A report by a Namibian parliamentary committee has accused the BDF of routine cruelty that includes ordering civilians to cross into Botswana at gun point and then bundling them onto army trucks to army camps somewhere while Namibian cattle straying into Botswana are mauled by lions to the heartless joy of BDF soldiers and chagrin of their helpless owners across the river. Staff Writer SESUPO RANTSIMAKO reports
A newly released Namibian report on the security situation along the Chobe/Kwando and Linyanti Rivers points to what it calls acts of aggression, harassment and hostility by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) towards the Namibian frontier communities.
The report is the work of the country’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs (HASCLA) whose brief was to consult widely on how alleged aggressive and intimidating tendencies of the BDF has affected the livelihoods of people living along the Chobe/Kwando and Linyanti Rivers that form a natural boundary between Botswana and Namibia. The parliamentary committee also wanted to determine how or to what extent the alleged cross-border antagonism affected tourism in the area.
The investigation was led by the Chairperson of the HASCLA, John Likando and was conducted between 20 September and 6 October this year.
The report, which was released on Tuesday this week, points to what it calls a common trend of cases of aggression, harassment and hostility by BDF soldiers. It says this has resulted loss of Namibian lives and livelihoods as well as damage to property and interference with tourism activities.
It says hostility is directed at Namibian fishermen, cattle-herders, gatherers of grass, tourism operators and subsistence farmers as well at people going to the bank of the river on the Namibian side.
According to the report, 70 Namibians – expectant mothers and children – have already been detained, mostly on Situngu Island. “The cases of harassment did not spare gatherers of water lilies, these were harshly rushed out of the water and told never to set foot in the Botswana waters again,” it states.
In other incidents, the report says BDF soldiers have pointed guns at individuals fishing, cultivating, mowing reeds and tending cattle on the Namibian side of the river and ordered them to cross into Botswana. “Fearing to be shot and killed, these Namibian citizens would heed the call and then head into Botswana,” it states.
“Upon setting foot on the banks of the river in Botswana, they would then be accused of having crossed the river illegally. These individuals would not be allowed to say anything in their own defence. They would then be bundled at the back of military vehicles and ferried away into some BDF camps in Botswana.”
The report says while it is easy for cattle to wander into Botswana in the Masikili and Nkabolelwa area, their owners cannot cross to herd them back for fear of being shot or bundled into BDF vans.
“Therefore, once in Botswana, these herds of cattle are at the mercy of lions,” it says. “Many at times would helplessly watch their beasts being torn to pieces by wild animals in Botswana. Such incidents usually took place in full view and to the joy of the BDF.”