A fresh dispute between Namibia and Botswana over alleged acts of aggression on a Namibian boat skipper and international tourists by an anti-poaching unit of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has erupted, The Botswana Gazette has established.
The incident took place at Serondela along the Chobe River on 11 November where the anti-poaching unit allegedly prevented the boat skipper and the tourists from cruising in the river.
The case was reported at Impalila Police Station on the same date where the tourists detailed their alleged encounter with Botswana soldiers.
In a statement taken by the police from one of the tourists, Vanessa Thomas Kress, the Swiss claimed that they were denied cruising in the Chobe on grounds that they should not have entered the area they were in.
According to Kress’ statement, after 30 minutes in a Namibian boat on the river, a boat of Botswana army came from the direction of Kasane and stopped and sent them back immediately.
“The BDF army asked our boat skipper if he is aware that they are disallowed to use the area they were in, especially (the) Botswana side,” Kress wrote.
“He tried explaining (to) them that an agreement was made for them to use the area except crossing to Botswana side.
“However, his explanation was dismissed by the BDF soldiers and his boat was immediately sent back towards Namibian side, forcing them to abort the journey. We immediately did that because we wanted to avoid trouble.”
Namibian Lives Matter
The Namibian Lives Matter Movement (NLMM) has confronted the Namibian government about the alleged incident.
The pressure group has specifically approached Prime Minster Dr Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila, the Minister of International Relations Netumbo Ndaitwa, and the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reforms Calle Schlettwein.
In a letter that The Botswana Gazette is in possession of, the National Executive Chairperson of the organisation, Sinvula Mudabeti, seeks urgent engagement with the government on the latest acts of aggression by the BDF.
“This letter serves to request for an urgent engagement with your office concerning acts of aggression, intimidation and harassment by the BDF on a Namibian boat skipper and international tourists at Serondela on the Chobe River on the Namibian side on 11 November 2022,” reads the letter addressed to the ministers.
“As a custodian and leader of government business, we urgently would like to engage your office on matters that are unresolved. If these matters are not resolved, we will have no choice but to mobilise communities living along the Zambezi Regional Council, Chobe District of Botswana and register a vote of no confidence in the work of government on BDF aggression.”
Namibian Lives Matter also calls for urgent engagement on the Border Treaty of 2018 and land purportedly lost to Botswana around the nexus of four countries, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in Kazungula.
“These matters are serious and urgent and thus we seek to engage soonest to rectify a possible flare up from our communities,” another letter addressed to Minister Schlettwein by NLMM stated.
While the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr Lemogang Kwape was yet to respond to Gazette enquiries, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, says he became aware of the allegations only “this morning” (Tuesday).
“I came to know about these allegations this morning and the BDF Commander is following it up,” Mmusi stated.
In an earlier dispute between the two countries, a BDF anti-poaching unit shot and killed three Namibian brothers and their Zambian cousin in the Chobe river whom Namibia insists were fishermen on suspicion that they were poachers in November 2020.