By whim the government of Botswana is forcibly relocating Basarwa from Ranyane settlement in Gantsi district defying a court order that was issued by the Gaborone High Court halting the relocation, Basarwa and international organisations - Survival International and Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA) have said.
Talking to Botswana Guardian this week Keikabile Mogodu of Khwedom Council, said the decision by the government to force residents of Ranyane to move from their land is a sign that the government does not recognise the order that was issued by the High Court. “The San residents of Ranyane had hoped that the court order would deter the government from relocating them and violating their rights once again but this is clearly not the case. By continuing with its plans to forcibly relocate this community, the government is acting in clear violation of a court order and demonstrating its contempt for the rule of law,” said Mogodu. According to Mogodu government trucks arrived in Ranyane on Tuesday night with the sole purpose of removing the residents from their land.
He said that the government officials went from house-to-house trying to persuade the residents to relocate. He said that when majority of the residents refused to heed them they resorted to threats. Mogodu alleged that the government officials told a Ranyane Headman Xarake Phuti that if he refuses to leave the government would de-recognise him and dethrone him. “The chief [Phuti] refused because he regards Ranyane as his place of origin,” said Mogodu. Survival International this week issued a statement condemning the move to relocate the residents of Ranyane. The organisation says the government was insincere when it said that the government had no plans to remove those who wish to stay in Ranyane.
“The community has been threatened repeatedly with eviction by local authorities to make way for a ‘wildlife corridor’ – a project which was pushed by American organisation Conservation International (CI) for many years.” According to SI, several people in Ranyane have told them that they do not want to leave the land that they have inhabited for ages. According to SI director Stephen Corry, “officials claim the Bushmen must be moved in the name of conservation. So why have they made no effort to remove local cattle ranchers from the area? These evictions are rooted in prejudice and racism – the government seems to have one rule for the rich and powerful and another for the Bushmen. Why can’t they just leave the Ranyane Bushmen in peace?”
The Govt. response
Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay has flatly refuted allegations that they are forcing people to leave Ranyane. He said that SI and OSISA are spreading falsehoods and are engaged in a war to tarnish the image of the country. “Mr. Corry and [Richard] Lee [OSISA communications manager] are not better placed to comment on events taking place in Ranyane because they are not residing there and they don’t know what is happening there. The truth is that no one is being forced to move,” he said. He further said that the government is continuing to monitor with concern the media disinformation campaign that is currently being waged against this country by OSISA and Survival International.
Ramsay however said that at least three families that had earlier indicated to government authorities a desire to be relocated were relocated from Ranyane to Bere. “It may be further noted that none of the three households who moved today are associated with any legal interdict,” read a statement by Ramsay. He said the families had voluntarily asked to be relocated and, “…We only facilitated their relocation. Court case or no court case we moved them because they asked to be moved,” he said.