NEWS 2005


The Plight of the Gana and Gwi tribes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

18. Oct. 2005

RETENG would like to join the multitude of citizens of the World to congratulate Roy Sesana and the First People of the Kalahari for the prestigious Right to Livelihood Award, which he so well deserved. Roy is has made Botswana proud and we wish him more good things to come. He is a dedicated Human Rights Advocate, a staunch believer in human dignity. His land is his church, his school, his supermarket and his hospital. Who could possibly let go of all these basic needs of human existence. Roy must hold on, because God is watching.
Over the past several months, we have received communication from the Gana and Gwi of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), specifically from representatives of their organization, First People of the Kalahari (FPK) Roy Sesana and Jumanda Gakelebone. First People of the Kalahari is a member of the RETENG: The Multicultural Coalition of Botswana.
Acts of Violence: We first heard of the torturing of residents of Kaudwane who appeared in newspapers with wounds on their bodies. It was then another violent encounter between wildlife officers who were supposedly investigating an incident of poaching in the home of Mr. Matsipane Mosetlhenyane who resisted being treated like a ‘convict on the run’. The issue gained momentum and there was the historic and mysterious outbreak of a goat disease which required that the Gana and Gwi be forced out of the reserve within ten days. Twenty eight (28) demonstrators were arrested, including children, and were ultimately charged with unlawful assembly when they tried to take food to their families inside the reserve. In all these, there have been reports of the use of the violence (verbal, physical, emotional, and psychological, with weapons of war, guns)  carried out by government officials, in heavy contingencies of police and wildlife officers all over the reserve.
Persuaded or forced: We have also received counter reports from government sources, specifically Mr. Maribe’s emails. What is clear from both parties is that there has been violence in the whole matter. The government’s heavy machinery landed on innocent and helpless citizens. We find this to be disturbing and must be treated with the contempt it deserves. It is now clear that contrary to government’s claim that the Gana and Gwi were ‘persuaded’ to move to settlements outside the CKGR, they were forced, hence their return to the place and subsequently, the need for government to step up its forces on those who continue to resist.
Is poaching the reason for torture: The government’s side of the story falls short of convincing anybody. Poaching takes place all over the country, but people are never forced to move just because they are suspected or even convicted of poaching. Poaching is also done by multi-nationals and rich individuals, and there is a legal route to follow. This route should be applicable to the individual Gana and Gwi, in instances where there  has been evidence, credible enough to lead to suspicion of poaching and not the whole tribe.
Is the goat disease the reason for torture: The outbreak of the goat disease was never described by government or anyone, as contagious to human beings. If the disease is not communicable to humans, there is therefore no reason why the Gana and Gwi should be forced out of the reserve. If the disease is communicable to other animals, then the animals should not leave the reserve to prevent them from getting in contact with other animals outside the reserve. This has been one of the common tactics government has used on affected animals besides killing them.  It is therefore not clear why government would like the animals to be let lose to the outside World when they have a communicable disease. The disease has been described as curable and government has not refuted this fact. The goats should then be treated, cured and left to live inside the reserve. The ‘disease’ therefore fails to legitimatize government’s action on the Gana and Gwi.
The ever changing reasons: The government’s reasons for evicting the Gana and Gwi have been changing over time, and therefore have lost credibility and integrity. Whatever the reasons are for relocation, they can no longer be accepted as acts of goodwill under violent circumstances. The Gana and Gwi are human beings, and they know what is good for them. They want schools, clinics, water and all social amenities to be provided to them in some part of the reserve. The reserve is as big as Lesotho , a country which has human beings, animals and mines within its borders. If the Gana and Gwi cannot be convinced through negotiations, then the government should have gone to court to try and make a determination. The continued use of force to this day, should be condemned at all costs.
The court case: It is now the Gana and Gwi who have gone to court to protest their forced relocation. The court case is going on, and until a decision is made, then the Gana and Gwi should continue to live in the CKGR and live their nomadic life – moving between settlements within the reserve and between settlements in and out of the reserve. This is their natural way of life. They should also continue to hunt and gather in the reserve since there has been no court order barring them from doing so. The continued force employed by the government is a clear violation of their human rights, and government is further in contempt of court. We therefore call upon the international community to condemn the Botswana government for these acts of violence and non-adherence to the rule of law.
Recognition of social and cultural rights: The government of Botswana does recognize social and cultural rights as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Racial discrimination (ICERD).  These are domesticated within the Botswana constitution, but even if they were not, ratification alone makes the instruments legally binding.  Unfortunately for Botswana , sections 15 (4) (d) and 15 (9) of the constitution permit discrimination along tribal lines, contrary to these instruments. As a result, Botswana recognizes such rights in a discriminatory manner, by recognizing the Tswana as the only tribes with languages and cultures to be preserved, with chiefs to be consulted on matters affecting their lives and with group rights to land as a major economic tool to control power and all other resources. In recognizing Botswana ’s obligation, CERD (2002) has recommended that all forms of racial discrimination should be removed from the constitution. But Botswana continues to pay a blind eye.
RETENG Position: Our position on this matter is that the government is forcibly evicting the Gana and Gwi because, like all non-Tswana speaking groups, government does not recognize them as a people with social and cultural rights, but part of vegetation to be acted upon.  As Schapera(1952) observed about the non-Tswana that their ‘rulers are all classed, as ‘headmen’ have no areas specifically set aside for them. They live in crown land, at the pleasure of the Administration, and in theory are liable to be moved at any time’ (page 1). The Gana and Gwi, like all non-Tswana have no recognized chiefs and therefore cannot be consulted on a matter such as this one, and they can be moved without their consent, as it is happening. Forced relocations are also imminent in the Lotoreng, Jamakata, Sandvelds, and the Okavango delta. These areas are rich in natural resources and when exploited the resources have mainly benefited the Tswana, leaving the residents of these areas, who are non-Tswana, in absolute poverty.
If action is not taken now to assist Botswana to salvage herself from institutionalized and legalized tribal discrimination, which has formed the basis for the allocation of resources, more such incidences are likely to be the order of the day in the near future. 

  • We urge the government of Botswana to let the Gana and Gwi to go back to their land unconditionally.

  • We urge the international community to engage the government of Botswana in quite diplomacy in support of the decision of CERD (2002) that the all laws that discriminate against tribes must be amended and all tribes in Botswana should be treated equally.

We continue to believe that the international community can act timeously to prevent further conflict, not only with the Gana and Gwi, but with all unrecognized groups in Botswana .

For more information please contact - Professor  Serara Selelo-Mogwe
Vice Chairperson, RETENG & International Publicity Officer
RETENG: The Multicultural Coalition of Botswana
P.O. Box 402786
Gaborone , Botswana
Tel: 71654345; 71880286; 725 125 36, Tel/Fax: 393 7779