? The threat of diseases among the Basarwa's domestic animals as a reason for the current government embargo on the reserve is unconvincing.

Equally unconvincing was the argument that the P50, 000 for the monthly provision of basic services was unaffordable. Is this sum not much less than what we spend per day fighting this case in our own High Court and in the court of world opinion? In December, my party and I were harassed by wildlife officials. On arrival at the Xade gate the official on duty indicated that there was no camp at Molapo where we had booked.

Having been there before I insisted that there was. However, after some discussion, we were instructed to camp at Xaka, which we did. Imagine my indignation when wildlife sent a party of some eight officials to check on us as we settled around the fire to camp for the night.

It was even worse when some of these officials, who appeared to have been drinking, tried to look in the back of our bakkies to see what we had brought with us. How much more resources must be wasted on harassing a gentle people as those in the CKGR? Is the government indicating that these millions of Pula now being spent on the CKGR issues are not needed more urgently in other areas? Have the orphans in this country been clothed, fed and protected? Are the patients out of the corridors and off the floors at Princess Marina Hospital? Have the levees been mended so that the flood of illegal immigrants into Botswana is kept out? Within our government, surely there is someone who has a conscience.

To this brave soul, please speak out to convince your peers that the path of violence, already begun, will only lead to further prolonged misery.

Botswana was once a peaceful country. Why must we bear arms against our own citizens to force them off their own land?